Horses exhibiting signs or abnormalities that may indicate injury or disease of the nervous system should have a neurologic exam. This exam is performed by a vet to assess the function and health of the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles, in hopes of ruling out neurologic diseases as a potential diagnosis.
Generally, the neurologic exam begins with a careful history and an examination of the horse at rest. This includes examining the horse’s behavior. It is typically followed with examination of a variety of normal body functions and reflexes that require specific elements of the nervous system be intact. If the body functions, movement and reflexes are normal, a problem with the integrity or function of these specific areas is ruled out.
An evaluation in movement is then conducted to see if the horse is having trouble with balance, limb crossing, foot placement, or foot dragging – all of which are indicative of a neurologic problem. Depending on how symptomatic a horse is, adjustments are made during the exam for safety of the handlers. Other diagnostic tests are then used to try to define the disease process that affects the area.
A limited neurologic evaluation is often part of a pre-purchase exam.
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A neurologic exam provides a wealth of information about the health of the nervous system, and helps vets determine the normal or abnormal function of particular anatomy of the neurologic system.
While the neurologic exam plays a fundamental role in defining the problem location within the nervous system, it is of almost no value in determining the nature of the problem.
The examination is, by its nature, highly subjective. Neurologic exams are not all created equal. The effectiveness of the exam is dependent to a great degree on examiner's experience, thoroughness and interest in performing this exam.
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