Horse Guides – Ask the Expert
Horse Spinal issues
I have a 16 hh American Quarterhorse who July 2009 came in from the field very unsteady on his feet, following several blood tests, X rays and radio-active scans he was diagnosed with having evidence of an old injury in his cervical vertebrae (C5) which they think had been aggravated and was pressing on his spinal cord causing the wobbliness. Within 4 or 5 days he was much improved, and the only evidence could be seen when moved in a small circle. He was brought back into work in Feb of this year, and has been the picture of health and happiness. Mid August whilst being mounted he visibly buckled, and showed signs of being unsteady on his feet again, which he compensates for by splaying his front legs. He has subsequently had 2 steroid injections and is happy in himself, he seems unaware that he has the injury, but still drags visibly his left hind behing him nearly 5 weeks on. I have been advised there is not an operation to correct this condition, but would appreciate any comments. He still seems totally oblivious of what is happening, but now occasionally is catching and cutting his other back foot. Many thanks Gail
Arundel, West Sussex
It sounds like a very thorough investigation has been carried out and a correct diagnosis has been made. Unfortunately the problem appears to be affecting the spinal cord hence the hind limb in-coordination. Possibly there is a bone callus that is pressing on the spinal cord on one side which is why there is a predominant limb that is affected. As to treatment the cortisone injections into the affected facet joints to alleviate any pain from osteoarthritis is appropriate, however this will not stop any impingment on the spinal cord. Surgery is an option when vertebrae are unstable as in wobblers syndrome, however the risk here is that matters are made worse by trying to remove any callus pressing on the cord. There is also the risk of recovery from the anaesthetic if partially ataxic. I would manage him with pain relief as necessary and try to manage his coordination problems, the neck injections can be repeated.
Ed Lyall BVetMed CertEM(StudMed) MRCVS
The Arundel Equine Hospital
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