The neurologic condition cervical vertebral stenotic myopathy (CVSM, commonly known as wobbler syndrome) is much less common in older horses than it is in young, growing animals. But according to one clinician, this condition should be on all veterinarians’ differential diagnoses list when evaluating an aged horse presenting with neurologic signs and/or neck pain.

At the 2013 Western Veterinary Conference, held Feb. 17-21 in Las Vegas, Nev., Laurie Beard, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, associate clinical professor at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, presented a review of CVSM in aged horses.

Horses affected by CVSM essentially have a damaged spinal cord. The major causes of spinal cord damage include cervical (neck) vertebrae malformation or trauma.

"The exact pathogenesis of CVSM in older horses is unknown and likely different than younger horses," Beard said. She said older horses are more likely to have lesions located in the caudal cervical vertebral column (near the base of the neck), between the vertebrae C5 and C6 or C6 and C7. She noted that some studies suggest biomechanical loading related to "wear and tear" could contribute to lesions. Additionally, she said, articular process osteophytosis (bony remodeling) is a common finding in older horses with CVSM.

Beard said common clinical signs associated with CVSM in older horses include: 

  • Spinal ataxia (incoordination), generally symmetric with the hind limbs affected more than the front limbs. Beard noted that in some cases, however, mature horses with CVSM might appear more lame than ataxic;
  • Neck pain or