He had been very healthy and robust. I was riding him almost daily and he responded to exercise very well... Until last December. I took him to Florida for the winter, where I would be working, because there was no one to care for him at home. I found a suitable stable 10 minutes away from my rental, so away we went AFTER he had a vet check and all of his vaccinations.
Upon arrival, my big boy seemed very ill. His eyes were heavy lidded, swollen and weepy. His temp was 100.9 rectally. I could tell that he just didn't feel well at all, so he stayed in the stable for 5 days until he started to feel better. And then it was time to explore his new surroundings!
We were in Florida for 3 months, and we're home now. He lost a LOT of weight while he was there and developed a clear nasal discharge which he never had before. Despite my best efforts at plumping him up while in Florida, he didn't gain any weight at all. I tried soaked beet pulp, great pasture, triple crown senior feed and corn syrup on his feed.
Now that we're home I'm around him all the time, much more so than back in Florida because he's here at home with me. He went into respiratory crisis about a month after being home. I called my vet and she came out. He had "crackles and wheezes" throughout his lungs, a dry cough, an elevated respiratory rate, and clear nasal discharge, but not much of a fever. She diagnosed him as having COPD and gave him Bactrim (just in case of infection), prednisone, albuterol, and trihist. After 4 days on this regimen he seemed to improve.
He gained his weight back rather quickly! But after about a month he started developing his symptoms again, only this time with difficulty breathing on top of the other symptoms. I panicked and called my vet but she couldn't make it, so I called a different vet and he did make it. He thought my big boy had an infection, so we gave another round of Bacrtim, and after about 5 days my boy started to improve. And all was well.
We've been home for a little more than 3 months now and just recently he went into another a terrible crisis. My friend's vet was just down the street and she could come quickly, so another new vet checked him out. Same symptoms. Difficulty breathing, clear nasal discharge, crackles and wheezed throughout all lung fields, shortness of breath, and a terrible persistent cough but temp was 100.9. She did an echocardiogram right there in my barnyard because of his loud heart murmur. She said that he has a grade 5/6 diastolic murmur - aortic regurgitation. She said his lungs were very moist. She spoke to me about putting him doen, but I just couldn't do it at that time. I was devastated. She thinks its his heart - going into congestive heart failure. We started him on enalapril, lasix, and also an antibiotic (naxcel) due to my concern over a lingering infection that started after long transport (975 miles) into a totally different climate.
Over the next 48 hours he showed ~significant~ improvement. His cough was gone completely, he was not short of breath at all, but he was still tired. He received injectable Naxcel for the first 2 days and then he was switched over to bactrim by mouth. After about 72 hours on Bactrim, he started to show signs of shortness of breath again. I called her out and she started him on Naxcel again (upon my insistence) and he will keep getting it for the next 8 days.
So... I read on the internet that horses often do FINE with even severe heart murmurs. All of the literature that I can find says that murmurs usually are not fatal for horses. So I'm perplexed... I want to believe that his crises have been caused by a lingering pneumonia and NOT by heart failure.
Today he is doing very well. No cough at all, no shortness of breath. He is bright and prancing, nickering for his feed! He is not on steroids now, or an antihistamine for COPD and hasn't been for 2 months. But he is on enalapril, lasix and naxcel.
Has anyone out there experienced anything similar to this? I'm hoping for some advice or perhaps some ideas? I love him SO much. He's a part of my family, not just a "pet." Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated.
I have pictures of Khaiyaann (Cayenne) on my profile, so please check him out! He's 25 1/2 years old now.