Tack n' Talk

Online Equestrian Resource

Cerebellar Abiotrophy: Not only in Arabians!

According to the University of California, Davis, the incurable neurological disorder thought to affect only Arabian horses, cerebellar abiotrophy (CA), might be able to jump the breed barrier and affect other types of horses as well.   Horses with Arabians in their lineage, could be at risk for carrying the CA mutation.

CA is caused by the loss of a specific type of neuron in the part of the brain that controls a horse’s sensory perception, coordination and motor control.  As a result, foals suffer from head tremors and a lack of equilibrium among other neurological deficits.  Foals suffering this syndrome are generally euthanized early in life because of the risk they would pose to themselves and others as adults.

DNA samples were tested from 1,845 horses of 31 breeds to determine if the CA mutation was present.  Out of the 1,845 non-Arabian horses, six carried the CA mutation.  The affected horses included a Welsh Pony, two Trakehners and three Bashkir Curlies.  All of these horses were heterozygous, meaning the horses carried CA but were not clinically affected by this disorder.  The pedigrees were examined and it was discovered that one of the carrier Trakehners was 3/4 Arabian and the Welsh Pony each had one Arabian parent.  However, the CA mutation found in the Bashkir Curlies most likely originated from one Arabian stallion used to develop the breed in the 1960s.

So what does this mean for horse owners?

Especially for breeds with an Arabian influence, it has been suggested that it might be beneficial to perform genetic testing of your breeding stock for the CA mutation so that an informed decision can be made.

The Equine Veterinary Journal abstract can be read online at:  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2042-3306.2010.00349.x/abstract

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