Back on May 20th I came out in the morning to find Stampede starting a cellulitis flare up in his right hind. He usually has at least one a year, and we had one right around Christmas previously. So I followed my usual protocol we’ve done for years. When he finished his two weeks of antibiotics the leg was not quite normal which had not happened before that I could remember, but I stopped the antibiotics since it seemed like maybe I just needed to be a bit more aggressive with my icing and wrapping.
The vet came out on June 14th to give the horses their Potomac vaccines and while he was out I mentioned how Stampede’s right hind had not gone back to normal. We had discussed previously that Stampede likely had leukocytoclastic vasculitis (now confirmed with recent tests) so he decided we should put him on an extended course of steroids (over a month) to clear up the scabs and see if that got the fill out. So I was giving Stampede his steroids and I kept noticing he was a bit strange at times but nothing I could really put my finger on – I wonder now if he had a fever?
On June 25th I came out to a lethargic looking pony with a big right hind again. He had a slight fever at 100.4 (99.8 is his normal) but the vet seemed skeptical about my assessment of the situation. If you remember I switched vets late in 2018, so he’s new to the adventures of Stampede care. Regardless, by the next morning both hind legs were big and Stump was clearly not feeling well so the vet came out. He checked him all over and didn’t feel like it was cellulitis based on symptoms so we agreed to pull blood. Later that day I got a text saying my gut was correct and Stampede’s white blood cell count was high. Vet decided to add a shot of Excede into the mix in addition to the SMZ’s so Stampede also got that shot the next day.
Despite the steroids, SMZ’s, and an Excede shot Stampede hind legs and right front started getting bigger all while my 10th anniversary trip to Alaska was getting closer and closer. At the same time he continued (and continues) to spike 103-104 degree fevers daily. On July 1st Stampede got an IV catheter put in and started getting Baytril, a much stronger broad spectrum antibiotic. Blood was taken to run a variety of tests as well, but results were all negative other than a blood panel showing that his white blood cell cell count had gone down some although was still elevated.
So on July 3rd I left Stampede to head to Alaska unsure if I would ever see him alive again. It was so hard to leave him. Thank goodness for friends who step right up, even when faced with a large and delicate special needs horse with a catheter. I was always texting with vets and friends, even having a phone call with one of the vets on cruise wifi while cruising through glacier bay. My friend Christie who was staying at my house and taking on the brunt of the care balanced keeping me feeling in the loop with avoiding freaking me out most of the time. As time went on I okayed more tests, then Stampede got his catheter out after 10 days as at that point the risk of him having it in was more than the reward. Compounded baytril capsules were ordered instead, and Christie began syringing them into him with applesauce. For good and bad I got home in the evening on July 14th to a horse who was much the same – lethargic with a fever and still some edema in his legs.
Since then we’ve done more tests and ruled out some scary diseases and found no tumors in his body. We had a Serum Amyloid A (SAA) test done, which confirms that inflammation relates to infection. Due to that we decided to do a punch biopsy of his right hind (the worst leg) to see if we could maybe figure out more about how to treat the infection. The culture is still pending and I’m feeling impatient.
Stampede still has a fever which always flares in the afternoon but is controlled by banamine, slight edema in the right hind, and a much too quiet demeanor (biopsies were done without sedation!). Thankfully he is eating hay well, but he has lost a lot of weight.
I was supposed to leave for Traverse City for the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival this coming Monday, but I have cancelled that as I’m not comfortable leaving Stampede while he’s so sick, or leaving Phoenix if something happens. I guess it saves some money for all these vet bills? There is always next year, and there is only one Stampede.
So now you are updated on my special needs horse. I appreciate all positive vibes (or ideas if you have any experience with these symptoms) as we try to get Stampede healthy! Alaska trip update coming at some point in the future.