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HELP! 4 year old unable to stand, vet says definitely neurological... what to do?!?!

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  • HELP! 4 year old unable to stand, vet says definitely neurological... what to do?!?!

    I put the major things in bold if you want to just skim over this...

    I have a 4 year old TB gelding who has been only lightly worked and only worked once at a trot in the last month and a half. He is current on his vaccines. I've NEVER had any problems with lameness or medical issues with him. He came up to get his breakfast (in the pasture) yesterday and was limping badly and had a swollen back left leg completely clear of any wound. Knowing that neither of my guys do anything but stand around in the pasture and sometimes graze (which is at my house), I couldn't figure out how he got a swollen leg. After he ate, I took him out and he was walking very uncoordinated with his hind end and looked like he would fall at any moment. This is when I called the vet and they said they would come out when the clinic opened. Around 3 hours later I found him laying down and tried unsuccessfully getting him up. He had no digestive problems then and still hasn't had any. I called the vet again wondering how long it would take, since now it was more of an emergency but got a very vague answer "after surgery". So I set up a canopy over him and kept him cool by rinsing him off and made sure he had drinking water. The vet came later (5 hours after I placed the EMERGENCY call!) and with 4 people helping we got him to stand up and even walk around a bit. When he walked he crossed his back legs quite a bit and his front legs were tremoring every so often. We had to help him from going down a few times and decided that the problem was definitely neurological. He was given a shot of steroids and blood was taken for tests. But the vet had no idea what it could be.

    I set up a small pen with electric fence on all sides and our white vinyl fence on the other. I kept him up for a while before my mother decided to come over and "help" and thought a good way to get a horsefly off him would be to hit him with a newspaper. He went down kinda hard but got we got him back up around half an hour later and he stayed up for around 2 or 3 hours to get his dinner before laying down to rest. I spent the entire night trying to help him up, and when I found he couldn't do it, I just tried to prevent him from hurting himself. He kept trying to get up but couldn't get his back legs under him, so he just ended up throwing himslef backwards with his front legs quite a few times. He covered quite a bit of ground and I eventually had to take the electric fence down because he kept going outside of it. He tried to stand up once more and crashed through the fence (which led into the pasture). He kept throwing himself backward in an attempt to get up, and I tried to just keep him calm and prevent him from trying to get up.

    This morning I called the vet again and was just told that my options were taking him to a specialist, putting him in a sling until his blood tests came back, keeping him comfortable where he was, or putting him down.

    It really hurts to see him like this expecially because he's so young. He ate most of his feed this morning laying down (the vet said to do it that way) and hasn't been struggling quite as much. He is in pain though and hasn't been drinking much water or sitting up nearly as much as he was yesterday. I'm actually wondering if he has feeling in his back legs because he hasn't moved them when bugs landed on them and rarely moved them anyways.

    I honestly don't know what to do. I'm confused and scared (though not as bad as my horse) and wish some miracle would come along. I was hoping that someone here might help by giving advice. I'm leaning towards putting him in the sling just to get him up on his feet, since I have no clue how I would transport him anywhere with his issues or even get him in my trailer (vet said if I wanted to I could take him to Ok state vet clinic, but its nearly a 4 hour drive away).

  • #2
    I have no advice, but jingles and hugs for you!


    • #3
      I feel very sad for both you & your horse. Unfortunately, I can't offer anything positive. I would put him down where he is. That is tremendously hard to do - I know I was with a mare we put down this winter & it felt so DISLOYAL. It seemed like we should try to do something more for her for all the times she was a terrific horse, but there just wasn't anything more to do.

      I've known of horses with symptoms similar to yours & in two cases, they had broken backs & paralyzed hind limbs. It is amazing but just thumping down hard in the pasture can break a horse's back if they go down a certain way. In one case, no one knew how the mare broke her back. Like your horse, she had a period of a day or two when she was wobbly but could get up with help. Then she progressed to complete recumbancy. In the other case, the mare was staked out to graze (which had been done for many years) & she tangled her leg & fell. She got up, seemed fine, but was down & unable to get up the next morning.


      • #4
        sounds like EPM ..............get the drugs immediately and pray. Day 16 is the worst...the bugs die and swell. Hang tough.
        The rider casts his heart over the fence,
        the horse jumps in pursuit of it.

        –Hans-Heinrich Isenbart


        • #5
          jingles and hugs

          last summer while we were hacking through the fields by the barn my gf's mare started falling over w/ her hind end. she never actually felt but the hind end kept on swaying sideways out of control. the mare appeared oblivious to the fact that something was happening in her hind end. she kept trying to graze.
          i ran back for help. by the time we drove back there w/ the truck, maybe 20 min later, she seemed much improved. we walked her back to the barn. vet came, looked her over. she thought it could've been poisoning caused by a weed in the field. the plant was called white snake something. man, the name escapes me. i'm sorry. we looked it up on the web and it's a small plan with white flowers and elongated leaves.

          the mare never had another episode after that. vet thought that she probably ate just a little bit of it, enough to give her some temporary paralysis but not to kill her.

          i don't know if that's what's happening to your horse but just throwing it out there for you.

          when are the blood results coming back? this is just terrible. i'm so sorry your horse is going through this.

          best wishes!
          TQ(Trail Queen) \"Learn How to Ride or Move Over!!\" Clique


          • #6
            BTW my mare is perfect now and she was acting the same way. DONT WAIT......if your horse gets down and can't get up it is OVER. A spinal tap is costly and painful and if it is anything other then EPM the horse won't survive...if it is EPM then the drugs should help. Marquis is the best drug (or was) and I had it shipped in from Canada. It is here now.
            The rider casts his heart over the fence,
            the horse jumps in pursuit of it.

            –Hans-Heinrich Isenbart


            • #7
              So the vet never told you what the blood test results showed?

              I'm almost thinking some kind of venemous bite, since the leg was swollen and then the following neuro symptoms.

              However, you do say he's in pain and having a hard time drinking... and it sounds to me that he might be very tired (per him not trying to get up anymore) and ready to be released from his body that's failing him.
              He could/could have very easily hurt himself much worse by trying so hard to get up.

              I'm really sorry that this is my only advice, but as much as it hurts you to see him this way just know that he's hurting too. But you can help him.

              We had a pony at my former barn who randomly presented with neuro symptoms one evening... within a few hours she was trying to get up but couldn't and was struggling so hard she kept banging her head onto the asphalt/cement aisle. They put her down and that was the best they could ever do for her, she was scared and in pain.

              Is there any way to get any other vet out to take a look at him, or one you could call and explain his symptoms to?

              I don't think you'd be able to trailer him to the university because he can't even get up.... besides, how could they get him out of the trailer and into the clinic if he can't use his back legs?

              I'm obviously giving the advice to put him down, and I'm sorry... I know this has got to be hard on you. Maybe you could have a necropsy done so that he may help the vets know what happened to him and would be better prepared to treat a horse in the same or similar condition in the future?

              PM me if you would like to talk, this kind of thing is never easy.
              Originally posted by Martha Drum
              ...But I don't want to sit helmetless on my horse while he lies on the ground kicking a ball around without a bridle while Leatherface does an interpretive dance with his chainsaw around us.


              • #8
                I am so sorry... I would put him down where he is also.. I just lost my gelding a month ago to an unusual colic, I know what a terrible decision it is..
                If his pain could be controlled and he could be kept comfortable, I'd opt to try the sling while waiting for the tests, but it doesn't sound very positive.. it sounds like a severe spinal injury.. I'm sending hugs and jingles to you and your boy.


                • #9
                  I'm so sorry. I had a truly Great TB mare who broke her back. She did not seem to be in much pain, but was completely paralyzed.

                  This sounds like some kind of spinal cord injury, or as someone mentioned--a snake bite?

                  I hope I am wrong. (((hugs))) and prayers.
                  InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs

                  Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)


                  • #10
                    The symptoms you are describing sound EXACTLY what my filly went through, except for the swollen leg. I put her down. The autopsy was inconclusive but the vets said all of her muscle cells were dead or dying, and that nothing could have saved her. Probably PSSM. I'm so sorry for you.

                    Sorry to be blunt but these cases sound so similar. I know how hard it is, but please keep in touch with me. I still have so much guilt that i could have done something, and I'd really like to know what you decide to do and what the results are. While reading your description I could clearly recall exact things my girl did also, and my vet's response was the same as yours.


                    • Original Poster

                      It really doesn't seem like EPM. My other horse just recovered from EPM with the Marquis a few months ago (he caught it when he was in TX), but the symptoms this one is showing just seem way too sudden. This is the first year I've ever had any medical problems with my boys.

                      I was thinking it could be a venomous bite, but I've looked the leg over VERY thoroughly and there's nothing. I'm thinking that there would be some sort of mark if he was bitten, but I'm not too familiar with bites.

                      I wouldn't put it past this guy to eat a poisonous plant. He tries to eat the oddest things (not to mention he completely dug up a flower garden about a month ago after escaping). I completely replanted the pasture this spring with bermuda, clover and (can't remember the name right offhand) and I keep it mowed at least once a week. There's always the possibility of the poisonous plants being there and going unnoticed.

                      I honestly don't think his back is broken. He's got feeling and control in his back haunches and tail, it's just his back legs that he doesn't bend or tuck them under him when he gets off his side. He's calmed down quite a bit since the sun came out and is chilling under his canopy with a fan blowing on him (he LOVES fans) and he's trying to eat all the grass and clover around him.

                      We're going to put him in a sling today and hoist him up to see if it helps any. I'll be getting the blood tests as they come in. I should be getting some today and more later on next week if he can hold on that long. He's been drinking more water as it gets hotter outside and I also have been using a squirt bottle when he doesn't want to reach to the bucket.

                      I forgot to mention in the first post that when he was a yearling he fractured his hip. He has a slight dropped-hip, but it's never caused any soundness issues before. This is his back left hip though. I don't have a clue if that could be tied into what ever is going on, but the vet thought it could be a possibility, though not a very likely one.

                      Thanks to everyone that replied. I've never had to make the life choice with a horse that I'm sooo close to. If he gets worse and I do choose that, then I was planning on doing the necropsy (not me actually doing it) just to find out what it really is. My other horse has been running in a 100 meter circle around Memphis all morning to see whats going on. He's been too scared to come any closer though. He also couldn't figure out where his food was since there was a food bucket hanging on the other side of the fence (from last night). He didn't bother checking in the bucket that WAS hanging on his side of the fence though. I love him for his heart though, not his brains


                      • #12
                        hey, the plant i mentioned is called

                        white snake root.
                        you can google it but here is one link:


                        notice posterior weakness as a symptom. my friend's horse who got sick is also one of those who will eat anything and everything.

                        again, vet never confirmed that it was white snake root that caused her episode but she thought it was the most likely cause.

                        best of luck to you.
                        TQ(Trail Queen) \"Learn How to Ride or Move Over!!\" Clique


                        • #13
                          Our horse had exactly the same symptoms as Marta's, but it was from jimsonweed, also known as moonflower. It's hallucinogenic---it was steeped into tea a lot in the 60's. No joke. But it can really mess you up.

                          Our horse recovered but he was jugged almost immediately with DMSO.

                          Best of luck to you, and I'm sending prayers your way.

                          I like logical people---they provide a nice contrast to the real world.


                          • #14
                            Neurological Rhino

                            Have you checked for N. Rhino. It can present this way, though I am not sure
                            about the swollen leg. My horse got it, though he was never as bad as what you describe.
                            In my case he got IV DMSO and bute as well as treatment for EPM
                            until we figured out the cause. It took about 2 weeks to see improvment
                            and about 6-8 weeks for full recovery.

                            BTW, this was almost 10 years ago.

                            Christa P


                            • #15
                              I'm so sorry. I have no advice for you beyond what the others have said. He may already have hurt himself badly trying to get up. If he's not drinking, it will be just a matter of time before more complications from dehydration, such as colic, set in. Even if you can get him into a sling, the nursing is very intensive, especially if he's paralyzed behind, and prognosis at that point poor. If I did go the sling route, I'd feed him wet slurries, such as well soaked alfalfa cubes, to help keep him hydrated.

                              I would be inclined to end his suffering and put him down on the spot, as quickly as possible.


                              • #16
                                Wait on the bloodwork. In the meantime look for a new vet.
                                Little Star Chihuahua Rescue
                                The Barkalicious Bakery
                                On Facebook!!!


                                • #17
                                  Jingling for you.

                                  Does your horse have a fever? Did he seem not quite himself about a week ago?

                                  If no fever, with the symptoms you describe, in our neck of the woods it would be West Nile Virus. I lost a mare to it and it was sudden lack of coordination with no fever. She never lost interest in food, but within a couple of days couldn't stand. West Nile seems to be most virulent on the leading edge of it's appearance into am area.
                                  They don't call me frugal for nothing.
                                  Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.


                                  • #18
                                    Jingles. You must be so scared for him.
                                    I wonder if it's worth having another vet to look at him and get another pair of eyes on him.

                                    If he is eating and you're worried about hydration, perhaps giving him a mash would be helpful. Plus, he is less likely to choke on a mash.
                                    "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


                                    • #19
                                      Been there

                                      I had a horse collapse with EPM three weeks after I bought him. So, of course, I think that is a possibility.

                                      I feel just awful for you having to deal with this- and I see only two options. You can let him go, now, and hope that you have made the best decision that you can...OR...

                                      You go full court press- which would include getting him on a DMSO drip NOW. This will help to bring the swelling down in the spinal cord- which, it may well be- with, or without EPM. Then you start assessing what treatment route to go. It will take alot of emotional fortitude, and money, to go this route.

                                      It sounds like you are really trying so hard to do the best for your boy. Jingles for both of you- and don't be hard on yourself if you need to let him go...
                                      When someone shows you who they are, BELIEVE them- Maya Angelou


                                      • #20
                                        If you're vet doesn't thing a "horse down unable to get up" isn't very, very serious, you need a new vet!!! Isn't there anyone else who can look at him? Horses aren't built to spend more than a little time lying down in any position.
                                        Tranquility Farm - Proud breeder of Born in the USA Sport Horses, and Cob-sized Warmbloods
                                        Now apparently completely invisible!