Vaccine Reaction

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Dec 11, 2018
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We had a pretty scary week here this last week. On Monday I took Sky and Zorro to the vet because I wanted him to take a look at their teeth (they are balling up hay and leaving them all over the track. Zorro drops a lot of pellets when he eats his breakfast.) and to talk about getting them an equine rabies shot.

My vet said he rarely gives horses the rabies shot. Apparently here in Montana the only animal that naturally carries the rabies virus is the bat. And because dogs and cats are more likely to pick up and chew on a dead bat if they find one they must have the rabies vaccine. But horses don't tend to do that so it's not something they do here... So together we decided that wasn't necessary.

Zorro has had one tetnus shot, when he was 2 and got gelded. So we thought he should have another. Then the vet said because I take them on the group drives it would be a good idea to vaccinate for Flu/Rhino. So he gave them tetnus in the right side of the neck and the Flu/Rhino on the left side. He also said their teeth were fine and he felt maybe Zorro was experiencing some kind of choke due to something going on with his hyoid bone. Sigh. We had a nice talk and he and the vet that was helping me with the ponies excess weight last year, were both very happy with my ponies weight and felt they were looking really good. Just right I believe they said.

Fast forward to Wednesday... Zorro went down late Wednesday. He was rolling and standing up then laying back down. Not sweating, but violently shivering and buckling at the knees when was standing up. Obviously colicking. I blanketed him. My Banamine was expired so I called my vet to see if I could administer it and he said yes, but it wouldn't be as effective. So I gave him a bit extra (as per my vet, with him on the phone with me) and then simply followed Zorro as he walked. I didn't make him walk but just followed him. He was NOT interested in grass but in simply walking all over. He did it with his head down and power walked all over the property. We went places we don't normally go. It was like he was in a trance. Then at times he would just stand with his head low, or with his head pressed into me. I also put some essential oils that are known for helping with colic on his tummy. About 45 minutes after I administered the Banamine he started to calm down. He wasn't hungry but wasn't falling all over either.

I put up two panels on the track to block of a section just for him so I could see if he would poop in the night. I was up every 2 hours all night checking on him. By morning he had pooped one tiny pile and had diarrhea so I called the equine surgeon and loaded him to make the hour long drive to their facility. At this point my vet, the surgeon and myself thought he might be impacted. I was so distraught. Surgery was ABSOLUTELY on the table. I was willing to do anything.

When we got the facility he had pooped one small pile but it was good normal poop. The vet took a blood sample and checked all his vitals. He looked pretty good, perky, but not quite his normal self. His bloods came back very good BUT his inflammation numbers were nearly 400 when normal is 20. So the vet said this is typically indicative of a vaccine reaction :( (About 4 years ago I vaccinated a mare to take her to a clinic, she foundered within 24 hours of the vaccine. We fought the founder for two years. She turned out to be Insulin Resistant and couldn't handle being vaccinated. Once we got the founder under control and her IR numbers normalized by managing her diet, her liver failed and I had to put her down. She was 6 years old. I have been worried about vaccinating ever since!) My stomach dropped. Even though we did a VERY minimal amount of vaccines it was still too much for Zorro. Sky is totally fine and has been throughout all of this! Thank goodness.

Also this other vet feels that Zorro does need his teeth done and that they are contributing to him leaving the hay balls all over. So Zorro is going back this week to have that done. He did NOT want to sedate him for the teeth while he is fighting the vaccine reaction.

I asked him if reactions to vaccines is something he sees often and he said YES. It's so sad.

On a good note, I was able to weigh Zorro on their horse scale! I have ALWAYS wanted to do this. He weighed 340 pounds. This vet says he is still 30 pounds over weight. So I will continue to carefully weigh their hay, 2 pounds in the morning and 2 pounds in the evening with about 1/4 pound of their grass hay pellets and protein supplement for breakfast. And of course exercise! I think we have that one down pretty well ;)

So the protocol was to give Zorro a very sloppy soupy mess of hay pellets every four hours. He wanted me to give him 1 pound at each serving. I would feed him this four times a day and then go out at midnight -1:00 and give him one more serving to tide him over to the morning. I did this all day Thursday, Thursday night, Friday day and Friday night. Today, Saturday, he is back out on the track with Sky and eating hay. I am so relieved that he is finally acting normal. But that didn't happen until last night. When I went out to feed him his dinner he screamed at me then ran all around doing the fancy head toss he does when I am taking too long to bring him his food. He hadn't done this since, now that I think back, Tuesday morning! Also I'll add that one of the ponies had diarrhea since Monday evening. I thought it was Sky because she often has this happen when she comes into heat. Now I think it was Zorro and the reaction started that night.

I just wanted to share in case anyone has something like this happen to them! It was scary and not something I would want to repeat any time soon. I am so tired. I'm hoping to take the ponies for a walk today as I think we all need that! Oh! I forgot to add that the weather hasn't been helping either. On Tuesday it was close to 70 degrees here only to drop down to 30 over night and then get even colder, bringing rain and snow over the last 48 hours. Lots of dramatic changes to Zorro's poor body!

I'll share a before and after of his weight loss journey as well. My regular vet wanted to see him lose 100 pounds last summer. I felt that was a lot for him to lose but if he is still 30 pounds over weight then I guess timate that he will have lost 100 pounds, if I can get that last 30 off him without starving him :confused:

IMG_9783(1).jpg The above photo was taken April 2019.

IMG_8951.jpg copy.jpg This photo was taken April 2020.

In this photo I feel he was at his fattest. This is when the vet saw him and said he needed to lose 100 pounds. We did a blood panel at this weight so I could have a baseline and it came back with significantly elevated liver enzymes. This indicated obesity. After losing my other mare to liver failure I took this VERY seriously!

IMG_2120 2.jpg Here he is now. I took this photo on Sunday last week!

So anyway, sorry this post got so long! I am over tired and a bit rambly. :D If you made it this far... Thank you!!
good luck with the weight journey. That is so hard to do. Food is love.
Hope he bounces back well from that scary episode.
I have my horses' teeth done once a year. They generally find slight hooks in the very back teeth. I've had some vets in the past not even go all the way back there. Then I got an equine dentist and she informed me about the oversight. So now I always watch, and even ask about that when teeth are done.
Oh my gosh Mindy! What a horrible, scary week! Colic itself is scary enough, but to have it as a vaccine reaction is terrifying. I can only imagine how terrible that was for you. Even reading about it got my heart pounding. I’m so glad that it looks like little Z-man is going to be ok.

As for his weight, he looks amazing compared to last year! I’m not sure where he can lose another 30lbs from!
Your boy looks SO much better. The two photos a year a part really shows his improvement.
Question... What brand of vaccines did your vet give? Sometimes it's not the vaccine itself but the "binder" that's used.

My heart ached reading about your mare. We also lost a very special girl to Fatty Liver Disease. It can come on so quickly that it's hard to treat in time and many vets aren't prepared.
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Zorro has had his teeth done every year since he was a yearling. This other vet said he may be a candidate for twice a year. I know Dr. Tucker likes to do them more frequently, mimicking natural wear in the wild, but he doesn't use power tools.

The brand of vaccine was Mercer. My regular vet said he had never seen a reaction to these specific vaccines. But when I shared our journey on Facebook many people seem to have horses and ponies that react to the rhino shot :(

My mare had actual liver failure. I asked my vet how often this happens and she said quite often but usually in much older horses. When you see a horse that is lethargic and losing weight, weak and tired, it is usually liver failure. And it's very painful. She said that from her research horses that have had such a struggle with repeated founder and IR at the same time can often end up with organ failure. This mare became so sensitive she would founder, with rotation, when the temperature changed. It was the hardest 2 years of my horse ownership. And then to have her fail at the end of our struggles as she did. It was heart breaking.
We've never used Mercer. It was Fort Dodge that we had trouble with. We've used Prestige now for years and haven't had any problems.
I'm going to have to do some research about actual liver failure since we now have a number of older mares (late 20's and early 30's.) I'm not looking forward to these next few years.
I wonder if I should do a blood panel on Midnight to check for liver enzymes. Something I will seriously consider when she goes for her teeth this fall. I have concerns about her weight. If I put Dapper Dan in the dry lot for a couple of weeks, his weight drops. But hers does not. And I think she has a cresty neck.
We call all learn so much from each other.
Goodness! I hope he pulls through this quickly. We just had one (fjord) colic last weekend and not recover.

We always use Prestige as well with the minis. It's the only one that I didn't find case after case of reactions.
So sorry Zorro and you had to go through that. Cappy does not get vaccinations anymore unless the need is indicated by a titer. He has had several bad reactions to the Rabies vax requiring vet intervention. Hope Zorro makes a speedy recovery.
I also had a mare with liver failure. Her's reversed, but boy was she sick.

Major Clem, sorry to hear about the fjord.
@MajorClementine I'm so sorry to hear about your fjord. Colic is so scary. On the one hand you don't want to panic and create a lot of drama if they just need to release some gas... on the other hand it feels like if you don't panic and get them to the vet things turn fast.

I have not had good luck with Fort Dodge vaccines either that's why I asked who made these before they were given. It's so unfortunate that no one appears to be looking into why these vaccines cause so many side effects and in some cases, death :( It makes it so stressful to vaccinate!
I wonder if I should do a blood panel on Midnight to check for liver enzymes. Something I will seriously consider when she goes for her teeth this fall. I have concerns about her weight. If I put Dapper Dan in the dry lot for a couple of weeks, his weight drops. But hers does not. And I think she has a cresty neck.
We call all learn so much from each other.

I would ask your vet about doing a blood panel to check for metabolic issues as well. But they have to do that at a certain time of year for it to be accurate, so I would check into that before you go in for your annual check up. I can't remember when it has to be done. My IR mare had her bloods checked every 6 months for those two years she struggled. I think it was the spring and the fall but I can't really remember! But if your mare has a hard time losing weight she may have an under lying condition.

My vet wanted me to put BOTH Sky and Zorro on Thyro-L last summer because he felt they should lose weight much faster than they were. I opted to give them more time on their diet before medicating them. Especially since Thyro-L can cause their thyroid to stop working and then they have to stay on it forever. That seemed a shame to do to Zorro who is only 5 years old. But if Sky had needed it would have put her on it. But it turns out, even though she is 18 and a mare, she loses weight pretty easily!

Left photo is last fall (her after photo) and the photo on the right is her last spring, before I started her on the diet and exercise program:
And her now!

I think it's easier to get weight off her than it is to get weight off Zorro. Sigh.


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I think research should happen re: these reactions. They seem to be occurring more frequently. I've had horses for 50 years and it's just been in the last few years that I've had so many uncomfortable horses from giving vaccinations and have heard stories like yours.
And research needs to been done to see how long vaccines give immunity. No one knows because research has not been conducted. So we end up vaccinating yearly when it's possible the animal may not need it again for years. And titers need to be more affordable and more accepted by the vet community (but that leads me right back to reasearch, some vets don't trust titers because lack of scientific data...) OK,I'm done :D. Off the soap box.

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