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Frustrated and heartbroken - very sick horse UPDATE #37 - Strangles !

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  • Frustrated and heartbroken - very sick horse UPDATE #37 - Strangles !

    A brief background.

    So the BO's last trail horse who was pretty ancient had to be PTS. I've kept my
    eye open among my circle of friends and have suggested several horses for
    her to go see, as have other friends and our vet and farrier. She hasn't
    liked any of these choices for various reason - and that is certainly fine.

    So out of the blue, she emails everyone saying she bought a horse. Off the internet.
    From just the video. (she has done this several times before and it never worked out)
    He looks pretty quiet in the video. Horse gets shipped from very very far away and everything looks fine initially. I ask about QT when she tells me arrives, which she didn't think about and obviously it's a little too late when I ask (my bad for assuming she knows about this! - but she's had a boarding barn for 25 years!). New guy is out by himself, but with a shared fence line with one of her guys. My mare and her pony
    do not have any adjacent fence lines.

    She asks if I will get on the horse as she has a '30 day trial', is a fearful rider,
    and I have been giving her lessons and help. She wants my opinion on the horse.

    I rode the horse and I was very less than impressed with him. He's not as quiet
    as the video makes it seem. He's not bad, and he works out of the sillies after
    about 15 minutes. He coughs a bit when we canter. I called her and told her
    what I thought, as she was not home for the ride. I did tell her that we should
    give it a few rides to make an honest evaluation about him.

    Then she went on vaca, leaving about 4 people to feed horses, including
    some that are not exactly horse people. I have a few feeding days too.
    This has happened before, but I'm out just about every day and check
    on things. She says she doesn't want to know if anything bad happens
    as she doesn't want to 'ruin' her vacation.

    I got a call Friday asking if I can feed as the feeder is stuck at
    work. Not a problem, I head over to feed. And I find a very.sick.horse.

    Hers. In the adjacent paddock. He wasn't acting like himself at feedtime. And he
    had the snots but good. I brought him in to look at him, and that's when I realize
    he's got choke. I called the vet, who came out within 1/2 hour. Then I realize
    that his lymph nodes/gutteral pouches were very swollen.

    Crap. Strangles ?

    Vet cleared the choke and gave him several meds (banamine, antibiotics, etc.) .

    Horse def had choke, plus he likely aspirated stuff and has pneumonia. Plus possibly
    strangles. She's pretty sure the choke had been going on for some time, and that
    the horse had been sick for at least a day or 2. The non-experience feeder told me
    that he heard the horse coughing a bit but "didn't think anything of it". Oh and that
    he didn't eat his hay because he didn't like it.

    The sick horse is very sick. The vet said to give it a day or 2 for the meds to kick
    in, and call again if he doesn't improve or gets worse. I cancel my ride for today
    as I will not expose anyone else's horse if this is strangles. Ditto with the other
    feeders who have horses of their own. He looked a tad better yesterday, but is
    still a very sick horse. If the BO were here, I know she wouldn't take the horse
    to the clinic for treatment, she'd give him a few days then have him PTS if needed.

    So the BO buys a horse and doesn't QT. Then another horse gets sick. Then the help
    doesn't notice the sick horse for a few days. Vet thinks that it's very, very likely
    that the new horse brought something in and infected the other horse.

    I am just so very upset that this happened. I'm planning on calling the BO today anyway
    with the 'bad news'. In the meantime I've been out there giving meds and taking
    care of the sick horse the best I can.

    I am in the process of looking for another farm, but won't move my horse until I know
    that she can't possibly pass something on that she was exposed to. Luckily my horse and the pony she lives with has not shown any signs of sickness, and she was exposed to the new horse 10 days ago.

    Also, my horse gets the strangles vaccination every year and has for the last 15? or so years. BO does not give this vaccine to any of hers. I am hopeful that my mare will not get sick.
    Last edited by Roxyllsk; Mar. 7, 2013, 01:29 PM.

  • #2

    (this, in sympathy to your situation)


    • #3
      Okay, I sympathize with the lack of quarantine.

      But seriously....putting the horse down over STRANGLES? That's relatively uncalled for.

      Also, btw, whether she asked me to or not I would be calling the barn owner to "ruin" her vacation since she "ruined" your ability to move to a different barn.


      • #4
        Did they culture for strangles? Is he being treated with banamine and having his feed soaked to prevent another choke? None of this makes much sense to me.
        McDowell Racing Stables

        Home Away From Home


        • Original Poster

          He is being treated with banamine and his feed is getting soaked into soup.

          No hay at all for a few days. He was not running a fever as of yesterday
          and today so that is an improvement. He seems more like himself this morning
          although clearly still not feeling well and the wet cough still.

          Vet didn't culture for strangles just yet. She wasn't convinced that it was
          strangles although it is certainly a possibilty - it may be some other kind of virus.

          Vet is going to come out on Tuesday to give this horse another antibiotic shot for
          the possible pnuemonia, and to have another look at the horse.

          I am being super cautious in case it *IS* strangles.


          • Original Poster

            Originally posted by GoForAGallop View Post
            Okay, I sympathize with the lack of quarantine.

            But seriously....putting the horse down over STRANGLES? That's relatively uncalled for.

            Also, btw, whether she asked me to or not I would be calling the barn owner to "ruin" her vacation since she "ruined" your ability to move to a different barn.
            The BO will not take a horse to the clinic. My concern is if this horse does have pneumonia and was not improving with what I'm doing with the vet's help, then what ?

            The good news is that he does appear to be doing a little better. But he's still a very sick horse.


            • #7
              Why is he not on some antibiotics NOW?


              • Original Poster

                Originally posted by GoForAGallop View Post
                Why is he not on some antibiotics NOW?
                He is. Vet suggested a new kind of antibiotic that is 2 shots given 4 days apart. He got the first shot Friday night, and is getting the 2nd one Tuesday.

                The other options were SMZs, or another shot every day. Given that the horse is really
                difficult to give shots to, and that I don't have other 'experienced' help around to help
                me giving the horse daily shots, this was the best alternative.


                • #9
                  Okay, correct me if I'm wrong but isn't it frowned upon to give antibiotics prior to any strangles abscess rupturing for fear of bastard strangles??


                  • #10
                    Sounds like shipping fever.


                    • #11
                      After you have moved away, please 'out' this idiot BO so anyone who is in that area will know to avoid that place. Sheesh. The lack of a fever is a good thing. I hope that this is just the 'snots' or an upper respiratory infection, not actually strangles. Good luck and keep us posted.
                      RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.


                      • #12
                        It sounds like the horse choked. period. The horse is probably on Exceed which is pretty par for the course after resolving a choke to ward off aspiration pneumonia. The only thing that doesn't fit with pure choke is the *possibly* enlarged lymph nodes. Is the sick horse separated from the others now? I'd keep an eye on the lymph nodes, but if I had to guess the horse just had a bad choke and aspirated some feed from it. Strangles can have complications, but the majority of the time it runs it's course and that's it. You have some nasty looking draining abscessed lymph nodes for a while and then its done.
                        "There is no secret so close as that between a rider and his horse." - Robert Smith Surtees


                        • #13
                          Yes, very ill-advised to give antibiotics to a horse that might have strangles. So I hope the vet does not really suspect it.


                          • Original Poster

                            Originally posted by dwblover View Post
                            Sounds like shipping fever.
                            Could be.

                            Lymph nodes are def very swollen, but not as big as I've seen with strangles. The horse doesn't want me touching them either. But he might be just really sensitve there because of the choke.

                            So, wait & see ... I'm just glad that the horse looked a little brighter this morning.

                            This vet has been taking care of my horses for 15 years, and the BO's horses for the last 3/4 years. I absolutely trust her. She saved my mare back in 2000 when she got WNV.


                            • #15
                              I would so call and ruin the BO's vacation. That is part of the trade off with owning animals.

                              Hope you can move soon. This lady's a whack job.
                              ~Kryswyn~ Always look on the bright side of life, de doo, de doo de doo de doo
                              Check out my Kryswyn JRTs on Facebook

                              "Life is merrier with a terrier!"


                              • #16
                                So sorry you have to do this.

                                Have just had a "quarantine type" discussion with my barn owner. Novice owner/rider, very nice and positive, barn is immaculate - but doesn't always do things she feels are 'overdoing it'.(My phrase.)

                                2 new fillies just purchased - one had to be picked up at the vet's(?!?) and has healing rain rot, and is thin under her winter coat. Asked for advice here, suggested it was too late (thought probably), but at least my guy has had all his shots, and is in good condition. Plus I told her to watch about the turn-out. My guy never been with mares, and can be assertive. She didn't think geldings would do anything... TG he didn't, just "aired himself out".

                                And at least a health certificate was provided. However they just came from a large barn who was disbursing a large number of horses in time for the farm's closing. So, to me, it raised a red flag about ensuring everything is AOK. Of course, she wasn't about to have them vetted either.

                                But decades ago as a camp counselor, we had almost 80 ship in from the west 2 weeks before camp. Well over half of the horses brought in came down with strangles. Lots of work for the 3 of us running the riding program, and managing the barn. Many other nightmare stories. But, all affected did eventually pull through. Of course it was ages ago, but I never thought of strangles as deadly, unless an individual was fairly weak to begin with, and complications set in.

                                And, I've often heard strangles interchanged with shipping fever. They're different?

                                Have also seen a nice prospect with it at a show barn, but at least the horse was quarantined...

                                Either way - good luck, and good luck to the poor horse. I love my barn, but wish my BO wouldn't be so sure I was wrong all the time - or perhaps she thinks I'm being critical - rather I'm just trying to pass along some advice? - especially when it involves being careful. Can also understand not wanting a boarder to be a PITA. But sometimes BOs might think about deferring to experience. We'd all rather not have to quarantine, but if you've been there...
                                But he thought, "This procession has got to go on." So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all. H.C.Anderson


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by FineAlready View Post
                                  Yes, very ill-advised to give antibiotics to a horse that might have strangles. So I hope the vet does not really suspect it.
                                  Even if the horse DOES have strangles, the risk of an aspiration pneumonia after a choke which may have lasted *days* is FAR FAR greater than the risk of giving antibiotics to a horse with strangles.

                                  There is not even a consensus that giving antibiotics to a strangles horse is bad. It's all very controversial.

                                  OP, it sounds like the horse is being well managed and that he is improving. Try to stay positive, although I certainly know it can be difficult! If you're still worried about strangles, I would suggest clipping the jaw and throatlatch of the horse, as having that as hair free as possible sure makes things easier if he abscesses.

                                  FWIW, strangles just ran through my barn. I had one mare abscess and one get sick but not abscess. We had perhaps 20 horses that were sick over maybe 6 - 8 weeks. It was a pain in the ass, and it was gross, but there are exactly zero long term effects from the outbreak. Everyone got better and things are fine now. And certainly no need to vaccinate for a few years. (Looking for the upside here )


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Originally posted by Simkie View Post
                                    Even if the horse DOES have strangles, the risk of an aspiration pneumonia after a choke which may have lasted *days* is FAR FAR greater than the risk of giving antibiotics to a horse with strangles.
                                    This is what I was thinking - the horse's breathing and the wet , rattly, cough seemed to indicated pnuemonia starting. It was scary bad on Friday night, complete with the hanging head and green goop. As I said, I trust my vet absolutely.

                                    He still has that scary, rattly cough as of this morning, but there is very little coming out of his nose and the cough is less frequent. He also met me at the back of the barn at breakfast, so that tells me he is feeling more like himself. So I am keeping my fingers crossed that we're over the worst of it. Did I mention that I told the non-horsey barn help not to bother 'helping' any more this week?

                                    And I did think about clipping the jaw, but unfortunately my clippers are the only ones that would be up for the job and I didn't want to run the risk of 'infecting' them.

                                    I forgot to ask the vet this - don't swollen lymph nodes indicate the horse is fighting off a virus ? I think my mare had that when she was fighting off WNV, but it's been 13 years now so I might be remembering wrong.

                                    Since the horse seems to be improving and after my conversation with the vet yesterday, I'm not going to call the BO today.

                                    I want to have this conversation with her face to face. I want her to know how very upset I am about this.


                                    • #19
                                      Strangles is spread through secretions, so if he is not draining goo and you stay away from his nose, your clippers will not get contaminated.

                                      If they DO get contaminated, or if you'd like to be cautious, it is not difficult to clean them. I had to clean my clippers, after clipping my actively draining mare with an abscess. Trust me, it a FAR easier to clip a dry jaw than one that is draining

                                      Swollen lymph nodes indicate the horse is fighting off something, but are not indicative of any particular agent. They might not have even been swollen prior to the choke, and may only be swollen in response to the pneumonia.

                                      I realize you're frustrated with the barn owner, and she did do several things "wrong" in the purchase of the new horse, but that might have exactly nothing to do with the illness in the other horse. There is really no way to tell, unless the horse does culture positive for strangles or something along those lines.


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Originally posted by Simkie View Post
                                        I realize you're frustrated with the barn owner, and she did do several things "wrong" in the purchase of the new horse, but that might have exactly nothing to do with the illness in the other horse. There is really no way to tell, unless the horse does culture positive for strangles or something along those lines.
                                        I'm frustrated that the BO did several things wrong, and I'm also frustrated that this horse was likely sick for some time before I found him. By my estimation, he didn't eat his hay for at least 3 feedings - that alone *should* have set off an alarm, but it didn't. The flakes of hay were not even picked at, but still perfectly flake-shaped, and this horse is generaly a good eater. Perhaps if this had been caught earlier, this horse wouldn't be as sick as he is.