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Equine Neurological Diseases

Just like humans, even horses suffer from neurological disorders or disorders of the brain, spinal cord and nerves. Most of the Equine neurological diseases are caused by parasites like protozoa and viruses. These disorders produce a number of symptoms and this is why horses need to be tested and examined regularly so that diagnosis and treatment for these ailments is possible. Some of the common equine neurological diseases are:

1. Western and Eastern Equine Encephalitis:

  • This neurological disease of the horses is caused due to mosquito bites that transmit this virus into the horse’s body.
  • Symptoms include muscle loss, lethargy and loss of co-ordination.
  • There is no cure to this disease although treatments can provide relief from several symptoms.
  • Vaccines work very effectively but they generally do not work for young foals who have too immature an immune system to build immunity to the virus.

2. Equine Herpes Virus- Type 1 or EHV-1

This is one of the most common equine neurological diseases. It starts off with a mild respiratory infection that later mutates to a disease that attacks the CNS or the central nervous system.

  • The common symptoms are inability to defecate and urinate, paralysis and limb weakness.
  • This disease also has no cure and only the symptoms are manageable. The spinal cord damage is minimized with anti-inflammatory medication.


3. Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis or EPM:

  • This neurological disorder is caused by four kinds of protozoa affecting the CNS of horses.
  • The common symptoms include toe dragging, co-ordination losses and muscle loss.
  • If proper treatment is given, there are high recovery chances of around 60-70%.
  • The disease has a vaccine which is available at the Department of Agriculture and can be bought under conditional licenses.

4. West Nile Virus or WNV:

  • This is also one of the equine neurological diseases that is spread by mosquito bites.
  • Common symptoms include fever, lameness, toe dragging and aggressive, violent behavior.
  • With proper supportive therapy, it has shown that 50% of the horses afflicted with this condition. Vaccines have also been effective and they’re available with vets.