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So frustrated...weight/diarrhea/health issues in 5 y/o TB

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  • So frustrated...weight/diarrhea/health issues in 5 y/o TB

    OK, so I've posted about this horse before. He's a 4-5 year old TB (terribly illegible tattoo!) who has always been a hard keeper. I have had him since March. In July we upped his work and were adjusting his feed to compensate, so he dropped down to a 4 on the Henneke scale...skinnier than I would like on this horse (and I like thinner horses), but just barely so, not enough for us to worry or back off on his work or anything.

    So one day he's just lying down all day. I take him into the barn to keep an eye on him, and he's having these horrible stomach cramps and major diarrhea--like projectile diarrhea if there is such a thing. We had increased his feed a few days before but it wasn't anything new, just more of the same old stuff. We did have some questionable hay come in and several horses got a little sick at that time with milder diarrhea. The vet could not find anything particular, but we tossed the hay and bought new stuff. The horse in question, Indy, was sick for 6 days before he began recovering, and it took about 2-3 weeks (total, from the first day of illness) to be eating normally again. He dropped down to a high 2 on the BCS in that time.

    So he's been steadily gaining weight since, and was up to a low 3 (I know they're just supposed to be solid numbers, but hopefully you get what I mean...that borderline "is it a 2 or a 3" type weight). He had one minor relapse with diarrhea, but it was when we introduced a new high-fat grain so attributed it to that. He was on a generic omeprazole treatment for 30 days as he was diagnosed with very severe ulcers.

    Well, this weekend he got really sick again. Not quite so bad as the first time, but diarrhea and not eating for 4 days. He's eating now but he looks awful, like skeletal. My vet put him at a 2 again but I think he looks like a 1. I've never had such a poor-looking horse. Still couldn't find anything.

    He's back to normal now, but looks awful and I'm worried that if he gets sick again he just doesn't have anything more to lose. We're going to put him on another month of ulcer treatment to be safe. It is hard to find good hay right now, but he gets about half a bale a day (split into 3 feedings). He also has a mixture of beet pulp and timothy/alfalfa pellets in front of him at all times, and gets a scoop of Ultium morning and evening (about 2 pounds). More Ultium than that makes him a little sick. He has food in front of him 24/7 except for 3-4 hours a day when I turn him out with his old pasture buddies (can't feed during that time for practical reasons). He is still occasionally getting mild cramps but handwalking for 5-10 minutes seems to help. He has a lot of energy normally and is eager to get out, runs around for a bit, etc. so seems to be feeling good for the most part. He is also still easily the dominant horse in the field so it isn't like he's lost status or anything. His appetite is great normally, just vacuuming up his hay pellet/beet pulp mix and pounding on the door for his Ultium and hay.

    I don't know what my questions are really, just does anyone have any thoughts? I have never encountered anything like this before and I'm not sure what else I can do. He's so young and he's really a very nice horse (lovely ride, jumps 2'6" courses easily with the potential to go higher, very nice temperament if a bit of a bully to the other horses, etc.) that I can't bear to put him down, but I also can't keep doing this indefinitely. My ownership of this horse is a long story but suffice to say I run a business and he was supposed to be sold a few months and a lot fewer vet bills ago. I want to do right by this horse but for financial reasons I need to figure this out--I don't care about making a profit but he's not one of my personal horses that I can do this indefinitely with, if that makes sense.
    exploring the relationship between horse and human

  • #2
    In hard-to-figure-out situations, the most cost-effective solution is often a large veterinary clinic or teaching hospital. Are you close to either? The collection of very good vets and their collective experiences of seeing a lot of everything (including a lot of weird stuff) can make short work of diagnosis.

    Good luck.
    Patience pays.

    Comment


    • #3
      I did not see anything in the OP regarding this horse's worming history. A powerpack would probably not hurt him if it hasn't been done.

      I'd also simplify his diet temporarily to free choice hay, BP, alfalfa cubes or pellets, and some rice bran for fat. Give him a multi-vitamin supplement and try to avoid anything with wheat or soy for a bit to rule out allergies.

      I'd also give him a tube of REAL Ulcerguard or GastroGuard for at least a week or 2. I know its pricey, but if he's got serious ulcers it will work faster to stabilize him. You can usuall tell its working within a week. After a full dose for 2 weeks, you can proably cut him back to 1/2 dose or go back to the generic without doing too much damage. Grand Digest has ingredients that help with the hindgut, you might want to give that a try as well.

      Good luck. These hard keepers can be very challenging and frustrating, but IME, once you find the root of the problem and get them stabilized, they will generally become more normal keepers.
      Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
      Witherun Farm
      http://witherun-farm.blogspot.com/

      Comment


      • #4
        Was blood work ever done? What does your vet think?

        Sounds like the ulcers never healed. Was he scoped after treatement stopped last time?
        APPSOLUTE CHOCKLATE - Photo by Kathy Colman

        Comment


        • #5
          I agree with getting him to a large equine hospital. I find that overall I spend less there than having local people continue to "beat the bushes" for a diagnosis.
          Producing horses with gentle minds & brilliant movement!
          www.whitfieldfarm.shutterfly.com

          Comment


          • #6
            Also there is a good food by Buckeye called EQ8. It's just for GI health & problem horses.
            Producing horses with gentle minds & brilliant movement!
            www.whitfieldfarm.shutterfly.com

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Sorry I didn't include it in the OP, but he has been kept up-to-date with wormers. We PowerPacked him him March because we didn't know his worming history, and I keep my sale horses on an 8 week rotational schedule as buyers usually like to see that (I do fecals on my personal horses and worm 2-3 times a year).

              After this last relapse we are also starting him on GastroGuard, he's had 2 doses so far. We started with the generic for cost, but we'll see if there's an improvement with the brand-name stuff. However, we didn't scope him this time as it costs around $275 with the local vet and I figured for that cost we might as well just give him the brand name treatment!

              The nearest equine hospital is about a 10-12 hour haul, unfortunately. I wish we were closer to one. I'm not sure it would be worth it to haul him that far in his condition. I used to live in Fort Collins and I would have taken him to CSU ages ago if I was still there.

              WFH, I'll look into the Buckeye feed but I'm not sure I can get it here. We're in southern NM.

              I'm not sure how feasible free-choice hay is. That would be my ideal, but hay prices have more than doubled here already and I'm very concerned about having enough to get to first cutting next year. We've had a major drought, are still less than half the normal precip for the year, and a lot of what hay we have is going to Texas or being sold to dairies who will pay more for it. He does have free-choice roughage in the form of hay pellets and beet pulp with the exception of those few hours that I turn him out every day, so like 20-21 hours a day he has food in front of him.

              Thanks for everyone's thoughts, I do appreciate them all.

              ETA: bloodwork was done during the first illness and nothing unusual (considering the situation) was found. My vet didn't think it needed to be redone this time, do you guys have other thoughts on that?
              exploring the relationship between horse and human

              Comment


              • #8
                You can get a nutritional consult with Dr. Madalyn Ward. She is an excellent holistic vet out of Texas and has LOTS and LOTS of great info. She runs Holistic Horsekeeping Bulletin Board. http://www.holistichorsekeeping.com/....php?f=1&t=808

                If I were you, I second doing a diet elimination. Take him to a very plain, easily digestible diet for at least 2 weeks. If all goes well, add one thing back at a time. I have 3 that are either sensitive or allergic to soy and one of them will get diarrhea, gas and watery squirts if he eats anything with soy in it (basically any commercially processed complete feed or ration balancer)

                I have had good success using digestive enzymes. I use Super Digestaway by Solaray (human supp). 3 capsules, 2x a day for 3 weeks. WARNING - these are SUPER unpleasant in taste but work! I suggest syringing these in if you want to try. I've had some that thought you gave them acid and some that it didn't bother at all. After about 3 days, they get used to it. If you don't want to go that route, try papaya juice for the papain - a digestive enzyme. You can buy the product Stomach Soother or buy papaya and juice it.

                Have you tried Bio-Sponge by Platinum Performance? I'd certainly be feeding probiotics and prebiotics. If he can tolerate MSM, that can really help get hindgut inflammation under control.

                Another GREAT product (available through your vet) is called Well-Gel. It is made by Purina. I talked to the nutritionist that did the field trials on it. Well-Gel was designed for horses that had come through some type intestinal surgery (colic etc) and could only have liquids. It is complete liquid nutrition, but can be top dressed over feed. It is a powder. This is some REALLY excellent stuff.

                Lastly, I really like to feed spirulina. Spirulina is a "superfood" with mega antioxidant properties and chokced full of micro and macro nutrients. I get mine from www.herbalcom.com I feed 1 TB. 2x a day mixed in with feed. (needs to be a tad wet for it to stick)

                I agree also that it just may be time to see a good internalist at an equine hospital. Sounds like several things going on and sometimes you just need a specialist. Malabsorption is a tricky one to figure out the "why." I believe though that it is usually due to a problem in the hindgut.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by CosMonster View Post
                  OK, so I've posted about this horse before. He's a 4-5 year old TB (terribly illegible tattoo!) who has always been a hard keeper. I have had him since March. In July we upped his work and were adjusting his feed to compensate, so he dropped down to a 4 on the Henneke scale...skinnier than I would like on this horse (and I like thinner horses), but just barely so, not enough for us to worry or back off on his work or anything.

                  So one day he's just lying down all day. I take him into the barn to keep an eye on him, and he's having these horrible stomach cramps and major diarrhea--like projectile diarrhea if there is such a thing. We had increased his feed a few days before but it wasn't anything new, just more of the same old stuff. We did have some questionable hay come in and several horses got a little sick at that time with milder diarrhea. The vet could not find anything particular, but we tossed the hay and bought new stuff. The horse in question, Indy, was sick for 6 days before he began recovering, and it took about 2-3 weeks (total, from the first day of illness) to be eating normally again. He dropped down to a high 2 on the BCS in that time.

                  So he's been steadily gaining weight since, and was up to a low 3 (I know they're just supposed to be solid numbers, but hopefully you get what I mean...that borderline "is it a 2 or a 3" type weight). He had one minor relapse with diarrhea, but it was when we introduced a new high-fat grain so attributed it to that. He was on a generic omeprazole treatment for 30 days as he was diagnosed with very severe ulcers.

                  Well, this weekend he got really sick again. Not quite so bad as the first time, but diarrhea and not eating for 4 days. He's eating now but he looks awful, like skeletal. My vet put him at a 2 again but I think he looks like a 1. I've never had such a poor-looking horse. Still couldn't find anything.

                  He's back to normal now, but looks awful and I'm worried that if he gets sick again he just doesn't have anything more to lose. We're going to put him on another month of ulcer treatment to be safe. It is hard to find good hay right now, but he gets about half a bale a day (split into 3 feedings). He also has a mixture of beet pulp and timothy/alfalfa pellets in front of him at all times, and gets a scoop of Ultium morning and evening (about 2 pounds). More Ultium than that makes him a little sick. He has food in front of him 24/7 except for 3-4 hours a day when I turn him out with his old pasture buddies (can't feed during that time for practical reasons). He is still occasionally getting mild cramps but handwalking for 5-10 minutes seems to help. He has a lot of energy normally and is eager to get out, runs around for a bit, etc. so seems to be feeling good for the most part. He is also still easily the dominant horse in the field so it isn't like he's lost status or anything. His appetite is great normally, just vacuuming up his hay pellet/beet pulp mix and pounding on the door for his Ultium and hay.

                  I don't know what my questions are really, just does anyone have any thoughts? I have never encountered anything like this before and I'm not sure what else I can do. He's so young and he's really a very nice horse (lovely ride, jumps 2'6" courses easily with the potential to go higher, very nice temperament if a bit of a bully to the other horses, etc.) that I can't bear to put him down, but I also can't keep doing this indefinitely. My ownership of this horse is a long story but suffice to say I run a business and he was supposed to be sold a few months and a lot fewer vet bills ago. I want to do right by this horse but for financial reasons I need to figure this out--I don't care about making a profit but he's not one of my personal horses that I can do this indefinitely with, if that makes sense.
                  i would not ride him until he's in better condition first....get his teeth done by a qualified dentist if not done already,and deworm him appropriately...i would do Equimaxx-which safely removes tapeworms,then follow up w/ daily dewormer(pyrantel)-this will help w/ diarrhea along w/ his weight gain....then i would do a full month of gastro or ulcerguard...not generic to start....and a probiotic...fastrack is excellent and cheap....next you can give him Succeed,and or Smartpak's smartgut supplement-excellent product...or Finish Line's U7 gastic aid or Corta Flx Uguard -all very good...as well as Aloe Vera Juice that you can get from Walmart -a gallon is $7.00....

                  then as far as feed goes....i highly recommend Progressive Nutrition's Pro Elite HF...which is a low starch/low sugar,high fat/high fiber fully extruded feed...far superior and alot more digestible and safe than Purina Ultium....check out http://prognutrition.com/proelitehfgrain.html ...if you can't get this...the next best thing would be Triple Crown Senior

                  if you can't get good quality hay...you could give the chopped dengie hay in bags -most feed stores carry them...they are highly digestible,safe,and free of mold and dust...lucerne farms makes them as well as triplecrown

                  feed smaller portions more often...3-4meals/day...try more turnout and always try and provide free access to hay and or pasture....unlimited access

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    "Blood work" only finds what they are specifically looking for. It's not a tell all that reveals anything and everything that may be wrong. And, really, some labs do a better job them others.

                    I think a second opinion might be in order along with more blood for a more detailed look at what may be going on.

                    You might call that clinic that's 10-12 hours away and pay for a long distance consult if they will do that (some will, some won't). Have your vet send the blood to them for the tests they recommend. If your vet does not agree, you need a new vet.

                    This one should be doing better and it does seem something systemic is going on. I wouldn't wait to persue a diagnosis.

                    By all means look at and adjust the diet but....if something is really wrong, sooner is better then later on the vet work.

                    Oh. don't forget that reoccuring diarrea may leave him chronically dehydrated, might be some of what you are seeing with his weight. That can lead to all sorts of issues, some pretty serious. Can you bag him when he gets bad with it to keep his fluids up?
                    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      ^^I do have IV fluids on hand and I have given them to him when he becomes dehydrated. I monitor him pretty closely for that. Good call on the long distance consult, I hadn't thought of that. I did also schedule a visit with a really good vet about two hours away, so that will happen next week. I called yesterday afternoon and that was the soonest they could get me in.

                      Oh I am not riding him, he hasn't been worked since the first illness happened. He is far too skinny for me to even think about working him at this time. I just put that in there to describe what he is capable of when he is in work, it was kind of irrelevant to the post though.

                      Good suggestions on things to try, thank you guys. I'll be looking into it and seeing what is feasible. The free-choice hay just isn't going to happen at this time (I really wish it could) because of drought conditions and lack of hay this year. However he is getting a good amount of hay and like I said, soaked hay pellets free choice. Also, it looks like an offer we put down on a farm that does have pasture (I live in a desert so that's a very rare thing ) has been accepted so I should be able to put him on pasture in the next few weeks (just found that out late yesterday!). Neither of my local feed stores even knew what I was talking about with the chopped dengie hay--I don't think that's really a thing we have here.

                      Concetta, why do you advise more turnout? I'd like to hear your thoughts on that. He lived out before he got sick, then we tried him out 12/in 12 so he could have free choice feed half the day. It's only been in the last couple of weeks when that wasn't working and he got sick again that I cut it down to 3-4 hours out. He does not get antsy or upset in his stall, and it's a 14x14 box with an attached run so he does have room to move a little. The big problem with turnout is that he can't eat while out there, like I said we're on full-out desert here so just dirt "pastures" and most of my horses are super easy keepers who can't have free choice hay or they'll balloon up. I think it is best to limit his time out and give him more food at this time (that may change as he gets a little more weight on and starts feeling good again), but I'd be interested in hearing if you disagree.
                      Last edited by CosMonster; Oct. 12, 2011, 02:04 PM. Reason: addressing a post that showed up while I was typing
                      exploring the relationship between horse and human

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        FWIW: Some horses need ulcer treatment all their lives. . . sorry, but it's true. My mare colicked from ulcers after being turned out for 12 weeks with no riding or work and this was 3 years after we treated her. I just didn't think she would need it being turned out. She's just that stressful.

                        Even after treating for ulcers a horse can have a reoccurance like mine. I believe you treated for ulcers, but then didn't do any maintenance?

                        Each horse is different and mine gets generic omeprazole 4 times a week and every day when we compete. It sounds like you need to step up the maintenance or at least begin a maintenance program. Ulcers can be a life long treatment.

                        I may be wrong, but it's a simple and fairly cheap fix with generic omeprazole, you just need to figure out a program. Hope it all works out.
                        RIP Kelly 1977-2007 "Wither thou goest, so shall I"

                        "To tilt when you should withdraw is Knightly too."

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          That is right, we did a 30 day generic omeprazole treatment and then he colicked again shortly after that stopped, so we're doing another month of GastroGuard. That's good to know about regular treatment though, the only times I've had to treat ulcers they cleared right up and then it was just a matter of management and diet to keep them from recurring.
                          exploring the relationship between horse and human

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Have seen some pretty bad ulcer cases and none of them had these kind of symptoms over this period of time, the reoccuring diarrea is a worry and pretty good indication of a systemic problem.

                            Um, Cos, have you kept track of his temp at all? Does it stay the same, spike or run chronically low? Does it change with the diarrea episodes? You might want to chart it daily to see if it is some kind of infection that flares and subsides-might help the vets in their diagnostic endeavours.

                            And you have alfalfa, Dengue is not going to available, it is a substitute when alfalfa is unavailable, like around here. I wouldn't give it or alfalfa to one having trouble keeping the food in long enough to digest.

                            Keep us updated.
                            When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                            The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Yeah, I can't believe I left that out. Sorry, I've been doing so much with this horse and am trying not to write a novel here (haha failed already ). Anyway, yes I have been taking his temperature daily while he has been sick, and I've just started taking daily even when he's feeling good. I take all of my horses' temps weekly so I've got a good idea of his baseline. It is a little elevated when he's sick, but only by a degree. The highest his temperature has been was 101.6, which is high for him (he's usually right around 100).

                              I also want to clarify that he is not having constant diarrhea. He will have several days of it during these episodes, but then it goes away. He had the first incident which was 6 days of diarrhea, then was fine for a month, then had a little bit of diarrhea for a day, then was fine for another month, then just this last weekend he had 3 days of diarrhea but not as bad as the first time. I'm not sure if I was clear that his stool returns to normal between those episodes. I don't think he's feeling great between them though, I do suspect that it is something systemic.

                              I am really worried about the horse, and I really appreciate everyone's ideas and opinions. We're in a really poor rural area so the vet situation is less than ideal, and it's really helpful to just be able to type this out and bounce ideas off of people as well as all the great advice you guys have given.

                              Thanks to those who have PMed me too, I'll get back to you guys tomorrow when I have a bit more time.
                              exploring the relationship between horse and human

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Maybe he is reacting to something you are feeding him? I didn't read all the posts, but since he eats his hay so well could you find an excellent quality grass/ alfalfa mix to just feed him with and take everything else away for now? maybe all the mix of beet pulp, pellets, grain and high fats are just too much for him. I do know someone suggested deworming again, but I know that can be deadly in goats ( i raise them) who are very thin( like you describe him) so I would just caution you on that.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by CosMonster View Post
                                  Yeah, I can't believe I left that out. Sorry, I've been doing so much with this horse and am trying not to write a novel here (haha failed already ). Anyway, yes I have been taking his temperature daily while he has been sick, and I've just started taking daily even when he's feeling good. I take all of my horses' temps weekly so I've got a good idea of his baseline. It is a little elevated when he's sick, but only by a degree. The highest his temperature has been was 101.6, which is high for him (he's usually right around 100).

                                  I also want to clarify that he is not having constant diarrhea. He will have several days of it during these episodes, but then it goes away. He had the first incident which was 6 days of diarrhea, then was fine for a month, then had a little bit of diarrhea for a day, then was fine for another month, then just this last weekend he had 3 days of diarrhea but not as bad as the first time. I'm not sure if I was clear that his stool returns to normal between those episodes. I don't think he's feeling great between them though, I do suspect that it is something systemic.

                                  I am really worried about the horse, and I really appreciate everyone's ideas and opinions. We're in a really poor rural area so the vet situation is less than ideal, and it's really helpful to just be able to type this out and bounce ideas off of people as well as all the great advice you guys have given.

                                  Thanks to those who have PMed me too, I'll get back to you guys tomorrow when I have a bit more time.
                                  I didn't see your update before I posted above. Could he have some type of partial blockage? I remember someone else posting about a mare who was having a horrible time several months back. When he is going normally how do his poops look? I would guess the diarrhea would keep him pretty well cleaned out, but does he strain when going? Just a thought.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    JINGLES & AO CONTINUE FOR YOUR HORSE ``

                                    JINGLES & AO FOR YOUR HORSE ``

                                    JINGLE JINGLE JINGLE & AO ~ AO ~ AO ~ ALWAYS OPTIMISTIC ``
                                    Zu Zu Bailey " IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ! "

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                                    • #19
                                      I would also think about putting him on a probiotic. Jingles for your boy!
                                      Boyle Heights Kid 1998 16.1h OTTB Dark Bay Gelding
                                      Tinner's Way x Sculpture by Hail to Reason
                                      "Once you go off track, you never go back!"

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                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by CosMonster View Post
                                        ^^I do have IV fluids on hand and I have given them to him when he becomes dehydrated. I monitor him pretty closely for that. Good call on the long distance consult, I hadn't thought of that. I did also schedule a visit with a really good vet about two hours away, so that will happen next week. I called yesterday afternoon and that was the soonest they could get me in.

                                        Oh I am not riding him, he hasn't been worked since the first illness happened. He is far too skinny for me to even think about working him at this time. I just put that in there to describe what he is capable of when he is in work, it was kind of irrelevant to the post though.

                                        Good suggestions on things to try, thank you guys. I'll be looking into it and seeing what is feasible. The free-choice hay just isn't going to happen at this time (I really wish it could) because of drought conditions and lack of hay this year. However he is getting a good amount of hay and like I said, soaked hay pellets free choice. Also, it looks like an offer we put down on a farm that does have pasture (I live in a desert so that's a very rare thing ) has been accepted so I should be able to put him on pasture in the next few weeks (just found that out late yesterday!). Neither of my local feed stores even knew what I was talking about with the chopped dengie hay--I don't think that's really a thing we have here.

                                        Concetta, why do you advise more turnout? I'd like to hear your thoughts on that. He lived out before he got sick, then we tried him out 12/in 12 so he could have free choice feed half the day. It's only been in the last couple of weeks when that wasn't working and he got sick again that I cut it down to 3-4 hours out. He does not get antsy or upset in his stall, and it's a 14x14 box with an attached run so he does have room to move a little. The big problem with turnout is that he can't eat while out there, like I said we're on full-out desert here so just dirt "pastures" and most of my horses are super easy keepers who can't have free choice hay or they'll balloon up. I think it is best to limit his time out and give him more food at this time (that may change as he gets a little more weight on and starts feeling good again), but I'd be interested in hearing if you disagree.
                                        Usually confinement to a stall can induce more stress on a horse there for making an ulcer situation worse...turnout usually is better b/c the horse can mozy and mill around and forage naturally on pasture or hay that is provided...that's always been my thought process when dealing w/ these types of problems....rule of thumb was more hay/forage/fiber and as much turnout as the horse will tolerate

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