A little history: last January (2012) my 20 year old Arabian mare was diagnosed with a scope...grade 4/4 ulcers throughout the glanular and squamous portions of the stomach along the margo plicatus and the pyloric antrum. She was showing symptoms originally (meaning, for at least a year before this...hindsight and all that...) by being extremely irritable and being slightly picky about her feed and water consumption and it was always worse in the winter. In the summer, she would hold weight, drink normally and graze like a normal horse. In January, she went completely off feed and water. Long story short, we scoped her, and revealed the ulcers. www.photobucket.com/ulcers
We treated her with 1 tube daily of UlcerGard for 28 days, and rescoped to find the ulcers healed. Great. $2500 later between the local vet who said it wasn't ulcers, the two scopes at the clinic, and the medication, she is feeling great.
her lifestyle management has always been 24/7 turnout (she hates being stalled)
forage available at all times (at most they go an hour without hay between feedings - in the summer they have an abundance of grass available to them at all times. In the winter, I use small hole hay nets).
She does not receive grain/concentrates and has not in the 6 years that I've owned her. Never from the previous owner either because I'm friends with her and know for sure. At least, she's gotten nothing at all (pasture and/or forage only) and at most, she's gotten soaked alfalfa cubes, flax, aloe juice, and a ration balancer (her current diet in addition to hay).
She does not seem nervous, but is very alert all the time. Not in a nervous way, she just spots everything, like a great watchdog.
She does not get bullied in her turnout - her and my gelding are lovers. He is the boss, but not in a mean way.
* In the past I have trailered her FREQUENTLY (i.e. average of every weekend) without an ulcer preventative. I know now that this is not a good practice...at the time, I had never heard of horses having ulcers. This has changed...in the few times I have trailered her since knowing she had ulcers, I have always administered UlcerGard as directed for prevention.
Okay, so ulcers are healed, management seems to be in line with keeping horses ulcer free...
Over the summer, everything seemed A-OK. Drinking water, eating her alfalfa with gusto.
It's now November, and she is already showing signs that something is NQR, just like before (only now I am more in tune with her symptoms because I know what to look for...).
She is still eating her alfalfa cube/flax/ration balancer mix, but with not as much gusto.
Her water consumption has decreased (I know because the tub isn't needing to be filled as often, and my gelding is a GREAT drinker - in addition, she used to always drink water after eating her meal, would walk over, drink, then return to grazing or wahtever, but now she eats, then just wanders off and stands there).
I obtained some Ranitidine from the vet (last course of ulcers she did seem to respond to the Ranitidine so I figured, if it can get her back on feed and water, it will get us by). She is currently getting 3000 mg twice daily.
On about the 4th day, she started drinking more water in her usual fashion.
She's now been on ranitidine since 11/20, so only 8 days.
This morning when I got to the barn to do chores, one hay net was empty, the other was still almost full. This indicates to me that one of them is not eating a regular amoutn of hay and history tells me its her. :no:
Her teeth are fine. The water in the tub is warm, the hay is the same hay that she's been eating since early fall (when she was eating with gusto).
I love this horse. She is by far the best horse I've ever owned. But my ability to continue to pay for expensive ulcer treatments is not going to last here.
I guess this is more of a vent than anything. Its very frustrating. I know that ulcers are likely to return once a horse has them. I have done everything I can to keep this horse in a way that is condusive to preventing ulcers. I can't afford $900 for ulcergard every year.
My plan for now is to keep her on Ranitidine for a month and see what happens. IF she seems to level out and eat and drink appropraitely, I will keep doing the same dosage over the winter.
I am also contemplating ordering a round of pop rocks and administering the treatment dose and see what happens. At best, she will improve and it will only cost me $175. At worse, I will have wasted $175...but that thought that they could do the job makes me want to just shell out the $175.00 and see. I will tsay that this summer whenever I took my gelding and she was alone, I always gave her 2 packets of pop rocks as a preventative. I'm not sure if this "proves" they don't work, or maybe just not in my mare's case.
I am struggling with the "pay out hundreds of dollars that I can't afford to spend" and "she is 20 years old...how much longer can I do this and justify the expense?" (meaning, at what point could I justify euthanizing her - because let me be clear, this horse WILL NOT be sold).
Please no flaming here. I'm not interested in hearing the "well, if you have horses you need to plan for emergency expenses!" I am well aware of what having horses entails.
ETA Again: She has been tested for Lyme twice, I think a few years apart, and both tests were negative.