Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mystery solved? The case of Harvey's manboobs

Harvey has man-boobs,  an eye infection, and swollen lymph nodes. My boy is falling apart!

Quality time with my old man
 Sunday I finally spent the kind of time with him I wanted to spend. He got a spa treatment -- bath, ear/bridlepath clipping, mane pulling, tail shaping, leg-shaving (he gets crud on his back legs), shampoo and conditioner. He looked like a thousand bucks. I handgrazed him for over an hour while he dried, and was feeling better about his general health. Looking at him, he's glowing and fat and sleek.

That  night, just before I left the barn, I noticed blood trickling out of his right nostril. I wiped it out, waited a bit, and checked again in fifteen minutes. More.

Got Google? 
I know some of the basic causes of bloody noses in horses, but for Harv this is just one more in a series of symptoms. I entered the his symptoms, and was confronted with the scary gutteral pouch infection possibility, and the possibility of massive hemorrhaging. Good Lord. Then, thanks to the awesomeness of Google,  I stumbled across this: The Downside to Feeding Alfalfa Hay to Horses. The article talks about alfalfa hay giving horses nosebleeds, and sometimes causing allergic reactions like swelling in the chest.  I've been giving Harv a flake of alfalfa hay. He's been getting alfalfa for about the same period as the symptoms -- it's something I do sporadically, depending on the softness of the hay we have in the barn. If it's stemmy, I toss in a flake of the green candy.

Alfalfa leaves
More research
I foundnd a forum thread on the subject, where one member posts "I had a TB mare that would get a nose bleed every time she ate straight alfalfa hay."  Another wrote that her horse's chest would get lumpy and his coat would get hives when fed alfalfa.

There is nothing about this  in more standard, reliable texts, and at least one credible source states that alfalfa is no more likely to cause allergies than any other hay.   Lord knows there is a lot of misinformation on the Internet. But this alfalfa is so darn leafy, and the leafy bits would be easy to inhale. Plus Harv hoovers it down with such relish, he could shove some of it into his nostrils? It may not be the cause, and I'm not cancelling the vet appointment -- but it's interesting isn't it?


  1. Guess what? I'm pretty sure it's last month's Equus magazine (might be two months ago), but there's a whole story in there of a horse that got really sick with a mystery illness and it turned out to be photosensitivity brought on by eating ALFAFA HAY. I've certainly never heard of that before! So - I would not be surprised in the LEAST if Harv's grab bag of symptoms winds up being linked to alfalfa! Poor guy, he'll miss his treat if that turns out to be the case...

  2. - Vaccinated for strangles?
    Purpura hemorrhagica is a sequela of the strangles virus, which can happen even if vaccinated, and causes edema (although quite a bit), cellulitis, and quite a bit of internal organ damage as well, if I remember correctly.

    Glad you didn't cancel the vet appointment. A simple upper resp. tract scope will rule out some pretty serious problems. :)

    I've never heard about alfalfa, that's very good sleuthing.

  3. Luckily, food and environmental allergies can be "easy" to test. My dog was having a bunch of problems which we thought could be allergies. So, we switched food. If that worked after a couple weeks, problem solved. If not, we switched beds/other allergen-stuff. It's easier and cheaper than tests.
    Hope he feels better!

  4. Wow! Never heard of that. I hope it's that simple! Wouldn't that be amazing. Fingers crossed!!

  5. Wonder if he might do better with soaked alfalfa cubes? I do that for my horse, haven't found it to be more/less expensive in my area than buying alfalfa bales. It is definitely interesting though....

  6. We learn something new every day> That is fascinating information.

    If Harv does have an alfalfa allergy, that certainly would explain things.

    Hope the vet offers some answers to the mystery.

  7. I keep stumbling on articles about alfalfa and that it can actually be unhealthy due to the fact that it can be too rich for the equine system and not necessariy a recomended nutritional food source, especially if a horse is prone to founder or colic. It's weird that you have writen about it too, I haven't really been reasearching afalfa. It's kind of like when you hear a word you've never heard before and suddenly you hear it all the time. I don't even own a horse right now either, but I seem to know a lot about alfalfa... I hope it's an easy fix for the big guy! I've been catching up on your back stories ever since the "contest" and am really enjoying them! Even though I didn't win the t-shirt, I think I may have to buy one in the near future.

  8. In a barn i used to board at there was a horse who would get bumps from eating alfalfa. I thought the owner was over anxious but when her horse accidentally got into some alfalfa she indeed swelled up. i feed my jen alfalfa/hay mix but have noticed her coat is less shiny without the alfalfa in her diet. so don't be too bummed if he loses a little of his shine....better than the bumps!

  9. Well, HAY is grass or some version of grass and alfalfa is a legume. Know anyone allergic to any beans? Or maybe peanuts?
    I'm surprised more horses aren't allergic to it. But it must be the pits - sort of like if I was allergic to chocolate. oh no!
    Good detective work. It will be interesting to see if the vet agrees.

  10. You know, it seems I vaguely remember reading some scary stuff about alfalfa on and off over the past several years.
    Wouldn't that be nice if that's all it was? Hopefully your mane man will be okay. (I wouldn't have canceled the appointment either - just in case).

  11. That is a relief, but also a disappointment. Alfalfa has so many health benefits. It would be a shame if Harvey could not have his flake anymore. Oh well, loosing the symptoms is definitely the better choice.

  12. I just went through the guttural pouch mycosis scare with my guy after two tiny nosebleeds. Thank goodness a quick scope showed that wasn't the problem. Mine gets alfalfa too but doesn't have any of the other symptoms you mention, except that he's REALLY itchy (not photo-sensitivity - the vet checked). Fortunately you can just take Harv off the alfalfa and see if his symptoms magically disappear. Fingers crossed that will do the trick!


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