Major Balance Problems
My horse walks like she is drunk but has no signs of neurological damage. She has complete faculties, eats, drinks, and defecates fine. She has been checked by the vet, given heavy doses of ivermectin, banimine, and antibiotics. The vet felt it was possibly a parasite in her spinal column but the meds didn't work. The vet has sent it to the university to see if they can help. We checked the pasture for toxic plants and cant seem to find anything she may have gotten. We have changed her hay and her grain. She looses her balance and walks to the right, almost falling often. She slows, rights herself and tries again. She has leaned so much in her stall that she has sores on her right side. Has anyone ever seen this and do you know what the treatment might be. Here's a dumb question, could something have gotten down inside her ear to cause this?
Not walking straight and nearly falling ARE signs of a neuro disorder.
Sounds like your vet treated for EPM. Has he been tested for anything else?
As mls said, the lack of balance is a symptom of neurological damage. This sort of issue can have many different causes--Eastern or Western Equine Encephalitis, WNV, EPM, head/neck trauma, inner ear issues, guttural pouch issues, etc etc. The key is a good physical examination, thorough history and then appropriate testing.
Is the university currently examining and testing your horse?
How long has this been going on? When did it start?
Was there ever any fever?
Did your vet run any diagnostic tests? If so, what were they?
What treatment did your vet give?
Why did he give large doses of ivermectin and when during treatment did he give them?
Had your horse travelled prior to the onset of problems?
Had she or any horse around her had any upper respiratory infection?
Was she current on vaccinations against EEE, WEE and WNV?
According to what I have read about EPM, it is caused by opossums feces. We live in Maine. The symptoms sound the same though. Most of the test have come back negative so far and the vet seemed to think that she is neurologically sound. She is three years old and is still very affectionate but if you hold her halter, she will lean to the right almost falling. Do you know if porcupine droppings can do the same thing?
Daokota is a 800 lb paint. This started almost two months ago. It started out gradually and continued to progress to the point she is now. She has not had a fever any time the vet has come. The test that the vet did run have come back negative and I am not sure exactly which ones were performed. I haven't gotten the written results yet. Dakota was given 7.35 syringe of Equine Ivermectin Paste (full tube) five days in a row, along with 10cc of Banamine and 37.5 g of Uniprim for five days. This combination was given approximately three weeks ago. She gave her the Ivermectin thinking it might be a parasite in her spinal column. This treatment didn't seem to change her behavior at all. She is our only horse and she has not been in contact with any other horses. She has not traveled. The only new thing we had done around the time she started this was to bring in a new male pygmy goat from a local farm. This farm had sheep, pygmy's, a pony, chickens and turkeys. We also have chicken and turkeys that do end up free ranging in her pasture. The goats also tend to hang in her pasture a lot. She hadn't had her WNV this year. Some horse owners stressed some controversy and concerns about the vaccination and I was hesitant to get her shot. Hind site being 20/20, I wished I had. I haven't been able to get her feet done because of her balance. The vet said their not that bad yet but I am not used them being so long.
Something I neglected to mention was that when this all started, she shook her head a lot and lapped her lips a lot. She almost acted like something was irritating her ears. I assumed that if a horse could get an ear infection, the antibiotics would have helped. That is why I wondered if it could be something do do with the inner ear and if so, what it possibly could be.
Is she currently being examined, tested or treated by the university?
Ok, so she wasn't treated for EPM.
And I'm unsure what parasite the vet would have tried to treat by dosing ivermectin like that. I've not seen ANY references in any of the neurological disease literature or heard that in any of the neuro lectures I have attended that recommend that dosing. But I can tell you what has been seen with quite a few horses with neurological damage---ivermectin can then cause neuro toxicity at even single normal doses and increase neurological deficits. And with any horse that has neurological damage this is more likely because the blood-brain-barrier which normally protects the central nervous system from things that should get to it may not be functioning well.
Were you ever taking her temperature daily after you started seeing symptoms or are you just assuming that she didn't have a fever? This is very important because EEE, WEE, WNV, EHV caused neurological disease will all tend to run a fever early on. But with EPM you will not see a fever.
Was she ever scared of the goat?
Are you using an equine vet or a mixed practitioner? I ask because a mixed practitioner generally will not be as current on equine diseases or treatment options.
Get a pen and paper and call your vet. Ask him/her what tests have been run, what parasite he thought the ivermectin might be treating and what he was using the Uniprim for. And write it all down. It's very important that horse owners be informed pet owners. Ask questions and learn. The more you know the better you can be prepared to give your horse good care.
And if your horse can't stand up straight and your vet doesn't think she has neurological deficits, it's time to get a second opinion.
Wow! My story is much too long to type all of here (I'll try the condensed version) but I had a horse who acted just like that and after test upon test, going to Cornell, consulting with New Bolton, spinal taps, and the whole kit and kaboodle we found out it was Lyme Disease, which, if you know anything about it, is known as "the great imitator". When it first happened he would just go lame all of a sudden. One minute fine, the next it looked as though he was walking on eggshells up front and he walked very stiff legged, like he would throw his limbs out and around. The weird thing was that the lameness seemed to shift around and not stick to one limb so that was the first clue something was off. The next time he went lame suddenly he carried his head very low to the ground and used he whiskers to sense where the ground was and that was when we started thinking EPM. He would walk all stiff with his head down and when he was in his stall he would lean on the wall and keep his head cocked to the side. We took his for a spinal because of the symptoms and he actually laid down the whole way to the vet and then fell off the trailer when we got there because he couldn't stay upright. He failed the neurological exam by the vet but his spinal came back no EPM. The really weird part...2 days later he was normal again for about 2 months. Then it happened again but this time he passed the neuro test even though he was swaying and lame again. They x-rayed him all over and looked for Wobbler's, OCD lesions, and some other things but still nothing. Finally, someone took a blood test for Lyme, and, lo and behold, there it was. We ran him under A LOT of Doxycycline for I think, but it was awhile ago, two months. Twice a day, lots of crushed pills and molasses and gradually he got completely better. He is now ridden daily and jumped frequently, and doesn't have any lingering effects. Just wanted to let you know because lyme disease isn't something people often think about but it is very prevalent in the North East and if it isn't caught in time it can have lasting effects on the joints and begin attacking internal organs as well. Looking back when he first started showing signs was before he went lame and he would do small little things that we thought were behavioral at the time such as refusal to pick up a canter, refusing to go in a certain direction, seemed to forget training over night and go back to square one (and this was a horse who was competing and trained not a newbie under saddle). Does any of this sound familiar for you situation? Take care and best of luck.
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