Old horse can't put on weight. At a loss... Update - he died last night.
My horse has been struggling to put on weight and we can't seem to figure out what is wrong with him and I was hoping to maybe get some suggestions here.
Background: He is a 17 yr old morgan gelding. About a year ago he started to look a little ribby and he lost a lot of his topline. At the time we attributed it to the fact that we thought his pony companion was eating up his hay and stealing some of his grain. In May we moved to a new barn with 24/7 pasture turnout on about 30 acres. The transition to grass was slow and careful. His naughty pony friend now wears a grazing muzzle and has slimmed down and can't sneak his skinny friend's food, but the morgan still hasn't put on any weight, in fact he seems to have dropped more.
Over the summer he seemed to really struggle with the heat. He was lethargic and had the slobbers very dramatically on a couple occasions.
In August the weight loss was most dramatic - he literally went from a wide/xwide tree saddle to a medium tree - so we did a complete feed overhaul. He is now on 4lbs Omegatin (20% fat, 15% protein), 5lbs alfalfa pellets split into two feedings. Before the initial weight loss he was getting just alfalfa pellets. He also gets SmartGut, Quiessence, and now SmartProtect because he started to get rainrot and scratches for the first time ever. He also gets hay thrown in the morning and at night, in addition to the pasture which is available all the time.
Since August we have PowerPac-ed, attempted to SandClear (he won't really eat it), tried probiotics. We also recently did his annual course of adequan injections as he was seeming a bit stiff.
The vet has tested for Cushing's (single ACTH, normal range), Lyme (multiplex, negative all around). We are going to test for vit E and selenium deficiency next week.
He has had ulcers in the past but we don't think that is what it is. He was scoped, treated with a full course of gastrogard, and rescoped a couple years ago and since then he has been very carefully monitored and preventative ulcergard is used liberally at the slightest chance of stress. He also has a voracious appetite and isn't cribbing as much (usually when his stomach is the problem he goes off feed and cribs constantly.)
His coat is still shiny, but he didn't dapple this summer like he usually does.
Attitude is better now that it is cooler, but he just doesn't seem to be gaining any weight.
Any thoughts? I'm so worried about him. I'm starting to get scared it is cancer or something :(.
Update...he passed away last night
The vet was supposed to come out today to run the additional diagnostics.
Last night I got a call from the barn that he had not eaten his dinner so I quickly came out to the barn. He seemed sleepy and uninterested in hay. I temped him (in the normal range, but a little high for him) and called the vet. Gave banamine and walked him for a bit. After a few hours he passed some manure and by 9pm he was munching on some hay and looked better. I left him in a stall for the night so we could monitor his manure production overnight and then at 7am this morning I got a call from the barn that he had died in the night.
He was sweaty when I went to say goodbye so I think he must have struggled. We were going to send him to the vet school for a necropsy but they said there would be nothing left of him to bury and I just couldn't bear it. After talking to the vet I think that maybe it was some sort of intestinal cancer causing his weight loss after all, and it probably contributed to the colic that killed him.
I am beyond devastated. I have had him for over ten years and this pony was my heart and soul. He was kind and gentle and could be trusted even with the smallest child. Everyone who ever met him fell in love with him. He was stunningly beautiful and all charm, a total flirt.
All animals loved him, my chickens and the feral cat at the barn both used to hang out on his back. Over the years he helped me through my mother's cancer and several deaths in my family, as well as the challenges of high school.
He was with me through high school, college, work, graduate school, and now professional school. He was my best friend and my soul mate. We were partners and I trusted him with my life and he trusted me with his. Out on the trails he was fearless and he got me out of many tricky situations. The other day in the pasture the bull (who is generally very docile) got frustrated and came at me - my pony charged in front of me and drove him away. He was my horse of a lifetime. I often joked that I don't really like horses, I like my horse; but it is the truth and my last ride on him will likely be my last ride.
I miss him so much already. This doesn't feel real. I called him "old" but he was only 17. He was a morgan, I thought I'd have another 20 years with him. My (future) children were supposed to learn to ride on him. I feel like I am not whole anymore.
Thank you everyone who provided advice and support.