Horses & Cauda Equina Syndrome
- Cauda equine syndrome in horses is considered a type of spinal injury. Rather than referring to one specific disease, the term “cauda equina” refers to a condition brought on by a variety of causes. Because of the location of the cauda equine, this syndrome mainly affects the lower back. It may result in a number of symptoms, most of which are related to lack of muscle and nerve control in the lumbar region.
- Primary symptoms of cauda equina syndrome include weakness or paralysis in the tail muscles, lack of muscle control in the anus and little or no control of urination or bowel movements. The horse may also experience numbness around the hindquarters. Cauda equine syndrome may also manifest itself through reproductive problems, such as a protruding penis or other sexual malfunction. Occasionally, the same condition causing the cauda equine syndrome may also cause other neurological problems, so keep an eye out for additional symptoms that may appear to be unrelated. Cauda equine syndrome has relatively little effect on a horse's walk, although subtle changes are likely.
- Cauda equina syndrome is often caused by trauma to the spine or hindquarters. This may occur during a fall, or when a horse backs into an object in a way that jars the spine. Heavy pulling on the horses tail may cause a similar injury. However, not all causes of cauda equine are injury-based. An abscess, herpes, meningitis or rabies may also trigger this condition. It does not appear that any certain breed or gender of horse is especially prone to cauda equine syndrome.
- Your horse’s veterinarian can diagnose cauda equine syndrome after a thorough physical examination. The vet may also need to perform diagnostic tests to check for broken bones, inflammation and infection. These tests may require samples of the blood or spinal fluid.
- Treatment can begin once your veterinarian has determined the underlying cause of the horse’s condition. If the syndrome was brought on by a fracture or broken bone, treatment for the injury should be a priority. It may also be necessary to treat for infection and reduce any swelling in the area. Until the problem has resolved, the horse may need additional care, especially during and after urination and defecation. The horse may need to be given laxatives to reduce the strain of passing bowel movements. In some cases, the fecal matter may need to be removed manually.
- The chances of recovery from cauda equina syndrome vary depending on the initial cause. However, under the right circumstances full recovery is possible.