Protein Levels and Seizures?

I have a 37-year-old Welsh Mountain Pony mare who has been having seizures on and off for about two years. I
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Q: I have a 37-year-old Welsh Mountain Pony mare who has been having seizures on and off for about two years. I have noticed that when her protein levels have been increased with feeding, especially in the springtime when the new grass appears, the seizures appear more frequently. Is it possible that the high protein levels could cause a seizure, or is it just coincidence and there might be something else going on? My vet seems to think there is nothing I can do for the pony because she is so old, and she might hurt herself badly during a seizure, so the best option would be euthanasia.

She is in good health apart from the seizures, which pass after about three minutes, then she begins to tuck into her food. She is obviously underweight–she has very few teeth left and can only eat soft, short-chopped food. Is there anything we can do to manage this condition and keep her comfortable? —Jacky Montgomery, Herts, England


A:It is understandable that you are concerned about your pony’s recurrent seizures, and your veterinarian is justified in communicating the risk of potentially serious trauma that she could sustain during a seizure. So yes, there is certainly your pony’s quality of life to consider.

There are a few conditions that could be causing your pony’s seizures, but they are unlikely to be related to the protein in her feed. The more likely possible causes in a horse of her age include a cholesteatoma (or cholesterol granuloma) in the brain, or a large pars pituitary adenoma (Cushing’s disease). Other less-common causes would be a brain abscess, brain cancer, some other space-occupying mass in the brain, or epilepsy

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Written by:

Darien J. Feary, BVSc, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, ACVECC, is a Lecturer in Equine Medicine at the University of Sydney, Australia.

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