Neurological signs can vary from very mild almost un-noticeable gait abnormalities or alteration in behaviour to extreme lack of coordination and ataxia. In addition, they may be localised to one specific area such as a drooping lip, or affect the whole horse. As such, they can be difficult to diagnose and treat.
Signs may be caused by acute or chronic trauma to the head, neck or peripheral nerves; Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) or other infections; liver or kidney disease; severe abdominal pain such as colic; and toxin exposure.
In most cases the horse will initially be examined at your premises, a full history taken to determine possible causes, and full clinical and neurological examinations undertaken, if safe to do so – a very ataxic horse may be unsafe to thoroughly examine. Blood samples may be taken for further diagnostics if appropriate.
If further investigations such as detailed radiography and ultrasonography are indicated then these are performed at the practice. Some cases may also require further diagnostics at a referral centre.
Treatment largely depends on the cause of the signs. It may be possible to treat the horse on the yard, but hospitalisation might be necessary to enable more intensive management. Unfortunately, not all neurological cases are treatable, but some may improve gradually over a period of time if the horse is not so severely ataxic that it is dangerous to handle.