Wobblers Disease in Horses

Wobblers disease in horses is more often known as wobbler syndrome, and the medical name is cervical vertebral malformation. It is the most common neurological disease seen in horses, especially thoroughbreds. It is often first diagnosed in young horses. Even if treated, this disease is normally progressive.

  1. What Happens

    • When your horse develops wobblers disease, the symptoms are created by what is called stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal. A horse with wobblers disease has vertebra that are not shaped correctly, and pressure is exerted on the spine from these odd-shaped bones.

    Causes

    • Some aspects of wobblers disease may come about from genetic predispositions, but according to the "Horse Owner's Veterinary Handbook," second edition, the disease may also be caused by feeding horses high-energy diets that result in the horse growing too quickly. Sometimes trauma and stresses to the bones can be a factor.

    Types

    • There are two types of wobblers disease, which are defined based on how symptoms are apparent. There is dynamic stenosis, in which you will see your horse exhibit symptoms when he has to move his neck, and static stenosis, which describes a horse that has symptoms, but the symptoms remain the same whether or not the horse is moving his neck. Dynamic stenosis is the most common.

    Symptoms

    • A horse with wobblers disease may have a hard time moving the hind legs, or even all four legs. When your horse does walk, he will seem clumsy and have a very odd gait. He may not want to move his neck, and will often drag his toes and stumble. He may also fall down.

    Diagnosis and Treatment

    • If you suspect wobblers disease, have your veterinarian take x-rays of your horse's neck. If your horse has it, your veterinarian will start him on anti-inflammatories and prescribe six months or more of stall rest. If this does not help, your horse may need surgery, but this is not always recommended, as the surgery is not always helpful.

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References

  • Horse Owner's Veterinary Handbook, Second Edition; James Giffin, M.D. and Tom Gore, D.V.M.; 1998.
  • Photo Credit race horse image by Wimbledon from Fotolia.com

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