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  • Author or Editor: Kevin D. Woolard x
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To determine period prevalences of postmortem diagnoses for spinal cord or vertebral column lesions as underlying causes of ataxia (spinal ataxia) in horses.


2,861 client-owned horses (316 with ataxia [ataxic group] and 2,545 without ataxia [control group]).


The medical records database of the University of California-Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital was searched to identify horses necropsied between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2017. Results were compared between the ataxic and control groups and between various groups of horses in the ataxic group. Period prevalences were determined for the most common causes of ataxia.


2,861 horses underwent full necropsy, and the period prevalences for the most common definitive diagnoses for ataxia were 2.7% (77/2,861) for cervical vertebral compressive myelopathy (CVCM), 1.3% (38/2,861) for equine neuroaxonal dystrophy or equine degenerative myeloencephalopathy (eNAD-EDM), and 0.9% (25/2,861) for trauma; the period prevalence of ataxia of unknown origin was 2.0% (56/2,861). Horses in the ataxic group (vs the control group) were more likely to have been warmblood horses (OR, 2.70) and less likely to have been Arabian horses (OR, 0.53). In the ataxic group, horses < 5 (vs ≥ 5) years of age had greater odds of CVCM (OR, 2.82) or eNAD-EDM (OR, 6.17) versus trauma or ataxia of unknown origin. Horses in the ataxic group with CVCM were more likely Thoroughbreds (OR, 2.54), whereas horses with eNAD-EDM were more likely American Quarter Horses (OR, 2.95) and less likely Thoroughbreds (OR, 0.11).


Results indicated that breed distributions differed for horses with CVCM versus eNAD-EDM; therefore, breed should be considered in the clinical evaluation of spinal ataxia in horses.

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association



In Latvia in 2014, acquired idiopathic megaesophagus (AIME) was observed in increased numbers of dogs that consumed varieties of 1 brand of dog food. Within 2 years, 253 dogs were affected. In Australia in November 2017, 6 working dogs that consumed 1 diet of another brand of dog food developed AIME. In total, 145 Australian dogs were affected.


AIME was diagnosed predominantly in large-breed male dogs (> 25 kg [55 lb]). Regurgitation, weight loss, and occasionally signs consistent with aspiration pneumonia (coughing, dyspnea, or fever) were noted. Most Latvian dogs had mild to severe peripheral polyneuropathies as evidenced by laryngeal paralysis, dysphonia, weakness, and histopathologic findings consistent with distal axonopathy. In Australian dogs, peripheral polyneuropathies were not identified, and histopathologic findings suggested that the innervation of the esophagus and pharynx was disrupted locally, although limited samples were available.


Investigations in both countries included clinical, epidemiological, neuropathologic, and case-control studies. Strong associations between the dog foods and the presence of AIME were confirmed; however, toxicological analyses did not identify a root cause. In Latvia, the implicated dietary ingredients and formulations were unknown, whereas in Australia, extensive investigations were conducted into the food, its ingredients, the supply chain, and the manufacturing facilities, but a cause was not identified.


A panel of international multidisciplinary experts concluded that the cause of AIME in both outbreaks was likely multifactorial, with the possibility of individualized sensitivities. Without a sentinel group, the outbreak in Australia may not have been recognized for months to years, as happened in Latvia. A better surveillance system for early identification of pet illnesses, including those associated with pet foods, is needed. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2021;259:172–183)

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association