View Full Version : Sick pony - vet unsure. Ideas/simil

24-01-08, 02:31 PM
We have a 16 year old pinto pony of no particular breeding.

Has never had a day's illness since we have owned him and is a sweet and willing animal.

7 weeks ago we moved to a new property with mainly siteria (sp?) grass. Formerly we had mainly couch.

I have been suplementing all horses' feeds with DCP and a multi mineral mix and we keep the siteria mowed short to try to prevent any problems with Big Head.

Pony started looking a bit 'off' 48 hours ago.

Left rest of the herd and was out in far paddock alone. I retrieved him and kept an eye on him. He ate dinner and drank. Poo/urine output normal. Temp 37.6.

Next morning v swollen eyelids and sunken face - above eye sockets, across muzzle - face looked weird and not like the pony usually does.
Temp same. No sweating. Normal stomach noises. Did pinch test on neck and he was definately dehydrated.

Later that day, showed reluctance to move forward tho' not typical signs of tying up. Not tender across back/rump. Not sweating or panting. Still eating, drinking, walking around paddock.

Called vet this arvo. Vet gave him intra muscular bute and advised upping his calcium and lime intake in feed as well as giving him as much grassy hay as he will eat to up calcium intake too. Tood bloods.

ATM it is a wait and see.

Vet does not think it is the start of Big Head but has not ruled it out either.

Not Azoturia.

Am baffled as to what has happened. He is dull, has lost weight.

I know most of you are not vets but there are a great many knowledgeable people on this forum.

If anyone has a suggestion as to what we may be missing, I'd be very grateful.

Sorry for such a long post...

24-01-08, 02:47 PM
I am definitely not a vet, but, with him being dehydrated, did the vet give him any fluids? Also, can you get him out of the paddock ie in a yard, or stable? Just in case it has something to do with anything he is getting into in the paddock?

24-01-08, 02:50 PM
Thanks Encore. He is drinking now normally and has ready access to clean water at all times.

Have moved him into yard nearer the house and no - stables are out as we have just moved and they will only be started next week.

24-01-08, 02:57 PM
Are you in a paralysis tick area? We are very prone to them in our area and I have worked out over the years that the eye area seems to get effected first. The third eyelid and the inside tissue around the eyeball (under the lids) becomes swollen and inflamed. Happens to the dogs, cats, foals and even my daughter when she was 8! Soon as I notice a change in my animals eyes they always have a paralysis tick. If I find it at this early stage before their back legs go they recover in a few days.

24-01-08, 03:08 PM
Good advice Carson. We do not have the Par. ticks in our area, however I have wondered what to look for...

Glad the pony is at least drinking. Let us know how you make out.

24-01-08, 08:11 PM
Some sort of plant poisoning - maybe he's the only one that eats "XXX", which didn't grow at your old place. Or maybe there was only one specimen of "XXX", anyway, and he found it.

Or a "minor" snake, insect or arthropod bite with local (swelling) and generalised (unwellness) reaction. Paralysis tick was what I thought at first, but that possibility's a no-no, you say. Are you 100% sure?

I'd be inclined - if it's not p.tick - to lean towards a plant poison or mycotoxin of some form. Any liver enzymes done on the bloods taken?

Bad Bones
25-01-08, 01:57 AM
the following is a quote from the book
"Plants Poisonous to Horses, an Australian Field Guide"
with regard to 'soluble oxalates'
'Signs of big head'
signs of the condition usually develope after 6-8 months of grazing soluble oxalate pastures.
Some cases have been reported to occur after only 2 months.
1. stiff & shortened gait
2. joint tenderness
3. loss in condition even when plenty of pasture is available
4. swollen jaw bones - the upper, lower or both jaw bones can be affected

Removal of the horse from the soluble oxalate pasture should see the resolution of lameness problems and the horse should regain condition.
Facial swelling should also resolve unless it is severe.>>

Grasses associated with nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism
(grasses containing soluble oxalates)
Buffel grass
Setaria (South African pigeon grass)
Pangola grass
Guinea grass
Para grass
Signal grass
Purple pigeon grass

book recommends feeding a calcium & phosphorus supplement and trying to limit grazing on pastures dominated by these grasses.
Also recommends encouraging legume growth in pasture containing these grasses.

sounds to me like it is indeed 'big head' from eating setaria grass
I would look closely to any other horses you have grazing it and maybe start supplementing them all with some really good lucern hay as well as calcium/phosphoros additive to help with calcium and reduce their inclination to over graze this pasture


25-01-08, 02:39 AM
Hi Kartika,
I hope your pony is improving.
We have just moved our horses to pasture that has some kikuyu grass.
There was a recent post about this with some info on setaria and supplements etc . Is it possible this pony is sifting out the supplements , the powder seems to be so fine. We are going to try our boys on a pellet that we have discovered by Hyfeed and it is called Big Head , not a very glamorous name but seems to look like a good way of supplementing the calcium. I think it will be much easier to make sure they are eating the full dose as well. Although my boy being a stb it is not usually a problem,lol.

If you google Hyfeed it should bring up the info. Open the download page at the bottom of the Big Head Pellet info for a full rundown. I am not experienced enough to say what could be wrong with your little fellow ,but thought you may find this information usefull anyway.Good Luck.

25-01-08, 03:26 AM
I thought big head took months on the pasture to cause problems. Can they be this sick after 7 weeks?

25-01-08, 04:00 AM
Carson, from what I have read recently it says that it can have an effect after 1 to 2 months in some cases. More usual is after 6 months or so. I guess it may depend on wether the horse/pony is already lacking in calcium as to how long it can take to effect them, but as I said that is only a guess.Would an older horse require more calcium ?

25-01-08, 07:30 AM
You guys are soooooo sweet.

Thanks for your help and imput.

It is really appreciated.

He has picked up a little today and has eaten 3 biscuits lucerne hay (prime) and will keep you posted.

Thanks again

25-01-08, 08:11 AM
Not sure about the symptoms sorry. The unknown causes are the worst, I had one myself a couple of years ago that left me with a horse literally in critical condition for 6 weeks. It was tough but in these cases you can only treat the symptoms as they arise. See if your vet will consult with specialists for ideas, they can be useful. Taking bloods regularly can assist in monitoring.

As for the calcium supplement for preventing Big Head. It is not enough to give them DCP, you need to give them ag lime (calcium carbonate) as well. DCP contains both calcium and phosphorus but not at the right ratio so you need to mix it with ag lime for more calcium.

As per "Feeding Horses in Australia" published by RIRDC (free paper online - http://www.rirdc.gov.au/reports/HOR/99-49.pdf)

Mix 2 parts ag lime with 1 part DCP. 1 level tablespoon (20mL) of this mix provides 20g of calcium powder.

Adult horses: 10g per 100kg bodyweight (bwt)
Non Pregnant Mares: 10g per 100kg bwt
Early Pregnancy: 15g per 100kg bwt
Late Pregnancy: 20g per 100kg bwt
Early Lactation: 30g per 100kg bwt
Late Lactation: 20g per 100kg bwt
Weanlings: 40g per 100kg bwt
Yearlings: 30g per 100kg bwt
18 month old horses: 20g per 100kg bwt
Light & moderately worked horses at pasture: 20g per 100kg bwt

Good Luck & keep us posted!!

25-01-08, 11:29 AM
Possibly pasture related. Cooch and Kikyu are not good as the only pick for horses.