Strange Episodes in Cushing's Horse - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 08-17-2019, 11:19 PM Thread Starter
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Strange Episodes in Cushing's Horse

My mare has had a couple of unusual episodes and I am wondering if anyone has seen something similar or has any idea what might be happening.

I'll preface this by saying she is 28 years old, has Cushing's that is being treated with Prascend and appears happy and healthy. She is a good weight, is turned out 24/7 and gets along well with her two companions. She is retired from riding due to back arthritis.

I've seen this happen twice now. The first time (a couple months ago) I thought she was dying and just sat near her and thought I'd see her pass away.

The first time this happened, I arrived just after she had been given her night hay, which she gets a small amount in a hay net when all the horses are fed in the evening. When I arrived, she was lying down and her eyes were unfocused. She was flat on her side, and breathing with deep, rapid breaths. I wondered if she had a seizure or colic, but there were no disturbances in the sand and she did not look at her belly or roll.

For about ten minutes, she lay still almost looking asleep, but with her eyes open. Her ears, nostrils and mouth twitched a little and she just took big breaths but did not appear to be struggling in any way. After ten minutes, she sat up to a more normal lying position, but her eyes were still unfocused. Then, several minutes later she got up, shook herself, and went back to eat her food as if nothing had happened.

Last night, it happened again. I was giving her the handful of hay pellets she gets with her vitamins. She had eaten about half of it, when suddenly she walked out of her shelter and looked like she was going to roll. That was unusual because she never leaves food until it is all gone. But I thought maybe she needed to scratch an itch. She went down like she was going to roll, but instead went on her side and her eyes glazed over like the last time. She began breathing in big, deep breaths again. Her ears and nostrils twitched a little. She stopped breathing hard, but then just lay there. After about ten minutes, she suddenly focused and then got up and shook, and went straight back to her food.

My first guess is that she is having complex partial seizures relating to the Cushing's, and gets some kind of aura that makes her feel she should lie down ahead of time. I guess if that is the case, I'll just monitor her as long as she doesn't progress to having grand mal seizures. If she does start those, I would have to put her down to keep her from going out in a bad way.

Are there any other explanations? I was considering a few things...

-Since this is around feeding time and her teeth are getting worn down (she just had her dental float recently and still has chewing surfaces, but the teeth are short): I wondered if she could be getting some kind of wad in her esophagus that caused pain as it went down. Maybe this pain would make her want to lie down until it passed, and the staring off and twitching is related to focusing on that.
I have seen her have to cough up a wad of hay a couple of times in the past several years. I'm there when she eats most nights though, so it is a rare thing.

-Some kind of intermittent heart arrhythmia that causes her to feel strange or have chest pain, so she lies down until it goes away.

-Or?
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post #2 of 17 Old 08-17-2019, 11:33 PM
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Kind of sounds like some sort of pain attack that is alleviated and passes when she is flat out. Poor old gal.
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post #3 of 17 Old 08-18-2019, 09:01 AM
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The tumor is possibly growing larger and putting pressure on the brain and causing shut downs.
We something similar in a horse that had a tumor close to its heart, he was fine for most of the time but would have occasional episodes where heíd stop, start shaking and almost pass out. The episodes eventually got more frequent and more severe, until it was kinder to let him go.
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post #4 of 17 Old 08-18-2019, 03:19 PM
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She may be having cardiovascular episodes ó mini strokes. There could be as well, as the other posters stated, a number of things. I suspect the only way one would know for sure what it is and if it is related to the Cushings is to do some extensive testing. And thatís probably not something you want to do as it sounds for the most part she is quite content and you donít need to cause stress to either her or you unless absolutely necessary. Enjoy your time together.
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post #5 of 17 Old 08-18-2019, 04:20 PM
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I would say based off my own experience with cardiac issues in other animals and what you described it's more along those lines. Sorry to hear about it but she has the best mamma <3
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post #6 of 17 Old 08-18-2019, 07:03 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks to everyone for the input.
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post #7 of 17 Old 08-18-2019, 09:42 PM
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I would call the vet, it may be something you can't do much about unfortunately but it could be ulcer pain or something with her esophagus, pretty much anything pain related and those would potentially be treatable, it's worth ruling it out. I would try to video if she does it again.

I had a health horse "colic" multiple times- mid feed he would just lay down no other symptoms not an ulcer suspect. He was also "not himself" vet decided it was an infection likely tickborne and put him on antibiotics and he was back to normal within a day or two. His eyes were not glazed over but that could definitely be a pain reaction vs a seizure or cardiac episode (though as you are aware those are possibilities). If her Cushings is well controlled I wouldn't jump to the conclusion it is related usually you see the more serious side in horses that are clearly not well controlled (thin/fat bad hair coat etc). Same with her age, she's older of course but not ancient. Definitely worth ruling out anything treatable before assuming the worst, and if it is something untreatable hopefully the vet can give you an idea of what and a game plan to go with.
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post #8 of 17 Old 08-18-2019, 10:19 PM
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Any possibility of pssm attacks or hypp? This is what a pssm attack looks like:

I would video tape any future incidents to show to the vet.
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post #9 of 17 Old 08-20-2019, 12:53 AM
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@4horses I believe the horse is an Arab so not HYPP. Wouldn't it be very strange to begin having PSSM issues at 28 years old? Idk that's why I ask lol, I always thought it was most obvious with exercise aka most often diagnosed in young horses.
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post #10 of 17 Old 08-21-2019, 12:51 AM Thread Starter
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Yes, I think I can safely rule out HYPP or PSSM. HYPP comes from Impressive, and she is purebred. As an Arab it would probably be RER, but since she has always been an excitable mare I'd think it would have shown itself years ago. No issues the past several days, so it would seem unusual to me for ulcers to be so episodic.
@Yogiwick , with the suspected tick borne disease, were the episodes occurring daily?
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