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  • Q:

    My 15-year-old crossbred gelding has Australian stringhalt, contracted after eating distressed false dandelion. After nine months, he is now intermittently “jerky” on his left hind. Under a vet’s supervision, I’ve tried intensive therapy with vitamins, especially B12 and E, as well as a two-week trial of an epilepsy medication that had no lasting effect. He is currently consuming a concentrated vitamin and mineral supplement. Internet research strongly suggests that stringhalt affects the myelin sheath of nerves, similar to multiple sclerosis. Several studies are pushing exotic myelin regrowth or repair supplements, a basic one being an omega-3, -6, and -9 supplement for myelin regrowth. To support my gelding’s recovery, should I start intensive omega therapy? If so, what kind? Should I start back on the vitamins B12 and E? Do you have any additional ideas?

  • A:

    Spontaneous recovery is the rule rather than the exception in horses diagnosed with Australian stringhalt after removal from pasture, although progress may be slow, taking up to 18 months before complete recovery is achieved. Your gelding was provided a comprehensive treatment protocol, which may have accelerated his recovery, but time may have been the key factor. Many horses make big improvements in the spring, approximately six months after usual onset of the disease.

    Vitamin E and thiamine (B1) are the two most commonly recommended vitamins for the management of stringhalt. We think there is more logic in the use of vitamin E, so we would suggest continued use of Nano•E (available through KERx Special Needs Nutrition) as an extremely bioavailable natural vitamin E supplement.

    Providing long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA for their anti-inflammatory properties may offer additional support during your gelding’s recovery, but there isn’t any research in the literature to support essential fatty acid supplementation as a form of dietary therapy for horses with stringhalt. Essential fatty acid supplementation (omega-3 and omega-6) is advocated in patients that suffer from myelin sheath damage caused by immune mediated inflammatory response (multiple sclerosis); however, the damage seen in horses with Australian stringhalt is caused by a neurotoxin that may result in limited protection from essential fatty acid supplementation. Use of a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid supplement such as EO•3 will not have any negative effects and may benefit the general health of the horse.

    If your horse has limited access to good-quality pasture, then supplementation with natural-source vitamin E, like Nano•E, and omega-3 fatty acids, such as EO•3, is recommended for such horses, regardless of the stringhalt diagnosis and his recovery.

    Another treatment that may be worth discussing with your vet is Botox treatment.

    Chances are very good that he will recover completely with time.

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