• Open Access

Treatment of Idiopathic Headshaking in Horses with Pulsed High-Dose Dexamethasone

Authors

  • J.E. Tomlinson,

    1. Department of Clinical Studies, New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Kennett Square, PA
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  • P. Neff,

    1. Department of Clinical Studies, New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Gainesville, FL
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  • R.C. Boston,

    1. Department of Clinical Studies, New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Kennett Square, PA
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  • H. Aceto,

    1. Department of Clinical Studies, New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Kennett Square, PA
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  • R.D. Nolen-Walston

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Clinical Studies, New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Kennett Square, PA
    • Corresponding author:Rose Nolen-Walston, Department of Clinical Studies, New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, 382 West Street Rd, Kennett Square, PA 19348; e-mail: rnolenw@vet.upenn.edu.

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Abstract

Background

Treatment of idiopathic headshaking in horses is complicated by an incomplete understanding of underlying pathophysiology and partially effective treatments. If an inflammatory etiology exists, corticosteroids could be beneficial.

Hypothesis

An anti-inflammatory dose of dexamethasone reduces the signs of idiopathic headshaking in a field setting.

Animals

Convenience sample of 20 adult horses with idiopathic headshaking syndrome. Cases were recruited from the general population and diagnosed by attending veterinarians.

Methods

Prospective, blinded clinical trial. Pulsed dosing was with oral dexamethasone (60 mg PO Q24h × 4 days, q3 weeks for 4 months) or placebo (inert paste). Owners were blinded and asked to score the headshaking from 0 to 4 (4 = most severe) 3 days per week. The change in headshaking scores (HS) over each treatment pulse was compared between groups by ordinal logistic regression.

Results

Twelve horses completed the trial. There was no significant difference between treated or placebo horses (P = .987). Sun (P ≤ .001), wind (P = .028), and exercise (P ≤ .045) significantly increased HS.

Conclusions and Clinical Importance

No benefit of dexamethasone treatment was detected for idiopathic headshaking. The results confirmed previous reports of common triggers for headshaking behavior.

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