Seattle Slew, the only living winner of Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown and the oldest living Kentucky Derby winner, underwent surgery to fuse two arthritic joints in his neck on Saturday, March 2, in Lexington, Ky. This is the second operation of this type the 28-year-old stallion has needed. The first surgery was done in early 2000.

The lead surgeon each time was Barrie Grant, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, of San Luis Rey Equine Hospital in Bonsall, Calif. In 2000, the stallion began showing sudden signs of ataxia (incoordination) after his morning exercise at Three Chimneys Farm. Seattle Slew also was not "straight" behind when he walked. The farm’s veterinarian, Jim Morehead, DVM, conducted a neurologic exam and did X rays on the horse, and noted radiographic changes in Slew’s lower neck.

Several experts were called into consult on the case, including imaging specialist Norm Rantanen, DVM, Dipl. ACVR. The team recommended a bone scan (scintigraphy) be conducted to help pinpoint the cause. The diagnostic procedure was done on Jan. 16, and Rantanen, Morehead, and internal medicine specialist Bill Bernard, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, of Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, consulted to determine if the images were significant.

It was decided to also test Slew for EPM, and Bernard did a standing CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) tap on the stallion (then 26 years old). The test results were positive, but not definitive. It was decided to treat Seattle Slew for EPM even though the medications are known to sometimes interfere with sperm production.

There were arthritic changes discovered in three joints in Slew’s lower neck, bu