The Horse

FEB 2018

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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Page 23 of 51

24 THE HORSE February 2018 root problem. With incoordination from neurologic dysfunction, though, there's less optimism. "We cannot cure ataxia," she says. That being said, veterinarians can treat some forms, such as EPM-related ataxia. Also, depending on the kind of lesion, some horses can improve through neck joint injections, Dyson adds. Surgery can help relieve pressure on the spinal cord, as can anti-inflammatory drugs and management changes (such as reduced exercise or feeding at wither-level instead of off the ground), Johnson says. But that can't undo what's already done— only prevent it from getting worse. "You can't correct damage to the spinal cord once it's occurred because neurons don't regenerate," she says. "Once they've been destroyed they're gone forever." Current research is focusing on ways to make neurons grow or heal better, notes Johnson, but hasn't translated into use in horses yet. Applying a rubber tip to the frog could help the horse regain some sense of proprioception, says Dyson, citing the work of Robert M. Bowker, VMD, PhD, at Michigan State University. "You can improve proprioceptive feedback in horses that have lost it in their feet by ap- plying pressure to the frog because that's where the neuroreceptors are," she says. "If a finger-sized piece of rubber is at- tached temporarily to the pad at the heel, within one or two strides the step extends forward maximally, as the horse 'realizes' the importance of this area of the foot, by activation of the sensory receptors." The rubber pads improve propriocep- tion within a few uses and can then be removed. The benefits, she says, continue after removal. Walking your horse over poles might also help improve proprioception. But the effects in an ataxic horse will be limited due to his abnormal neural feedback, Dyson says. If the neurologic horse continues to stumble, it might be time to make the difficult decision to retire him. "Unless something can be done to improve the problem, I don't recommend continuing to ride the horse," Johnson says. Avoiding a Bad Trip While stumbling will happen no mat- ter what we do, we can take steps to minimize it in otherwise healthy horses. First, our sources say, make sure you maintain good hoof care and ensure the horse is well-trimmed or shod. Also, don't assume barefoot horses trip less or vice versa. It all depends on what makes the horse feel best. "If they're uncomfortable they're more likely to stumble because they're more likely to alter their foot placement," Dyson says. That's even truer in ataxic horses, John- son adds. "If you have a mildly neurologic horse that is also foot-sore, then he'll stumble and perform worse than a mildly neurologic horse that has comfortable feet," she says. The best choice to make for your horse depends on what keeps him most comfortable. Johnson says you can also minimize stumbling with proper training. "If you ask a horse to do more than his physical conditioning permits, then, as he fatigues, his risk of stumbling and not picking his feet up high enough will increase," she says. "If you've ever seen marathon run- ners staggering down the home stretch, it's the same sort of thing. If you have enough muscle fatigue then your foot placement will suffer for it." Take-Home Message Your horse is going to stumble from time to time. But don't panic. If he recov- ers easily and doesn't make a habit of it, his musculoskeletal and neurologic sys- tems likely fix his missteps automatically. But when stumbling becomes common or leads to falls, it's time to get the veteri- narian involved. Treatment can resolve many causes of stumbling, sometimes even fixing lameness issues before they become apparent. When it can't, retiring the constant stumbler will safeguard his health and welfare as well as his rider from the danger of serious falls. h Stumbles & Missteps BRIEF SUMMARY (For full prescribing information, see package insert.) CAUTION: Federal (USA) law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian. DESCRIPTION: Domperidone is a D2 dopamine receptor antagonist. The chemical formula is 6-chloro-3-[1-[3-(2- oxo-3H-benzimidazol-1-yl) propyl]piperi- din-4-yl]-1H-benzimidazol-2-one. INDICATION: For prevention of fescue toxicosis in periparturient mares. Contraindication: Horses with hypersen- sitivity to domperidone should not receive EQUIDONE Gel. WARNINGS: Failure of passive transfer of immunoglobulins (IgG) may occur when using EQUIDONE Gel even in the absence of leakage of colostrum or milk. All foals born to mares treated with EQUIDONE Gel should be tested for serum IgG concen- trations. Do not use in horses intended for human consumption. HUMAN WARNINGS: Not for use in humans. For oral use in animals only. Keep this and all drugs out of the reach of children. Pregnant and lactating women should use caution when handling EQUIDONE Gel, as systemic exposure to domperidone may affect reproductive hormones. Consult a physician in case of accidental human exposure. PRECAUTIONS: EQUIDONE Gel may lead to premature birth, low birth weight foals or foal morbidity if administered >15 days prior to the expected foaling date. Accurate breeding date(s) and an expected foaling date are needed for the safe use of EQUIDONE Gel. Do not use in horses with suspected or confirmed gastrointestinal blockage, as domperidone is a prokinetic drug (it stimu- lates gut motility). ADVERSE REACTIONS: The most common adverse reactions associated with treatment with EQUIDONE Gel are premature lactation (dripping of milk prior to foaling) and failure of passive transfer. Distributed by: Dechra Veterinary Products 7015 College Boulevard, Suite 525 Overland Park, KS 66211, 866-933-2472 © 2016 Dechra Ltd. EQUIDONE is a registered trademark of Dechra Ltd. All rights reserved. NADA 141-314, Approved by FDA EQUIDONE ® Gel (domperidone) For oral use in horses only. If you ask a horse to do more than his physical conditioning permits, then, as he fatigues, his risk of stumbling and not picking his feet up high enough will increase." DR. AMY JOHNSON

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