Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Meds for Headshaking

The vet came out today, not only to do a follow-up lameness exam for Greta pony (she is to be on ten minutes of trot per week for the next four weeks, and I can move her back into the mare pasture, which will do wonders for her feet and legs and will get her out of the mud) and then... I asked about her headshaking.

-Very itchy nose, side of face, ears
-Greta never really rolls, especially in mud (I never said she wasn't special) but when this time of year hits, she rolls with a fervor. An itchy fervor.
-Head-flicking, especially when her respiratory rate increases, but she will do it out in the paddock (the only headshaking symptom shown)
-Only shows up in early spring to mid-summer, and when allergies peak

Vet's response:

Photic headshaking does have some allergenic qualities to it, and can be so mild that it is not triggered by extreme light-to-dark situations. It is often an inflammation of the trigeminal nerve, the main nerve that comes out of the skull below the eyes along the side of the face, along some main blood vessels. This inflammation will express itself as itching and headshaking, and is often seasonal. I could go into knitty-gritty details of how the allergies relate to the nerve inflammation, but it would be A) rather confusing, and B) not very accurate as I'm not even entirely sure of the knitty-gritty details. Stupid complex multicellular organisms: they just have to be so complicated!

Compare it to something like, say, photosensitivity caused by hay fever (or any other bad allergies) in humans. Or people who compulsively sneeze when they get too much bright light in their eyes (like me, I'm a freak... good thing it's a common genetic trait among humans).

So, what are we going to try?

A combination of the medications cyprophetadine (an antihistamine and anti-serotonin) and possibly carbamazepine (an anti-seizure drug). I say possibly to the latter because a dosage usually only lasts for two hours, so it would need to be given immediately before riding. They're relatively inexpensive (I can get the former for less than $5 a month on SmartPak, and in alfalfa, peppermint, and apple-flavored!) and have been proven by clinical studies to improve headshaking (call me a non-believer of anything not clinically tested, but what can I say? I'm a science major...).

The term "improve" always does bother me. Does it "improve" by stopping entirely or just reduces the occurrences? It's such a vague word.

Cyprophetadine, however, means that Greta cannot compete in sanctioned competitions, as it is a Class 4 drug. Because we were totally going to HITS or Devon or the FEI Cup or the Pan-Am Games, and maybe the Olympics in August. Totally. Not.

Anyway, be on the look-out. I'm rather excited to get this show on the road, in a ways.


  1. Glad to hear there are some options for Greta that aren't going to break the bank! I hope they work wonders for her. :)


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