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Older Horse With Cushings - Input please Update: Another Colic

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  • Older Horse With Cushings - Input please Update: Another Colic

    Hi all, need some input on my guys current situation, just would like to know what others think. I am going to try to keep this short.
    Jack is my first horse, He is a 'mustang' off the mountains here locally, has been in captivity for about 7 years from what I can tell, and I believe I'm his 4th owner, I've had him almost 5 years now. He's 19 years old this year.
    From the beginning, Jack had issues with colic, we figured out were mostly diet based. Alfalfa was part of his diet then, and once we removed it, the colic issues seemed to have lessened quite a bit.
    He is on a grass hay diet, with a small amount of alfalfa and a general supplement. He cannot eat soaked hay, soy, larger amounts of alfalfa, sugar, or concentrated feeds. He colics. Vet feels that there is some type of chronic colitis involved.
    For the first two years I had Jack, we did lots of stuff working with the trainer, he learned the basics, and I learned to ride. He'd always been 'lazy', but was so tolerant, and more whoa than go, I always thought perfect horse for me.
    Jack got sick in February three years ago. Vet, who already had Cushings on her radar, began treating based on symptoms even though the tests came back negative. We saw a huge improvement, he shed out normally the next year, and was back to his normal self.
    Colics started up again about a year ago, treated for hind gut ulcers, and we saw improvement. September he started dragging a foot, seemed off, spooking at random things. I had the vet out for a general/neuro exam. He failed the neuro exam miserably, no longer safe to ride, but I had retired him a few months earlier due to my own back issues that prevented me from riding anyway. We tested for Cushings and I/R, negative. Mild laminitis, probably due to Cushings, and small rotation in both fronts, but nothing to be concerned about at that point.
    Horrible impaction colic in December last year lasting a week. Jack was at his wits end with tolerance for being poked, prodded, medicated, tubed, etc. Didn't know that he'd pull through, but he did and seemed to improve overall up until about a month or so ago.
    This year, slow to shed. I think we are going to need to up his meds. He's shedding, but not like he did the last two years. Jack refuses alfalfa now, just wants his grass. Is super sensitive on his right side, won't let me groom there on some days. Maybe the ulcers are back again.
    I got Jack as a freebie, he's been the best horse I could have asked for. So sweet, and tolerant, even though we both started out green together. He's not the same horse he was three years ago. He had a really hard time tolerating the Prascend at first, but after a month of dealing with the not eating, he seemed okay. We're losing ground now, may need to up the dose. Colitis has been flaring up again, possible ulcer issue in a horse that shouldn't have ulcers. He still drags his feet, can't do tight turns well. Increasing his medication means putting him possibly through another several weeks of feeling bad.
    The thing is, I'm not sure he's happy. He doesn't run or play anymore, he doesn't interact with his buddy like he used to. He just stands in the shade all day sleeping. You may see him out moving around a bit in turnout, but his whole demeanor has changed. I realize that horses would prefer to do nothing, but this is different. He's never been a big one for grooming, but he tolerated it. We're about to the point that he hates it now, but puts up with it because I make him.
    I wonder sometimes if it's because I retired him, but even if my back had been okay, he's neurologic now, and can't be ridden. I go out and spend time with him, just hang out. I have the vet coming out next week for shots, will have her take a look at him. I'm sure she will want to up his meds.
    It's hard to put into words what I'm feeling/thinking. We had to put a horse down a couple years ago, and even though it was hard, I knew it was the right thing. Jack has good days and bad. But he just seems blah now. Doesn't seem to enjoy anything anymore, but I don't know if that's okay. Technically, he's 'healthy' I guess, but part of me says we are just prolonging the inevitable, and at what point do I say it's enough? This is a horse that ran free for 13 years of his life, and is now destined to live inside a fence forever. I wonder if that's part of it. He has a good sized turnout that he can use every day, part of me hopes that helps some.
    I guess I'm seeing the slow decline. Jack is one of those horses that didn't respond well to the Prascend, and he's not going to be the horse with Cushings who lives to be 30 and still in work or has a job. I feel like that's my fault. Maybe I could have done something different, or better for him. I think I've done the best I can do.
    A person comes to the point that it's exhausting waiting for the next crisis, and with Jack it's been one after another for the last 3 years. Every morning when I go out to feed, there he is, waiting for breakfast, when the evening before he just looks sad and dull, and I'm not sure he'll still be here the next day. The vet bills have been high, and we've managed. His medication isn't an issue. Looking to the future, all I can see is more vet bills, more tests, more treatments, and I don't think this horse cares if he's here anymore or not.
    I'm heartbroken and confused. I just want what's best for my boy, but not sure what that is right now.
    Last edited by SLedbetter; Jun. 8, 2019, 07:24 AM.

  • #2
    I am so sorry. What a hard spot to be in. I can see you are putting him first and want him to enjoy his life and it is hard when it looks like he isn't happy. I don't know what advice I could offer that would help and if I was in your shoes I would take it day by day.

    You have his best interests at heart so no decision you make is the wrong one. Nobody knows him like you do.

    Comment


    • #3
      http://endgame-journeys-end.blogspot.com/?m=0

      Please read this post (and as many others in my blog as you like) containing the things I learned from horses one and two about making the final decision. It's a tough one to make. You have my sympathy.

      Comment


      • #4
        Sounds like you're looking after him very well...are you in an area where Lyme disease is prevalent? Might be worth looking into that.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Jungle Monkey, no, Lyme is not prevalent here. In fact almost non existent. That had been something I asked my vet about last year. She said it isn't an issue here. I could test for it to rule it out I suppose.

          Comment


          • #6
            I would give him the kindest, most selfless gift you can: a gentle passing. So sorry you are going through this.

            Comment


            • #7
              It's really hard to know when it's the "right" time.

              I lost my Cushing's mare last year. We were incredibly fortunate that she was sound and happy but we - correction, our incredibly fantastic barn owners - had a terrible time keeping her eating. Ironically, I ended up deciding to put her down shortly after her appetite picked up and she was eating better than she had in years. She developed malabsorption syndrome so she wasn't getting nutrients from her food and started dropping weight rapidly.

              I always said that I wanted to put her down before anything catastrophic happened. The odds that she'd go peacefully in her sleep were much less than the likelihood that she'd founder, colic, or go down and be unable to get up and that caused me a sort of low level, background worry for the last few years of her life. Almost every time I saw or thought about her, I had the painful question of if it was time to put her down yet.

              This might sound terrible, but after having worried about her for so long, I actually have a feeling of relief when I think of her now. I don't have to worry any more - all those terrible things that could have happened, didn't happen and now they won't.

              I can think about her now and know that we (again, mostly our incredibly wonderful barn owners) did the absolute best we could do, both in the decisions made to try to keep her going and the ultimate decision to euthanize her..

              This is a pic of her the day before we put her down. I still sometimes tear up when I think of her but they're mostly happy tears - we we're lucky to have had such a wonderful horse. She's greatly missed but I have no regrets about putting her down.

              Big hugs!

              Comment


              • #8
                It's okay to let him go. You've done your best for him, and it sounds like he's no longer enjoying life. I think being neuro is hard on them psychologically. They know they can't run away from danger. For a Mustang that has lived in the wild and knows real threat from predators, I would imagine it's even harder.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by SummerRose View Post
                  It's really hard to know when it's the "right" time.

                  This might sound terrible, but after having worried about her for so long, I actually have a feeling of relief when I think of her now. I don't have to worry any more - all those terrible things that could have happened, didn't happen and now they won't.

                  Big hugs!
                  Thank you for this. I've been dealing with the low level worry for years. I've also been dealing with the guilt of feeling that I would be relieved when I didn't have to worry anymore. Always felt that maybe that relief was due to the fact that I was just tired of taking care of him, but couldn't understand why I would feel that way as I love him dearly. This put it into perspective for me. Worrying, even in the back of your mind is exhausting.
                  When there isn't any obvious illness, it makes it harder to justify to yourself that the time to make the decision is coming. I will ask my vet when she comes out what she thinks about his condition, she's on board with the fact that he's been a tough case and isn't a good candidate for many treatments. I value her opinion, so that will help verify if what I'm feeling is right.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by SLedbetter View Post
                    Hi all, need some input on my guys current situation, just would like to know what others think. I am going to try to keep this short....
                    I think I've done the best I can do.
                    A person comes to the point that it's exhausting waiting for the next crisis, and with Jack it's been one after another for the last 3 years. Every morning when I go out to feed, there he is, waiting for breakfast, when the evening before he just looks sad and dull, and I'm not sure he'll still be here the next day. The vet bills have been high, and we've managed. His medication isn't an issue. Looking to the future, all I can see is more vet bills, more tests, more treatments, and I don't think this horse cares if he's here anymore or not.
                    I'm heartbroken and confused. I just want what's best for my boy, but not sure what that is right now.
                    Oh I am so sorry you are going through this, trust me, I went through this last year. I waited a little longer than I should have to, "let my Cushing's boy go." However, I found a horse book that showed the various face grimaces and meaning and I'd realized my boy had been "grimacing" for over a year. His new Vet was in love with him too and wanted to try more but, when his arthritic knees began to flare up and on top of everything else that the treatment would've caused other side effects, and his Cushing's on top of that... I made the bittersweet call to "let him go."

                    You are right, it isn't the vet bills or the time or the giving, and giving, and giving but, in the end, it sounds like you know that he doesn't really want to be here anymore, suffering. Each horse and each case is different and I really wish you courage and strength in your choice.

                    One painful lesson I've learned is that waiting too long, and not letting them go when your gut first tells you, doesn't make the choice any easier. The only thing it does is prove to us that our horse really, really is waiting for us.

                    Good luck and so sorry you have to make this final responsible call for your horse.
                    Jen
                    p.s. I let my horse be "king" of the stables for the last few days, and thanked him, he was in a lot of pain but, did seem to appreciate being the "big man" and walked around to say hello to all the other horses there and inspect the grounds before he walked back to his stall.
                    p.p.s. mine was a mustang also and only 18-19 years old too, such a good guy!!
                    Last edited by Photolady; Jun. 2, 2019, 09:04 AM. Reason: for the p.p.s.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I too have a horse with cushion. She was foundered real bad but we made it through that. She is just real fat and can’t get her to shed all the way out. I brushed her for about 2-3 months which helped but now we are at a stand still. I read about Chasteberry pellets being good for Cushion. I just started her on this will see if it helps.

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by Photolady View Post
                        Oh I am so sorry you are going through this, trust me, I went through this last year. I waited a little longer than I should have to, "let my Cushing's boy go." However, I found a horse book that showed the various face grimaces and meaning and I'd realized my boy had been "grimacing" for over a year. His new Vet was in love with him too and wanted to try more but, when his arthritic knees began to flare up and on top of everything else that the treatment would've caused other side effects, and his Cushing's on top of that... I made the bittersweet call to "let him go."

                        You are right, it isn't the vet bills or the time or the giving, and giving, and giving but, in the end, it sounds like you know that he doesn't really want to be here anymore, suffering. Each horse and each case is different and I really wish you courage and strength in your choice.

                        One painful lesson I've learned is that waiting too long, and not letting them go when your gut first tells you, doesn't make the choice any easier. The only thing it does is prove to us that our horse really, really is waiting for us.

                        Good luck and so sorry you have to make this final responsible call for your horse.
                        Jen
                        p.s. I let my horse be "king" of the stables for the last few days, and thanked him, he was in a lot of pain but, did seem to appreciate being the "big man" and walked around to say hello to all the other horses there and inspect the grounds before he walked back to his stall.
                        p.p.s. mine was a mustang also and only 18-19 years old too, such a good guy!!
                        Photolady, was your boy on Prascend? How much for how long?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by SLedbetter View Post

                          Photolady, was your boy on Prascend? How much for how long?
                          He was on it for only about a month and a half, two months. He was just perking up from the medicine but his body seems to say, "no." He either stocked up after some bad cool, wet weather and it seemed his arthritis in his front legs flared badly and, after a week of bute paste, he was still walked super short steps and with much effort he could only go very slowly, even on deep soft sand. Farrier said his feet looked perfectly good.

                          I finally realized that his daily suffering was really the best that he was going to enjoy, and with as much confidence and assuredness I could must up for him, in front of him, led him into his goodbye. I wanted him to trust everyone that was involved in his goodbye so he wouldn't think anything other than "normal" and "I trust what these people are doing" as we walked and loaded him to the trailer.
                          It is not and never easy.
                          Jen
                          p.s. the only thing is I 'know' in hindsight it was the right call and even though I feel I waited a little too long, it wasn't devastatingly too long. I don't know what I would've done had he fallen and panicked not being able to get up again.
                          p.p.s. edit to say, I've only watched one horse fall and panic over not being able to rise at the other stables. It was another person's horse who wasn't there and the stable owner called the vet and left for a ride, I stayed with the other horse so she could not be alone and sat with her while she finally rested, and we waited for the vet. Having witnessed that, I couldn't allow my Cushing's old boy to go through it. Here is a little video I made the night before I 'let him go." https://youtu.be/hv7nRatsNLU The flies were bad last fall here in Phoenix, normal it isn't that fly-filled.
                          Last edited by Photolady; Jun. 4, 2019, 06:26 PM.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Came home yesterday to find Jack colicking. Called vet, gave meds. He pulled through, but it took a long, long, time for the Banamine to kick in. I suspect gas colic, as everything else looked normal.
                            Vet will be out this next week, will see what she thinks after an exam. I had a heart to heart with my daughter yesterday about Jack, she agrees that it may be time to make a decision.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I have mare who went through a big range of vet issues, including colic surgery (twice) enteritis, stifles, a wither problem and now possible degenerative suspensory issues. I know the feeling of "what's now" every time the phone rings, and the stress is no fun for you. My mare is currently retired and holding her own, but I've decided I'm done with trying fix her. If things go south or she's not happy, I will make the decision.
                              You know the horse, you see the changes, you will get nothing but support here for a tough but kind decision. Hugs.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                First off, can I tell you how refreshing it is to hear someone describe their horse with such love and kindness? It's obvious Jack was very lucky to have found you, and how appreciative you are of having him in your life.

                                Please forgive me, I have not read all responses.. but isn't Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever -- a tick born illness-- prevalent in New Mexico? Tick diseases present in many similar ways. Just throwing it out there.

                                Gentle hugs to you and a scratch behind the ears to Jack.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by SLedbetter View Post
                                  Came home yesterday to find Jack colicking. Called vet, gave meds. He pulled through, but it took a long, long, time for the Banamine to kick in. I suspect gas colic, as everything else looked normal.
                                  Vet will be out this next week, will see what she thinks after an exam. I had a heart to heart with my daughter yesterday about Jack, she agrees that it may be time to make a decision.
                                  Agree,
                                  Gentle hugs to you. It is very hard. Sounds like your horse is trying to do is best, to do what you want him to do, (i.e. keep living.) There is no right way or wrong way. I'm glad you had the heart to heart with your daughter so she can also understand that what the horse really needs may be something that is very hard for us to give him. Huge support and kind thoughts to you all.
                                  Jen

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Thanks to all of you for your kind words and support. It's greatly appreciated.
                                    I went to groom Jack this morning, he won't let me near his right side. This has become a common occurrence for him, and it's frustrating to say the least, as he still has so much hair I want to get off. The stepping away from me isn't behavioral I don't believe, as some days he's fine. I suspect me may have some belly pain, or possible neurologic involvement. I'm trying to be respectful of his discomfort. No sense in stressing him more than need be.
                                    He has also been super spooky the last few days, especially when I lift my hand up by his eye to hold his halter, or put grooming spray on his mane. Couldn't get that accomplished today either.
                                    Could someone enlighten me on neuro involvement/side effects from Cushings? Anyone had any experience with this? He almost fell over the the other day after shaking off dust, and he stands really funny on his hind end. I'm not looking to do more tests, or treatments, just curious if this could be the cause of some of his behavior/physical symptoms.

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by Photolady View Post

                                      Agree,
                                      Gentle hugs to you. It is very hard. Sounds like your horse is trying to do is best, to do what you want him to do, (i.e. keep living.) There is no right way or wrong way. I'm glad you had the heart to heart with your daughter so she can also understand that what the horse really needs may be something that is very hard for us to give him. Huge support and kind thoughts to you all.
                                      Jen
                                      My daughter has watched/helped me go through all of this with Jack. She even took care of him after his last colic when we had to leave for a few days. She can set my head straight when I go to the blaming myself for not doing enough for him. She's a huge support for me and I love her for that. She was here with me when we had to put our old man down a year ago, and always comes to help me with the boys if I need her.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Understand that cushings disease is oftentimes caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland. Which is at the base of the brain. I'm sure you extrapolate from there how neurological symptoms are sometimes attributed to cushings.

                                        We had one seize repeatedly at the farm a few weeks back. Super steady guy, even did a jumping lesson that afternoon. He behaved normally in the lesson, ate dinner, was grazing happily at pm check but when they owner did a walk through at 10 pm they saw him down and seizing. Repeated seizures witnessed and they made the decision to let him go.

                                        He went from 99% normal except for having started prascend 3 months earlier to having to say goodbye. He was the back bone of the lesson program at the barn. He was irreplaceable.

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