REASON FOR PERFORMING STUDY: Headshaking in horses has been reported to be most commonly due to idiopathic neuropathic facial pain (trigeminal-mediated headshaking). The prevalence of headshaking in horses in the UK is unknown.
OBJECTIVES: To estimate owner-reported prevalence of headshaking in horses in the UK and to report their case background and disease characteristics, as reported by owners.
STUDY DESIGN: Cross-sectional web based owner questionnaire.
METHODS: The questionnaire was advertised online via social media, horse forums, veterinary websites and equestrian magazines from 17th June 2016, until >1000 responses had been obtained. All UK horse owners were eligible to complete the questionnaire, however only one questionnaire could be completed per owner.
RESULTS: The estimated prevalence of owner-reported headshaking in the sample population of horses (n = 1014), within the last year, was 4.6% (95% confidence interval 3.5-6.1), whereas 6.2% (95% confidence interval 4.9-7.9) of horses were reported by their owners to have shown signs of headshaking at any time-point since ownership. There was no association of sex or breed. Nineteen percent of headshaking horses were reported to show headshaking at rest. Fewer than one-third (30.2%, n = 19) of headshaking horses had been examined by a veterinarian for headshaking. Of horses seen by a veterinarian, the cause for headshaking remained unknown in the majority of cases (57.9% responses) and trigeminal-mediated headshaking was reported as a diagnosis in just one case.
MAIN LIMITATIONS: The accuracy in data reporting by horse owners was not verified in this study. There may be a potential for bias towards over-reporting due to the nature of survey participation.
CONCLUSIONS: Within this sample, owner-reported prevalence of signs of headshaking within the last year, in horses in the UK was 4.6%. Over two-thirds of owners of headshaking horses did not seek veterinary intervention for headshaking. Trigeminal-mediated headshaking was rarely reported by owners as a diagnosis.