The Thumps

Many off you might have heard the term “The Thumps”, if you have never seen a horse suffering from this, we can help you to know what it is, identify the symptoms and what to do if your horse does get the Thumps. 

The proper name for this condition is “Synchronous Diaphragmatic Flutter (SDF)”. It occurs when the diaphragm contracts in sync with the heartbeat. This can result in a thumping like noise or a hiccup. In fact, it is just like when we get the hiccups which is harmless for us, but when a horse develops this it can mean a more serious under lying problem.   

The symptoms can be just minor twitches usually in the flank area, in more several cases whole body tremors, weakness or cardiac arrhythmias.  

So how does this happen? 

The phrenic nerve controls the diaphragm via signals from the brain, this nerve runs alongside the heart. Sometimes this nerve can become hypersensitive and instead of reacting to its normal signals it starts to react to stimulus from the electrical impulses coming from the heart. That is why when a horse shows symptoms (hiccups) they will occur in regular intervals in line with the heartbeat. The concerning thing is to why this nerve becomes sensitive, it is generally related to dehydration, mineral and electrolyte loss. It is most common in horses that have a more intense work regime and sweat a lot such as racehorses, eventers and show jumpers, but it can be seen in any horse that may have become dehydrated or had significant electrolyte loss via intense sweating or fluid loss.  

How is it resolved or treated? 

Mild cases will generally resolve on their own once rehydration has occurred and electrolytes have been replenished. However, in more severe cases it may be necessary to call your veterinarian to come and help your horse recover. The best cure for The Thumps however is prevention. Make sure you horse has a good clean water supply, keep them hydrated and add an electrolyte supplement to your feed ration such as Ranvet’s Salkavite or Electrolyte Replacer, even in winter months if your horse is working hard and prone to sweating or after a long trip. The addition of an electrolyte paste when competing, travelling or when doing hard work, will also be a great addition and has the added bonus of helping your horse recover faster. 


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Every product in the Ranvet range has been developed to meet a horse’s most specific need at any given time, be it in a training environment or on a breeding farm. Having pioneered the formulation of specific medications and dietary supplements for horses, the company is now recognised as a leader in the areas of equine health and nutrition.

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