This is not really the Presto update post that I was picturing last week when I planned to go visit him. Remember how I said it just felt like we got too lucky with him and I was waiting for the other shoe to drop? Call it a premonition…
On Saturday Presto presented with a very snotty nose, rumbly sounding lungs, and a fever. We got him inside and cooled down a bit, and the vet was called. From the description and his age, the vet was 95% sure it was rhodococcus. Banamine was administered, and the vet said he would be out first thing Sunday to confirm.
As soon as he pressed the ultrasound probe against Presto’s ribs, there was no doubt. There is significant infection in the right lung, with some pretty sizeable abscesses. The left lung is only minorly affected (apparently it’s typical for rhodococcus to be more unilateral).
Rhodococcus is a very common bacteria that pretty much all adult horses have. It’s another fun one that foals are particularly susceptible to picking up, especially down here in Texas where we’re always warm and the ground cover is not as lush. It’s easy for the rhodococcus to live in the soil. Typically foals get it in their first week of life but it doesn’t present outwardly until 2 months of age or later.
As a matter of course the “prevention” for rhodo is to administer plasma at day 3 and day 21, which we do. Obviously he had a metric shit ton of plasma while he was sick with Chlostridium. Like gallons, no exaggeration, for the first 3 weeks of his life. But the vet thinks that because he was SO sick, his body likely burned through all the plasma before the antibodies could really take effect. Thus the rhodococcus took root and has been sitting in there waiting to rear its ugly head.
The good news is that as long as Presto responds to the medication (please please PLEASE), the prognosis is fairly good and he shouldn’t have any lasting damage. Not to say that rhodococcus isn’t serious and scary, because it definitely is. It’s quite the unpleasant illness, and the medication can have some gnarly side effects. Most dangerous of which is hyperthermia… they can overheat and die of heat stroke very quickly if they’re out in the heat and sun.
He’ll be spending his summer days in a stall in front a fan, and just go out at night. The vet also thought it wouldn’t hurt to body clip him and get a lot of that coat off, so we did. We thought we’d basically have to pin him against the wall to do it, but true to Presto form he just stood there while I went to work with the barn’s big loud Clipmasters. He actually seemed to like it (he’s so itchy at the moment) and it definitely has to help, getting rid of all that hair.
So all we can do now is medicate and be really careful with him, and hope that the meds do their job. My poor nugget… he has had way more than his fair share of hardship in his short life. At least this one doesn’t seem to effect his general demeanor, since he still tried to bite me at one point and strongly objected to alcohol being poured on him. My heart just hurts for him though.