Topline muslce wasting and toe dragging caused by spinal arthritis or injury?
I talked to a vet today about my horse's moderate/severe muscle wasting issue that has been present for about 3 years. I told her all of the things we tried (many differnt diets: high protien, epsm; treating for epm, blocking every joint one at a time, rear half bone scan (hot spot on right hip) The vet said she would look toward neurological (especially because he drags hind toes and has temp improvement after chiro adjustment). Anyways, she recommends taking neck xrays to look for arthritic joints or old injuries. If this is the cause she says there is good prognosis for improvement with injections.
Sure. Dragging hind toes sounds very much like SI/hip/pelvic. I see this with some hunters/jumpers. It won't be a one fix solution. Along with injections, you'll need to consider massage therapy, chiro, good quality farrier work, saddle fitting. You may find that diet does play a part. The help of an equine physiotherapist will be worth the money and time involved. Keep in mind that it has been three years. It will be 2-3 years for a recovery. During this time, and I'm not being critical at all, you need to take riding lessons from someone who really focuses on biomechanics and correct rider equitation. A horse like this will need a very correct rider so his body can continue healing and stay well.
With back issues, I would start looking for standard leg-centric lameness first. Those large, postural muscles will get quickly rearranged when a horse must constantly stand and move in a way that kinda sorta minimizes pain he can't really escape. He's working on the problem 24/7. By the same logic, I'd start with the feet.
If you start looking for problems higher up, you may be spending time and money fixing secondary problems.
The age of the horse might also figure into it. If the beast is older, he'll tend not to rebuild muscle he has lost. Or it will come back only very slowly.
I know this sounds off the wall, but check the saddle fit first. If the horse is uncomfortable he will stop using his topline. Ask me how I know. My horse went from a medium wide to a medium in about 6 months and started tripping. Plus, this is the cheapest thing to start with and non-invasive. I pulled the blood for the EPM titre, which came back low positive - probably not EPM - then started looking for other causes.
Why would the vet look at the cervical spine for hind end and back problems?
All of the "back/hind end" nerves have to travel through the cervical spinal canal, too. It is the part of the spine that is the most mobile, and therefore the most vulnerable to injury and degeneration.
There was a horse in my barn who had some atrophy and would drag his toes. His original vet thought it was stifles, hocks then thought it was his back. He had everything injected and had acupuncture done, new saddle, Adequan and still wasn't right. Then when he moved to my barn me, our vet checked him over and she felt all those problems were secondary, and main issue was in his neck, x-rays showed arthritic changes. He was off the track, and the vet speculated maybe he had some sort of injury as a youngster. He was injected and doing better, but requires constant maintenance to keep him comfortable.