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Mystery Illness- Have You Ever Seen This?

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  • Mystery Illness- Have You Ever Seen This?

    Pulling my hair out and jingling for my youngster. A week ago I got a call from my bm that my 4 yr old gelding wasn't doing so great- hadn't drank any water overnight. She called the vet, who arrived 30 min later...in the time it took for the vet to come out my horse went from looking a little uncomfortable to having a 103.8 fever, respiration rate through the roof- vet says this is not good/normal, get him to the horsepital...thankfully the premier hospital is about 10 minutes away from us. So off he went.

    He was ultra-sounded, belly tapped, rectal performed- no impaction to speak of, no rupture- everything looked okay, apart from severe dehydration. Phew. They get his temp under control, get him some fluids via IV. He spends the night. Fever spikes again in the evening back up into the 103.5 range, responds to treatment. In the morning he's fine- drinking on his own, ate small amounts. Bright and chipper. Everyone is relieved.

    Bloodwork looks normal - both vets (horsepital and field vet) conclude must have some kind of viral thing going on -but nothing identifiable at this point.

    Released to go home, since we're 10 min away, and 24 rang up at $1500. Later that afternoon he tanks again, this time another vet was already at our place, who used to work at said large hospital...so he treats him. Horse stabilizes again.

    All 3 vets talking together and collectively scratching their heads & shrugging- no ideas why, beyond a generic "must be a virus." Diagnosis.

    Is on low-dose banamine every 8 hours now. All three vets concerned at the time it is taking for him to get over this "thing." And the ramifications that follow for a horse to be ill this long- like increasing levels of toxicity in his gut.

    Horse has not really been okay, though doing better than he was last week. No fever since last Wednesday, thank goodness- but really slow to recover. Loss of appetite but eating and drinking small amounts on his own, goes through waves of discomfort but they are short lived. He definitely has more energy than he has, and that has been on the increase- which is a good sign.

    All three vets want him hand grazing on fresh wet grass, eating mushy wet mash. He's not grazing normally- he wants to eat dead leaves, sticks, moss- anything but the nice fresh beautiful grass (yay PNW spring). He will eat it if i pick it for him and feed it to him in his stall- but he won't choose it himself when out hand-grazing.

    He's eating small amounts of soupy wet mash if i feed it to him (seriously, spoon feeding)- he does love and crave attention and it is a fun game for him, he a big playful baby.

    Vet is checking him every couple of days, and will be out today to do another check, drop off some more banamine, and pull another bit of blood for a fresh panel. We're all keeping a close eye on his vitals- and so far, he's been okay, apart from last night when his temp was slightly raised again at 101.5 - but not nearly at the 103.8 we were dealing with last week.

    Just wondering if anyone else has ever dealt with a mystery illness like this and if you ever found out what it was? Could it just be a random, unknown, unnamed virus? No other symptoms than what i described.

    And finally- he has turned into a very finicky little dude- any ideas on what to try to entice him with to mix into this alfalfa pellet mash? I've tried tc senior (what he normally gets), molasses - neither of which has really gotten him super interested.
    My blog: Change of Pace - Retraining a standardbred via dressage

  • #2
    I went through the exact thing -- verbatim -- with my rising 5yo, beginning on Saturday. However, his also included severe temp drops as well as fever spikes, and convulsions. He stabilized yesterday, and is finally eating mash and drinking. He'd recently had spring shots, and I was told by the attending vet that it was either a bad batch of vaccine (there were 6 other similar cases that had also been recently vaccinated) OR a virus.

    My guy is a notoriously picky eater, and I used a small handful of Ultra Bloom to get him eating his mash.
    Piaffe Girl -- Dressage. Fashionably.


    • #3
      Enteritis? Sometimes they'll pick up a "bug" from soggy Spring pastures grazed by geese and other migrating birds. It can mimic colic at the start, usually ends in the scours, and frequently does result in a brief hospital stay. Seems only the young ones get it.


      • #4


        • #5
          Was any of the horses at your barn exposed to the whole ehv1 issues? Did they check for these viruses? West Nile etc?
          Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


          • #6
            Blackstallion I was thinking the same thing, but that should have shown up in the panel, no?

            My gelding is the king of mystery illness. First time turned out to be ehrlichia. Second round was very close to what OP is going through, except my guy never stopped eating. Even when his temp went up to 105.7. Nothing ever showed up in the blood panels. And eventually he was fine. Although he did have a temp spike about a week after I thought it was over.

            Sorry you are going through this OP. You have my sympathy, and just know you are doing everything you can for him.
            Celtic Charisma (R.I.P) ~ http://flickr.com/photos/rockandracehorses/2387275281
            Proud owner of "The Intoxicated Moose!"
            "Hope is not an executable plan" ~ My Mom
            I love my Dublin-ator


            • #7
              Originally posted by myhorsefaith View Post
              ...And finally- he has turned into a very finicky little dude- any ideas on what to try to entice him with to mix into this alfalfa pellet mash? I've tried tc senior (what he normally gets), molasses - neither of which has really gotten him super interested.
              My 23 yo mare (never colic'ed before) colic'ed about a month ago. Wasn't drinking so vet had me mix orange flavored Gatorade with bran mash - that's what she got for about 2 days then replaced bran with Equine Senior pellets - mixed into a soupy mess. When she finally went back to hard pellets I started adding salt. She normally eats it but stopped for no apparent reason - then started not drinking as much as she should (it was cold down here at the time).
              Now in Kentucky


              • Original Poster

                Thanks, all! Got a report that this morning his temp is back to 100.3 Vet will be out a bit later.

                No EHV-1, Salmonella, or West Nile.

                No horses have been on/off this property- its actually been super duper quiet. Turnout has been limited to gravel paddocks - way too wet to allow romping on our limited pasture space - it would be completely ruined in no time flat.

                All the same we're taking precautions in the event whatever he has is spreadable.

                Vets have said we'll probably never know what it is/was. But argh, how frustrating.

                I'm thinking of picking up some calf manna to try to entice to eat better. If he turns his nose at it i can always feed it to my standardbred gelding in small amounts.
                My blog: Change of Pace - Retraining a standardbred via dressage


                • #9
                  The high spike in temp smacks of Echrlicchia to me too. Do you know if they ran a titer for it? It got my mare a few years ago and a cycle of Doxycycline was all it took to have her feeling good again.
                  <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.


                  • Original Poster

                    I dont know if they tested for Echrlicchia, but i will ask. Though, in reading up about it - he has had no edema or swelling anywhere- so not sure if that would fit?
                    My blog: Change of Pace - Retraining a standardbred via dressage


                    • #11
                      I had a horse do the exact same thing a few years ago. Ran a temp of 103-105 off and on for more than a month. Not interested in eating and she was just "off." I spent $3,000 and she was tested for everything possible with nothing conclusive. Ultimately she was okay. Common denominator with your story? It started the day after spring shots.

                      If you want more details, pm me.


                      • Original Poster

                        Oh I think that was another poster's horse- my guy has not yet had his spring shots.
                        My blog: Change of Pace - Retraining a standardbred via dressage


                        • #13
                          Years ago. Several horses in a barn were affected, one worse than the others. Supportive care carried the day. And the sickest lived well for many more years.

                          Virus was suspected as the culprit.
                          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                          • #14
                            A mare at the racetrack did something very similar, spent a week at the vet clinic and then another 3 weeks in qt here, and no, nothing was ever found.
                            Different Times Equestrian Ventures at Hidden Spring Ranch


                            • #15
                              I had a mare do about the same thing over 20 years ago. She did it two years in a row at the same time of year. We never figured out the cause, and she only did it two years and never again. It did not seem to be vaccine related. No other horse in the 80+ horse barn was sick. Her only symptom was picky eater and very high temp. It was stressful for me, but she pulled through fine and I hope your boy does the same!
                              Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                              • #16
                                I've experienced this, intermittently, over the years with some of mine...and I'm a "closed barn". More often than not with the younger horses (say age 3-6)

                                Typically and upper respiratory virus that several days of Naxcel and bute takes care of. Doesn't mean that's what it is, but it happens for no good reason sometimes.

                                The anorexia and the sudden high temp is the telltale.
                                www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
                                "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
                                Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube


                                • #17
                                  We have a horse that presented like this with Potomac. While it is not Potomac season, another barn in our area had a confirmed case in January one year -- the vet concluded that the vector (mayflies/ damselflies) was likely baled into the hay.