What’s Behind Wobbler Syndrome?

Researchers still have questions about wobbler syndrome’s etiology and pathogenesis.
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Although researchers have been studying wobbler syndrome for years, they still have questions about the condition’s etiology and pathogenesis.

At the 2013 University of Kentucky (UK) Equine Showcase, held Jan. 18 in Lexington, Ky., Jennifer Janes, DVM, a PhD candidate at the UK Gluck Equine Research Center, reviewed what we know about wobbler syndrome and what questions remain, in addition to sharing some research results that could help veterinarians diagnose the disease.

What We Know

Wobbler syndrome is a colloquial term used to describe neurologic disease resulting from spinal cord compression in a horse’s neck, said Janes. Several terms have been—and still are—used to describe the disease, including cervical vertebral malformation, cervical stenotic myelopathy, cervical vertebral instability, and cervical static stenosis. Researchers have found that Thoroughbreds, Tennessee Walking Horses, Warmbloods, and Quarter Horse-type animals appear more predisposed to developing the disease, and colts are diagnosed more than fillies, Janes said. The average age of disease onset ranges from 6 months to 7 years, she noted. The most common clinical signs observed in affected horses include ataxia (incoordination, more common in the hind limb than the forelimb), toe dragging, moving the hind limbs in a circular pattern, overreaching with hind limbs, and a base-wide stance

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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