June 24, 2009

Isis: Hospitalization, Neurological Disease

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I’ve posted here before about my mare, Isis (aka the Bay Wonder Mare or the Miracle Mare). On the evening of Friday, 12 June, Isis began to act strange. She lost her coordination and staggered about like a drunk person. She walked into walls in her stall. She was unaware of her surroundings. The worst part was that she didn’t know me (heart wrenching — I’ve had her since the day she was born). No recognition in her eyes. She didn’t respond to sounds or movement, as if she was suddenly blind and deaf.

We took her to the vet hospital that night. A neurological exam showed some definite problems, more so on her right side than her left.

She progressively improved over the next few days on her own, without treatment. Saturday she perked up when she saw me. She backed away from me in the stall (something she has never done) instead of following me around. On Sunday, she hollered when she heard my voice. That was such a huge relief.

By the following Monday, she seemed to be fully recovered. The vet took head x-rays and sent off a test for EPM. The x-ray results were normal, as was the neurological exam.

Isis seemed to be doing well. But something wasn’t quite right. Her personality seemed to be back and probably 95% of her coordination. The vet said that on a neurological scale of 0 (normal) to 5 (really bad), Isis was between a 0 and a 1. I was told to give her plenty of rest, no work, and have my regular vet check Isis in two weeks.

She’s been home for a week now. I’ve been out to see her about every other day. She’s seemed pretty normal. She trips a little more than usual. She isn’t quite as coordinated.

When she first came home, she was leery of anyone coming up to her stall. (She showed the whites of her eyes.) Not surprising, considering how many unfamiliar people came into her stall and poked her during her stay at the vet school. She seems to be over that now.

Monday evening the vet called and confirmed that Isis has a greater than 95% chance of having Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM, see http://vet.osu.edu/462.htm), a degenerative neurological disease caused by Sarcocystis neurona protozoans being in the horse’s central nervous system. The disease is spread by horses ingesting the droppings from possums (see http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/drfenger/). The “good news” is that EPM is one of the only neurological conditions that is treatable. The most common treatment is Marquis, an expensive paste (~$800/month) that is given to the horse for 1-3 months. If the treatment works, it should return her to a “0” — basically completely normal.

This morning the barn owner called me and said that Isis was not acting right. She was distracted and startled when her halter was put on. Isis is usually very focused and interested on whomever is in the stall with her.

The vet is coming out today at 1:30. I am not sure what quite to do. I’ve never dealt with a neurological disease. It’s one more thing to learn about.

I hope she can recover from this the same way she has from everything else.

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