Two Horses Dead-desperate for answers - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 136 Old 02-16-2012, 01:02 AM Thread Starter
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Unhappy 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.
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post #2 of 136 Old 02-16-2012, 01:30 AM
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Michelle3, I am so, so terribly sorry to hear what you've been through. It is just heartbreaking for you, even more so to not know why this has happened.
Is there a chance that they could have been bitten by something?
In Australia, we have a disease called Hendra virus, that is spread by droppings of fruit bats in horses' water sources. They end up with similar symptoms, seizures etc. Could it maybe be something similar?

This sounds awful, but is there any chance that someone has poisoned them?

Best regards to you and those involved, I would love to know how you get on and what has caused this.
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post #3 of 136 Old 02-16-2012, 02:02 AM
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Oh my Gosh, I'm so sorry to hear about what's happened, you must be really heart broken. I have just been reading my horse and rider magazine February issue 2012 and it tells you about a grazing danger something called EMA Equine Atypical myopathy. It's a rare but fatal disease.
October 2011 the Uk saw several cases of this mostly in the South East of England. Its discribed as a grass sickness pasture related and appears to associated with weather changes. Symptoms: Sudden severe weakness, stiffness in the hind end mostly, collapse unable to get on their feet or difficulty standing, muscle tremors, signs of colic, depressed, still will eat and drink, low temp. And if more than one horse is the same on the same grass is a big concern. I'm not sure where your location is I tried to look on your profile. I only joined this website yesterday so not very familar with it yet. Your more experinced with horses than I am and I wasn't sure if you were aware of this illness I thought I would mention it. I hope it helps. If you live in the UK you could get the magazine for further info if needed. I hope you find out what it was. I'm so sorry for you and your horses.
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post #4 of 136 Old 02-16-2012, 02:08 AM
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I am so sorry to hear that you had to go through something as terrible as this. Like Kayty already said, Hendra virus might a cause of what happened if you are in Australia. I hope you find out soon.

There is one principle that should never be abandoned, namely, that the rider must first learn to control himself before he can control his horse. This is the basic, most important principle to be preserved in equitation - Alois Podhajsky
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post #5 of 136 Old 02-16-2012, 02:19 AM
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How terrible-- so very sorry for your loss.. such a tragic thing to go through.

This may sound strange- but have you tested the water? Several "strange" deaths/"neuro" symptoms have been attributed to fluoride poisoning..(fluorosis) Yes-- good 'ol fluoride...seems it is actually poisonous.. There have been more and more cases recently..

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post #6 of 136 Old 02-16-2012, 03:04 AM
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OMG, I am so sorry for your lose, I can not even imagine loosing one much less two.

I hope they get to the bottom of these and soon, please keep us posted.
I really want to believe it was not the feed, I have always used that brand of feed and would hate to find out it was what caused it because I would have to find a new favorite feed.
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post #7 of 136 Old 02-17-2012, 12:49 AM
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hi. I had a mare to do the same exact thing. I noticed her one afternoon and she was acting like she couldn't keep her balance & she was really wobbly. She went down and she was having the same seizures you said your horses were having. Then my other 5 horses started wobbling as well. We rushed one of them to the Mississippi State University vet clinic there and they couldn't find anything. They tested for numerous things and everything came back negative. My mare that did go down did die about a day later. Then everyone else just got better over night. The vet has come out a lot since it all happened and has pulled blood and done nose swabs everything came back negative. We still don't know what it was or why it happened. :(
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post #8 of 136 Old 02-17-2012, 12:59 AM
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It honestly sounds like botulism to me. Botulism in Horses and Haylage
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post #9 of 136 Old 02-17-2012, 06:40 AM
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|First I am sooooo sorry for your loss. Losing one is certainly a terrible stress but to lose 2 is just devastating.
Could it possibly be EPM? Just a guess because it seems to have effected the spinal cord and brain the most.
Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis. Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM) is a disease caused by the protozoan Sarcocystis neurona. The parasite�s normal life cycle does not include the horse; therefore, the horse is a dead-end host that cannot spread the disease.

Horses ingest the protozoan through contaminated feces of an infected animal (the opossum is thought to be the natural host and birds the intermediate hosts). In most horses, the only effect is that the horse�s blood tests positive to antibodies to the disease, indicating that the horse has been exposed to the parasite. However, in a very small percentage of horses, the protozoan travels to the brain or spinal cord, causing a variety of neurological signs. These signs usually are not the same on both sides of the body and can range from toe dragging, incoordination, a drooping eyelid or lip, to complete recumbency and death.There is no vaccine for EPM; however, there are treatments for the disease. The current antibiotic treatment is expensive, and many horses relapse after treatment is stopped. However, more effective treatments are being developed. Horses that exhibit signs of neurological disease can be tested for EPM through analysis of spinal cord fluid. Control measures for EPM include controlling opossums around horse facilities. Store feed in sealed containers, and check it for opossum droppings (similar in appearance to cat feces) before feeding it to horses. Also check outdoor feed and water frequently for contamination. Discourage opossum traffic through paddocks by installing a low electric wire or wire mesh fencing that is buried about 6 inches underground.

I know it was mentioned by the vets but did they test for it as it does seem to fit. Again so sorry.

Last edited by Annnie31; 02-17-2012 at 06:42 AM.
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post #10 of 136 Old 02-17-2012, 08:30 AM
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I'm thinking botulism too.
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