New equiPENS treatment for headshakers now available at Oakham Veterinary Hospital

There are many reasons why a horse may shake its head. However head shaking, characterised by frequent unmanageable vertical movements, and often accompanied by snorting and nose rubbing is suggestive of trigeminal mediated headshaking. In this condition, pain originates from the trigeminal nerve, the main sensory nerve to the face, and causes a feeling of intense pain from stimuli that would not bother an unaffected horse. The condition can occur at rest, but is often exacerbated by exercise, and some horses are only affected during the spring and summer.

A team at the University of Bristol have been conducting new research into trigeminal mediated headshaking in collaboration with the neuroscience team at Southmead Hospital. They have been trying a treatment used in people for neuropathic pain called neuromodulation, using Percutaneous Electrical Stimulation (PENS) therapy. Its aim is to re-set the threshold level for nerve firing to normal, and normalise the facial sensations experienced. The procedure involves placing a probe directly over the nerve and stimulating it for a set period of time. In people the only reported side effects are a bruise at the site of probe insertion.

Current research in horses suggests that 50% of those treated have benefited from the treatment. In the absence of an effective, safe and well-established cure for trigeminal mediated headshaking, PENS treatment offers a safe way to successfully manage this horrible condition in a high proportion of cases.

We are proud to announce that in collaboration with the University of Bristol, the equiPENS treatment for equine trigeminal-mediated headshakers will be available at Oakham Veterinary Hospital from May 2017.

If you have a horse that shows signs similar to those discussed or have a horse with trigeminal mediated headshaking, and require further in formation, please telephone the practice and speak to either Mark, Emma or Neal.