Two Horses Dead-desperate for answers
Sorry for this really long post, but I want to include as much detail as possible. Im hoping someone, somewhere, might have some ideas...
It was the strangest, saddest thing. My horses were fine in the morning…happy, trotted up for their hay…perfectly fine. I was home all day and periodically looked out my window at them and they were fine. When I went down to start night chores, one of my horses was down and seemed to be tangled in the electrobraid (fence had been off for 2 weeks). I cut the electrobraid, thinking he was stuck, but he wasn’t. He just didn’t want to get up. He was shivering really badly…which was weird because he has a blanket and was dry and warm underneath it and he had not been down long. I had jsut seem him standing. So I called the vet and told him something was really wrong and asked him to come out immediately. I tried to get him up and he struggled but it was almost like his back end wouldn’t work and he tumbled and slid down the snowy hill into the perimeter fence. I cut that away from him with the wire cutters and waited for the vet.
When the vet arrived he said my horse wasn’t shivering but was having a facial seizure. He had no luck getting him up either. Nothing was broken, his vitals were normal (except heavy breathing from the exertion of trying to get up). Shortly, the facial spasms turned into two massive grand mal seizures and the vet recommended I let him put him down. Since my horse had come from the east coast he thought it might be EPM. I was devastated, but agreed.. Unfortunately, none of the drugs worked. He used two bottles of the pink euthanasia solution (pentobarbital?), a full bottle of Ketamine, 2 bottles of rapidly injected calcium etc. After two hours they were out of drugs and shot him. It was the worst night of my life....something I know I will never get over, or forget. He was my best friend. After everyone left, I went to console my other, younger horse because I figured he would be really freaked out. I decided to lock him in the stall since the perimeter fence was broken and I didn’t want him to get loose. When I led him into the stall he seemed “off”. He kept shifting weight on his back legs and seemed wobbly. I had him follow me in a close circle and he didn’t seem able to cross over his back legs and he was acting head shy. I called the vet back out. At 1:30 a.m. he went down and had several grand mal seizures. The vet arrived and agreed that the first horse didnt have EPM. He gave him Banamine, valium, DMSO, fluids, biosponge etc. and although the sedation would not work, the Valium stopped the seizures. He drew some blood samples and went to the clinic to run them. Everything was normal. No elevated white blood cells, or liver enzymes or anything. Perfectly normal blood. This time both vets returned. The seizures got progressively worse, but they were still able to tube him and hive him a gallon of fluids mixed with electrolytes, biosponge etc. At 4 pm he died while they were loading their gun.
Everything points to a point source and the vets feel the grain is the most likely culprit. They were fed at 6 or 7 pm on Friday night (grain and hay) and more grain about 9 a.m. onSaturday morning. Both horses were in a dry lot with no access to any forage at all. They only get the hay, grain and supplements that I feed them. A few months ago I bought a load of hay and split it with four friends. We have all been feeding that hay for a few months with no issues. My alpacas and goats eat the same hay. Both vets went through several bales of the hay and didn't find anything suspicious. The grain was Nutrena Senior Life Design purchased that week and fed the night before all this happened. They have not gotten loose and really haven’t been trailered anywhere except one to the fairgrounds one weekend, and the other one the next weekend so I could school htem in the nice footing ring. They are completely up to date on shots and deworming. They showed no symptoms prior to the rapid onset of seizures.
The vets did full autopsies, took tissue samples, stomach content samples, sent out samples of my hay, grain, water from the trough, supplements etc. The blood went to some out of state labs for more advanced testing. The vets feel certain it was a point source, something that both horses had exposure to within the same time frame. They think it’s a very deadly mold or toxin that has a neurological effect. All the tests are coming back negative. No toxic plants or plant parts in in their digestive system, despite the fact that the symptoms fit Whorled Milkweed or Water Hemlock. Nothing showed up in the hay sample. No toxins were found in the blood (they tested everything from insecticides, fumonisn, strychinne, permythins(?) etc. They are still waiting on ionophores and alticarbs.) They didnt find any diseases, parasites, viruses etc. This past week has been hard…I feel like I can’t stop crying. I know it will get easier, but right now I just feel so heartbroken and shocked. I want to find out what happened. Everyone around here is afraid to feed their hay or grain since many of us all got the hay from the same place and the grain from the same store. Im really reaching out for any ideas that I could share with my vet. Thanks.