Does anyone know what may have happened? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 03-08-2013, 03:35 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Bryan, TX
Posts: 297
• Horses: 3
Does anyone know what may have happened?

This was a rather tragic mystery that happened to my first horse about 10 years ago.

The vet hadn't experienced such a thing, and consulted with other vets who couldn't explain it either.

So, my question is, has anyone else experienced this before or have an idea as to what caused it?

About my horse- I found out that he was older (about 18) at the time of his death (I was told he was 6 when I bought him, so I assumed he was around 10 when he died). He had been in this particular pasture for a little over a year with 2 other mares. Neither of them had any issues, so I am thinking that it wasn't a toxic plant, etc.

It was a very, very hot year, and was in the middle of summer when he died. We had numerous days of 100+ temperatures, which I can't say helped any. There was always water available, they were getting fed 2x a day (what exactly, I don't remember). My horse had always been one of those horses that were a bit hard to keep- his weight fluctuated frequently, but not drastically. I live in Bryan, TX.

Day 1: Looked normal. Acted normal.

Day 2: I noticed he seemed to be loosing weight, so I upped his feed a bit that evening. Still acted normal.

Day 3: He wouldn't come up, he stood under a tree and nickered at me, but didn't budge an inch. I went out to him, feeling like something was wrong, and was completely shocked.

He had dropped all weight he had (and he wasn't a lean horse, more stocky), you count count all his bones. Not only that, but his skin was hard, wrinkled and sunken in. Every time he moved an inch, it would crack to where you could see his flesh underneath (he wasn't bleeding), the skin had also begun falling off.

I took him to the vet (took about an hour to just walk to the trailer). He was very anemic, in shock, and his liver tests were abnormal, but beyond that (aside from his physical state) every test came out normal. Do to his condition, she didn't anesthetize him, as she felt he may have not survived to do so.

He spent about 2 months in horsey ICU (mostly kept on fluids, pain medicine, and TLC) before he was stable enough to come home. Just about all the skin fell off his body, though it had started to regrow a little bit. His liver count was better, but still abnormal, and she suggested once he recovered to see about further test to see if there was something such as cancer, etc.

Unfortunately, after taking him home he fell down out of the trailer, and we (myself, several other people and a tractor) could not get him to stand back up on his own four legs. My vet came out the next morning (we tried throughout the night to get him standing) and put him down.

He was put to rest at a friends ranch- he wasn't buried, but laid out for nature to take its course (this is what I prefer, if there is enough room to not interfere with other things). Instead of normal decomposition, his body more or less became mummified (and still is now, several years later).

I'm still rather dumbfounded as to what may have happened. His sudden decline was absolutely bizarre.

He wasn't being ridden very often before all this happened (maybe once a month), and hadn't been taken off the property in probably 6 months.

As its been awhile, there are a lot of specifics that I forget, but if there's any questions I will try my best.
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post #2 of 7 Old 03-08-2013, 04:22 PM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: MN
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How much weight did he lose from day one to day three??
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post #3 of 7 Old 03-08-2013, 04:49 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Bryan, TX
Posts: 297
• Horses: 3
I don't know exactly since i don't know what his average weight was. I had guessed him at about 900-1000lbs (he was short, but very thick kind of guy, super stocky but was only about 14h) and he was about 725 at the vets. The only reason she (my vet) didn't go for animal cruelty was because she had seen him a month previously to pull coggins and was fine then. It was extremely drastic, and you could literally see every bone in his body poking out. He looked like a holocaust victim. And I still have no idea what happened.
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post #4 of 7 Old 03-08-2013, 05:00 PM
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Georgia USA
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Colic most likely finished him off. Several things could have led up to the colic including:

1. Gastrointestinal obstruction
2. Severe parasitism
3. Toxic plant
4. Dental problems (maybe he was not able to eat)

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post #5 of 7 Old 03-08-2013, 06:59 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Bryan, TX
Posts: 297
• Horses: 3
I originally thought colic, but he was pooping just fine and he still had an appetite (and had been eating fine, though not knowing what was wrong with him I didn't feed him the 3rd day til he was okayd by the vet to eat). He had some parasites, but wasn't severe. He did need his teeth floated but they weren't awful (there were some things in horse care world I was rather ignorant of then) and he didn't drop his food, etc. Whenever I fed the horses, I made sure each got their share and no one was stealing food.

Toxins were never ruled out, but the only thing abnormal was his liver count. Since he had been in the same place, with the same horses for at least a year (closer to 2 I think) and nothing happened to any other horse, or to him previously I don't see it as being a plant. And I'm not sure what may have done that (toxin wise).

Aside from his extreme weight loss, his skin was the the real bizarre thing. By skin, I don't mean hair- I mean his skin, all layers of it down to his muscle tissue hardened, cracked and was coming right off. He had never been prone to sun burn, and that's the only thing I can think of there- was just sudden photosensitivity. His skin was what seemed to cause the most pain, after most of that fell off (where he could move around without as much discomfort) he improved greatly. He was kept until he wasn't at such a high risk for infection and the vet couldn't really do any more than I could. (During his 2 month stay, I was at the vets twice a day before and after work feeding him, applying his ointment, cleaning him and his stall ans she showed me how to give shots, how to cut dead pieces of skin off, etc. so I was well versed in the aftercare he needed).

Yes, it was grotesque, he actually looked worse when he was getting better, even though he had gained some weight back and his skin was starting to come back. Even when he was cleared to go home, she still only gave him a 50/50 shot since there were so many unknowns.

Just never seen or heard of anything like it.
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post #6 of 7 Old 03-10-2013, 01:43 PM
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Ontario
Posts: 6,166
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Look up "idiopathic liver disease" in the Merck manual. Sudden onset, no known cause, 2 - 7 days, high death rate.
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post #7 of 7 Old 03-10-2013, 02:39 PM
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Hampshire, UK
Posts: 46
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I read an article about atypical myopathy, which is rare but what you describe sounds similar.
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