Shortly after Carin Brown brought her mare Hermosa Valor home, she started noticing mysterious wounds appearing on the mare’s front legs.
But as soon as they began to heal, the pretty mare would somehow cut them open again.
Then, on a day filled with anticipation and hope for a possible ribbon at the dressage championship for Pony Club, Brown watched with shock as Hermosa Valor her completely collapsed to the stall floor, then seemed to become startled, and scampered back to her feet.
Brown’s local veterinarian was called and a short time later, and the 18-year-old year old ex-racehorse was diagnosed with the very rare condition, equine narcolepsy, Brown had reported about to Off-Track Thoroughbreds.com in an earlier article.
In this week’s Veterinary Answers, Steve Reed DVM Dipl. ACVIM, and shareholder at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital answers questions about the condition.
Q: I recently wrote about a horse who was diagnosed with equine narcolepsy. It went undetected until the owner saw her horse fall in his stall. How rare is this condition, and what is it?
Narcolepsy is a fairly rare condition. However horses collapsing in stalls have to be separated from sleep deprivation or seizure disorders.
Q: She still rides him, and reports no issues in the ring or on the trails.
Most animals with conditions such as narcolepsy or seizure disorders rarely show signs while being ridden.
Q: Are there any drugs or treatments to help offset the symptoms of narcolepsy?
Stimulants such as Imipramine have been used but very occasionally.
Q: Are there any signs and symptoms an owner can be watching for, without actually seeing a horse fall down?
Evidence of unexpected wounds on the front of the fetlocks or carpal joints can be an early indication of episodes of collapse.
Q: What other tips and advice can you offer?
Be sure to look for other diseases or a chronic lameness. There is a big question (in some veterinary circles) about whether this condition exists in horses. Some animals with lameness/laminitic conditions feel unsafe lying down to sleep, and will become sleep deprived, collapsing when they cannot stay awake any longer.
It has been treated by placing a dominant horse in the field/stall with them and then the horse will lay down to rest.