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Equine Potomac Fever & Honor, Updated 6/1/2011

September 9, 2010

Time is of the essence when a disease strikes.  Normally I visit my horses and do chores every day.  Late this August however, I took 4 days off to work extra at my job and others covered my chores.  On the 5th day, Wednesday, September 1st, 2010, I did chores and noticed Honor in the shed by himself, appearing depressed.  He came to me as usual, but he was covered with flies and smelled sick.  His breath was bad, his tail was saturated with the remnants of diarrhea and he showed obvious weight loss.  Along with these symptoms, Honor didn’t have his usual appetite.  I listened to his gut noises and they were more intense and sounded watery.  His gums were good in color, so I knew that he wasn’t dehydrated yet, but I was worried.  Along with profuse diarrhea comes the chance for contagious salmonella.

My vet wasn’t available until Friday, so it was suggested that I give him some “bute”, antibiotics if I had any, and check his temp.  We discussed the possibility of Potomac.  I gave him some “bute”, didn’t have antibiotics and his temp was unusually low.  I figured that he had already gone through the high temperature phase of Potomac and was nearing the toxic phase where they become anorexic and the body dehydrates.  Here are a couple links for reference:  Potomac Horse Fever (PHF)Potomac Horse Fever

Thursday, when I checked on Honor, he wouldn’t come to the gate.  I brought him out of the pasture and his pasterns were swollen, so laminitis was becoming a possibility.  He still was having diarrhea and smelled bad.  His gums were starting to show the “toxic” line and his temp was 96.3.  He didn’t eat his grain and only ate very little grass.  He was obviously depressed.  In order to try to prevent further dehydration, I gave him a tube of electrolytes.  He had urinated in front of me, both Wednesday and today, so I figured that he was still drinking water.  The worry was that the diarrhea was going to dehydrate him quicker than he could maintain hydration by drinking and he wasn’t eating much of anything.

Because our pasture is in wet lands, I had vaccinated for Potomac Fever but after researching the symptoms of this disease, I realized that Honor had contracted it anyway.  Roughly two week earlier, I had seen snails in the pasture, but assumed that the carriers of this disease were flying insects.  Not true.  Ingesting a snail is a common cause of Equine Potomac Fever.  Because there are several strains of this disease, the vaccine in not 100% foolproof.

Honor Roughly 3 Weeks Before His Illness Competing In An Open Show

Friday, September 3rd, my vet installed a catheter and started IV antibiotics.  I put Honor in a pen by himself because of the catheter and for his own protection.  He was becoming weak.  I gave Honor another tube of electrolytes and prayers flowed.

Honor Receiving 1st IV of Antibiotics Friday, Sept 3rd.

Saturday Honor received another IV but he was still passing diarrhea and not eating much.  On a positive note, he was drinking a little water.

Sunday was a mirror of Saturday except Honor was loosing weight even faster now.  The diarrhea had become mostly liquid.  The consensus of the severity of this situation was that Honor would have passed on by Monday had I not noticed his illness when I did.

Monday, Labor Day Holiday, yet another IV and I noticed that the bit of sparkle that had been in Honor’s eyes was not there this night.  I spent two hours with him and feared the worst.

Tuesday came, the 5th IV administered, and I asked my friends and family for prayers.  Honor had lost roughly 300 pounds in just 6 days.  He was a rack of bones and I could hardly believe my eyes.  My gut was in my throat with worry.

Later Tuesday afternoon, Honor was down and didn’t want to get up.  I feared for the worst, feeling that Honor was giving up.  His eyes were dull and dark and I sat in the dirt with him, his head in my lap, me massaging his cheeks and bawling my eyes out.  I told him that he couldn’t go join Rowdy yet and that I wanted him with me for another 12 years, so not to give up.  He closed his eyes and didn’t appear to be listening and I felt he needed Theena.

Knowing Honor’s personality, I thought he felt abandoned and missed Theena’s companionship, the herd mentality.  The risk to damaging the catheter didn’t outweigh my fear for his life.  I called the vet and asked if I could put Theena in with him and I did.  I waited for Honor to get up and he didn’t.  He just laid there with his head flat on the ground.  One last thing I could do was to grain Theena.  Maybe Honor would rally to join her.

Honor 6 Days After 1st IV

Honor 6 Days After 1st IV

I gave Theena her grain, walked away, tears streaming down my face and attended to my other chores.  A few minutes passed and I saw Honor was up, standing at Theena’s side, trying to be interested in the grain.  I was afraid to believe my eyes.  Was this a turning point?  I was afraid to be hopeful, but hopeful I was.  Honor tried to nibble at the grain, stood by Theena until she was done eating and then he walked off to drink some water.  I watched him walk very slowly, with what seemed with every bit of energy that he could muster.  He started nibbling some green grass and was slowly eating it when I prepared to leave for the night.  Earlier in the day, the vet had drawn blood for a kidney function test to check for renal failure.  As I was leaving, she called me to tell me that the test was pretty good and she had hope for his recovery.  At least I knew now that I wouldn’t need to put Honor down on Thursday unless he took a turn for the worse over night.

Wednesday, September 8th, another IV and I saw Honor pass a stool.  It was mushy like a cow pie, so the vet figured that he was on the mend and one more IV on Thursday and it was up to Honor to eat his way back to health.  Honor ate a bit of his grain and then stood with Theena and ate some hay!

Honor Getting His Appetite Back With Theena

Another good sign, was that he was a bit obstinate when the vet was administering the IV so we knew he had some energy back.

Thursday the 9th, was a good day.  Honor received his 7th IV of antibiotics and the catheter was removed.  He made it through a night of pouring rain and had his appetite back.  Honor ate all of his grain and was zealous about eating the grass and hay.  I do believe in miracles and think that this was one of them.  Although there is still a chance for colic, I feel that Honor is going to heal completely now and hopefully gain his weight back before winter sets in.  He has given me 6 years of joy and equine companionship and I look forward to another 12 or more with him.  Many thanks to my vet and her assistant for the extra care they gave and to all my friends and family for your their loving thoughts and prayers through this experience!  Praise God!

Update, Friday, September 10: Honor’s greeted me with a nicker today and his appetite is back, almost ravenous.

Friday, September 10, Great Appetite!

Honor, Friday, September 10, 2010

I never thought that I would pay so much attention to stools, but in this situation, it is crucial that they become “apples”.  Today he still has cow pie consistency, but they looked much better in color.  Not brownish but a nice green representing the food that he is eating.  We have quite a ways to go regarding getting his weight back on, but it looks like he is on the right track.  Go Honor!

Update, Friday, September 17th: A week since my last update, Honor had a spring in his step and was happy licking his lips last night.  His eyes and coat are looking much better.  I took him and Theena out of the pen and he was so happy that he trotted, head bobbing and with a nicker.

Appearing that he has most of his energy back now, I turned him and Theena out to pasture with the rest of the herd.  He still has a long way to go regarding weight gain, but every indication to a full recovery is apparent.  More updates to follow.

Honor, Thursday, September 16th

Update Friday, September 24th: It doesn’t appear that Honor is gaining any weight.  There seems to be some gastrointestinal distress, as he keeps holding his tail up and away as if to pass a stool.  I listened for gut noises last night and there weren’t as many as I would have liked to have heard.  There were some fresh “cow pies” in the pasture, but I think it’s because he is in a new, more lush pasture.  His gastrointestinal problematic symptoms were present last week Wednesday, before I moved him to the new pasture.

Honor, Friday, September 24, 2010

Today, Monday, September 27th, I gave him some banamine to prevent colic, just in case.  About 20 minutes after giving Honor the banamine, I saw him pass some “apples”, so maybe he is working through it.  He has a great appetite and some energy, so this is confusing.

Saturday, October 2nd, I took new photos of Honor.  He was still having gastrointestinal discomfort, but after eating his grain/fat supplement, he rolled, which released a LARGE amount of gas.  I was nervous about him rolling because of the chance for colic, but I felt as though he knew what he needed and it worked!  His tail relaxed and so did he.

Another condition I noticed accompanying this disease is the affect it appeared to have on his hair coat.  His coat went from shiny and sleek to dry, dull, flaky and shedding.  Granted, the horses are shedding their summer coats now, but his coat condition is exaggerated in comparison.  Taking into consideration the dehydration that occurred, this makes sense to me.  The other horses are barely shedding, not even a brush full of hair.  Honor on the other hand, is shedding 14x or more than the other horses.  This is a brush full of hair after the 14th brushing and he is still shedding like crazy.

Honor's 14th Brush Full & More To Go

Up until Monday, October 4th, because of Honor’s behavior, I felt as though Honor was still healing from affects of Equine Potomac Fever.  Although he was eating and starting to act like one of the herd, he was still “reserved”.  Monday however, he was licking his lips and bobbing his head when coming up for his grain.  He is starting to have noticeable weight gain now!!  I would like to say that other than putting his weight back on, he is totally out of the woods!  YEA!!!

Honor, Saturday, October 2nd

Honor, Saturday, October 2nd

Sunday, October 10th, Honor is still gaining weight.  I expect it to be another 2 months before he has gained his 300+ pounds back.  I am very thankful for this really nice, extended Fall weather!  Certainly freezing rain, snow and winter weather would have slowed down his recovery.  People ask how old Honor is and at 22 he is just in his prime.  Morgan horses thrive well into their 30’s if taken care of and used properly.  I hope this story gives you hope and belief in miracles.  Older horses have the lifetime experience of “been there done that”.  He should bring myself and future students many more years of joy.

Honor, October 10, 2010

Honor, October 10, 2010

Honor, November 28, 2010

Honor, November 28, 2010

Sunday, November 28th: Honor is fully prepared for winter.  His weight is back on, his hair coat is thick and his top line is getting better because of the application of a couple of exercises every day.  He has his energy back and is happy to take his equestrians for an enjoyable ride.  Just 3 days shy of 3 months of recovery, this is Honor now.

Thank you for following his story and for your good thoughts and prayers!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011:  Honor made it through the winter and is finally starting to look like the younger version of himself.

Last week I took him out for the first time this spring and we rode 4 miles at walk and trot, ponying a 2 year old for it’s first time too.  No matter what anyone says about an older horse, they are worth their knowledge and dependability in gold!  There isn’t much that can replace the wisdom and patience that the older equine learns through experience which only time can provide.

If you have an equine that contracts Equine Potomac Fever, I hope that you have as blessed an experience as Honor and I have had.  Please contact me if you have any questions or want to share your story.

God Bless Us and Our Horses!

Honor, May 31, 2011 at 23 Years Old


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