Head throwing

Discussion in 'Horse Health' started by magic_rider, Oct 23, 2009.

  1. magic_rider

    magic_rider Senior Member

    Sep 7, 2007
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    My horse has started constantly throwing his head around, like he's nodding or flicking his nose around. He does it all the time when he's in the paddock. I imagine he must be irritated by something. Why is he doing this? and what can i do to stop him. When I ride him its a bit annoying.
  2. cowgirl up 2

    cowgirl up 2 Senior Member

    Jan 28, 2009
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    my gelding was doing that,nodding head costantly,can be allergies,or like my guy photo sensitivity,sunlight causing it.we put fly mask on ,and kept him stalled during brightest part of day out in evening,seemed to help.however talk to your vet,could be teeth as well,they do make meds for this to,we didn't go that route because,stalling helped him.goodluck,let us know what the vet says...
  3. meljean

    meljean Senior Member

    Oct 31, 2006
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    Get him checked out by vet, if you can't find midges, mites, ticks, or something wrong with teeth, I can't remember what the disease/condition is called, too early, but there is something that causes this also, but different from the other poster.

    Will dig and find out what it is I can't remember now, or maybe someone else will know.
  4. ejforrest

    ejforrest Senior Member+

    Jan 14, 2004
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    More Than a Toothache

    by: American Association of Equine Practitioners
    October 16 2001, Article # 845

    Many practitioners have developed great dental skills and have expanded their dental services. However, clients aren't using them! Dental care is more that just "floating" teeth. There are many steps you can integrate into your program to improve your horse's dental health.

    Step 1: Know Your Horse's Mouth
    Horses evolved as grazing animals, and their teeth are adapted to that purpose. Just like humans, horses receive two sets of teeth--baby teeth (or deciduous teeth), and adult teeth (all permanent by the age of five).
    Here are some terms to become familiar with:
    • Incisors: Forward teeth, used to shear off forage; there are three sets of incisors--1st incisors (centrals), 2nd incisors (intermediates), and 3rd incisors (corners).
    • Cheek teeth: Includes the molars and premolars; wide, flat, graveled surfaces that easily grind the feed to a mash before it is swallowed.
    • Canine (bridle) teeth: Usually obtained by a male, appear within 4 to 5 years.
    • Wolf teeth: Small teeth located in front of the 2nd premolar and do not have long roots that set them firmly into the jaw bone; rarely appear on the lower jaw. Horses can have one, two, or no wolf teeth. Veterinarians usually remove them to prevent pain or interference from a bit, though all are not troublesome.
    • Retained caps: Deciduous teeth that are not shed.

    Step 2: Recognize The Problem
    Correcting dental problems improves both eating and performance. Although improving your horse's eating efficiency is important, you will become even more satisfied when athletic performance is improved.
    The following conditions are possible signs of dental problems:
    • weight loss
    • inability to eat
    • drooling
    • head-tilt
    • halitosis
    • difficulty in chewing
    • head tossing
    • bit chewing
    • tongue lolling
    • tail wringing
    • bucking
    Sharp enamel points cause a variety of signs, including unusual lateral motions of the jaw and simultaneous head-tilting, lateral head-shaking, lugging in or out on the track, and fighting the bit. Barrel horses may fail to complete a turn, cutting horses may run off on the ends, reiners may quit stopping, and rail horses may refuse to stay "in frame."
    Discomfort elicited by the bit or cheeks hitting the wolf teeth may cause horses to throw their heads in an up-and-down motion and to show signs similar to those associated with sharp points. Fractured teeth cause excessive salivation, spillage of grain, and evidence of pain when attempting to chew.

    Step 3: Get Help
    Cheek teeth tend to develop sharp enamel points even under normal grazing conditions. Because the horse's lower jaw is narrower than its upper jaw and the horse grinds its feed with a sideways motion, sharp points tend to form along the edges. Points form on the cheek side of the upper jaw and the tongue side of the lower teeth. Your veterinarian can rasp these points to prevent them from cutting the cheeks and tongue.
    Loose teeth are generally unhealthy teeth. If your veterinarian finds a loose tooth, he or she will likely extract it. This reduces the chance of infection or other problems.
    When cheek teeth are out of alignment, hooks can form. If left unchecked, these hooks can become long enough to penetrate the hard or soft palate. Small hooks can be removed by floating. Longer hooks are usually removed with molar cutters or a dental chisel.
    Other problems:
    • long and/or sharp canine teeth can interfere with the
      insertion or removal of the bit
    • lost and/or broken teeth
    • abnormal or uneven bite planes
    • excessively worn teeth
    • abnormally long teeth
    • infected teeth and/or gums
    • misalignment or poor apposition due to congenital
      defects or injury
    • periodontal disease
    Proper dental care has its rewards. Your horse will be more comfortable, will utilize feed more efficiently, may perform better, and may even live longer. For more information on dental care, contact the AAEP office for a brochure.
  5. ejforrest

    ejforrest Senior Member+

    Jan 14, 2004
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    Headshaking in Horses

    by: Christina Cable, DVM, Dipl. ACVS
    August 01 2000, Article # 175

    Your favorite horse is tacked up and ready for your daily ride. You mount up, and as soon as you begin warming up in your outdoor ring, he starts tossing his head and sneezing. The sneezing eventually stops, but every time you try to begin work, he tosses his head. You get off and apply more fly spray, thinking its just the annoying gnats and flies that are beginning to emerge, but the head tossing continues. You check your bridle and make sure the bit is in the correct place and not too tight--everything looks OK. The next day, you change bits. It must be your horse just doesn't like the taste of the new snaffle. Then your ride is the same--if not worse--than yesterday. Almost constant head tossing makes it impossible to train your horse effectively. Weeks go by, and some days are better than others, but you wonder what in the world is going on, and how am I ever going to get this horse into a dressage arena?
    This is a headshaker--welcome to their world. What is headshaking and what compels horses to toss their heads over and over? And what can be done to stop it? For answers to these questions and more, read on.
    What Is Headshaking?
    Horses shaking their heads might not seem like a big problem. Horses shake their heads all the time, usually while outside in the paddock or in their stalls in an attempt to avoid insects that pester their face and muzzle. So what's the big deal? Headshaking, however, is different. It takes on a whole new meaning when this behavior is performed frequently, if not constantly, while the horse is being ridden, and nothing about this behavior is normal. Headshaking is the act of the horse flipping its nose into the air, sometimes even shaking its head from side to side. This type of headshaking, the pathologic manifestation, also often involves rubbing the muzzle and sneezing. Not only is this behavior irritating and uncontrollable, but can seriously hamper the ability of the horse to perform in many disciplines. Some horses even become dangerous as their headshaking takes on an obsessive and violent form. These horses might appear as if a bee has flown up their nose.
    What Causes Headshaking?
    Although this disorder has been reported to occur in horses for decades, one exact etiology has never been elucidated. If you own a headshaker, don't despair, we know there are several factors that can cause horses to shake their heads, and there is a list of differential diagnoses that should be investigated before you give up on your headshaker.
    Until recently, many people gave up on their headshaking horses. There did not seem to be anything that stopped the behavior, making it impossible to enjoy riding that horse. For many years, people surmised that headshaking was purely a rider or training problem, not a medical disorder. Some people believed that the headshaking was caused by ill-fitting tack (the bit or bridle) or a rider with heavy or bad hands jabbing the horse in the mouth. Still others believed it was purely a training problem of a learned behavior--that the horse learned that if it shook its head, the rider would soon dismount.
    As veterinarians began realizing that this was a medical problem, one early theory was allergies or irritation by pollen or dirt inhaled in the nose, tickling the horse's sensitive nostrils and causing the horse to toss his head and/or sneeze. Treatments included placing panty hose or some type of filter over the horse's nose in an attempt to filter out allergens and/or small dust particles. This actually helped some horses. Although this was a fine treatment at home, pantyhose on your horse's head in the show ring usually doesn't result in ribbons.
    Another theory tested was that tingling or some other odd sensation within the inside of the nostrils resulted in the headshaking. The tingling was thought to be due to inhaled particles, allergies, or some other unknown factor resulting in a sensation that caused the horse to shake his head. The infraorbital nerve was blocked with a local anesthetic (just like nerve blocks performed on a horse's leg to diagnose lameness). The infraorbital nerve is present beginning at the infraorbital foramen (about half-way down the nose), and when this area is blocked, it desensitizes the inside of both nostrils. The horses then were exercised outside--if the headshaking was greatly decreased or stopped, then they were considered a candidate for an infraorbital neurectomy. This surgery transected the infraorbital nerve, which resulted in a lack of sensation on the inside of both nostrils, and for some horses it gave relief to the headshaking. Other horses were not as fortunate, and the surgery was not successful. This procedure is not performed very often these days since a newer medical treatment has proven more successful.
    What To Do
    If you own or care for a headshaker and the behavior persists despite fly control and properly fitted tack, you should contact your veterinarian. A thorough physical examination should be performed and the horse ridden so your veterinarian can observe the headshaking behavior. Questions you should be prepared to answer include: When does the behavior occur most frequently--while the horse is inside or outside? Is the headshaking better or worse on an overcast day or in an indoor riding ring? When did the behavior begin? If the headshaking is chronic, did the behavior resolve over the wintertime? In other words, does this seem to be a seasonal problem?
    Based on the answers to these and other questions, your veterinarian will formulate a plan to determine the cause of the headshaking. Causes for headshaking include ear mites, ocular problems, fungal infection of the guttural pouch, middle ear infections, nasal and/or dental problems, and a disorder called photic headshaking.
    Your veterinarian will go through the list of potential causes and determine which is most likely causing your horse to shake his head. Several procedures, such as radiographs of the head, endoscopy of the upper airway, an ophthalmic examination, or an oral examination, might be needed in addition to a good physical examination. Unfortunately, even if one of the above-mentioned problems is found, treatment for the disorder might not stop the headshaking.
    Many veterinarians believe that horses with seasonal headshaking, or horses in which the headshaking becomes worse in direct sunlight, shake their heads for the same reason some people sneeze when in direct sunlight (called the photic sneeze). These horses are called photic headshakers, which means that direct sunlight causes the headshaking.
    What Is Photic Headshaking?
    John Madigan, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, from the University of California, Davis, has done a great deal of research on photic headshaking in horses and has reported on these horses in several articles. Madigan and fellow researchers believe that horses shake their heads from the bright light due to an abnormal stimulation of some of the branches of the trigeminal nerve, which provides sensation to the face and muzzle. The light stimulation of the eye causes an abnormal stimulation of some of the nerves of the face and muzzle and results in actual tingling or even pain sensation in some horses, which causes them to violently shake and rub their heads.
    The reason that these horses have facial pain resulting from direct sunlight is still unknown. One theory is that a previous facial injury has resulted in abnormal nerve transmission. For these photic headshaking horses, avoiding bright light, keeping them in dark stalls, even riding at night eliminates this behavior completely. Other horses are helped by using eye protection (sunglasses) during bright light.
    What Can You Do?
    So, you have a headshaker, and he does get better in indirect or dim light; riding him at night in an indoor ring does eliminate the behavior, but you can't ride in the dark forever. For these photic headshakers, there is a treatment that might help. At the 1997 convention of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, Madigan reported on the results of a pharmaceutical treatment for headshakers.
    A drug called Cyproheptadine, which is a histamine and serotonin blocking agent, was administered to a group of 25 headshakers. This drug resulted in moderate to great improvement in 76% of the horses. Al-though it is unknown exactly how the drug worked to decrease the headshaking, it was thought that the drug mediated sensation in the affected facial and muzzle nerve branches, therefore decreasing the headshaking. If the name of this drug seems familiar, Cyproheptadine also is used to treat horses and ponies with Cushing's disease.
    If this drug does work for a headshaker, however, the duration of treatment is variable. Some horses will need to be administered the drug indefinitely, while others will need only seasonal treatment. Furthermore, some horses will need to be protected from the sunlight in addition to being medicated. In any case, working closely with your veterinarian will help you to find the best treatment regimen to help your horse. Headshaking in horses can be a very frustrating problem for owner and veterinarian. But with the Cyproheptadine treatment, more and more horses and their riders are able to overcome this often career ending problem.

  6. ejforrest

    ejforrest Senior Member+

    Jan 14, 2004
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    Headshaking Triggers and Treatment

    by: Nancy S. Loving, DVM
    August 01 2009, Article # 14639

    What triggers a horse to flip his head uncontrollably, sometimes to the point of endangering him and his rider?

    The amazing thing about horses is how such large, powerful animals can be exquisitely aware of the slightest sensation, such as a small insect on its back or face. Rippling of skin or an occasional head shake is a normal response to the tickling trigger of nerve endings. But, there are times when a horse can't stop shaking or tossing its head to a seemingly inapparent sensation; such incessant behavior is known as headshaking.
    Even when a human understands a source of discomfort or pain, it is hard to ignore it or stop natural aversion reflexes. In the case of headshaking, a horse doesn't understand why his muzzle or face persistently feels a tingling or painful sensation. Headshaking behavior is considered to be caused by overactivity of branches of the trigeminal nerve that supply sensation to the face and muzzle. A horse's behavioral reflex causes him to flip his head, snort or sneeze, rub his head, or take evasive action. Most headshaking horses (89% of them) flip their head vertically, according to research findings.
    In general, the horse behaves like you might expect if a bee flew up his nose, making it difficult or dangerous for him to be ridden or handled.
    Researchers agree this syndrome involves abnormal firing of the trigeminal nerve. Research (Knottenbelt, 2009) evaluated the response achieved by placing a coil into the infraorbital canal to put pressure on the infraorbital nerve, one branch of the trigeminal nerve. Continuous feedback induced by the coil was able to stop nerve firing, thereby corroborating the trigeminal nerve as a source of irritation.
    Derek Knottenbelt, BVM&S, DVM&S, MRCVS, Dipl. ECEIM, of the University of Liverpool, calls headshaking a "loaded gun disease" in that it is ready and waiting for something to pull the trigger. He observes, "The specific trigger for an individual horse is variable--triggers include heat, cold, wind, dust, particles, irritant gases, moisture, dryness, pressure, or anything that stimulates and sensitizes the respiratory surface, such as allergies."
    Cases elicited by an obvious pathologic lesion respond to specific treatment, such as addressing a bad tooth or an inflamed sinus. Still, Knottenbelt feels the disease itself lowers the threshold of perception so a small signal can result in a large reflex response to pain perception. "That's why headshaking is so awful, since the horse perceives pain similar to that caused by inflammation, yet painkillers won't resolve the true condition."
    Seasonal Triggers
    John Madigan, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, a professor of veterinary medicine at the University of California, Davis, is recognized as the leading expert on equine headshaking syndrome. Years of examining difficult cases have led him to question why this phenomenon is seasonal-- as many as two-thirds of headshaking cases occur in spring.
    Madigan has identified a correlation of gender to this behavior, finding 66-75% of cases are geldings. "In some studies," he reports, "90% are geldings. The prototype is 9 to 11 years old, although the age range is wide."
    Madigan says there is a rise in reproductive hormones called gonadotropins in the spring, and this is normally associated with the breeding season typical of horses. He explains, "This surge occurs as days lengthen. Geldings have no testosterone feedback, so they have higher levels of gonadotropins, like FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone), for a period of time."
    In evaluating if these particular reproductive hormones play a role in the pathophysiology of trigeminal nerve irritation, he describes research done on ferrets that were found to have an amplified adrenal response following neutering procedures--the researchers identified the presence of LH receptors on the adrenal glands of these neutered animals.
    Madigan says, "This demonstrates that reproductive trophic (pertaining to a nutritive effect on or quality of cellular activity) hormones can have target tissues outside the reproductive tract, especially when levels of gonadotropins are higher due to lack of normal feedback, similar to what occurs in testosterone-deficient geldings."
    How do gonadotropins influence the trigeminal nerve? Madigan explains, "The hormones seem to affect some part of the trigeminal ganglia, altering its chemistry and rendering it unstable. (Ganglia provide relay points and connections between nerves.) As normal sensory 'traffic' comes into the trigeminal ganglia, then additional triggers like light, sound, smell, or exercise may stimulate this nerve to 'fire.'
    "The horse then receives neuropathic pain such as burning, itching, tingling, or electriclike sensations, any of which are manifestations of horses with headshaking," he adds.
    A New Zealand mare provided evidence to the role of gonadotropins. Madigan describes the case: "In the spring, exam of a 4-year-old headshaking mare found small ovaries along with sky-high LH levels. She was given an anti-GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing-hormone) vaccine (Equity) licensed in New Zealand; this dropped her LH levels and the headshaking behavior went away, and stayed away."
    By altering gondadotropin access to the trigeminal nerve, he says the adverse behavior can be modified in other horses, too. Madigan notes, "There have been cases of headshaking in stallions, but 50% have responded to gonadotropin therapy (described on page 24)."
    Triggers of Headshaking
    Bright sunlight seems to trigger headshaking behavior in half of affected individuals, termed photic headshakers. A similar phenomenon in humans, called photic sneezing, is triggered by light stimulation of the eyes that, in turn, induces facial and nasal muscles to sneeze. Madigan says when light is the primary stimulus to headshaking, there are no symptoms at night or when the horse wears goggles.
    "It's not a different disease, it's just that the principle stimulus is light," he explains. "Some horses may be wired for more input into the trigeminal nerve just as are people with photic sneeze."
    In another example he describes a horse that displayed headshaking behavior only when eating long-stem hay; the behavior resolved with feeding soaked pellets.
    Knottenbelt does not find light stimulation to be a primary trigger of European headshakers, noting, "Lots of other things happen when the sun is out, making it difficult to attribute this syndrome simply to optico-trigeminal summation."
    He says covering the eyes of a horse does more than just block light; it also protects the surfaces of the eyes and face, thereby removing common trigger zones. He notes, "In bright sunlight, the eye surface and face get warm, insects emerge, with dust adding to these stimulations."
    Madigan explains how exercise might trigger headshaking behavior: "The autonomic activity of exercise initiates a lot of activity in the nasal area, such as engorgement of the nasal turbinates and snorting that is normal to clear the nostrils so the horse doesn't inhale dust or debris. Higher speeds and more effort ramp up stimulation within the head, each stimuli increasing 'traffic' in the trigeminal area."
    Madigan notes two other primary risk factors for headshaking:
    • A horse that has gained weight, as, for example, during a layoff;
    • A horse that does not regularly perform aerobic exercise.
    The author of an 1897 paper said that this is "a disease of overfed and under-worked horses." Madigan feels there must be some chemical set point for the trigeminal nerve. He has not seen headshaking in endurance, polo, or racehorses except in fit athletes that have retired. Changes in hormonal feedback related to being sedentary, such as leptin in fat, might factor into these cases. He says we have assumed that removal of an animal's gonadal tissues might be performed without side effects; however, the previously mentioned ferret study illustrates this is not the case.
    For horses with trigeminal nerve- mediated headshaking, Madigan says, "It doesn't matter what gear is on their head. With or without a rider they exhibit the same behavior with stimuli. In some, if you clap your hands, the horse acts like it receives an electric shock to the face, clearly indicating a connection between the auditory (eighth) cranial nerve and the trigeminal (fifth) nerve. If a horse only displays headshaking when wearing a bit or another piece of equipment, then you need to look for some other physical cause."
    Other causes include insect irritation, tooth or mouth discomfort, ear or head discomfort, nasal allergies, eye pain or vision problems, or neurologic issues.
    An Alternate Theory
    Knottenbelt believes there might be a different cause for equine headshaking in U.K. horses. He theorizes that equine herpesvirus (EHV) plays a contributing role. Knottenbelt explains, "While the role of herpesvirus is purely conjectural, it is based on the clinical similarity between equine headshaking and human facial pain diseases caused by herpesvirus, as well as the fact that in horses, the syndrome relates specifically to the trigeminal nerve where EHV often localizes.
    "The progressive nature of headshaking without evidence of any external pathology suggests that herpesvirus may affect the brainstem through immune stimulation," he says. His investigations into an immune basis for headshaking are ongoing.
    This theory has been met with controversy, as Madigan says, "We've been checking for herpesvirus in the trigeminal nerve in all horses that are euthanized at UC Davis, and so far we've not made the correlation. However, all of us researching headshaking syndrome believe that something is wrong with the trigeminal nerve."
    Madigan feels that a thorough history provided by the owner, along with a physical exam and videotape of the horse headshaking, are the most important aspects to consider when diagnosing a horse. It is important to identify or rule out any pathology that might contribute to this behavior. He says, "Neuropathic pain can come and go and can be overridden by other sensory input; one feature of headshaking is that it varies from day to day."
    Possible diagnostic tools include head radiographs, nasopharyngeal and guttural pouch endoscopy, and anesthetic nerve blocks of branches of the trigeminal nerve and/or infraorbital nerve. (Madigan does not recommend blocks of the infraorbital nerve, however, as attempting them can be very dangerous to the handler. "If the nerve is hit with a needle the horse can explode in a severe fashion," he notes, adding that "many vets use sedation prior to this block and some horses stop headshaking just due to the short-term sedation, which then alters results even further."). Other noninvasive diagnostic strategies include temporary use of contact lenses, goggles, or eye shades to reduce light, as well as the use of nasal occlusion masks.
    Madigan has implemented every possible diagnostic tool, usually with disappointing results. "Dental exams, eye exams, radiography, endoscopy, anesthetic blocking of the cornea, nasal cavity, or infraorbital nerve--none of these tests reveals much, resulting in less than 1% chance of finding an actual lesion.
    "Even if you find something and fix it, headshaking is not guaranteed to go away because, in most cases, this is a disorder of the trigeminal ganglia related to chemical imbalance, and it will appear again with an appropriate trigger," he concludes.
    Gonadotropin Therapy
    Madigan proposes a therapeutic protocol that he has found successful in treating headshaking:
    • Measure gonadotropins (LH) and lower their levels by administering daily melatonin (12-16 mg) at 5 p.m. This "tells" the horse's body that it is winter. He reports good results for seasonal headshakers.
    • Feed the label dose (4 ounces) of magnesium oxide (Quiessence) to raise the threshold for "firing" of the trigeminal nerve.
    • Feed the label dose of spirulina (a homeopathic product) to raise the threshold of for firing of the trigeminal nerve.
    Madigan stresses that it may take four to eight weeks until results are appreciated with this combination of therapies.
    Once the problem is solved, it is best to continue this treatment indefinitely. In addition, the anti-GnRH vaccine (Equity), licensed in New Zealand, might become available in the United States in the future. Although researchers have not studied its long-term use for headshaking, Madigan expects that an annual booster should be effective in lowering gonadotropin levels.
    Nerve Suppression Therapy
    Drugs that suppress nerve firing, such as cyproheptadine, carbamazepine, hydroxyzine, and phenylbarbital, have been used effectively in headshakers. Cyproheptadine helps 40% of cases, but there are downsides to its regular use.
    Madigan says an owner must consider cyproheptadine's cost, the need for twice-daily administration, that it is not allowed for competition horses, and that it has the potential of causing gas colic.
    Nose Nets
    A treatment for headshaking with a favorable success rate in 40% of cases is a face mask with a nose net. Madigan explains: "The nose net provides a mechanical stimulus, like sticking a finger on your nose, which sends afferent (conducting) impulses up the nerve so it quits firing. Not all horses are improved with nose nets." Allergic Therapy
    "There is a lot of indirect evidence to suggest that allergies are not the cause (of headshaking)."--Dr. John Madigan

    "Allergies have been looked at as a cause," Madigan comments, "but there is a lot of indirect evidence to suggest that allergies are not the cause. For example, allergy testing and hyposensitization injections along with antihistamine and/or steroid therapy are strategies that typically control allergies for the short term, yet these approaches still do not control most cases of headshaking."
    While allergies are not a common cause of headshaking, nasal allergies or rhinitis could induce headshaking behavior.
    Dennis Brooks, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVO, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Florida veterinary school, explains his approach: "Some headshakers suffer from allergies centered in the nasal passages with mast cell release of histamine creating an irritating allergic response. Preventing the breakdown of mast cell membranes by using cromolyn sodium eye drops may reduce headshaking--if no histamine is released, then there's no irritation or headshaking."
    Brooks qualifies this by saying, "Not all headshakers suffer from an environmental allergy. When mast cells are not involved, cromolyn drops won't work."
    For difficult allergy-affected cases, Brooks suggests the use of a corticosteroid, such as dexamethasone, given systemically in pulsed doses (on several consecutive days each month) as recommended by a veterinarian.
    Surgical Options
    Certain headshaking cases could be surgical candidates. For example, Madigan describes one horse with substantially large corpora nigra (growths of the iris tissue) that stimulated the visual field. Removal of these iris growths with a diode laser along with behavioral modification averted headshaking behavior that occurred during bridling. While this is not a typical case, it does point out other unusual causes that might be considered and could be solved surgically.
    Previously it was thought that blocking or cutting the trigeminal nerve could be a relevant treatment. However, Madigan emphasizes, "Trigeminal neurectomy doesn't help since the irritation is not in the branch of the infraorbital nerve, but rather the problem is in the central controlling area when the nerve fires, far higher up in the head. The symptoms can only be blocked with anesthetic injected just behind the eye."
    At UC Davis Madigan and colleagues are working on an electrophysiology study in donated horses that haven't responded to any form of treatment. They examine the trigeminal nerves of these horses under general anesthesia in a process approved by animal use protocol. (Anyone wishing to contribute to this study is welcome to send donations to Headshaking Research c/o John Madigan at University of California, Davis, VMTH, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA, 95616.)
    Spontaneous Resolution?
    Madigan emphasizes that an owner should realize headshaking comes and goes, and once gone, it's likely to come back. "With a seasonal problem," he says, "if headshaking goes away following the last thing you do, that doesn't mean that strategy corrected it."
    That said, he has heard of as many as 20% of cases resolving spontaneously.
    Take-Home Message Madigan emphasizes the importance of working with your veterinarian to identify if your horse's headshaking behavior is mediated by the trigeminal nerve or is caused by something else. Knowing this means you'll more likely achieve therapeutic results. He stresses, "Season certainly plays a role in headshaking syndrome. It's usually not the owner, bridle, bit, rider, gender, technique, or athletic pursuit. Because this is a medical condition and is not necessarily behavioral, it is inappropriate to administer punishment to a horse with trigeminal-mediated pain."
    magic_rider likes this.
  7. cowgirl up 2

    cowgirl up 2 Senior Member

    Jan 28, 2009
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    thank you for postin this info,so far my vet hasn't been alot of help,basically advise put horse in stall during day ,keep mask on him when out,one that covers nose.next summer will have to figure out how to do better for him,thanks to you now have a place to start looking.
  8. pantha11

    pantha11 Senior Member+

    Mar 25, 2007
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    Would also recommend you get your horses pole/poll checked by a physio/chiro...(the part on top of the head between the ears).

    I have seen horses do odd things when this is out....from not eating, drinking to biting, major behavioural issues, and many other things.

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