Monday, June 11, 2007

Diagnosis & Symptoms

The first time I noticed something wrong with my mare, she seemed to be a little "off" in the rear. Nothing I could put my finger on, but I recognized something wasn't right. I thought she might be getting arthritis as she was 15 y/o.

The first two vets who looked at her couldn't find anything wrong with her. The third vet said she was off in the front, not the rear. The fourth vet diagnosed her with EPM and I paid several $ for Marquis treatment. When she didn't get better, we saw the fifth vet who correctly diagnosed her with what was then called DSLD.

As previously stated, the first thing *I* noticed was the subtle change in my mare's gait. However, after speaking to other owners of horses with DSLD/ESPA, I realized that she displayed some symptoms before the gait change...I just didn't recognize them. It was much later that her fetlocks/pasterns began to drop. This was a very painful time for her.

After a bit of research on the internet, I discovered that dropped fetlocks or dropped pasterns aren't the only symptom of DSLD/ESPA. Sometimes, horses with DSLD/ESPA have their fetlocks or pasterns contract upwards instead of dropping.

Below is a list of symptoms copied from the website (Thank you Bunny). Text in red indicates symptoms (in no particular order) that my mare experienced.

Symptoms include:

  • Sudden onset of heat & pain and swelling in suspensory branches and/or whole fetlock area. Body of Suspensory and/or tendons may also be painful to palpation. Horse may refuse to walk at this stage. Some horses show no lameness at onset, some become severely lame. Often laying down and moaning showing a false colic is present during onset. This is a painful time for the horse.

  • Unexplained lameness

  • Stumbling and tripping

  • Leg cramp, frequent stretching of leg, frequent stomping (not caused by flies landing), lifting leg high and holding, biting at suspensory branches

  • Maybe one, two or all legs, may seem to move around from leg to leg in early stages. After onset will be bilateral.

  • Heat & swelling in fetlock area, maybe localized on inside or outside of fetlock or could be whole whole fetlock area.

  • Soreness in Suspensory ligament on palpation especially in the suspensory branches.

  • Enlarged Suspensory ligament and in the suspensory branches.

  • May also be lumpy along suspensory.

  • Palpation of suspensory may feel so tight and hard like an over stretched guitar string about to snap. Or may feel enlarged and mushy/soft.

  • Laying down a lot and trouble getting up, dog sitting before standing.

  • Reluctance to move once up but seem to work out of it with time

  • Back pain/soreness or soreness/stiffness in hips.

  • Digging holes to stand in with toes pointing toward hole.

  • Sitting on fences, buckets, rocks

  • Horse may become irritable, change in attitude

  • Pasterns may be horizontal during weight bearing, or maybe upright with no sign of dropped fetlocks.

  • Sweet potato fetlocks- fluid filled, odd shaped overly large fetlocks.

  • Dropped pasterns

  • Windpuffs in the fetlock area. May show no lameness at this stage.

  • Walking wide in rear legs is often seen when rear legs are affected first.

  • Stiff robot like movement.
Occasional Symptoms include: (these symptoms sometimes appear before suspensory ligament is affected)

  • Broken crest

  • Sudden onset of severe allergies to fly spray, bug bites, total body hives for unknown reason

  • Extremely sensitive to touch, white hairs grow in areas that were touch sensitive.

  • False colics -- laying down and moaning but not rolling, looking at flanks, but normal gut sounds.

  • Shifting weight from foot to foot with toe stabbed into ground.

  • Sudden loss of weight and horse appears to look older than it's age.

  • Some horses with ESPA show very loose skin along with premature aging.

  • Refusal to walk downhill.

  • Change in horses' normal gait, short striding, an unusual hopping gait.

  • Refusal to canter.

  • Landing toe first when moving

  • Stabbing toe into ground while moving.

  • Fetlock knuckling over.

  • Extreme rope walking, braiding

  • Refusal or difficult to pick up feet for farrier, pulling away, falling over when farrier picks up feet.

  • Falling over or falling into stall walls, leaning on walls or fences for support. (Many times these horses are misdiagnosed as EPM or WNV or neurological with this symptom.)

  • Change in conformation to coon footed post legged stance.


Anonymous said...

Misty Valley Equine Blog Post regarding DSLD:

Terry B said...

Thank you so much for your efforts to make information on this disease public. Knowledge is power! Hopefully what will be gained is the power to support the reseach with hearts, minds ... and DOLLARS to the University of Georgia and Texas A&M so that they can complete their work and bring hope to horses and owners suffering from this misunderstood and feared ccondition. Terry B/Salem OR

riton said...

This is a wonderful blog. All information is gathered up in one place making it very easy for anyone to learn. The video's bring tears to my eyes. As mentioned before, donations to the current research is critical to get answers for this serious problem. Right now, Texas A&M is working on the DNA to see if they can find a dna test for this. Some funds are required and if everyone that ever had a horse with this would donate a small might be possible to eliminate this from the horse world.

Diana Reed said...

Thank-you for your marvelous blog! You sure did your homework. More people need to be educated about DSLD/ESPA. My Peruvian Horse gelding was diagnosed in 2003, by a knowledgeable vet, after, like you, 4 previous vets weren't able to tell me what the problem is. My horse was only 7 years old, and had to be retired at that young age.

We need to support the research that too many are trying to stop.