AAEP Convention 2004: Horseman's Day--Equine Motor Neuron Disease

Ken Bedell, DVM, of Cornell University, addressed one of the newer maladies that has shown up in the horse world--equine motor neuron disease--at Horseman's Day at the 50th annual American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Convention in Denver, Colo., Dec. 4-8, 2004. He characterized the affliction as any disease that targets the nerves that coordinate the muscle structure, such as Lou Gehrig's disease in humans.

The disease was first brought to light in the 1990s, he said, and in the beginning was thought to be restricted to the northeastern United States. Since then it has been identified around the world.
Clinical signs include excessive lying down, a camped under stance (four legs drawn in under the body), elevated tail, a weak neck that is unable to hold up the head, and abnormal pigment in the eye. He said the disease can progress very rapidly, causing death within a matter of weeks. However, if detected early, he said, it can be treated by supplementing the horse's diet with vitamin E.

The best treatment protocol involves getting the horse out onto green grass, he said.

About the Author

Les Sellnow

Les Sellnow is a free-lance writer based near Riverton, Wyo. He specializes in articles on equine research, and operates a ranch where he raises horses and livestock. He has authored several fiction and non-fiction books, including Understanding Equine Lameness and Understanding The Young Horse, published by Eclipse Press and available at www.exclusivelyequine.com or by calling 800/582-5604.

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