I chose to worm Asad with moxidectin and praziquantel in late January. His colic symptoms were minimal and I wanted to kill off any resistant and/encysted parasites before the weather warmed up. I expected he would have a few days of discomfort.
Tapeworms in horses has becomie more common and tapeworms are not susceptible to most worming medications. Tapeworm-associated colic ‘can lead to a mechanical obstruction as well as mucosal damage, ranging from hyperemia to areas with multiple confluent necrotic ulcers at the attachment sites. The latter is speculated to cause intestinal hyperperistalsis, leading to intestinal spasms, ileal impactions, and ileocecal intussusceptions.’ Asad’s putrid poop piles and recurring impaction-like colic symptoms made it likely that he had tapeworms. Praziquantel is one of the few wormers that kills tapeworm.
Encysted strongyles in the intestinal walls have become more common with the increase in strongyle resistance to worming medications. The best time to kill them is in the wintertime when they are least active. When the cysts burst in the springtime, they cause severe inflammation that can eat through the compromised wall of the intestine causing peritonitis and feces leaking into a horse’s gut is a death sentence. Moxidectin is 98+% effective and it causes the least amount of post-wormer inflammation in the gut.
I was surprised when the insides of his lips developed a multitude of small hard cold swellings about ten days after I wormed him. A few days later, the swellings all burst at once, so the inside of his lips were covered with small angry sores. His gums turned a dark red that shaded into purple near his teeth. Bot flies lay eggs in late summer and fall, then go through a stage where they live in the mucosa of the horses mouth that usually lasts about a month.
Any bots should have migrated into his stomach by January, but he may have been to weakened to be able to metabolize the bots that died when he was wormed before he was hauled from Iowa to New Mexico. I can only assume the rest of his digestive system was equally inflamed as he also developed severe diarrhea, gas, bloating and intestinal spasms.
Sand is listed as a cause for equine colitis and Asad has not only been passing sand, he has been eating it. I can only assume that he learned that eating sand eased his bellyache when there was nothing else to eat. Rather than arguing with him about eating sand, I had to look for other reasons for his intestinal distress.
I have been waiting to post an update until I knew how his equine colitis was going to resolve. The survival rate for equine colitis is about 40%. I haven’t been writing because every morning there was a 60% chance that he would not make it through the day.
The chronic inflammation in his gut could be due to a number of causes. I could rule out iatrogenic causes as he has not received any antibiotics at all and I only gave him a half-dose of equine NSAID’s for a few days when he first arrived to minimize the chances of him developing laminitis from stress and shipping fever.
Peritonitis and gut torsion from the gas and spasms have been my top concerns. Banamine is the veterinary treatment for spasmodic colic, but it causes irritation in the equine gut, so I was grateful I had swag from my friends medical marijuana endeavors. I fed Asad enough of it to keep him eating while managing the pain and spasms for long enough for his guts to start settling down.
Long enough turned out to be over two months. When Asad stopped eating sand and started eating bark in late March, I knew the inflammation was finally beginning to resolve. Siberian Elm bark works much like Slippery Elm bark- it is sweet, mucilaginous and nutritious. It seems to function as a prebiotic, soothing and nourishing the intestines so they can heal. I also use various medicinal plants to see what helps. Ashwaganda, Carrot Seed Oil, Black Cohosh, Licorice root, Solomon’s seal, Wood Betony, Yucca root and Vetiver have all been helpful in taking the edge of his worst days, but none of them are anything close to a cure.
Asad is also now drinking water according to the weather and his levels of activity. On cold, cloudy and wet days he drinks less, hot dry sunny days he drinks more. I have taken to scrubbing out his water-bucket with Betadine. There are a number of bacteria and viruses associated with equine colitis. Asad has not run a fever in the last four months, but I figured reducing the likelihood of recontamination couldn’t hurt. Iodine does seem to help but I do not know if that is because it kills off un-friendlies in his bucket and his guts, or because he has been suffering from an iodine deficiency or because a plenitude of iodine acts as an adaptogen, helping the body to cope with stress.
At any rate, Asad is now eating a normal volume of feed instead of the two and a half times recommended for moving sand through the intestines. I have followed his lead as his appetite lessened. I am now feeding him 7 quarts a day of a low-starch feed that includes a variety of fiber considered pre-biotics plus digestive enzymes.
He still gets his medicinal much twice a day. I tried reducing the amount of flaxseed and psylium, he eats, but one day was enough to demonstrate that was a bad idea. The health of his guts still requires about 2 oz psylium and 6 oz flaxseed meal with probiotics about every twelve hours.
I had to stop feeding him timothy pellets as they aggravated his diarrhea. My bales of timothy hay do have some weeds, including sandbur, that can aggravate the equine gut. But as long as I make sure he has enough hay to push aside anything he doesn’t like, the bales work better than the pellets. Which does make me wonder about the quality of the hay being pelleted….
I still cannot say that Asad is well. What I can say is that the odds of him making through the day are closer to 95% and that is much easier for both of us than <40%. But any plans for schooling or breeding are on hold for now.