Ok, here is the story...this will probably be long, so bear with me.
My pony is a 7 year old arab cross, who until recently has been a picture of health and well being. He is an easy keeper type who has had some issues with insulin resistance, but has been at a very good weight lately, and that is well under control. No soundness issues, no other problems ever. I've had him since he was 4 months old. He was raised in northeast Florida from birth to four years old. He always lived on not much more than coastal bermuda hay and a vitamin supplement.
Four years ago we moved to Maryland, and he did great up there. Up there he ate Timothy and/or orchard grass hay and a vitamin/mineral supplement.
Last year, we had to move back to northeast Florida. Merlin was transitioned slowly from timothy to coastal, and has been doing well for the last year.
About a month ago, Merlin colicked for the first time in his life. We were having some strange weather, and at the time we thought he just wasn't drinking enough, as his poop was a little on the dry side. I found him colicky, gave him oral banamine and called the vet to let her know what was going on. When he didn't improve completely with banamine, we had the vet out. She sedated him a bit, and tubed him with oil and water. On rectal, she said he was dry, but nothing major.
Ok, so we made a point of making sure he was drinking normally, and added water to his feed and hay just in case. One week later, he colicked again. My barn owner found him, and called me as I was on my way home from work. I called the vet again and found that she was out of town. Her backup was the last vet on earth I would allow to treat my horse, so I called another clinic in town and asked them to come out. By some sheer wonderful coincidence, the vet on call that night with the other clinic just happened to be the board certified internal medicine specialist who specializes in ultrasound. I asked him to come out before I had even seen Merlin because I figured two colics in one week warrented the vet. Good thing too! I hung up with vet, who was on his way, when BO called back stating "call the vet, now, I can't keep him on his feet and something is very wrong".
Long story short, ultrasound showed Merlin had an illeal impaction, and it was recommended that he be taken to a surgical center. As I do not have the funds for that, I opted to give him 24 hours of at home treatment, and if it didn't work, I'd euthanize. We set him up at the barn on fluids, good drugs, etc. The vet left at 8ish, and at 2am I called him back out as Merlin was down despite drugs, stretched, groaning, etc. I thought I was calling him back out to euthanize him honestly. Vet came out, tubed him and he was refluxing (almost 2 gallons if that says anything). Left the tube in and convinced me to give him until morning.
Against a lot of odds, Merlin survived the night and got better. He was put on a diet of Equine Senior ONLY for two weeks, no hay, grass if we could find it was fine. After two weeks, we started bringing hay back into his diet. I bought the REALLY expensive in Florida orchard/timothy hay because the vet fealt that coastal could have been the culprit to his colic. Over the week we were up to about 3-4 pounds of hay per feeding, and down to six pounds of equine senior a day.
Last Friday, he colicked again. *sigh* This one resolved with banamine only from me, no vet. Thank god.
I am at the end of my financial ability to treat the colic. If I have to call out the vet again, Merlin will be put down. I can't not treat the colic, nor can I afford $500 to $1000 a pop every couple of weeks.
So, here is where you come in. Any ideas on what we can do to keep this from happening again? I can't even begin to imagine keeping a horse on a complete feed for his whole life, he needs to be able to eat hay, both for mental and health reasons. Shoot, he's only 7. Not to mention, there are no low sugar complete feeds, so that adds another problem with his IR issues.
Currently, he's in a 12/12 boarding situation, but that can be altered at any time. He has other horses in his herd, they all get along, and Merlin is top of the totem pole. We have sheep and goats at the barn, as well as chickens and cows. They all occasionally share a pasture. Our forage is good quality at all times. 9 months out of the year we have grass, but Merlin is usually wearing a muzzle when out on grass. He is up to date on vaccines, his last fecal was negative (about a year ago, he's due now), and he's been dewormed with Ivermectin and Praziquantal in the last month. He is normally a HUGE drinker, and can and will put down 10 gallons over night. He is lightly worked at the moment.
His body condition was ideal until the second colic. It was three days before he was allowed to eat anything, and then we started him slow. Needless to say he lost a lot of weight, and is now ribby/hippy. His weight is coming back now that we are feeding him enough, but I'm not trying to hurry the weight back on. He has been checked for sand on numerous occasions, and his sand content was minimul
Anyone have any thoughts on what we can do to prevent further colics? Currently, he is getting 3# Equine senior wet three times a day with 3-4 pounds of timothy/orchard hay at each feeding. Each feeding he get about 3/4 Tbsp white iodized salt. Free choice water, and all the overgrazed dead pasture he wants.
I appreciate you reading all the way down here, and any thoughts you might have. I want him to have a normal, healthy life where he can be turned out with his friends, not alone because he's not allowed hay. That's my main goal here. Thanks in advance!
Have you thought of soaking hay cubes and using beet pulp to make up a lot of his forage requirement? Also, TC Senior is a complete feed that is low in sugar (NSC of 11.7%) and has double the amount of fat as Equine Senior, which translates into more calories per pound.
What about his worming history? When did you last worm him with and what are you using?
I recently read that worms, from sheep, are resistant to wormers. The fact that you have other species of animals could affect your horse. Perhaps you can have a fecal test, for parasites, done?
The finer the hay, the easier to digest. Horses, post colic surgery, are fed just the leaves off of the stems of alfalfa. I would be sure that whatever you're feeding is as fine as you can get. The lesser quality hay has more cellulose in it, which can produce gas and irritation of the colon.
IR horses are tricky and have to be strictly managed. I'd recommend either soaked hay cubes for forage or soaking his hay he has unless you are going to test it. For feed the senior feed is over 10% NSF you can always do beet pulp with supplements added. Finally, I'd dry lot him until things are more stable.
There is a great yahoo group for Cushings and IR horses and the information is invaluable.
I have considered hay cubes and beet pulp, but that still leaves him in turnout by himself and not with the others. Not the end of the world, but I'd really like him to live like a real horse and have friends.
He was wormed about 30 days ago with equimax (ivermectin and praziquantal). That is what he also had in March. In December of 2012, his fecal was clean. I will have another one run in the next week or so just in case.
Coastal bermuda hay is very fine and soft, which actually causes more impaction colics because it packs in tighter. In this area, the recommendation is for coarser hay such as timothy in order to keep it from forming a tightly packed wad of hay and jamming in the gut.
I'll look at the TC senior if I have to keep him on the senior feed indefinatly...
Unless you have the grass regularly tested it is risky for IR horses. They need to be kept extremely low carb/low starch. Is it possible for him to be put on a dry lot with a buddy? At least until he stabilizes?
I've switch my IR horse over to beet pulp and supplement to balance his ration and he looks great. The nice thing about beer pulp is you can feed extra without having to worry about it being too "hot" as well as getting extra water. Add in soaked hay and he will be super hydrated
Please check or just treat for sand. It is really inexpensive and one of the most preventable types of colic. There are dozens of good products on the market that are very easy to give. Many barns now do it as a preventative.
Ditto sand colic. You have recently moved back to FL, are you at the same barn Merlin was at when he was in FL before? Feeding practices can cause sand ingestion, for example feeding hay on the ground.
We checked for sand, in three normal poop balls he had less than 1/2 a tsp of sand, so the vet says not sand. Besides his major colic was small intestine, not large intestine, and it is my understanding that sand colics are large intestine.
He is not one of those horses that eats the grass roots and all, he's picky. His hay is usually in a small hole hay net, so he doesn't normally get hay off the ground.
I'm not worried about his IR right now, he's been stable for well over a year with some diet changes. It's just a matter of considering long term feeding options with the IR in mind. All horses get hay on turnout because we don't have grass at the the moment (they have a round roll). So, he can't be turned out with them at all.
I have considered treating him for ulcers. I have to wait to save the money for that though, my vet bills have cleaned out my savings completely (add one sick puppy and an old dog with mast cell tumors to the vet bills right now!!!). I will likely go the blue pop rocks option. Would ulcers call a small intestine impaction? Agh!!!!
Ask your Vet if he thinks that your horse has low gut motility? If so, then I would get some EquiShure, by KER. My mare had frequent boughts of colic, until I began that suppliment. She had been scoped, during one of her stays at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital. Dr. Morrisey found that the ability to remove hay through her gut was not good, which resulted in impaction colics. I have had her on EquiShure for a couple of years, with no more impaction colics.
My mare has low thyroid, too. She is on a small amount of soaked beet pulp, to add more mositure to her gut and McCauley Brothers ration balancer. She is getting brome hay. So far, so good.
Good luck with your boy. Having a horse who has the tendency to colic often is extremely nerve wrecking.
Sometimes when an impaction occurs and the gut is damaged episodes of colic will return at a drop of a hat.
What senior ration is he on? If this ration is agreeable to is pre-IR issues you may have to keep him on it. If senior is pricey since your are already cash strapped after vet bill it is pretty easy to make your own.
But 1/2 tsp of sand in 3 manure balls is a lot IMO. When I do poop shakes I generally use 1/2 pile of manure not 3 poop balls.....and if I see 1/2 teaspoon of sand deposite in the corner of the bag then I am looking hard at it for particle size and very concerned. Here normal would be about 1/4 tsp for 1/2 pile of manure.
Last edited by D Taylor; Jan. 14, 2013 at 12:53 PM.
The main reason I'm suggesting a change in management is that it seems that so many IR horses are prone to colic so while it seemed before it was under control doesn't mean it currently is now. As well as by soaking hay and using soaked beet pulp would increase water consumption which you mentioned he needed.
If you are strapped for $$, then really the simplest solution is to take him off hay. All hay.
Yes, it sucks. But if it's hay or death, which do you want?
I have known horses that lived on no hay. One an in work, showing level 5-6 jumper horse. Any hay made the horse sick as a dog. No hay was the only solution. Was it kind of sad to see the horse standing in the stall all with no hay (this woman did not turn the horse out)? You bet it was.
But the horse was used to it. And it was that or illness/death.
If your management situation allow it, you could consider just giving the horse a large handful of soaked (for hours) wet hay when everyone else is fed. They will think they got some hay, and they will live through it.
Or, you try to arrange as many other small grain feedings as you can manage. Or maybe you buy the horse a treat/roller ball thingy that drops bits of grain as they roll it around, to keep horse more occupied for longer.
You could do it for a short term experimental period. If the horse still colics on NO hay, then you have learned something. If the horse continues to be colic free on hay for 2,4,6 weeks. And gets sick again when you reintroduce hay, then you also learn something.
These are the least veterinary intensive solutions I can think of if you are convinced it is the hay.