Drain­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

EQUUS - - Eq Case Report -

in the trailer only a few feet away.

I’d been asleep for only about an hour when I awoke and felt an urge to check on the horses. Parker was act­ing strangely. He was sys­tem­at­i­cally bounc­ing his head down­ward as hard as he could be­fore reach­ing the end of the rope. At first I sus­pected he might be col­ick­ing. I took his vi­tal signs, and other than a slightly el­e­vated res­pi­ra­tion rate they were nor­mal. I walked him, added a warmer blan­ket and of­fered him more wa­ter. He drank some, and then he ate a lit­tle more hay.

As soon as we ar­rived home the next day, I called my vet­eri­nar­ian, Martha Pott, DVM, who came out right away. By now Parker had a fever of 103 and he was be­gin­ning to cough. A clear case of ship­ping fever, Pott told me.

Ship­ping fever, she ex­plained, is a res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tion that can de­velop when a horse is trail­ered over long dis­tances with his head tied. Trailer in­te­ri­ors are of­ten dusty, and the air­borne con­tam­i­nants can in­clude large num­bers of dis­ease-caus­ing bac­te­ria. When the bac­te­ria are in­haled and ac­cu­mu­late in the horse’s lower air­ways, and he is un­able to drop his head to clear them out, the pathogens take root and mul­ti­ply quickly. This, com­bined with an im­mune sys­tem chal­lenged by the stress of be­ing on the road, means that se­ri­ous lung in­fec­tions can set in within 12 to 24 hours.

Sud­denly, I re­gret­ted the de­ci­sion to stay on the road so long on the first leg of our jour­ney and then to tie the horses to the high­line overnight.

Pott pre­scribed two weeks of an­tibi­otics and Banamine , along with rest, yet Parker didn’t get much bet­ter. I took his tem­per­a­ture twice a day, and it some­times ran as high as 105. He had no nasal drainage and coughed only once or twice a day, usu­ally af­ter try­ing to eat.

When Pott came back for a recheck, she found that Parker was ane­mic and his white cell count was very low. She changed his an­tibi­otics to doxy­cy­cline, and for a few days Parker seemed to perk up---he was more in­ter­ested in eat­ing, and his tem­per­a­ture was headed toward the nor­mal range. I thought we were over the worst. But he re­lapsed, and each day he seemed to get more lethar­gic.

Then, when I went out to feed Parker on the morn­ing of Satur­day, June 22, he gave me “that look.” He was very, very ill, and I knew if I didn’t do some­thing quickly, he would die.

Pott’s clinic is closed on the week­ends, so I loaded Parker and headed to the near­est re­fer­ral clinic: Still­wa­ter TAPPED OUT: More than six gal­lons of fluid were drained from Parker’s chest. Equine Clinic in Still­wa­ter, Min­nesota. We were met there by Terry Ar­ne­sen, DVM, who lis­tened care­fully as I de­scribed what we’d been deal­ing with and the treat­ments we had tried.

Af­ter the stan­dard phys­i­cal exam, Ar­ne­sen brought out an ul­tra­sound ma­chine and placed the probe over Parker’s ribs. Within sec­onds, he was point­ing out to me the amount of fluid sur­round­ing my horse’s lungs, in the space called the pleu­ral cav­ity. This space is typ­i­cally like a de­flated bal­loon, he ex­plained, hold­ing only a few tea­spoons of lu­bri­cat­ing fluid to al­low the lungs to move freely as the horse breathes.

When a horse is fight­ing an

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