Negative bloodwork, but….???

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New Member
May 24, 2023
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Rhode Island, USA
Hi Folks,

New member here seeking some advice! My mini, Pearl, came to us from a rescue in December. She had a body condition score of about 2.5. She’s on 24/7 turn-out on our .25 mile track system eating first cut orchard grass ad-lib in many slow feed bags and a supplement meal of timothy cubes, soaked no-sugar beet, flax oil, vitamin e, probiotic, balanced and top dressed salt. In the six months we’ve had her, she’s put on a bit of weight - she’s closer to a 4 body condition now, but still lacking top line and muscling. She does not have fat pads anywhere or cresty neck. She started developing a ginormous belly about two months ago. It’s so big we had the vet out for an ultrasound and bloodwork for pregnancy. Nothing turned up on the ultrasound and the blood work is negative, however she is lactating, and her udders are a bit swollen. If she’s not pregnant, what the heck could be going on? Early Cushings (she’s 13, and had a foal at the side when she was pulled from the auction)? Worms? When I asked my vet what might be going on, he said “let’s just give her time and wait and see.” I’m not sure what that even means. Anyone have thoughts or experience to share? I’m thinking of having our other vet out for a second opinion…



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There are lots of possibilities. Your vet could be wrong and she is bred. She could be having a "false" pregnancy which I guess science says doesn't happen, but I've seen it. She could just look like an older broodmare, with a little bit of an udder, milk to express and a hanging belly. My mare seemed to have a pretty obvious pregnant belly for a while and the vet couldn't figure it out. Turned out to be that she was pulling up and eating weeds that were growing through the crushed stone, roots, dust and all. As soon as everything died she lost the belly. Doesn't hurt to worm her, or start her with a little bit of exercise to see what happens.
Pseudocyesis is a real thing (false pregnancy) and can happen in dogs and people, certainly horses too. But I agree with the older broodmare who just has a bit of milk - some do. @LostandFound has really good considerations. Also, it takes a lot of time to rebuild topline, especially when they've gotten to the point of muscle wasting. By your description, you're doing everything well! I have nothing to suggest to add and we've done several rehab cases. Thank you for taking care of this little soul. She's very fortunate to be in your home!
Welcome! Pearl is a pretty little mare with a lovely color.

My only addition to the excellent points already made, would be to ask your vet for clarification on “give her time”. Weeks? Months?

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