Sunday, September 6, 2015

Harvey: Poor boy

Harv in his deeply bedded home.
Friday night, I went out to the barn to see Harv, as usual. As I led him to his pasture, it was clear something was not right. He was moving stiffly on his front end, with hesitation, and his balance was worse than it's ever been. Once in the pasture he would not move, and when he tried, he was swaying and having trouble standing over his feet.

The barn manager and I looked at him as I prodded him to walk. It was just... bad.  Lori agreed he was not right, and I was thinking he could fall down if we pushed him. I called the vet.
Harv has been neurological for a number of years but his hind end has been the issue -- and now it looked like his whole body was involved.

Is this goodbye?
Well, I thought this was it. I took his temp (normal), then I pulled my chair out to his paddock and sat with him while he ate hay. His eyes were mild, and calm, and his expression was happy. He was eating hay,  dropped and relaxed.  While we waited for the vet, I said my goodbyes to him, feeling grateful that he was not in pain. I longed for and dreaded the vet's arrival.

Not what I thought
When the vet arrived it was past dusk, so we trained our car headlights in his paddock. She evaluated him, using a flashlight when needed. She agreed that he was showing clear neurological symptoms as she walked him around, turning him both ways.

The first surprise: his pulse was 55. "I think he is in some pain," she said.  He also had strong digital pulses in both feet. She pointed out his subtle shifting of weight, which I'd called "swaying" and interpreted as loss of balance. She thought it was from trying to relieve pain from one limb, then another. He didn't respond much to hoof testers, but I guess this is common.

So you know the diagnosis. Laminitis.

What happened?
I have been determined to keep Harv in good weight. He can't eat hay, so I have him on 13 lbs of low starch senior feed, which is in the range of the recommended amount. Nothing has really changed in quite awhile though. Nothing new. He does get a lot of sweet treats, but...  I feel awful. It's possible I caused this.

As I talked to Lori and Sue, who also care for Harv, we agreed that he might have been a little uncomfortable on his feet for weeks, if not months. The ground is hard this summer, and we attributed a lot of the stiffness/hesitation to balance issues.

Just before the vet arrived, Harv's face was so happy, and placid, and content. I never dreamed he was in pain. He's a stoic horse, he really is.

So as I write this, Harv has been on banamine for a just over 24 hours -- the IV banamine resulted in a rapid improvement in his gait, he even tried to trot a little. I've been rather incompetently caring for him, administering banamine that he spits out, soaking his feet in cool water (and having him knock it over in the aisle, and wrapping his right foot (which may have an abscess).  His stall is deeply bedded.  We drew blood for Potomac and Cushings.  I can't go crazy with treatments for him, and I want his life to be as natural as possible. He's going out at night in his small paddock. We thankfully have fine, soft hay right now so that is what he's eating. He's none too happy about the diet change. Lori keeps saying what Harv must be thinking:  "I hate this place!"

Harvey is a tough old guy. Friday I thought it was over, and here he is, still hanging in there.  Feeling very lucky.


  1. I would recommend buying some Soft Ride boots--while they're expensive, I have seen them take a horse from lying down 90% of the time to happily ambling around the farm eating grass. Also, soaking in VERY cold ice water for as long as possible (24 hours a day for several days is recommended) has shown to be the best anti-laminitis treatment (the paper about it is by Dr. Chris Pollitt, and has "Cryotherapy" in the title, in case you'd like to read it). I've found that heavy duty dry sacks made for kayaking are best for this, as the horse can move around and lie down in them with the ice water in them. Just secure the top with an Ace or Saratoga bandage.
    I would suspect Cushings, given the time of year and Harvey's age. I recommend Dr. Eleanor Kellon's Equine IR & Cushings group on Yahoo, as they are the best source for the most up-to-date information on everything equine IR & Cushings.
    Best of luck!

  2. Oh, goodness. Not what you expected and you can't blame yourself for his symptoms being masked by another problem. I immediately thought about the Soft-Ride boots as well (and now Easy Boot is making similar but I don't know if cost is better). Might help to get him over the hump. Hope you can work out a diet plan that he can tolerate. He's been looking so good and you've done a great job managing the incontinence, too. Good luck to your sweet boy and hang in there....

  3. Laminitis is quite scary. My old guy has had it twice. Turned out he is a Cushings horse. Have him on the meds now and so far, so good. No sign of Cushings--heavy coat, etc. Having a bit of trouble keeping weight on him and I do have him on the Purina Senior low starch. So far, he's been fine all summer.

    Wishing you and Harv all the best.

  4. oh no, poor Harvey! glad the change in treatment made such a quick difference in his comfort!

  5. Oh Stacey, I'm so sorry to read this--please don't beat yourself up over it. You've always had Harv's best interests in mind--always. Thanks for sharing.


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