Neurologic deficits associated with severe hyponatremia in 2 foals


Address correspondence and reprint requests to:
Dr. David M. Wong, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011.


Objective: To describe the neurologic deficits associated with profound hyponatremia in 2 critically ill foals.

Series summary: A 4-month-old Thoroughbred colt and an 11-day-old Paint filly presented for acute diarrhea and depression. Severe neurologic deficits including blindness and head pressing were noted upon initial examination along with marked hyponatremia observed on biochemistry profile. Aggressive intravenous sodium replacement increased the serum sodium concentration to subnormal values with concurrent resolution of neurologic deficits. Intensive monitoring and fluid therapy were continued; the Thoroughbred colt was euthanized due to lack of response to the primary disease while the Paint filly was discharged clinically healthy without further complications.

New or unique information provided: Mild hyponatremia (122–132 mEq/L) is a common clinicopathologic finding in equine medicine associated with a variety of diseases. The vast majority of horses with mild hyponatremia do not demonstrate direct clinical manifestations as a result of low serum sodium concentration. However, when severe acute hyponatremia occurs (<122 mEq/L), such as with acute enterocolitis, subtle to profound neurologic deficits may be observed and immediate and rapid treatment as well as serial evaluations of serum sodium concentration are warranted. Significant, and potentially permanent, neurologic deficits can occur if water balance and tonicity are not properly addressed. The cases presented here describe additional cases of a previously published disease in foals, acute hyponatremia and associated neurologic deficits, and describe the microscopic examination of the central nervous system in one foal that did not survive.