I received the following message on an equine YahooGroups list I subscribe to; the authors asked that we crosspost and disseminate it any way we can.
We would like to request your (and your group members’) help in disseminating the information below regarding DSLD – ESPA (Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Desmitis / Equine Systemic Proteoglycan Accumulation) to your group members. We realize this is an unusual request; however, our goal is to aid and further the current research by reaching as many horse owners as possible to familiarize them with DSLD – ESPA.
We are sincerely grateful for your time, help and cooperation.
Dear Horse Owner:
We would like to familiarize you with DSLD – ESPA (Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Desmitis / Equine Systemic Proteoglycan Accumulation). DSLD, more recently renamed as ESPA, is a systemic connective tissue disease that was once thought to affect only the legs. The current research, which is focused on the biochemical and genetic aspects of this disease, has found ESPA not only in the leg tendons and ligaments, but also in the nuchal ligament, patella, eyes, aorta, and other organs. ESPA has been found in many breeds including Arabians, Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Morgans, Peruvian Pasos, Paso Finos, Saddlebreds, Warmbloods, Appaloosas, Friesians, Missouri Foxtrotter, Tennessee Walker, Paints, National Show Horses, Mustangs, crossbreds, mules and more.
Many horse owners and veterinarians are not acquainted with ESPA or the current research by Dr. J. Halper (UGA) and Dr. Gus Cothran (TX A&M). Further complicating recognition/diagnosis of ESPA is the fact that some horses are misdiagnosed as having EPM, WNV, or other neurological diseases. This is due in part because ESPA is systemic and mimics various diseases and/or conditions. Also, ESPA is sometimes recognized/diagnosed with different names in various breeds; for example, in TBs it may be called “broodmare syndrome,” and in QH’s it may be called “down in fetlocks” disease, in Pasos it may be called DSLD. Thanks to recently published diagnostic protocols, ESPA is beginning to be correctly identified and diagnosed in various breeds.
Below is a list of some of the more common ESPA symptoms owners have noted in their horses (ESPA diagnosed horses typically have more than one symptom):
- enlarged suspensories
- pain upon palpation of suspensories
- dropped fetlocks
- unexplained lameness, stumbling or tripping
- frequently lying down and trouble getting up or dog sitting before standing
- reluctance to move once up or stiff robot-like movement
- back pain/soreness or soreness/stiffness in hips
- digging holes to stand in with toes pointing toward hole
- sitting on fences/buckets/rocks
- change in attitude
- broken crest
- sudden onset of severe allergies to fly spray, bug bites, body hives
- sensitivity to touch
- false colics
- walking wide in rear legs is often seen when rear legs are affected first
- shifting weight from foot to foot with toe stabbed into ground
- sudden weight loss and premature aging
- very loose skin along with premature aging
- refusal to walk downhill
- change in horses’ normal gait: short striding, an unusual hopping gait, refusal to canter, landing toe first when moving, stabbing toe into ground while moving, fetlocks knuckling over (forward)
- extreme rope walking/braiding,
- refusal or difficult to pick up feet for farrier
- pulling away, falling over when farrier picks up feet
- falling over or falling into stall walls, leaning on walls or fences for support
- change in conformation to coon-footed post-legged stance
We ask that if your horse (or a friend’s horse) has any/some of these symptoms, that you please visit the DSLD – ESPA website at http://dsldequine.info/ and/or http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DSLD-equine/ for further information regarding diagnosis and treatment.
Update (March 1): More from a vet’s perspective.