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Bringing Back Older Horse After Bad Pneumonia...questions

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  • Bringing Back Older Horse After Bad Pneumonia...questions

    I am hoping that someone who has dealt with bringing a horse back from pretty bad pneumonia can weigh in on the process. This is kinda long; I'm sorry for the novel!

    Backstory: Back in early October, my (leased) horse choked on her grain at dinner, had to be tubed and had developed aspiration pneumonia by 7:00 am the next morning. After checking pulse (close to 100!) and temperature, my vet had us on the trailer up to Virginia Tech for treatment. Maresy spent 8 days there and then came home. I was given instructions for 20 SMZs 2x/day for three weeks and 18 Metranidazole 2x/day for a week. (1,380lb horse)

    After completing the course of antibiotics, I had my local vet out to reultrasound her lungs. She left VT with an abscess about 7cms in her left lung, which ultrasound showed totally clear after being home three weeks. Her right lung had a 3-4cm abscess which was down to 1.5cm. Local vet recommended continuing SMZs two more weeks. With the way Thanksgiving fell, I was going to be out of town at the end of the 2 week period, so I had the barn staff continue the SMZs while I was gone since I had enough pills. Essentially she got three extra weeks of SMZ instead of two.

    Finally, the Monday after Thanksgiving arrived and I could get back on and slowly bring her back. I started that day with about 10 minutes of walking on the buckle. This horse is not one to amble, but powerwalk. I slowly increased the length of our powerwalks around the arena and added a touch of lateral work as well. A week later, I took her out for a 30 minute trail ride and was able to incorporate a few hills, too. She showed absolutely no sign of distress, and would have jumped around a course if I had asked her.

    Tuesday this week, I did our powerwalk in the arena with several 30 second bouts of trotting. She felt phenomenal, was really using herself and showed no distress. Since we were having unseasonably warm weather, I decided to bathe her. During her bath, she started coughing with her mouth closed...not a heaving cough mind you. But almost like she was trying to be polite.

    I spoke with my vet at VT, who speculated it could be gas coming up like a burp. She also said that even if she was coughing, she wasn't concerned unless it happened when in work. She said to take her temperature that night and the next day. Temp was normal.

    I also spoke with my local vet just to give him a heads up. He said essentially the same thing, and added that when they have abscessed like that in their lungs scar tissue forms, and it is likely they will cough as they work through it.

    So, yesterday as I'm riding I ask her for 30 seconds of trot. She's fine. We walk for awhile, and I pick her back up to a trot and she gives big, great, heaving coughs three times in a row. I pulled her up and got off.

    I put another call into local vet, who says if it happens when I ride today, to give him a call and he will run some blood work and reultrasound if necessary. He is also still pretty convinced that it is mostly just scar tissue we will have to work through, but he will come out if needed.

    SO.... what say you? I trust my vet 100%, but since I've never dealt with this, it's hard to decide what level of coughing warrants an emergency, and what is just her working through scar tissue and healing up.

    Anyone have any experience with this? Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    I have had a couple horses with incredibly bad pneumonia that never coughed once. Was she coughing when she was in the hospital? I freely admit to being a scope addict so that is what I would do and go from there if warranted.
    McDowell Racing Stables

    Home Away From Home


    • Original Poster

      Did your horses have great big abscesses and never cough? Was it aspiration pneumonia...or another kind?

      She coughed a bit in the hospital, and a couple times when we brought her home, but hasn't coughed in probably a month. Even when she gets to running around the pasture she hasn't coughed. It's only been either undersaddle (but not when she is terribly stressed) or afterwards when she is at rest. She doesn't seem to be struggling to breathe or anything, and she is bright, has an appetite and no temperature...

      VT vets say a scope won't show what they are looking for in her lungs, which are the abscesses. Only an ultrasound will show it, which we had already done, and had one lung totally clear and the other one allllmost there.

      I just hate not knowing exactly what's causing it, but I guess until my vet gets worried about it I should probably take a chill pill.

      I'd still love to hear anyone else's experiences with an older horse recovering from this!


      • #4
        US will only show the abscesses on the surface, so it may be possible that she has a small one deeper than the US can scan. I would just keep on taking it slow and follow your vet's advice. Pneumonia can take quite a while to get over and depending on the severity some scar tissue may always be there.
        "There is no secret so close as that between a rider and his horse." - Robert Smith Surtees


        • #5
          When my mare had pneumonia several years ago, I gave her 3 months off, before bringing her back into work. After the time off, I started the walks at 15 min. for the first week. I built up to 30 min. walks over the next three weeks. Only then did I add 30 sec. of trot and back to walk work. I increased the trot time, slowly, over the next several weeks.

          The reason that I brought my mare back this way was because a friend told me about her experience with her horse that had pneumonia. She had brought him back too soon and his lungs never had time to heal. I decided that my mare would get the time off. It must have worked, because she has been eventing for the past four years with no problems.

          Is there a reason that your horse cannot have several months off from work?
          When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!


          • Original Poster

            Originally posted by Auburn View Post
            Is there a reason that your horse cannot have several months off from work?
            Nope there is no real reason she can't have more time off...it's just that my vet said she should be ready to go! She has already had two months off, so it's not like I've just thrown her back into it willy nilly.

            Was your horse on antibiotics during the entire three months??

            Perhaps I will back her off to just 15 minutes of walking for longer than we anticipated... Why can't they just open their mouths and tell us in plain English what is going on with them? That would be most helpful.


            • #7
              My point was if she wasn't coughing before but is now, something has changed. May have changed for the worse or the better but definitely changed.
              McDowell Racing Stables

              Home Away From Home


              • Original Poster

                Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
                My point was if she wasn't coughing before but is now, something has changed. May have changed for the worse or the better but definitely changed.

                It's driving me CRAZY not knowing. Add in the fact that neither our VT vet nor our local vet is as concerned as I am...I think I am coming off as a looney.