Posted 13 January 2007 - 03:29 PM
Hello, some of you know me from other boards. I currently own a filly with a relatively mild case of CA. "Mild" in that she can never be ridden, but she is now coming four, has learned not to fall or run into things as much as she used to, and so I haven't had the heart to put her down. But I am willing to share what I know in hopes that we are able to support those looking to develop a DNA test for this condition so that other horses do not have to be produced and to suffer from this disease.
((For background for those of you who do not know me, No, I didn't breed her, I was dumb enough to buy her as a yearling without doing a vet check, even though I've owned Arabs for over 35 years, been around horses all my life and should have known better! (The last time I do this kind of "favor" for some old friends, no matter how horse poor they are!) The people I bought her from are honest folks who didn't realize there was anything wrong. They just had too many horses and never paid a lot of attention to her.))
What I have learned over the last two and a half years I've owned this filly has been eye-opening.
First off, the veterinarian community does not know a lot about this disease unless they happen to have ties to the major breeders or have seen--and recognized--a case in the past. In other words, cases of "wobblers" in Arabs are NOT classic "wobbler's"-- they are either CA or another genetic condition we know even less about called OAAM (Occipital-Atlantal-Axial Myelopathy). Classic Wobblers is seen more often in Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Paints and other breeds with heavy thoroughbred influence.
My filly, May, stumped three vets. The best one--and he IS a good vet, a horseman himself (I'll forgive him for being a quarter horse person<grin>), thought she had a concussion. A second thought she had read somewhere that maybe there was some kind of genetic thing with Arabs, but she wasn't sure, and vet number three just shook her head, said "that's just not right" quite a few times, and suggested I test her for EPM and drop three grand on a myelogram for CVM (yet another spinal column disease in the wobbler's family). Except that we don't have EPM in Montana...and the vet that had the concussion theory also does chiropractic and ruled out any problem stemming from her neck other than some bones out of alignment due to her multiple falls.
I had a person on a message board tip me off that I should look into CA, and the F.O.A.L. web site also has a very small bit of material on the condition as well, I finally had her diagnosed off a videotape sent to a highly respected retired veterinary neurologist from Cornell. He explained to me that May had CA (with the caveat that nothing in diagnosis can ever be 100% certain, at least not without putting her down and examining her brain), and said that symptoms of CA are very distinctive, and not apt to be mimicked by any other condition.
What I also have found is that the condition was first listed in the veterinary literature in 1966, where the Cornell Veterinary Journal reported on a foal at UC Davis. The following year, 1967, the study Liza mentioned at the major east coast facility that lost 6% of their foal crop one year and 8% the next, all to severe cases of CA, was published. So the industry has been aware of this disease for at least 40 years.
I have also learned that it is very difficult for researchers to obtain DNA samples from affected horses. Between the reality that a lot of vets don't recognize the condition when they see it and the additional reality that people understandably are not comfortable admitting they have a genetic lethal in their midst, research has been very slow.
The major research universities are willing to protect the privacy of anyone willing to submit samples, and if you have knowledge of an affected foal, I encourage you to help with Lisa's efforts. Research is ongoing both in the USA and in Europe, and I was told by one researcher that with enough samples and enough funding, the gene could be located within 2 to 3 years of concerted effort.
Please help our beloved Arabians by spreading the word that this disease exists, it is a serious concern for the breed, and that if we all work together, we can develop a test that will help us all breed happier, healthier horses in the future.