Friday was probably one of the top 5 best days of my life. I spent a good part of the day watching and playing with Presto, and getting to know his personality. He is, without a doubt, the coolest little baby horse I’ve ever been around. He loves people, to the point where he nickers a little greeting and walks away from his mom to come see you. My heart, it melts. I fell completely and madly in love with that little guy in less than 24 hours.
Saturday, by contrast, was one of the top 5 worst days of my life. Nothing seemed unusual at first… Presto was playing and nursing and acting just like any baby horse should. At 4pm he was cantering and bucking, really proud of how he was figuring out his legs. By 7pm he had bloody diarrhea and was very sick. I’ve never seen a horse crash that fast in my entire life.
We got him onto the trailer and into the vet hospital immediately. By the time we got there and they started working on him (IV tube went in, fluid and plasma were given, tests were run) he was not in good shape. He was laying there just trembling head to toe, obviously in a lot of pain. My heart broke for him.
The diagnosis was Chlostridium enterocolitis – basically a bad gut infection from a particularly nasty, fast-moving bacteria that newborns are succeptable to. The prognosis was “poor to guarded”. The first 24 hours would be telling, because foals either start to respond to treatment, or they crash and die within hours. The vets got a ton of antibiotics into him, gave him something for the pain, and by then he started to look a bit better. Still very far from normal, and he was still shooting blood out of his bottom, but no longer trembling at least. His bloodwork was not good – white blood cell count was through the roof. The only encouraging sign was that he didn’t have a fever. The vet made sure to warn us several times that this was a “very sick foal” but they’d do what they could and said he’d give us an update by morning. I walked out of there feeling like my dream come true had turned into my worst nightmare.
We spent some of the drive home talking to Michelle’s other vet, a neonatal specialist, who was away on a family trip at the time. Luckily the vet clinic was able to consult with him and they all worked together on the best plan of action. He said the fact that we caught it immediately was good, because he likely would have been dead by morning. Chlostridium is nasty, nasty stuff.
I did not sleep much on Saturday night, and what sleep I did get was full of bad dreams. I was so terrified that I’d wake up to a phone call saying my baby was gone. It took a little while to get an update in the morning, which I hoped was a good sign, and luckily it was. He was more comfortable, was nursing well, his diarrhea was no longer bloody, and his bloodwork was looking much better. He was very very far from being out of the woods yet – this kind of infection can take a nose dive in an instant – but so far he was responding to treatment. I bawled like a baby. Never been so happy about bloodwork and poop in my entire life.
We went to go see him in the afternoon and despite having a terrible tummy ache and having been poked and prodded endlessly, Presto still gave a teeny nicker and marched right up to us when we opened the stall door. He is still a bit dull and tired though, he basically gets up to nurse and then lays back down to rest. You can tell he doesn’t feel good. He enjoyed his scratches though (so itchy) and it made me happy to see that he was still friendly. A lot of sickly babies really start to dislike people when they’re constantly being stabbed with things and having gross stuff shoved in their mouths.
The vet said he was a very kind foal, which was just about my emotional undoing in the middle of the clinic. But she was very happy with how he’s responding so far, although it’s still very early on, and she still really wants to see him have solid poop. At this point we’ve gotten the infection under control, but now we need to start undoing some of the damage it’s done. His prognosis now is “cautiously optimistic”. We definitely aren’t out of the woods yet… some solid poop would make us all feel a bit better, and his bloodwork needs to continue to improve.
Many of you have been following along with my updates on Facebook and Instagram, and I really really appreciate your support. All of us do, it means a lot. The number of people sending good thoughts and prayers to this colt are astronomical, and it seems to be working so please keep it up. I really, really, really need him to get better.