Shaking signs to look out for

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WELL, it’s been yet another busy week at Robson & Prescott.

The Parvo virus outbreak with which we have seen mainly puppies being affected from Ashington, Stakeford and Bedlington areas seems to have reached a peak, and we have seen less cases this week.

In a bid to help to reduce the incidence and with the kind sponsorship of Merial, we launched a vaccine amnesty last week which included new puppies, older dogs and those which had lapsed in their vaccination but the second three to five weeks later is free of charge.

It is hoped that this incentive will encourage people to have their dogs vaccinated and help to stop the spread of this potentially fatal disease.

One of our equine vets, Sally Booth, travelled to Sweden last week, partly for pleasure to catch up with friends but also to attend a series of lectures about equine neurology given by Professor Derek Knottenbelt from Liverpool University.

Luckily the lectures were in English and not Swedish!

One of the most interesting topics was regarding head shaking, which can be a very distressing condition where the horse or pony repeatedly shake their head up and down, in some cases becoming difficult or even impossible to ride.

This problem is often worse with exercise or particular enviromental conditions, eg rain, warm, cold, windy or dusty conditions.

There appears to be some trigger factor and often this is seasonal. The suggestion is that it is like a ‘loaded gun’ and the condition is present but there are no symptoms unless the trigger factor is applied.

It is thought that there is a similar condition in humans and reportedly 85 per cent of sufferers commit suicide due to the intensity and nature of the pain they suffer.

Certainly as vets and owners we should consider this and not as is sometimes suggested ‘ride the horse through it’.

The signs usually occur April to June but there has been an autumnal onset (August to September) group identified as well and signs vary from head movement up and down, facial or nasal rubbing, snorting or striking at the face during excercise.

The severity of symptoms are graded 0-5 with grade 0 showing no sign to grade 5 being very distressed and it is almost impossible to touch the head and nose and are very dangerous to handle.

Investigation is often difficult and involves taking a detailed history to attempt to identify the trigger and then try to avoid this as the main treatment option, as currently alternative treatment options are poor as is prognosis, but certainly work continues to try to find a better understanding and ultimate treatment for this very distressing condition.

If you would like more advice about this or any other condition then please do not hesitate to contact the practice.

Anyway, after a pleasant few days away Sally has returned to work.

We are also holding an evening meeting at Morpeth Town Hall on Tuesday, March 19, 7pm for 7.30pm, about equine behaviour and feeding your horse.

Gemma Pearson, from Edinburgh Vet School, will give some advice and tips about handling difficult horses and Sarah Rushby, from Dodson and Horrell, will speak generally about feeding horses followed by specific scenarios.

All are welcome and anyone interested should contact the surgery.