I'm sorry for not posting and updating on Wolfie sooner, we've had a rough week. After I posted in the early hours of last Wednesday morning, Wolfie's temperature started to go up again. I called the Vet who was out on a call. He told me that I had to try and get his temperature down. I was soaking rugs in cold water and sponging him down and then quickly having to get dry rugs on him to keep him warm. His temperature came back down and he was a little brighter. I gave him a small haynet at 6am which he picked at. He was moving around a little more (he had stood like a statue most of the night) and he would occasionally put his head over the door and prick his ears and take an interest in his surroundings. However, he was still very subdued, his eyes were very dull and appeared sunken and his mucous membranes were quite pale. He was also very prickly and really didn't want you touching him. The Vet came back around 9am and examined him and took his temperature which had remained normal. We discussed options. If the vet had sent the bloods away, it would be Friday before they came back. If we took Wolfie to the Vet School they would be able to have the results back the same day. There really was no decision to make. The Vet School had the facilities to cope if his temperature went sky high again and they would be able to treat him straight away and keep him hydrated. They could provide him with the supportive care and monitoring that I couldn't at home. Being up all night with him on Tuesday night was exhausting. It's very lonely and frightening in the middle of the night when you are on your own with a sick horse with no-one else to help, speak to or offer an opinion. So I loaded Wolfie and we headed over to the Vet School on Wednesday afternoon. I can't explain how much I appreciated having my own trailer. Knowing it was there and I could get him to the Vet School at any time was very reassuring. Trying to organise transport is very stressful when you have an ill horse, especially if you end up with an emergency situation. I also realised again how lucky we are having the Weipers Centre only a 25 minute journey away.
On arrival at the Vet School, Wolfie was taken to the isolation unit as he had an unexplained / unidentified infection. The vets were wearing the full protective suits like forensic people wear and looked a bit like oompa loompas. To start with, Wolfie wasn't going to let them any where near him. I was pleased to see him putting up a bit of a fight, it was half hearted but it was something. I ended up taking his temperature, putting a tail bandage on him and shaving a patch of hair on his belly. He let me do it he just didn't want the vets near him. The vets were very good with him and seemed to take on board what I said about about handling him and speaking to him. They eventually managed to get the bloods without sedation. He was then given a mild sedation and they did a full examination, rectal examination, took a faeces sample and they did a stomach tap. They also intubated him and gave him 6 litres of fluid. On Thursday they did a respiratory examination and gave him more fluids. All of the test results have came back unremarkable. They have now taken blood samples to test for EHV-1, EHV-4, EIV, Adenovirus, Rhinovirus, ELISA for Strep. equi var equi and a general virus profile. Being down in the isolation unit, Wolfie was completely locked up. He had no window and no door to put his head over. He became totally distressed and by Thursday afternoon had started manically trotting around the stable and had stopped eating. As his temperature had remained normaI, I discussed options with the vets and although he had to have bloods taken again in 2 weeks time for the virus profiling and they would have kept him longer for monitoring, we all agreed that if isolation conditions could be provided for him, it would be better to try and take him home and see if he would settle and get him eating again. I picked him up late on Friday afternoon and he was really distressed. As I loaded him, he launched himself into the trailer without any of his feet actually touching the ramp. He has been put into a different stable as he is in isolation, so that added to his upset when he got home.
It's been a worrying few days since he got home. He was hardly eating anything. He has been getting turned out onto a grazed part of the field for a few hours every day. Yesterday is the first time that he has actually shown any sign of an appetite and really wanting to eat. His temperature has remained normal, he is drinking and passing dung. He just still seems very depressed and lethargic. Understandable I suppose if you have had a high fever and been very stressed. I've been sitting with him for an hour or so at night. He gets great comfort from you just being in the stable with him. I sit on an upturned bucket like 'Oor willie' and read to him. He picks at his hay, when I stop reading or to turn the page he turns his head and looks at me. When I start reading again, he goes back to picking at his hay. He responds so well to your voice that I think he also finds this comforting. I've just bought a few books off Amazon that I have wanted for ages, so it's an excuse to sit and read. We've just finished Sylvia Loch's Dressage in Lightness.
He gets his second set of bloods taken on the 22nd July and these will be sent to the Animal Health Trust at Newmarket to be tested. So it will be the following week before we get the results. If they are negative and he is continuing to show no other symptoms then he can be reintroduced to the herd and go back into work. The vet said that he thought it was unlikely that he had an infectious disease. I have seen and worked with strangles before, and Wolfie's symptoms just don't 'fit'. He has never shown any signs of nasal discharge, runny eyes or a cough. He coughed once at the vet school, but that was after they had put a tube down his throat, so that was understandable. There are viral infections which cause a biphasic fever. This means that the horse may have a normal temperature in the morning, but later in the day it will spike a high fever. This is characteristic of a viral infection. There is also fever of unknown origin which has been documented in horses. It's an unexplained fever associated with non-specific signs of illness such as lethargy, inappetence etc. The vet said he thought the most likely scenario is that he had a viral infection which was caught immediately and the antibiotic and anti steroidal that the vet gave him just knocked it on the head. He said that there were so many viruses in the environment that they may never be able to identify the cause of it.
The vet school and my own vet have told me that I need to get the excess weight Wolfie is carrying off him. I know he is overweight. I have battled for the grazing to be restricted for years. The grazing has been restricted this year, but I often arrive at the stables and find the fence has been moved 12 foot and Wolfie is standing up to his belly in fresh grass. It is very difficult with a horse kept at a livery yard when I do not have control over his grazing. All he gets to eat is grass and a balancer. His hay is always soaked in excess of 12 hours and I ride him as much as I can. I have bought him a grazing muzzle. I have my concerns about the use of grazing muzzles and they need to be used and managed properly. I'm not quite sure what will happen when the bloods come back. If anything shows as positive, then a further diagnostic / therapeutic plan will be put in place. If all negative, theoretically Wolfie could go back out with the other boys. However, as he cannot be grazed on fresh grass I am thinking he will have to stay in his restricted patch for the rest of the summer. It really is for his own good. If I can get a little weight of him now, I stand a better chance of getting his weight down over winter. I bought him the Shires grazing muzzle, but straight off I knew it wasn't going to be suitable. I've now 'invested' in the Greenguard muzzle and halter. I tried it on him tonight for size. Bless him, he caught his own reflection in the stable window and jumped 3 feet in the air when he saw himself.
So it's really a waiting game now. Hopefully, Wolfie has now turned a corner and will continue to improve and gain strength. At the moment I'm just taking each day as it comes with him.