Equine Narcolepsy? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 05-19-2010, 12:48 PM Thread Starter
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Equine Narcolepsy?

Has anyone had any experience with this? A rescue horse that we took in last fall came in with an extreme skin condition that she had for 4 years. She was very defensive to the point that it could not be treated topically and was treated by antibiotics. Now that the skin has improved, the mare has started having narcoleptic issues. It had never been an issue prior to this, the mare is 12 years old. They happen commonly when she is being groomed as well as just standing in the pasture. It is not an issue when she is working physically.

The mares overall behavior and condition has improved dramatically, she had previously been anxious, defensive, and aggressive all the time. Extend that drastic behavior over the course of 4 years and you can only imagine the basketcase we had on our hands when she came in. The vet is aware of her condition. All of the research I have done has come back with inconsistent results on treatments.

It almost seems like once she finally felt good enough and safe enough to relax, she just started completely collapsing. However, I'm also wondering about the affect of the antibiotics she was on the possible break down of the rather large infection (originally thought to be pythium, but not).

She zones out before the episode, becoming completely introverted to the point that if you wave your hand past her face or even bring it quickly to her eye (like testing for vision) there is no affect at all. Once her head drops, her knees buckle, and on occasion has gone down. She comes in from the pasture with some odd injuries which I believe has to do with her condition.

Has anyone ever had experience with narcolepsy before? Some stories, things to help, etc? Thank you.
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post #2 of 6 Old 05-19-2010, 01:12 PM
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I personally know two horses with narcolepsy. As far as I know, there's not really anything you can do to treat it. I may be wrong though. We just make sure to keep them interested and moving about a bit when they have to be tied (for example to tack/untack or at a show) to keep them awake. We're also very careful about keeping them moving when someone's on their back as that could be disastrous. It's really not that big of a deal as far as I'm concerned. You just have to be a bit more careful ;]

"The art of riding is keeping a *horse* between you and the ground."
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post #3 of 6 Old 05-19-2010, 05:47 PM
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Narcolepsy in equines is actually rare. Many horses that are labelled "narcoleptic" are actually sleep deprived.

You say that this horse has always been nervous, have you ever seen her lay down to sleep?

Cindy D.
Licensed Veterinary Technician
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post #4 of 6 Old 05-19-2010, 05:54 PM
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How common are seizures in horses? I know nothing about it in equine medicine, but I know the "zoning out" followed by collapse was how a collie I had a few years ago presented with grand mal seizures - she never had the stereotypical muscle contractions - the vet said the "zoning out" part WAS the seizure.

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post #5 of 6 Old 05-19-2010, 06:06 PM
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My horse did that off and on for over two years. I was told it is sleep deprivation. I recently moved him to a barn where he's extremely happy and is sleeping lying down for the first time ever. The falling down episodes have stopped. Try to determine if she is lying down to sleep. That's most likely what's going on.

You just have to see your distance...you don't have to like it.
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post #6 of 6 Old 05-20-2010, 07:29 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the responses. The sleep deprivation crossed my mind. But the mare is seen regularly passed out in the pasture on her side. However, in her prior condition, I never saw her sleep. The mare will stall walk constantly when kept in a stall, so she usually comes in to eat and returns to the pasture with 2 other horses. What seemed interesting to me was the sudden onset of the condition just as the skin was clearing up after 4 years of being *****, scabby, and untouchable. During those 4 years, she was so defensive that she was often marked as crazy and dangerous, so I doubt sleep was good for her, but now I know that she is sleeping regularly.

We are having blood work done on her to see if there are any other things that could be causing it. She was on antibiotics for an extended period of time, not to mention the other things on this mares laundry list of problems. The seizures are interesting, The zoning seemed strange to me and seemed to be what sparked it in the vet that we may be dealing with something more.
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