Equine neurological problems can manifest in a variety of ways, including altered gait, incoordination, abnormal behavior, or seizures, to name just a very few. These abnormalities can arise from a number of causes, but most commonly they are due to disorders of the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nervous system such as:
- Wobbler disease (boney compression of the spinal cord)
- Equine Protozoal Myelitis (EPM)
- Central nervous system trauma
- Equine Herpes Virus
- Hypoxic encephalopathy of neonates
Experts at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center diagnose these disorders through a comprehensive process that includes a physical examination, routine laboratory and blood tests, spinal fluid analysis, and radiographs of the head and neck. Early diagnosis and treatment is critical for many of these problems.
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- Drs. Martin Furr, Harold McKenzie, and Anne Desrochers and their teams of trained staff have nearly 50 years of combined experience in treating patients with nervous system disease.
- Our faculty experts have taught others in the field, conducted original research, and published papers about these diseases that have helped advance the field of equine internal medicine.
- Dr. Furr is widely recognized as an authority on equine nervous system diseases in general, and EPM in particular; with a colleague, he has authored a major veterinary textbook on the subject of equine neurology (Equine Neurology, edited by Furr and Reed, Blackwell Scientific). Our faculty veterinarians set the standard for the industry.
- In addition, Dr. Martin Furr participated in developing and verifying diagnostic tests for EPM and studied the mechanism of disease progression. He led the clinical trials that helped bring Marquis, the first FDA-approved treatment for EPM, to market.
Caring for neurologic horses
The Center is ideally equipped to manage the treatment and care of neurologic horses, with an Isolation Unit, padded stalls, an on-site laboratory to provide rapid results, a well-stocked pharmacy, and state-of-the-art radiographic equipment.
From the Winner's Circle
As a fifth-generation horse in our breeding program, Spydermann represented high hopes for competing nationally in dressage. But, as we were initiating his training as a yearling, we saw that he’d occasionally stumble while on the lunge line. After our vet checked his basic health and found no problems, we were referred to the EMC. The clinicians there performed a thorough evaluation, which showed that two of his vertebrae were compressed. This meant the problem was neurological and would be exceedingly difficult to treat. Dr. Sullins counseled us about a very delicate surgical procedure that would offer about a 70-80% chance that Spydermann would improve. I actually watched them perform the procedure and I was extremely impressed with the precision and teamwork of the surgical team. Spydermann’s fully recovered now, and he’s performing incredibly well—so well that he’ll compete in the U.S. National Sport Horse competition next fall. Just as importantly, it’s very evident that he’s happy now that he can do his job. We’re extremely pleased with our experience at the EMC and we’re so glad to still have this special horse in our lives.
View a video of Spydermann to see how he’s doing about eight months after his surgery.
Bob and Mary Rombs
Liberty Arabians, Ltd.
Scholarly research by EMC faculty members
Faculty members at the Equine Medical Center have conducted original research and published books and journal articles that have helped advance the field of equine neurology. Below is a selection of their publications.
- Furr M, Howe D, Reed S, Yeargen M. Antibody Coefficients for the Diagnosis of Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis. J Vet Intern Med 25(1);138-142, 2011.
- Furr M. Horners Syndrome (Clinical Commentary). Equine Vet Educ 23(9);453-454, 2011.
- Scrivani, PV, Levine JM, Holmes NC, Furr M, Divers TJ, Cohen ND. Observer agreement study of cervical vertebral ratios in horses. Equine Vet J 43(4); 399-403, 2011.
- Levine J, Scrivani P, Divers T, Furr M, Mayhew J, Reed S, Levine G, Foreman J, Boudreau C, Credille B, Tennent-Brown B, Cohen N. Multicenter case-control study of signalment, diagnostic features, and outcome associated with cervical vertebral malformation-malarticulation in horses. J Amer Vet Med Assoc 237(7), 812-822, 2010.
- Equine Neurology, edited by Furr, M and Reed, S. Blackwell Publishing, Philadelphia. 2008
- Furr, M. Management of the horse with neurologic disease In: The hospitalized horse. Ed: Corley, K. and Stephen, J. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, 2008.
- Furr, M. Atlanto-occipital spinal fluid collection In: The hospitalized horse. Ed: Corley, K. and Stephen, J. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, 2008.
- Furr, M. Lumbo-sacral spinal fluid collection In: The hospitalized horse. Ed: Corley, K. and Stephen, J. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, 2008.
- Furr, M. Monitoring of the horse with neurologic disease In: The hospitalized horse. Ed: Corley, K. and Stephen, J. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, 2008.
- Mitchell, E., McKenzie, H., and Furr, M. Antibacterial therapy for bacterial meningitis. Equine Vet Ed 2007;19(6):316-323.
- Cohen, N., MacKay, R.J., Toby, E., Andrews, F. M., Barr, B., Beech, J., Bernard, W.V., Clark, C. K., Divers, T.J., Furr, M.O., Kohn, C.W., Levy, M., Reed, S.M., Seahorn, T.L. and Slovis, N.M. A multicenter case-control study of risk factors for equine protozoal myeloencephalitis. J Amer Vet Med Assoc 231(12); 1857-1863, 2007.
- Atherton, R.P., Mitchell E, McKenzie H, Furr M. Traumatic fracture of the basisphenoid and secondary bacterial meningitis in a thoroughbred gelding. Eq Vet Ed 2007;19(7):359-364.
- Mitchell, E., Furr, M.O., McKenzie, H.C. Bacterial meningitis in five mature horses. Equine Vet Educ 2006;18(5):249-255.
- Furr, M. Immunology, pathophysiology and diagnosis of equine protozoal myeloencephalitis. Clin Tech Eq Prac 2006:5 (1):3-8.