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Sick Pony, a conclusion

In Part 2, Stampede was being switched from Baytril to SMZ’s and Excede based on biopsy’s of his right hind leg scabs showing staph. Vets were not particularly confident about this as all horses pretty much have staph on them, but it was the next logical step. Stampede was also having a lot of foot soreness and an abscess in his right front so I got him hoof boots.

Throughout the week on SMZ’s and Baytril he started having higher fevers than he had on Baytril, despite the fact that he did still have fevers on Baytril. The vets at home were stumped and all new tests for various diseases came back negative while his CBC showed his white blood cell count was going up higher. We all agreed based on his status he was not ready to be put to sleep, but he was getting worse all the time.

I had always said the boys would never leave my property after coming home to retire, so I was pretty obstinate about Stampede not leaving for a long time. The issue though, was that I never imagined this kind of scenario. I imagined something sudden like a colic, not a 6 week long saga of fevers and lethargy. So gradually Stampede got worse and the vets and my husband both got me rethinking my decision since no one could help my horse at home.

So on August 6th my friend’s horse Cabby (who is now a full time resident) was brought over from the barn where Maestro lives so Phoenix wouldn’t be alone and Stampede took the trip up to MSU. We arrived in the evening and Stampede had an appointment for 10 am the next day.

As expected, our appointment started out with a thorough physical, including a breathing test that involved putting a bag on his face. The physical was all normal besides the fever and a slightly elevated heart rate (he has always gotten elevated around vets). Next they did a rectal, which was normal, followed by an ultrasound of basically his whole midsection. The only finding on ultrasound was that he has a lot of what they call comet tails on his lungs. This made the lead vet want to do lung x-rays despite the fact he had a good breathing test.

Before x-rays though, Stampede got a belly tap done (fluid looked good) and the vet looked at his abscess foot. Due to his lack of sole on either foot (a long story of ending up barefoot while sick) and his level of soreness she wanted to make sure everything was okay in there as well, so we added hoof x-rays to the list.

After this my mom and I were sent back to wait which we did for a few hours before being called back to look at x-rays.

Not a healthy lung

The vet felt that based on the lung x-rays Stampede had Equine Herpesvirus 5 (EHV-5), a horrible disease that only has a 50% survival rate with very expensive treatment. Actually the vet described it more as delaying things versus a cure. If that wasn’t enough, the front hoof x-rays were also quite scary looking. He would have needed corrective shoeing and special care. Either of these items on their own was bad enough, but I knew right away what the answer was.

Despite the fact that the decision to euthanize was black and white I did want a final answer on whether Stampede did indeed have EHV-5 so I donated him for student autopsy. It felt like the right choice, letting him help people learn. He was confirmed to have Equine Herpesvirus 5, as well as a bacterial infection that sounded pretty systemic – it was found in his hoof abscess, lungs, heart, and liver. While I miss my horse a lot, I do feel very comfortable with my decision, which I am extremely thankful for.

So a little more about Equine Herpesvirus 5 since I did not know anything about it before this, we certainly hear much more about the other varieties. Clinical signs for EHV-5 may include fever, anorexia, poor body condition, depression, pharyngitis, enlarged lymph nodes, or other upper respiratory signs. The virus causes a condition known as equine multinodular pulmonary fibrosis (EMPF), which is what you can see above in the x-ray. Interestingly, Stampede had a random experience of enlarged lymph nodes a few years ago.

The vet at MSU told me they do not consider EHV-5 to be contagious but the disease is not well understood. It is generally believed that most horses are actually carriers of EHV-5 and are asymptomatic. She said that generally some large illness sets things off in certain horses and that many don’t show symptoms until their late teens. I do wonder how much this illness played into his “special needs” status over the years, especially considering he was a fairly normal horse before getting sick back in 2007. That illness started his hind legs scabs, sleep deprivation, and back pain issues. Pretty scary.

Until we meet again sweet boy.