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Discussion on Several unexplained deaths

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Andrea Richardson
Member
Username: Andrear

Post Number: 10
Registered: 4-2002
Posted on Thursday, Aug 25, 2005 - 10:22 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hello Dr. O,
We have a bit of a mystery on our hands, and we have been trying just about everything to figure it out with our vet, and I'm hoping a fresh opinion might help.
About 3 weeks ago one of our mares presented with what looked like choke in the morning, we treated her for that, but her symptoms became more noticable. She had a lot of watery mucous running from her nose for about 3 hours. At this time she began to look colicky, so we treated her with a muscle relaxant, and she appeared to be better. By the next morning her temperature was up, and her extremities were extremely cold. The vet came right out, she had poor capillary refill, very low blood pressure, was dehydrated and a very elevated heart rate, and lethargic. She had IV fluids, antibiotics for several days. This did not seem to be working, and she was not really improving, so we switched to a much stronger antibiotic. Eight days into her illness she bled out, siezured and died. The vet had several thoughts, perhaps an abcess or tumor on the lung, or aspiration pneumonia. We thought it was a one time thing, and did not do an autopsy.
Three days later, one of our geldings had identical symptoms. We started with the second treatment for him, and he recuperated. The vet said aspiration pneumonia isn't that usual, and it was odd that two horses would come up with the same symptoms. Ditto for a tumor or abcess.
In the meantime, we have had another horse die in the field overnight. Not knowing if it was related or not, we did an autopsy. Unfortunately it was 2 1/2 days after she had died, and we know that it wasn't colic or a head injury. They did find hemmorages on the tissue around her kidneys though.
Have you heard of anything like this? We have a heard of 58 horses, and I am interested in any help you may have!
Thanks,
Andrea
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Vicki Zaneis
Member
Username: Vickiann

Post Number: 84
Registered: 3-2005
Posted on Friday, Aug 26, 2005 - 6:39 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Look for a source of toxins -- see what kind of weeds they could be eating out in the pasture or in hay, also check cleanliness of water, etc.
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: Dro

Post Number: 13597
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Friday, Aug 26, 2005 - 6:45 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

This sounds more like poisoning than a infection though I cannot rule it our completely. The hemmorage around the kidney is not specific for any particular disease. More inportant would be a histopath on the tissues of all the major organ systems.

1) Botulism (or a Clostridial poisoning of some type) from the ingestion of preformed toxin is the first thing that comes to mind Andrea, see Equine Diseases » Nervous System » Incoordination, Weakness, Spasticity, Tremors » Botulism Poisoning, Shaker Foals.
2) Also ionophore poisoning is possible, Equine Diseases » Nervous System » Dementia: Depression, Excitement, Coma » Livestock Growth Promoters Poisoning.
3) I've also seen rabies cases that looked like your first case but consider it unlikely in the recovered horse, Equine Diseases » Nervous System » Dementia: Depression, Excitement, Coma » Rabies.

Though these are the most common causes of symptoms that you list above many possibilities exists so you must thoroughly investigate the environment and feed situation to remove any possibilities.
DrO
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Andrea Richardson
Member
Username: Andrear

Post Number: 11
Registered: 4-2002
Posted on Sunday, Oct 2, 2005 - 8:49 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hello Dr. O,

Our bizarre summer has continued. We have a herd of 60 horses, and I have been managing them for almost 10 years. There have been no signifigant changes in their environment or care received this year. We do have extensive vet and university input into our situation, but I am again wondering if you have any ideas. We have had an additional 5 horses die since the one mentioned above. The symptoms are very different than the above horses, but I am not convinced they are not related. The last five horses died of acute liver failure. They are also blind and very neurologically damaged. The horses can go from symptom free (to the eye) to dead in less than 24 hours, although it can take as long as 48 hours. We have ruled out food and water as sources of toxins. They have BA numbers as high as 100, GLDH numbers as high as 110, and GGT numbers as high as 116. We had one horse last week who was presenting symptoms, and we got him on an IV to hydrate, and dextrose. He was also put on an antibiotic and a steriod. He is one of our biggest horses at 1300 lbs, and has pulled through. Despite many tests and lots of money, we are still baffled. We have done blood work on our remaining 51 horses, and the majority have very normal numbers. Two were quite sick, and we have started them on the antibiotic and steriods. About 6 others just have a very (around 100) elevated GGT, their other numbers are fine.
Do you have any ideas?
Thanks,
Andrea
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WTG
Member
Username: Angel77

Post Number: 40
Registered: 5-2005
Posted on Sunday, Oct 2, 2005 - 10:48 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Dear Andrea,

God!! How terrible. I really feel for you and your horses. I hope you find the cause soon. I wish I had the answers for you.

What state are you located? I ask only to research your area online for other possible toxins, plants etc.

I am sending good thoughts your way for you and your heard.

Good luck at God speed!!!!

WTG
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: Dro

Post Number: 13843
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Monday, Oct 3, 2005 - 10:06 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hello Andrea,
I am sorry to hear about your continued problems. The general changes you list, while indicative of liver disease, are not specific for the type of disease and without the units and the normal values of your laboratory I am unable to judge the severity of the changes. The important next step is a well conducted necropsy on the horse with abnormal tissues submitted for examination. Have you had this done and what were the pathological findings? If you would take one case and give a complete history, the complete lab findings including values and normal ranges, and the necropsy results I would be glad to review them.
DrO
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Shelley
Member
Username: Sswiley

Post Number: 61
Registered: 1-2005
Posted on Monday, Oct 3, 2005 - 10:52 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Andrea,
Your situation reminds me of a situation I just heard of. A family just moved out (to CA)from PA. They had a 20 acre horse farm with 5 horses. All five horses died within a short period die to acute liver failure. Unfortunately they did not find the cause. No one has had horses on the property since.
I wonder how common this scenario is. If their livers are this vulnerable I could become very paranoid. Best of luck to you and all your precious horses.
Shelley
Shelley
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