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Agnes Banks Equine Clinic
5 Price Lane
Agnes Banks, NSW, 2753
Phone: (02) 4588 5200
Contents of this newsletter

01 Horses with narcolepsy

02 Top tips for travelling with your horse

01 Horses with narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a rare sleep disorder that has been recognised in many species. The condition affects around 1 in every 2000 humans, however the true incidence of narcolepsy in horses is unknown.

Narcolepsy in horses, and many other mammals, is characterised by periodic episodes of “cataplexy”. Muscle function is temporarily affected resulting in mild weakness to complete collapse. During most attacks horses will regain strength and stand without falling, but occasionally horses may fall completely.

Horses suffering from narcolepsy may show unexplained abrasions or injuries associated with weakness or collapse, especially over the fetlocks and hocks.

In humans, emotions can be triggers for narcoleptic attacks. However, in horses, attacks can occur during routine activities such as leading a horse out of his stable, hosing off after exercise, or during the first mouthful of water or feed. There is even the potential for a horse to suffer a narcoleptic attack during riding.

The exact cause of narcolepsy is not known. Diagnosis can be challenging as episodes can be difficult to observe, although video recording of a horse in his stall can be helpful. It is very important to rule out other conditions that may cause sudden collapse, such as heart conditions, seizures and other neurological diseases.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for narcolepsy in horses or humans. One of the more common drugs used in human patients, imipramine, has been used in horses with inconsistent results. The negative side effects of such medications should also be considered.

02 Top tips for travelling with your horse

Travelling can be a stressful activity for horses, both mentally and physically. Common travel related health issues can include dehydration, muscle soreness, traumatic injury, and colic. Long distance travel also risks the development of respiratory conditions such as “shipping fever”. So, what can you do to help prevent some of these problems for your horse?

Check your float: Ensure your float is regularly serviced and is safe and roadworthy. Be sure to carefully inspect the float flooring, as this is what is separating your horse from the bitumen below.

Hydration: Provide constant access to good clean water in the lead up to travel. Drinking can be encouraged by giving some electrolyte paste or by adding a small amount of salt to the feed. For horses which are fussy drinkers, try taking some familiar tasting water from home away with you. Remember, horses normally drink between 20-55 litres of water each day.

Make sure your float is well ventilated and free of dust and irritants which can wreak havoc on your horse’s airways. Be wary of ambient temperature during travel. On warm days, ensure good airflow and avoid rugging. Check the temperature inside the float regularly to avoid chilling or overheating your horse, and consider avoiding travel all together in extreme temperatures.

Take regular breaks:
Keep trip length to a 12 hour maximum. Stop every 3-4 hours to offer water, and ideally allow your horse to stretch his legs. At these breaks, offer grass or feed at ground level to enable your horse to lower his head and clear the airways.