horse, trot, animal

Ataxia in horses

What is Ataxia?

Ataxia is the name for a clinical symptom: a horse with reduced coordination.

In an atactic horse there is a disturbance in the nerve conduction. As a result, the signals from the brain or from the spinal cord (Wobbler) to the muscles are not or insufficiently transmitted. The horse sways and staggers like a drunken person. An irregular gait, swaying of the legs and sometimes a tendency to topple or lean against a wall is usually seen.

Clinical symptoms are especially noticeable with changes in direction (slangvolte) and at sudden changes in tempo (reverse). Ataxia can originate from one leg, but is usually 2 or 4 legged. A minimal ataxia is sometimes difficult to find and recognize. These are often vague lameness symptoms, which are very often missed in a clinical movement and neurological examination.

Paralysis symptoms, such as ataxia and tail paralysis, arise when certain parts of the nervous system are damaged. The cause is usually trauma (fall, kick from a horse, hanging in a trailer), but paralysis or weakening can also occur due to degeneration or toxins (through food) and rhinopneumonia.

Symptoms of Ataxia:

Ataxia in horses generally manifests itself in symptoms such as:

  • Wandering and uncoordinated walking (drunken gait) especially from the hindquarters
  • Crooked tail
  • Slower leg movement
  • Swinging legs (hoof is placed more outward or inward)
  • balance problems

Ataxia can also be present to a lesser extent, the symptoms are much less clear and these usually manifest themselves in technical driving complaints, such as:

  • Lame or irregular walking
  • Difficulty with collection
  • Difficulty changing tempo (mainly from canter to trot)
  • Difficulty in bending (often stiff and straight neck)

The symptoms of ataxia worsen when the horse gets tired. The degree of muscling often also determines to what extent the horse can compensate for the reduced coordination.

Acupuncture can produce good results with paralysis symptoms. Think especially of ataxia or tail paralysis. The results depend on the degree of paralysis and whether it is an acute or chronic problem. The more severe the paralysis, the more difficult it is to achieve full recovery. It can be a lengthy process to treat nervous system damage.

If you suspect that your horse has ataxia, contact a veterinarian. The sooner the diagnosis is made, the greater the possibilities of treatment can be.

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