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Looking to discuss horses with autoimmune problems, hairloss

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  • Looking to discuss horses with autoimmune problems, hairloss

    Hi! I am just looking to pick your collective brains about autoimmune diseases in horses (causes/treatments?) and more specifically, Alopecia Areata.
    A history (will try to make it brief!) - my 8 year old WB mare was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata 3 years ago. It all started with a small patch on her ear about the size of a quarter as a 2 year old, and did not progress from that until age 4. Spring of her 4 year old year she lost about 50 percent of her hair fairly quickly. Of course I had vets out, punch biopsy showed Alopecia Areata but vet did not believe it. Put her on antibiotics, low doses of corticosteroids, anti-fungals. Nothing helped, and with more hair loss she lost muscle tone, going from a fit and beautiful 4 year old to looking like a 20 something year old! Tried blood serum allergy tests which came back positive for tons of stuff and after 9 months of allergy shots no change.
    Finally a newer vet put her on very high doses of prednisolone after a second punch biopsy positive for A.A. and her hair grew back (except for tiny patches on face and under tail). Have had her on very high prednisolone ever since - 600mg daily! Every time I try to cut down, hair comes out and muscle goes. She has tolerated the doses well, with feed management, etc. But that's over 3 years of corticosteroids. She looks good, gets ridden every day...but it can't last forever. I have to wonder why the muscle tone loss? Alopecia Areata is supposed to only be cosmetic...
    A couple years ago my vet wondered if she could have a walled off Dryland Distemper infection that had triggered the autoimmune problem and did her titers for Dryland Distemper (something she was exposed to as a yearling). Her titers came back a very, very low positive. Vet, after consultation, recommended not to treat...treatment would have been days of IV antibiotics...
    So that's our story, anyone have similar experiences or thoughts/ideas about this? Thanks!!!

  • #2
    I have alopecia areata; I've never heard of horses having it!

    You are right, it is just the hair that's affected . . . although it does correlate with some thyroid diseases too. (you've probably checked her thyroid function). There isn't muscle wasting associated with it.

    Alopecia is a genetic autoimmune disease. There was a recent study that found 13 genes were involved in the disease.

    In your research have you heard of other horses having it?
    https://www.facebook.com/SugarMapleFarm
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    • Original Poster

      #3
      Thanks for your reply - yes, apparently it is also a horse disease, not terribly rare from what I gather. I have relied quite a bit on the human medical literature as of course there is much more known about it in humans than horses. I have NOT had thyroid function tested - will definitely do that. Wonder if the meds she is on will skew the results though...? Will have to ask my vet.
      How interesting that it is genetic, was wondering about that as I knew her parents and many siblings and she was the only one with this...darn good reason not to breed her, then!

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      • #4
        Originally posted by bethwrogillio View Post
        I have to wonder why the muscle tone loss? Alopecia Areata is supposed to only be cosmetic...
        Catabolic steroids. Prednisolone is one of them.

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        • #5
          Does your horse look similar to mine? This is about a month after he lost 95%+ of his hair. Luckily the tail stayed

          http://pets.webshots.com/photo/25695...06566483zEvhjV

          And in case you'll swear he's a buckskin, here's a 2 1/2 years later photo (really bad photo of us, but it shows his coloring). The weird splash type marking on his flank is what grew back in. It was also the first area he lost hair. The rest of his hair came back shaggy but relatively normal after a few months. Since then he has had a gorgeous coat (the photo was taken in November )
          http://www.facebook.com/album.php?id...300961&theater

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          • #6
            Originally posted by bethwrogillio View Post
            How interesting that it is genetic, was wondering about that as I knew her parents and many siblings and she was the only one with this...darn good reason not to breed her, then!
            Yes, but it is genetic with *many* genes needed to be passed on, not just one or two or even three. You don't find people with it going straight down a line with everyone equally affected. (You do find signs of it in the line, perhaps, but not expressed the same way -- the fact that my father has patchy hair loss, and I've lost all my hair, makes us very rare, and we are part of a big study as a result!)

            For example, I have three sons and all have normal hair.
            https://www.facebook.com/SugarMapleFarm
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            • Original Poster

              #7
              Thanks for the clarification SMF11...

              RCloisonne - I should clarify, she loses muscle tone when not on the Prednisolone...when the disease is left to run it's course

              Flyracing: I need to find a place to post pics so you can see what she looked like, and how she looks now - not like your horse: she is chestnut with black skin, the hair loss is in roughly symmetrical areas, many round-ish in shape, with the black skin completely healthy underneath. She looked absolutely grotesque when at her worst, and she is such a pretty girl.
              What was your guy's diagnosis, if any?
              By the way, your horse looks beautiful now!
              Last edited by bethwrogillio; Feb. 19, 2011, 09:09 PM. Reason: forgot to ask something

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              • Original Poster

                #8
                Here is my mare looking as good as she gets nowadays:

                http://www.facebook.com/album.php?id...711363&theater

                And looking not so good, before I put her on the pred:

                http://www.facebook.com/album.php?ai...711363&theater

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                • #9
                  What dietary changes did you attempt? As a sufferer of an autoimmune disease (Celiac), I can tell you that diet can be everything. I have no idea if it will help your horse or not but eliminating feedstuffs like alfalfa, corn, soy, oats and wheat may help. I'd be tempted to put her on a hay/forage only diet and see if that helps (assuming you have not tried it yet.)

                  I wish you the best of luck.

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                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    I tried all kinds of diet changes - I took her off everything but bermuda grass hay (I had her on Platinum Performance and rice bran/alfalfa pellets in addition to hay) when she first started losing hair, and then tried switching her off the bermuda when that didn't work, to orchard grass, and then to all alfalfa. No change...except that she had way tooo much nervous energy!
                    Now she is on bermuda grass hay and Purina Wellsolve (the Pred makes her basically like a cushings horse so I have to keep it low starch with her)
                    Thanks for the thoughts though - that was one of the 1st things I thought/blamed as well when all this started...

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by bethwrogillio View Post
                      I tried all kinds of diet changes - I took her off everything but bermuda grass hay (I had her on Platinum Performance and rice bran/alfalfa pellets in addition to hay)
                      Platinum Performance has soy flour in it so if soy was the problem you wouldn't expect to see a difference. Wellsolve is not a fixed formula so the ingredients are going to change as prices of the ingredients change.
                      So, as an exercise in controlling food allergens, neither of these are a good experiment. Just saying.

                      Sorry you are having this problem with your mare. It must be very worrying and frustrating.
                      "The mighty oak is a nut who stood its ground"

                      "...you'll never win Olympic gold by shaking a carrot stick at a warmblood..." see u at x

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                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Thanks Stacie but this hair loss has been going on for years, she's been off the Platinum for 4 years and just went on the Wellsolve about 6 months ago - nothing food related has had any kind of effect, believe me I have been careful with my "experiments"!
                        Wish it were that easy!!!

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                        • #13
                          Sorry to hear you're dealing with this. I lost my horse to equine granulomatous disease. In some horses, EGD is limited to the skin, but in other horses, like my gelding, it also affects internal tissues and organs. He had many symptoms, including hair loss and muscle wasting, but also multiple ligament injuries, pastern leukocytoclastic vasculitis, lethargy, and severely flaking and crusting skin over his whole body. These symptoms appeared gradually over many months--at first he just seemed to have a moderate suspensory ligament injury and "scratches."

                          Very high doses of dexamethasone helped but weren't able to keep his symptoms entirely in check. Long-term corticosteroid use can impede hair regrowth, and it can also cause muscle wasting in some animals, so that's something to keep in mind as you try to evaluate how well a given treatment protocol is working. (Frustrating when the symptoms of the disease can also be side effects of the treatment.)

                          Not sure if you've already been doing this, but I wasn't in a position/location to take my horse to a research hospital or anything, but my vet and I found that doctors at those hospitals were quite willing to work with us at a distance.

                          Good luck. Let me know if I can help at all.
                          R D Lite "Reuben" (Put Em Up x Scheme for a Dream-Drouilly) 1997-2006

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                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Originally posted by R D Lite View Post
                            Long-term corticosteroid use can impede hair regrowth, and it can also cause muscle wasting in some animals, so that's something to keep in mind as you try to evaluate how well a given treatment protocol is working. (Frustrating when the symptoms of the disease can also be side effects of the treatment.)




                            Good luck. Let me know if I can help at all.

                            Did not know that! Something to consider...
                            Thank you!

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by bethwrogillio View Post
                              Did not know that! Something to consider...
                              I believe the adverse effects on the hair coat are more common in small animals than in horses, and are often less dramatic in horses, but it's still something to be aware of.
                              R D Lite "Reuben" (Put Em Up x Scheme for a Dream-Drouilly) 1997-2006

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