This has been the worst weekend of my life...
On Friday I noticed Rocky was swaying slightly while standing at the water trough. I was really confused because he wasn't shivering (it wasn't cold) or anything like that. It was just involuntary full body muscle tremors. He was a little droopy eyed, but mostly alert and interested in us and everything going on around him. He was drinking and eating. My husband started walking him around to see if he was walking normally and he had liquid diarrhea. I was getting panicked at this point. I couldn't take his temp because I broke my only thermometer (ordering on asap), but I did the skin pinch test and it was normal. His gums and eyes were normal. He wasn't sweating or anything.
I started trying to get hold of vets because the diarrhea was concerning me. By the end of the day Rocky was swaying, staggering and shaking all over (not like shivering, but like every muscle was convulsing). I called every vet in the state that I could find for equine vets (or so I thought) and NO ONE, not even my usual vet would come out. My usual vet had the gall to tell me my horse needed to be at a vet clinic immediately, but that she was booked until January 9th. I was pissed (still am). She even lists emergency services on her website....
On the advice of another vet we gave him penicillin (that vet couldn't see him either) and I cried myself to sleep.
Saturday morning we went out to check on him and he was staggering in circles and could barely stand. My husband had to put his shoulder into Rocky's shoulder and hold him up for about a half hour. Rocky almost fell in the pond, but my husband kept him on his feet and managed to get him to walk to the barn so he could pen him up. The only good thing is that his poop was normal that morning (solid and green). I forgot to mention when we looked around the pasture we saw piles of normal looking poop except it was gray. I have never in my life seen gray poop before. If you ever see gray poop in the pasture call the vet!!
At that point I was having a full on panic attack. I started calling all the vets all over again and finally got an answer from a small animal vet who gave me a recommendation for an emergency equine vet almost an hour away. I called that vet and she said she could see him, but she couldn't come to us because she was in the middle of a c-section on a dog who was in critical condition.
I was freaking out because we couldn't get to our trailer. We lost our key to the van that was parked in front of the trailer (I will never park anything in front of it again). We had been looking for that key all day Friday. We never found it. My dad finally put a rope around the tongue of the trailer and pulled it out from behind the van. We got it hooked up and went to load Rocky. He was staggering so bad I was terrified he would fall down on the trailer and get hurt, but we had no choice.
He actually seemed a bit steadier when we went to load him. It took a while, but we finally got him on. The ramp was making things worse with him staggering, but he finally made it on with a butt rope to support him. I am so thankful he's a seasoned traveler. He normally walks right on trailers. He knew something was wrong with his body though. It was so sad watching him stretch his head forward like he wanted to walk on, but he couldn't figure out how to make his legs work.
What had me completely freaked out is that right before we left I checked on Chrome and he was starting to shake!! I was so panicked and crying constantly. The thought of him dying just about killed me. I had to leave him though because Rocky was critical and I knew they could make a diagnoses with him easier than with Chrome who had just started showing symptoms. Anyway we drove Rocky the hour to the vet (it's a 24 hour emergency clinic... glad I know it exists now... I should have already known of a place, but it never crossed my mind that my vet wouldn't come to me since that is what she supposedly does... always have a back up guys!!). He did not fall down. I was so relieved.
When we got there the tech took his temp (normal) and took blood for a full work up. Then we had to wait... for two hours!! I was shivering the whole time. I finally went inside the clinic (instead of the stall area) because the shivering was getting painful (back problems). I heard her doing CPR on the dog and she eventually died (the pups lived). I saw the vet leave the room crying. She was so upset. She had worked so hard to save that dog. She later told me that she was so concerned about my horse that if I couldn't find a trailer before she was done with the dog she was going to come out to me. It's nice to find a vet who actually cares.
After a few minutes she finally came out to talk to us. She said his blood work was normal so that ruled out virus or bacterial infection (along with the normal temp and normal fecal and the fact that Chrome was showing symptoms ruled out some things). She said that meant we were dealing with a toxin. She told me the treatment was the same for most toxins so we went ahead and had him treated (DMSO and biosponge).
Then we talked for a while going over everything they could have possibly eaten. I mentioned that they were taking way longer than normal to eat their hay bale, so I was suspicious and brought a sample. She was very glad of that. Before all of this happened I just thought it was because there was still grass coming up (it's been abnormally hot), so they weren't interested in the hay. My gut told me something was wrong, but I ignored it and I'll forever hate myself for that. Never ignore gut feelings!
It turns out it's from Dallis grass.... Dallis grass is normally safe, but if there's been a long drought and it's allowed to go to seed it is toxic (the seeds, not the grass)... In my entire life with horses I've never had this happen (and we have lots of droughts). We are getting the hay tested Monday (for an official document as proof) and I will be contacting the hay people for a refund and so they can alert their other customers. It breaks my heart to think other people could be going through this too. There is more to the story on the hay (about the reason they cut it so late and that it apparently wasn't from the same field we'd been getting it from), but I'm not going into it right now.
There is no cure for it, but removing the hay results in a full recovery. The treatment definitely helped though because it flushed his system and coated his intestines. When we got home late Saturday night I checked on Chrome (and put him in a pen outside of his pasture away from the hay) and he seemed normal. He trotted up to me, neighed and seemed fine. We decided to just keep him penned up and wait until morning. We originally planned to take him that night, but I knew it would be impossible to load him in complete darkness.
So Rocky spent the night and I talked to her this morning. He is much more stable and she can no longer almost knock him over by pushing on him or pulling his tail (he was literally using the wall to hold himself up on Saturday). She is keeping him tonight just to keep an eye out for founder since he has a history of laminitis. He should be able to come home tomorrow. This morning Chrome was swaying slightly and walking funny with his rear legs (this toxin affects the nervous system), but he's doing okay and his poop is normal so we did the biosponge stuff at home and kept him penned up with safe hay that we got from the vet. The donkey and goats seem unaffected, but after spending a whole day watching them (before we knew what was going on) I noticed they wouldn't touch the hay. That's why we took a sample with us because I was getting suspicious.
We spent all day today using the tractor to move the hay and I raked the whole barn and the part of the pasture where the hay was. We put the partial bale in the yard (in case we need proof) where they can't get to it, but we burned all the loose stuff. They can't get to the other sixteen bales that we have stored (that they better refund us or I'm going to lose it).
Sorry I'm telling this story all out of order. I'm a total wreck. I only ate once in forty eight hours, haven't been sleeping, barely drank any water, etc. so I'm just a complete mess. Now that I know what it is I've finally been able to calm down enough to eat... although the crying is harder to control. I was so scared it was rabies (when he was staggering before Chrome was showing symptoms) or EPM or something. I had never in my life seen a neurological horse before and let me tell you it's the most terrifying thing I've ever seen a horse go through.
I have no idea what the bill is going to be. She quoted me a thousand dollars for one night.... he's staying a second night so I know it will be more than that. I have no idea where we're going to come up with the money... I'm in a panic over that still, but I can't really think about it right now.... keeping Rocky alive was more important. The toxin isn't really fatal, but when they get as bad as Rocky they can fall down and get hurt or be unable to get back up. I'm so glad it didn't come down to that (thanks to my amazing husband). Now I have 16 round bales of hay in my barn that I can't feed and no other hay. If the vet hadn't given me some hay Chrome and Zep would have gone without food Saturday night (and buffering their stomachs is so important right now). I went today and bought beet pulp from the only place that was open, but they can't live on that alone. Tomorrow I'll be able to get some square bales from the feed store, but I still have to find a long term source of hay... I won't be buying from those people again, even though the hay we've always gotten from them was fine and Dallis grass isn't normally toxic. The problem is that grass is EVERYWHERE! I called my other hay guy (I had two) and he was honest and told me he has Dallis grass in his field too, so he would hesitate to sell it to me with sick horses even thought it's probably fine. Somebody apparently made the only spray that kills it illegal to use, so now there is no way to kill it. However, like I said before, if it's cut before it seeds there is no danger. Even if it's growing in our pasture it's not dangerous as long as we keep it cut. I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm going to be so paranoid about hay now....
My mind is reeling with all these problems I have to figure out, but the important thing is Rocky and Chrome are going to be okay. That's all that matters to me. We will figure out the rest somehow. So if you ever notice gray poop, diarrhea or muscle tremors immediately remove the horse from the pasture and call the vet. I've learned something about horses and hay that I never knew before and never wanted to learn this way. :(
So if you guys could keep Rocky and Chrome in your thoughts and prayers I would really appreciate it. I have no doubt Chrome will make a full recovery since his is so mild but I'm still so scared for Rocky. I know she said he will recover, but it just seems impossible to me that a horse could recover from the condition he was in.
Sorry this post is so long and confusing. My brain is just not functioning as well as it normally does. I'm not even going to proof read. I need to go to bed. I'll keep you guys updated.