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Portable Device Helps Diagnose, Monitor Equine Neuromuscular DiseasesBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · October 2, 2017

Smartphones keep getting smarter, and according to a recent study*, they’re helping veterinarians stay on top of their game. Specifically, smartphones and related portable media devices (PMDs) can help veterinarians diagnose postural stability in horses on the farm. In addition to distinguishing between subtle lameness and neurologic disease, PMDs can help monitor neuromuscular diseases after treatment has begun. Historically, these procedures were restricted to laboratory or hospital settings using technologies such as force plate analysis.

In human medicine, analysis of postural stability—the amount of sway the patient undergoes while standing—can help assess risk of falling, gauge the status of neurological disorders, determine the effects of sports training, and assess the impact of chronic joint pain.

“Although studied less frequently in horses, postural stability has been used to evaluate lameness, the impact of rehabilitation on stability, and the change in balance in growing foals,” said Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

Being able to use a PMD, which is comparable to a smartphone, to assess postural stability in horses in a field setting could help veterinarians distinguish between lameness and neurological conditions—a surprisingly challenging task in some cases. In turn, veterinarians will then be able to devise an appropriate treatment plan and monitor response to treatment all from the comfort of the farm.

In a study by Moorman and colleagues from the Orthopaedic Research Center at Colorado State University*, horses were fitted with a PMD on their withers to measure movement or sway using an accelerometer app. Less sway suggested improved postural stability and better neuromuscular control.

Researchers found that the PMD could reliably detect sway in both the craniocaudal (forward and backward) and mediolateral (side to side) directions when placed on the withers. Further research is necessary, but this smart technology offers hope to owners and veterinarians faced with complex cases involving musculoskeletal or neurological systems.

“In cases of lameness, the treatment plan could warrant inclusion of one or more joint supplements. KER offers several, including KER•Flex with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, Synovate HA with hyaluronic acid, and even EO•3, a marine-derived source of both DHA and EPA,” advised Crandell.

Australian horse owners should look to Glucos-A-Flex, a blend of glucosamine hydrochloride, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, for joint support.

Always choose quality nutritional supplements unlikely to contain contaminants, such as substances prohibited in competition, and likely to have the type and amount of ingredient listed on the product label. Poor-quality supplements may be ineffective and delay appropriate treatment and return to function.

*Moorman, V.J., C.E. Kawcak, and M.R. King. 2017. Evaluation of a portable media device for use in determining postural stability in standing horses. American Journal of Veterinary Research. 78(9):1036-1042.