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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Okay, Orion has been doing a vertical head shake for the past couple weeks. My dad called me when it started, and I just told him to put Swat around his face/in his ears because it's about that time when these itty bitty gnats start eating them up.

Well, when I got home last Wednesday, I saw how severe the head shake was--so low, his back was arching, and constant enough to cause me to worry it was more than just bugs. Apparently, it had just worsened to this point over the past day/two. I called my trainer and she talked me off the cliff and said her own horses were pretty irritated--esp the geldings around their sheaths.

So I Swat'ed Orion all up... dressed him up in his fly sheet and mask (with ears). While I was there, it didn't seem so bad. I left for the weekend, returned Monday, still not as bad as the previous Wednesday. But when I left on this Wednesday morning, it was severe enough to concern me again. My dad called me that evening and said he was getting the vet out here.

Okay... long novel: the point: vet came out today, sedated him, couldn't find anything obvious. Gave my dad mineral oil for his ears (I'm assuming he was hoping for ear mites) and was going to give WSU a call. On Wednesday, if it doesn't turn out to be mites, they are going to fully anesthetize him and do more diagnostics.

Has anyone here dealt with headshaking syndrome? What was the cause for your horse's case? This is new for us.

I've been reading that potential causes are allergies, cranial nerve damage, ear mites, guttural pouch infection, inner ear infection, eye disease, teeth issues (he is due for a float), head trauma (none that we know of), photic/light sensitivity (I'm ruling that out because it is just as bad with his Cashel/Crusader Mask on).

Thanks.
 

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I remember one of the horses at the barn started going pretty mental with the head shaking at first we thought it was a bad habit but it continued to become more severe and the vertical of the head shaking was very off putting. We thought it was flies but there were basically no flies to irritate her.

The vet came in and talked about possible nerve damage in the facial area that was causing the head shaking. To be honest, the owner left before I learned anything of the horse, but I do remember them discussing the nerve on the face connecting with the eye or something along those lines.

Hopefully Orion has better news.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks, Adee. Will do. I'm trying not to worry--hopefully we can try a conservative steroid approach (in case of allergies) or antibiotics (not at the same time). I'm thinking he may as well be floated, too, while he's down.

Anyways, here's my boys as I was heading out the drive on Wednesday. Orion is on the right....

 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Kinda. Thanks for asking. :)

No improvement. Doc is coming out again tomorrow.

We are thinking it's the nerve damage. From what I've been reading, that's usually the underlying cause and then it's triggered by things like allergies, light, etc. Still could be guttural pouch infection since that plays into the nerves a bit....

Anyhow, I asked my dad to observe him, and he pretty much quits doing it in the dark. Fly mask (70% uv ray protection) doesn't seem to make a difference. I'm hoping it's both light (and a better mask or meds will work) and/or mostly allergies (more easily treatable)... but either way, not a highly "curable" disease. We'll likely have to manage it as best as possible. Fingers crossed it decreases in the cooler/less bright/less pollen-filled months.

Or better yet, fingers cross, doc finds some tick or mites or an easily treated infection tomorrow....

Will post an update after I hear how it goes. Wish I could go back for the appt., but I've got two training classes to teach tomorrow/Thursday....

And this is just a "great" reminder to quit taking things for granted. I've had multiple opps to ride him this summer when I've gone home, but didn't because I didn't want to deal with the heat. Well... if this doesn't respond to treatments, I probably won't get to ride him much again.
 

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:( please let us know how tomorrow goes.. I'm sorry things haven't been better, can I just say how jealous I am of your paddock... We don't have anything like that here!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks Adee.

So my dad wasn't home when the vet(s) came out yesterday, and neither of us have heard from them yet. I will let you all know what/when I find out. They're probably figuring out a game plan, and I look forward to hearing what it is.

The dr. on the case was going to bring out a couple of the other clinic vets yesterday for some 2nd opinions/observations, but they weren't likely going to anesthetize him because....

I had emailed them a bunch of articles I found Monday night. Not only did my vet take the time to read them, but he and his wife actually came out Tuesday night to see how he does in the dark. (No headshaking!)

It really does seem like the nerve damage triggered by the photic sensitivity....

I've got the measurements ready to order a Guardian Mask, which blocks 95% of sunlight....

This is yet another reason I love our vet clinic and vets. They've taken great care of our animals over the years. I'm sure not many people are fortunate to have vets take the time out of their evening to drive by when it's light and then stop by, check him out, and talk to my dad when it was dark.... Without us asking them to do so. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks Adee.

I came home today for a few days, since my dad kept telling me "your horse needs you." Guilt tripper.

Tried doubling up fly masks, no effect. Tried a drop fleece lined lunging caveson to put some pressure/touch on his nose (hard to explain but helps some horses), no effect. He's rubbing his nose a lot, some discharge. He's able to eat enough to keep his weight on, so that's good. (Although, he could stand to lose a few pounds.)

Oh yeah! When I was out there, I totally forgot about the whole headshaking thing. /ridiculous/ So I walked in front of him like I always do--actually I was standing in front on him, hands on the sides of his nose looking at his nostrils--and BOOM. There goes my hat... caught my glasses in time after they smashed into my eye. I'm expecting some swelling... SMH at myself.... :)

This morning I ordered the Guardian Mask. Guardian Mask - Uveitis, Glaucoma, Cataracts, Eye Cancer & Eye Injuries If Dandy ruins this mask, I'm going to PO'd! LOL (Actually, he's been awesome about leaving Orion's mask alone/on.)

I also ordered a magnesium supplement. I don't expect it to be a miracle supp, but I'm hoping it helps.

Drs. are trying to figure out what drugs to treat with.

For anyone interested, I've found this site helpful: Welcome to Headshaking Syndrome Center

I've also been reading on TheHorse.com and a couple other places. Still haven't done a vet database search, will do that this weekend.
 

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I've see the guardian mask before, creamelos use them down here to protect their blue eyes <3 love hearing about him blowing your hat off, sounds like a sweet moment between you.. Maybe he knew you needed it too ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
LOL, Adee--it was not a sweet hat flip. It was his headshaking in action--he couldn't help it, and dummy me, forgot that it was a "slight" issue! Note to self: no more standing in front of him or walking under his head.

Stopped by the vets' today, and we are starting melatonin therapy tomorrow. He also wants to start cyproheptadine as soon as he talks to a vet at UC Davis who's written/studied a lot of this. Mask should be here in the next week/so. I want to do the minimum drug therapy, so if I notice improvement with all of this, I will try eliminating the cypro and see how it goes. Cypro can cause colic, so that has me a bit worried.

I ordered magnesium but am going to hold off on trying that. Before that, I may try spirulina wafers, seems to be safer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I forgot to update this sooner, but I'm happy to say that for the last 2-3 weeks Orion has been almost shake free! :D The weather is a little cooler, so we're thinking either high heat + sun were the triggers OR the melatonin is doing its thing! Either way, it's great.

I haven't even had the chance to put his Guardian Mask on, since I want to wait to put it on during an shake attack to see if it makes a difference. I'm curious about it of course, but all that matters is he's happy again. He's even been running around and playing this week. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks ladies!

Yeah, my trainer and vets thought they were nats or ear mites at first, too, but Dandy never acted the least bit bothered plus the shaking stopped 100% once the sun when down.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
So the nodding started again this week. :( Dad is running/thinking through every possible cause we ruled out last summer, which I don't have the patience for and keep reminding him we've gone down that road....

He started the melatonin a few days ago. The damn mask didn't even fit (I should at least have tried it on last year, kicking myself in the butt now). We are going to get some double sided velcro to bridge the strap gap to see if it at least makes it a difference. If it does, and the rest fits okay, we'll give it a go until Dandy destroys it. Then, I'll order a larger size.

I am really hesitant to start the magnesium, which I still have. I'll definitely talk to my vet first. Need to read through the spirulina wafer info again.

I suppose I should be thankful this is only a two month long issue at this point.
 

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Seasonal allergies can last about 2 months? Check your area to see what pollen just cropped up, and check the expected 'end date' with what was last year. If something lines up you can at least watch out for it. I know my allergies were impossible to diagnose because they weren't standard reactions, I'm just going to hope that's the case for him.

I dunno, I wish I could help :( I hope he gets better and you figure out what it is!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Hmmm, Kwen, I will have to look into that a little more. He doesn't do it at night, so I kind of doubt it is allergies, but who knows. Cypro is an antihistamine so a possible good option even if we can't pinpoint cause.
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