Last night was like Groundhog Day, and not in a good way. Tuesday Pie was fine all day, and we went on a nice easy trail ride with Scout. Yesterday, Pie seemed to be fine as well and he and I had a nice work session in the arena after the farrier visited - not too hard, but with some trotting work. After I put him back in his paddock, he seemed a bit sleepy, but nothing more than that. And he told me in no uncertain terms that his stifles hurt - both of them, although the right seems a bit worse. I found out by touching the stifle joints - he made faces at me. I then did some massage on the insides of his thighs, and the inside of the right thigh had some cramps. I'm hoping the chiropractor can put that right, or at least better, on Monday.
But then, after bring-in time and feeding - Pie ate his dinner and a lot of his hay - he went down flat in his stall again - same groaning/wheezing and gas - if anything he looked worse than he did on Monday night: here's a video when he's flat - note the head position, rough breathing and bared teeth, all of which are signs of pain. He was also producing a lot of gas, which he had on Monday night as well. And here he is when he's lying sternal - out of it and rough breathing. I cut out of my art class (I'm taking a life drawing class) and headed to the barn again, calling the vet on the way. But then when I went in his stall to take his temperature - he hasn't had a temperature that we know of throughout these episodes - he was startled and got up and his demeanor pretty quickly returned almost to normal and he started eating hay. He also urinated, and later pooped, although the amount was fairly small and the manure balls were the oblong shape they've been taking over the past month or so. He has also been dropping from time to time without urinating, which can be a sign of abdominal pain. I called the vet and she said to give him one gram of bute (he'd had one already in the morning for his farrier visit) to see if that would work like it had on Monday.
I think that, although he isn't showing any of the classic colic symptoms - pawing, looking at the belly or rolling - that he's in pretty bad pain during these episodes and is just a pretty stoic horse. Stoics are hard - they don't always tell you how bad they're feeling but it's clear he's feeling pretty bad when he has these attacks.
I checked back later and he had stopped eating and, although upright, looked fairly miserable. So I had the vet come. She said his elevated respiration was a sure sign of pain, as was his depressed state. No fever was evident and he had good gut sounds. His feet are cool and he has no worrisome digital pulses. She gave him a cocktail of pain/anti-spasmodic drugs and also did a blood draw for a variety of tests - we may have some results today. She also did a rectal exam - there was a fair amount of manure up in there. The troublesome thing is that she said she was somewhat worried by what she felt in there - a number of hard nodules that did not appear to be fecal matter. I also told her that I had noted his manure balls becoming smaller and less round and more oval recently, which could mean he's got some sort of abdominal constriction or partial obstruction going on. It took a while for the drugs to make him more comfortable, which the vet didn't like, but then he started nibbling hay again and was completely himself again.
I left him in his stall to rest. The vet wanted me to check on him later when the drugs would have worn off. By this time it was about 11 p.m., so I just slept in my clothes - my husband's out of town - and set my alarm for 2 a.m. When I checked on him then, he was flat again but seemed to be breathing more normally (for him - he tends to be a snorer), and got up immediately when I came in the barn. He seemed OK, so I went home and back to bed. This morning there were three small piles of manure - same somewhat hard, small, oblong balls. He wanted his breakfast and ate some hay. He's not drinking as well as I'd like, either. I'd describe him as about 90% this morning - almost OK but not quite. I put him out to graze with the geldings and will check on him during the day.
The timing connected to the vaccinations could be a pure coincidence or it could mean that the systemic stress of the vaccinations tipped him over the edge on some pre-existing on oncoming abdominal condition. There have been no feed or supplement changes, other than another hay delivery - from our same supplier who produces and cuts his own hay and none of the other horses seem to be having a problem. The lack of a fever means it probably isn't a specific reaction to the shots themselves. The timing after eating could indicate ulcers, but the gas probably doesn't. (We've got him on a 4-day course of Gastrogard just to rule that out and also compensate for all the meds he's received.) All very worrisome coupled with the changes in his personality and manure over the past month or so. The back and stifle soreness could also be related if he's holding himself stiffly because of abdominal pain. This also could or could not be related to the tying-up episode he had a while ago, which seemed at that time to be related to a mild attack of laminitis due to spring grass. No sign of foot problems at this point and I'm keeping him off the mid to late afternoon grass anyway as a precaution, and shortening up his grazing even further on days where temperatures are below 40F at night.
I'm hoping the blood work will give us some more information.