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Surgeons Agree to Disagree on Ataxia
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Surgeons Agree to Disagree on Ataxia

At least 1 out of 100 horses can be affected by Ataxia, a neurological disorder caused by Wobbler Syndrome. It causes an inability to control gait among horses. Once diagnosed with Ataxia, the animal should be put down immediately, if not, the animal should undergo a costly operation which by no means guarantee a successful recovery. However, researchers from the UK based Royal Veterinary College and Denmark based University of Copenhagen exhibited a marked argument among seasoned veterinary surgeons on whether a horse is plagued by ataxia or not and the severity of its condition before it has to be put down.

Why is it Necessary

If upon medical examination the horse is diagnosed with ataxia, it is a must to put it down immediately, as it may impose danger to the rider or handler. Although it is unnecessary to put the horse down, bringing it to the veterinarian might be fatal to the animal. Research shows ataxia can be severe or subtle, the latter being more difficult for specialist to assess. This can be a problem to both the owner and the horse, especially if the animal has the potential to recover.

The Disagreement 

Ataxia is a cause of frustrations among horse owners as it becomes impossible to maintain a regular training schedule. Pressure on the cervical spinal cord is the cause of ataxia and it is diagnosed by CT scans and MRI in humans and small animals. However, no scanners exist yet, that is big enough to scan a horse.

In a recent study, specialists from two fields, namely; large animal internal medicine and Equine surgery analyzed the gait of 25 horses in a neurological examination. They completed the questionnaires and according to the responses acquired, it was found that there is a wide disagreement on the seriousness of the disease and could not determine if the horse is really ataxic.

Treatment Options

Veterinaries often assume that horses suffering from ataxia are slightly lame. This condition progresses further resulting in sudden and unexpected falls during handling or riding. Treatment options like restricted feeding may be implemented if the veterinarian or owner discovers the disease at an early age. At any other age, fusing the cervical vertebrae to stabilize the neck can be achieved by surgery. If the ataxia was caused by osteoarthritis or facet joint, injecting steroids may help improve the condition of the horse.

Specialists are hoping that their recent findings would lead them to establish clear definitions to determine the abnormal and normal gait patterns among horses, and the impact of ataxia on spinal cord disease. The disparity on the other hand, raises the importance of using equipment that is capable of measuring every detail of the horse’s movements for better diagnosis.

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