Wobblers Syndrome in Horses

Wobblers Syndrome in Horses

Let’s know about Wobblers Syndrome in Horses. Wobblers syndrome is not common, but it is important to understand because it can look like other diseases such as EPM . When a vet diagnoses Wobblers syndrome, tests should be done to rule out other neurological diseases. Interestingly, dogs can also have a canine version of Wobblers Syndrome. It is not zoonotic or contagious in any way, so there is no concern with passing the disease from animal to animal or to humans. Nor is Wobblers syndrome a death sentence. If left untreated, it can have serious consequences, but most owners will notice this condition before it progresses too far and returns their horse to good health with the help of a veterinarian.

Wobblers Syndrome in Horses

other names

Wobblers syndrome, wobbler disease, wobbles, cervical vertebral verformation, CVM, vertebral stenotic myelopathy

Due to CVM or Wobblers

Wobblers is not a specific disease but a blanket name that covers a variety of conditions. Wobblers can be caused by compression or deformity of the spine in the neck which makes the animal stiff and inconsistent. The horse may be born with a predisposition or nutritional or injury may occur. This is why it is so important to patiently teach a youngster to stand quietly and tie an adult horse safely . A fall in the pasture while playing, or when riding can damage the vertebrae in the neck. Whatever the reason, deformed or compressed vertebrae press against the spinal column, mixing messages from the brain to the organs. certain breeds such as Morgan horses , watchful horses , and thoroughbredsappears to be most affected. Horses with long willow necks are known to be more prone to developing wobblers.


Horses with Wobblers Syndrome will travel frequently and be stiff and disorganized when they move. They can see as they canter, have difficulty stopping easily and collide with the hind legs with the fore legs. It can be difficult to walk up and down hills. The hind end would be more involved than the retrospective. As the condition progresses, they may step on their heels, leading to lameness, which in turn can lead to lameness. If these cuts are left untreated, they can easily become infected. The horse may lose condition and become progressively weaker. The horse may fall easily and may have difficulty getting up. Although Wobblers will not cause death if left untreated, it will be life threatening to the animal and pose a danger to the handler or rider.


If your horse appears a little maladaptive or is more tripping than usual it is time to call the vet. Tripping can occasionally be the result of long hooves , but if the horse is doing regular furrier work, an un-kept foot is unlikely. Your vet will first prescribe further spinal fluid to determine if another neurological disease such as EPM or WNV is the problem. Physical tests include turning the horse in a tight circle and watching for problems with hind-end coordination and support to the horse, which would be difficult if it was scrambling messages from the brain to the hind end. If no other conditions are present, imaging will be done to look for tumors, vertebral damage, or other injuries.

Treating Wobblers Syndrome

Depending on the exact cause of Wobblers syndrome, treatment may include surgery, drug therapy, and changes in the management of the horse. Medicines can help in reducing the inflammation that can erode the spinal column. Surgery can be done to support the damaged vertebrae. Nutritional therapy, physiotherapy, stall rest, and exercise can all contribute to the horse’s recovery from Wobblers Syndrome. Recovery can be long and if the horse was used for competition, it may never return to its previous performance level (although some do).

Preventing Wobblers Syndrome

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent a horse from developing Wobblers Syndrome. Care must be taken to prevent the young stock from growing too rapidly. However, if injury or genetic predisposition are factors, we can do anything.


Hayes, M. Horace, and Peter D. Roskel. Veterinary Notes for Horse Owners: An Illustrated Manual of Equine Medicine and Surgery. 17th Ed. New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1987. Imprint.