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Big belly

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  • Big belly

    I'm throwing this out to you for some possibilities and ideas.

    A young woman who boards with me at a self-care barn has an OTTB, young, who has a hugely distended belly. He recently was moved to this barn because of bad care at the previous barn so he and his partner came in underweight and looking poor. She has plenty of experience with horses, including OTTBs.

    I would describe the horse in question as looking NQR. He looks ribby, with prominent hip bones and spine, but a huge belly. It looks like a mare who's ready to pop. I don't know if this necessarily came on suddenly but there did seem to be a day when some of us were "Yikes".

    She called out a well respected vet group who did a rectal palpation, a fecal exam, and tubed him because they were under the assumption at that time that he had an early impaction. The horse has not acted colicky. He is bright-eyed, has normal cap refill, no temp, a good appetite. And a huge belly.

    The horse's owner ran into one of the track vets at the feed store this afternoon and she suggested worming him eventhough he had a negative fecal.

    My gut suggests that he either has a huge worm load, despite a negative fecal, or a belly full of fluid. He does NOT have a hay belly. I think that both of her horses get too little hay, but that's me because my horses have ample hay throughout the day when they're not on pasture (which is most of the time).

    Anyone have ideas of what this could be?

    After our conversation this evening when I point blanked her, lovingly, that his belly was still huge, led me to believe that she is going to pursue more diagnostic testing, starting with ultrasound.

    She doesn't have a ton of money, but she does take excellent care of her horses and wants to do right by him.

  • #2
    The place to start is with a powerpack for encysted strongyles, followed by an equimax to get tapeworms - neither of which will show up on a fecal. Then, supply quality protein and quality hay. You are essentially describing a wormy, protein deficient horse, IME there is no point in doing expensive diagnostics other than a basic blood panel until the basics have been covered.
    "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


    • Original Poster

      Thanks EqTrainer,

      That has been my suspicion. Thank you for your input which I will share with the owner tomorrow.

      I recently supplied the owner with some nice hay for in-kind payment of favors done, which is a higher quality hay than she was giving . I don't know what feed she is providing, but should she be looking for a high-protein feed? What percentage?

      I've been so lucky to have OTTBs that have never had issues with weight and good condition, with pedestrian grain and lots of good quality hay. Took one a lot of higher fat feed to get weight, but he's plateaued and now looks like a million.

      I appreciate your input!


      • #4
        I would do some basic blood work a CBC for sure. Then I would do a panacur powerpack.
        Last edited by Fharoah; Nov. 13, 2010, 11:29 PM.


        • #5
          A big gut and no top line means muscle wasting to me, not skinny. Of course pics help but I know it's not your horse, so no go there.

          I'd put him on a ration balancer after all that deworming and add tri-amino for extra amino acids. Good quality free choice hay, some minerals, and watch him get cute
          "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
          The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


          • Original Poster

            Pharaoh, a gelding!

            EqTrainer, I will ask the owner for permission to get and post pics. I'm quite sure she will be receptive.


            • #7
              So sorry I read your post just spaced out tonight. Sorry!


              • #8
                Agree powerpak and then equimax, then I would probably also do a probiotic in case he is having difficulty digesting what he is getting properly....

                Third Charm Event Team


                • #9
                  Poor quality hay can cause MAJOR bellies. I've seen it happen with my own eyes. I bet once the horse starts getting good quality forage it will disappear. And I totally agree about the Panacur and Equimax just in case.


                  • Original Poster

                    Thanks to all of you. You have confirmed what I have suspected. Have not seen the owner since this thread, but did relay message via BO. This is a very laid back, self care barn. We all pitch in to help each other. Not completely drama free, but worth being here despite the paucity of forage in the paddocks!

                    I concur with the suggestion to PowerPac the horse and provide him with more good quality hay. He is currently on probiotics, and, again, forgot to sneak a peak at his feed.

                    I think the PowerPac is key, and a CBC.

                    Thanks again.


                    • #11
                      I don't know if sand is an issue where you are, but if it is, you could also try a course of psyllium after all the de-worming (I try not to do too many things at once).


                      • Original Poster

                        Sand is definitely not an issue, but I appreciate your input. At present at this self-care barn, there is no forage in the paddocks. Whatever the horses get in turnout is hay supplied by the owner. I give mine a lot, good quality hay, locally grown, put up by a team of Percherons . The supplier is very proud of his product and it shows.


                        • Original Poster

                          I do appreciate all of your input. Horse was PowerPacked this week. He is scheduled to have a CBC and ultrasound on Thursday. Owner is having arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday. Horse was a little less bright this morning, didn't call for his a.m. feed, was sulking, apparently.

                          The vet group that is coming out on Thursday suggested that he may be in liver failure.

                          I'm hoping that the owner will get a definitive diagnosis on Thursday.


                          • #14
                            Seems like a pretty, hmmmm... Wild speculation?
                            "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                            The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


                            • #15
                              They concluded liver failure from a big belly and acting sulky? If that was the case then my horse who came with a big belly and ulcer's should have died years ago

                              Really, don't panic! I often see horses with "big bellies" underfed because the feeder sees the belly and thinks "fat". It creates a bad cycle and in the end you get a skinny horse with a big belly. If you took the belly out of the picture, how skinny would this horse be? I'm guessing no more than a 3 or 4 on the body scale?? Get the lab work done to be sure, but then feed the horse


                              • Original Poster


                                My gut tells me that this horse needed a PowerPac (which he got) and a hike in feed, including better quality hay. It's not my horse, but I did provide her with a good quality hay.

                                "They" didn't conclude anything. "They" are still investigating and trying to formulate a conclusive diagnosis.

                                I would have a different feed program but, again, it's not my horse. I've never had to deal with a bad doer, for whatever reason, and maybe that's attributable to my feed regimen. Don't know. But this guy is in trouble.

                                I'm not panicking. I'm simply trying to bolster the owner's information load so she has some guidelines.

                                Again, thanks for your input.


                                • #17
                                  I know a woman who has a very large herd of horses, she's a bit of a hoarder but means well and is very dedicated. She does an unbelievable job keeping all her horses in great shape, feet, teeth and wormed regularly, really more impressive than most people who own only one... but the sad part is she can't afford quality hay for her vast herd, she feeds borderline cow grade. Some of the super thrifty arab/pony breeds do well, but most of the tbs and qh's and apps are as you describe, ridiculously large bellies, wasted toplines with spines and hip points sticking out. Almost remind me of cows with angles sticking out everywhere. And, as was said before, visitors think the horses are 'fat'.

                                  reminds me of those commercials of the kids in ethiopia, starving wasted arms and shoulders but large distended bellies.

                                  the horses have hay 24/7, grained each day, there is always plenty of food available, but its apparently extremely poor nutrition. sadly nobody sees anything other than a herd of 'fat' horses, the owner is isolated and surrounded by people who tell her "boy you feed them too much, they're fat!"
                                  Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Thanks Buck.

                                    I think you're on to something. Now to introduce the concept to the owner!

                                    She is very receptive to input.


                                    • #19
                                      Hope this gets sorted out for the horse! Poor guy and poor owner.

                                      Now a question for the experts here, why PowerPac before the Equimax?