Older horse health advice please

noblesteed

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Hi all
My gelding is 18 and I have had him 9 years. connie x andalusian. We've had lots of fun together and I love him very much. He's recently showed signs of slowing down, though I know 18 isn't particuarly old. He has a history of laminitis and I am now well-accustomed to spotting early signs and sorting it. He has arthiritis in both hocks and is treated for this with steriod injections. Due to this we only really hack now, though we walk/trot/canter/gallop round the woods for fun- he doesn't really do gentle hacks! He absolutely LOVES his adventures! This winter he's lost weight and needed extra feed to give him energy for riding. He came out of this winter ok due to more feed but then showed mild separation in hind feet when shod so was tested for cushings - this came back negative. But due to lami risk he can't have any more hock steriods injections so vet thinks he will now need some bute for riding. He has some stiff days with his arthritis but is on turmeric and now devils claw and he manages ok. On his painful days he lets me know by quite violently snatching at the bit! Painful for me too! However I am glad he actually tells me he's hurting as it means I can do something about it, give him some time off, pain relief and he's ok in a few days. The problem is if he is ridden on bute/pain killers I won't be able to tell if he's starting with laminitis and then it will get quite serious before I realise he has it.

I've taken him off devils claw for 2 months and he's currently very slightly lame in front - only noticeable when ridden in trot. No heat, pulses etc. He's had 6 weeks off work and frog supports on his back feet where he had the separation but they seem fine and farrier was happy to put the shoes with frog supports on. Farrier thinks he might have a bit of arthritis in his front fetlocks too, but vet will need to look at this.

It's a nightmare - I can't ride him when he is lame, I can't give him pain relief in case he starts getting laminitis and the pain relief masks the early signs! But he needs riding to help his arthritis and to keep weight off him, and he gets bored and starts being daft. Plus his insurance excluded, among a host of other health issues, laminitis and any form of arthritis.
Vet will be coming to see him again over the next few weeks, but at this point I feel like giving up and retiring him :(
 

be positive

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I would give pain relief so he can be exercised and hope that keeps the laminitis at bay and help with the arthritis, it should not mask it too much if you are on the ball and getting the weight right and keeping him moving should be better than leaving him out to gain weight, get stiff and possibly end up with laminitis anyway.
 

BlackRider

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I'd speak to your vet about managing a low bute dosage, you only want enough to keep him comfortable, you may find 1 every other day can do that.

I'd be extra diligent about checking his digital pulses though.
 

splashgirl45

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i wouild still look out for any other signs of cushings even if the test showed negative, not all of the tests are accurate so you need to be vigilant as cushings may be why he is laminitis prone. the first sign with my mare was that she slowed up and was quiet to ride and then she didnt shed her coat properly.....i agree with you about not giving bute as i did the same so i knew immediately if she was sore on her feet..her cushings was quite aggressive and i did gradually ride less and less if the ground was hard amd finally retired her in march 2016 and PTS in september as she became footy and i didnt want her to suffer with laminitis as she was also arthritic and 25.....if you dont ride him you could set up a track system in the field to make him exercise himself and cut down any feed....good luck
 

noblesteed

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Thanks people.
I tacked him up yesterday and took him for a walk up the road with fingers crossed. He walked out fine, swinging along happily so not in pain. He's lame in trot though. I worked out I think it's his left hind as he's only bobbing his head when I rise on one diagonal not the other. Again, he didn't seem in pain when trotting and he wanted to go forward, but I didn't let him as I don't want him to get worse.
So I am thinking that the lameness is his hock arthritis. After I returned to the yard I walked him about and had a good look at his hind action and he's twisting his left hind foot on contact with the ground. I gave him a feed containing devils claw and plenty of turmeric.
Upon turning him back out in the field he trotted happily up the track into the main field then flat out galloped up to his friends! This made me happier as he clearly isn't in any pain.
I think I am going to get him back on devils claw and bump up his turmeric over the next few weeks, see how that goes and if he's no better speak to vet. He really needs his steroid injections but it's not fair to give him them if they cause him laminitis :(
 

Pearlsasinger

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I would test again for Cushing's. My mare's first test, in the Summer, was borderline, no medication needed but on retest in October was much higher. She has responded well to Prascend and her feet are harder and in better condition than they have ever been.
 

ester

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If he potentially has arthritis in multiple joints I would consider bute and ensure that his management was absolutely tip top to avoid laminitis and take that risk.

Fwiw we have the opposite problem, F's liver is not 100% so bute is not an option. I always said if it was more than one joint I would take that route and his right hock has started to look a little like the left recently (he feels fine but on a tight circle you can see it. However decided to get physio then vet out to flex and vet decided no, wait a bit longer.

Also he is (at 24) absolutely full of it, jogging sideways etc which is all very well but not in his best interests so he hacks dependent on the ground conditions and does nowhere near what he used to do exploring wise (he tops hour and a half or so max now, used to be hours last spring!). From what you have said about the lameness yours is expressing I would question galloping round the woods as you describe.
 

noblesteed

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The vet did say that cushings tests are going to be free again in May this year. So I could have another test done then I suppose. Can't do any harm. Farrier has suspected cushings for a while but all tests have come back negative.
In terms of work, he's not doing a lot since this lameness has come on. 6 weeks off and now just a calm half hour walk is as much as I dare do. As I said, he lets me know when he's in pain, either by napping or being lazy or snatching at his bit. I don't like to ride him when he's this lame anyway but I know he needs to keep moving.
I am hoping devils claw and turmeric will work again as it's done him well so far - till I stopped it for fear of it masking laminitis. Vet did suggest putting him on bute when he came a few weeks ago so that will be a necessary conversation if a week or so on the herbals doesn't work.
I guess it's just a tricky balance with older horses!
 

ester

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Fwiw I use boswellia which helps, but I don't think it is anywhere near the same ballpark of injecting or buteing.

Is he out 24/7? Again a balance with the lami obviously.
 

JillA

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The tests are only free during the seasonal rise, in mid to late summer, and are notoriously unreliable - the hormone pulses so you might draw the sample at its lowest level, and levels are also affected by stress. Better than that if he presents with any other symptoms and if your vet is willing you might consider trialling him on Prascend, much more reliable way to diagnose if he is much improved after a few weeks. Be aware of the "pergolide veil" for the first week or two when for many their appetite all but disappears but after that you will be able to tell if he is much better as regards energy levels and, yes, sub clinical laminitis.
 

Sugar_and_Spice

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I wouldn't retire him. Work will help with both the arthritis and laminitis, both could get worse without it. I'd bute to keep him comfortable and continue as you are, hoping for the best with laminitis, or not bute and try to persuade him that wild hacks are not allowed from now on, he might accept it if you're consistent. Regarding the weight loss, they sometimes need their teeth doing more often when they're old. I know some will say 18 isn't old, but for plenty of horses it is. It's not a nice thought, but you can't always cure everything and in old age it's often a case of managing as best you can, there's not much else you can do. If he's happy most of the time, you must be doing something right :smile3:
 

Sussexbythesea

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Could you try something like Cartrophen injections? Useful for multiple arthritic issues. Someone on my yard had this done and it worked really well for them.

My gelding is 22 and I keep him going on turmeric with linseed oil, Buteless and keeping him regularly exercised. Unless obviously lame or he seems unhappy I just ignore any minor issues. He's hard to keep weight off though so is otherwise on a constant diet.
 

Corbie

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In my experience with laminitis, a raise in feet pulses is the very early bird sign, before any pain is seen. Also some experience a change in droppings becoming much looser a day or so before pain sets in. Checking for pulses every day as routine, and knowing exactly what's normal and abnormal for your horse, should mean that you can provide pain relief for the arthritis, and still manage and monitor the laminitis symptoms.
 

noblesteed

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I brought him in today and his left hind leg was SO stiff, I thought it's not fair to ride. Felt rather sad because otherwise he looks so well. So I gave him some chaff with half a bute in. Left it half an hour to start working and took him up the road. He was not particularly any sounder at first but about halfway through the ride he started to loosen up a bit and was keen to trot. That's a pretty big difference. Provided he is not more sore tomorrow when the bute has worn off (ie has hurt himself whilst ridden) I think that might be the next step for him. So will have the vet out next week to discuss getting a prescription for bute and go from there.
I think I am pretty much decided it's not fair to medicate his hocks with steroids if it will definitely give him laminitis, cushings or not. Plus I think if he had a choice he would go for the bute!
 
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