Big Head Disease/Bran Disease in Horses

Discussion in 'Horse Management' started by megz86, Aug 12, 2008.

  1. megz86

    megz86 Well-known Member

    This thread probly isnt in the right section but wasnt sure where to post it. Im just curious to know if anyone knows much about this disease, like is it common, does it affect all ages or just young horses etc? All i really know is that its caused by a lack of calcium growing up...

    Im asking because when i got my horse i noticed he has a hard bony lump between his eyes that hasn't gone away or gotten bigger. I've had the vet out and they said he might have copped a kick in the head at some point in his life. (hes 6) They also reckon if it gets any bigger or i notice a change in behaviour (agression etc) i need to take him to the vet for x-rays as it might be putting pressure on his brain...:( It hasnt changed but i wonder if Big Head Disease could be the cause? Ive bought calcium powder and cut his bran off (apparently it stops calcium absorption) and no change but then again if hes had it for years it could just stay that way... I think another symptom is lameness, hes definately not lame but he does have a club foot, does anyone think it could be related? Sorry for the ramble but its been on my mind for a while now and im really keen for more info.
  2. sil

    sil Gold Member

    It's possible but unlikely as big head affects most of the bones and not just the head. If it was big head, your horse may have been one of the unfortunate ones that did not have the bones go back down, so to speak.

    Personally I have never seen a case of big head so I can't speak from experience but it sounds like your horse is probably just had a whack.

    The extra calcium can't hurt, though :)
  3. megz86

    megz86 Well-known Member

    well thats a relief! Im sure your right and im just being paranoid, i also know nothing about big head and only found it when i was googling stuff, just wondered if it was a possibility or not.
  4. sil

    sil Gold Member

    Sounds like your horse is in good hands!
  5. megz86

    megz86 Well-known Member

    i think sometimes i am overprotective/paranoid/dramatic*#) whatever you want to call it! had too many neglected animals come my way over the years i guess, kinda weird to get a new addition that has nothing major wrong with it! LoL:)
  6. Arnie

    Arnie Gold Member

    Can big head syndrom be genetic at all?
    My ponies Mum has it and her face perminently looks like a pig. Its hard to explain!
    A few other ponies there were developing it too.
    I've kept a sharp eye on Tawny just incase he's more prone to it then other horses because his Mum has it???

    I questioned the vet the other day about it but she said she's never heard of it lol.
  7. Shmoo

    Shmoo Well-known Member

    Hi Arnie,
    It's not hereditary it is caused when there is a major shortcoming in calcium in the diet, so I would hazard to guess that if all or some of the ponies are in the same area, then that area would probebly be very deficient in Calcium and something needs to be done to change the diet of those ponies.
    Removing them from oxalate (binds calcium) pasture (Kike, Couch etc.) and extra feeding with a high Lucerne based, balanced diet would be good.

    Supplementing with a balanced mineral supplement and topping up with di-calcium phosphate for severely depleted calcium areas. Having soils tested and bloods done will give you a more accurate picture, followed by an equine nutritionist going over things to fix the problem and give a idea of exactly how much to give the ponies from that particular area. Too much calcium causes it's own problems so it's best to go about things systematically.
  8. supersezabell

    supersezabell Well-known Member

    Yep its due to calcium deficiency, bran is not really good for feeding due to the high levels of phosphorus which lead to calcium deficiency and can lead to big head- i researched it awhile ago and will see if i can find the article it was very good.
  9. jodles

    jodles Well-known Member

    well I can actually answer as I know all about big head very common here in my neck of the woods.............c*** pasture thanks to the DPI handing out free seteria seeds when the area was being developped. The Kentucky equine reaserch centre has done alot of study and suggests that if you feed min 20kgs of lucerne per week they then have enough calcium naturally to not get big head, we also feed sea sourced calcium as it has a higher bioavailability than DCP or dolomite. You would notice it also with the back end of your horse............they stiffen up and have arthritic type symptoms also the bone between /above the nostrils I believe is the first to enlarge. Often peopple only notice when a leg is easily broken :(. It is tricky getting blood analysis done as you have to take it and test within an hour also the same with a urine sample(to actually test the calcium content) It is no end of painful when your horses are on high oxylate grasses especially in Spring after rain. Your horse would have to be on no grassy forage and fed alot of bran to get big head :)
  10. jodles

    jodles Well-known Member

    We have done all of this and no-one will give an accurate answer as every horse is different in absorbtion levels.........nutritionist or vet will say should do but will not gaurantee or back it up
  11. Toy

    Toy Active Member

    Its not hereditory as my mares mother was put down because of big head. My pony was also put down because he had a case of suspected big head. I don't know much about it but I have been told to avoid paddocks with a lot of buffel grass. I also don't know any horses that have had it and are still alive. Will be following this topic as I'm curious to know more about it too.
  12. Arnie

    Arnie Gold Member

    How bad would a case get for the horse to be put to sleep?
    I knew it was a bone type of defect but can it actually cause the horse any discomfort like breathing problems?
  13. astraia

    astraia Guest

    *** WARNING **** Don't look if you're squeamish

    I worked in central QLD for a few years and treatend many horses with 'big head' (scientific name is nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism). Was a huge problem out there on buffel pasture as has been explained.

    This is a photo of a young horse with the disease. Facial swelling is an advanced sign of the disease. This horse also had a shifting lameness and was very stiff.


    The next photo is of a rib cage of a mare at post mortem. The mare was found down in the paddock and could not get up. She had a fractured pelvis and was euthanased. I had to perform a post mortem for insurance reasons and when I GENTLY pulled the rib cage during the post mortem, her ribs snapped like they were rice crackers. She was so leached of calcium that all her bones were extremely weak. That is how she fractured her pelvis, probably by simply rolling. She was on buffel pasture and had a nursing foal which was obviously contributing to the problem. She did have access to supplements but this was obviously not adequate.


    So to answer your questions. Yes a horse can die as a result of big head! But if it is caught early (and even in its later stages) it is reversible. If one horse is suffering from the condition you can be sure that all horses are affected, some may just not be showing signs yet. Young, growing horses and pregnant and lactating mares are most at risk.
  14. Arnie

    Arnie Gold Member

    Astraia thats exactly what my shetty colts dam looks like!
  15. astraia

    astraia Guest

    The facial bones will often stay like this even when the diet is corrected. However if other horses are showing signs I would be investigating!!
  16. Arnie

    Arnie Gold Member

    Not my ponies but I'll contact the owners and let them know what I've found out and also the risks that come with it!

    Seeing as it is to do with the calcium can this effect the mares milk or the foal in utero???

    I ask this because my little guy is alot smaller then he's meant to be for his breed and his dam was underweight with a nose just like (if not bigger) then the one pictured.
  17. jodles

    jodles Well-known Member

    Arnie call the Kentucky Equine research centre in Vic they are amazing and the vets will talk to you, they have been great with me and I follow their advice and our horses are fine. If they have big head then you need to give the double required calcium but seriously call them as they have done so much research Kentucky Equine Research, Inc..

    Cant believe that the horses on the above post got to that stage of broken is so well known here in QLD and we all supplement our horses. could not look at pics though.
  18. megz86

    megz86 Well-known Member

    my horses head doesnt look quite that bad:( And his is a bony lump between the eyes. I'll take some pics in a sec and post them. He's from Victoria so i have no idea what grass he was on before i got him and the previous owner only had him for a year so his history before then is a mystery.

    He's not at all lame but like i said in my first post, he has a club foot. Do you think its possible that he had Big Head when he was a foal and thats why he has a club foot (as in his bones didnt develop properly) and big bump on his head? I read somewhere that the bone doesnt always return to normal so maybe thats just what he got left with? Either that or im way off track and he had a nasty accident when he was younger... Both scenarios are a bit sad:(
  19. Treat07

    Treat07 New Member

    Not sure what is happening with my big fellow

    Hi Megz86 or anyone else out there that can help me. My 5 year old Thoroughbred gelding also has a very lumpy ridge type growth between his eyes, does not seem painfull, it has been there for weeks now, I thought it may have been some kind of hit to the head but he has not shown any other clinical type signs. I gave him a week on penicillin and anti-inflammatories just in case but no change. He had raced fairly heavily last year and I turned him out on pasture only through December /January, he did not do well and lost a fair amount of weight, he is back on normal feed now and has been putting on nice safe amounts of weight. Megz86, just wondering if you managed to get any photos of your horses head because it sounds like it may be a similar issue, I will try to load some photos on maybe this evening. Does anyone out there think that this may be Big Head disease or come across something similar??
  20. Wendy

    Wendy Well-known Member

    Some horses naturally have a bulge between their eyes - in the "olden" days we would say it was a sign of a bad temper.
    Has it always been there?

Share This Page