A triad of factors, namely sex, breed, and age, are all associated with the development of cervical vertebral compressive myelopathy (CVCM) according to one of the latest studies published by researchers at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University.

"CVCM is a catch-all phrase for cervical lesions that result in general ataxia (incoordination) and weakness in horses by compressing the spinal cord," said lead author Jonathan Levine, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM.

Examples of these lesions include:

  • Vertebral canal stenosis (narrowing);
  • Tipping of the vertebral bodies (the bone through which the spinal cord passes), and;
  • Articular process osteophytosis (bony remodeling).

While previous studies have attempted to evaluate the risk factors for CVCM, no large-scale, systematic study to assess the impact of sex, breed, and age has been reported.

Thus, Levine and colleagues collected data from 811 horses diagnosed with CVCM and 805 control horses examined at 22 different institutions between July 1974 and August 2007.

According to Levine, "Statistical analysis showed that geldings and stallions were 2 and 2.4 times more likely to have CVCM than female horses, respectively, and that Thoroughbreds, Tennessee Walking Horses, and Warmbloods were more often diagnosed with CVCM than Quarter Horses."

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In terms of age, horses under the age of 7 were significantly more likely to have CVCM compared to horses more than 10 years of age.

"This improved understanding of CVCM will assist clinicians to more rapidly recognize the disease in groups of horses that may have a high prevalence of CVCM--such as young, Thoroughbred stallions," explained Levine. "In addition, we are hoping this research will spur additional studies in this field, such as breed-genetic factors."

The study, "Association of sex, breed, and age with cervical compressive myelopathy in horses: 811 cases 1974-2007," was published in the Nov. 1 edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

About the Author

Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she's worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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