In the first two posts, I explained the initial diagnosis of PSSM and the next steps with our vet. It seems that within a few days of writing an update, there is another update that needs to be posted! For the sake of honesty, it feels like 3 good days and noticeable progress and the next day, Big seems to be back at step one. The more noticeable change has come from the addition of exercise to Big’s new diet. Life with a PSSM horse means finding a diet that works.
**Note: just like humans, what works for me may not work for you. Consult your vet and other equine health professionals**
With Big’s initial diagnosis and my googling, we were advised to completely switch his food and add tons of oil to up the fat content. The horses were previously on M30 (a ration balancer) from McCauley’s feed that worked well for them – or so I thought until Big became sick. I don’t blame the food at all for PSSM – it’s genetic for most drafts. What I do blame is myself. I’m usually pretty up to date on key issues with horses but this one seemed to have flown under my radar. Initially, we switched Big and all of the horses to Purina Ultium with 2 cups of oil and a Vitamin E & Selenium SmartPak. This was a minor help but Big hated the oil with a passion – he would dig around the food for the non-coated morsels and waste the rest. Big continued to lose weight and was reluctant to come out of the run-in. He still shifted from side to side and his rear end was weak. After consulting with Dr. Valentine, I knew that we were doing the right thing but it just wasn’t producing the results that I needed to see. This shit had me worried.
On one of my blogging forums (for horse people), another blogger mentioned her horse recovering from PSSM. I immediately stalked her blog and messaged her about what, how, food, ANYTHING that could help. She was awesome about offering information and recommended contacting a vet in West Chester, PA – Equine Medical and Surgical Associates. I called and spoke with the world’s nicest receptionist who took my information and passed it onto the lead vet, Dr. Frank K. Reilly. He sent me an email within 24 hours that DETAILED a new diet for Big – down to the pounds of food needed and supplements. It was the first time that I had really clear answers about how much to feed. He also recommended a new Vitamin E regime and yes, they do sell products, but he mentioned it ONE TIME through his email – no pushy salesman pitches.
Big has been on this new feed regime for the past four weeks and I have seen a great improvement in his desire to go out into the field and his overall weight. The only issue that had me worried was his continued muscle loss, particularly his rear end. After calling Dr. Jack and asking for his help, he went out and asked his equine specific colleagues for some guidance. His answer seems simple – exercise. I made the decision to hand walk Big in the morning and the evening for 10 minute stretches up a small hill. My logic was that hills work the butt so it couldn’t hurt to use a hill for more butt buildup on Big. We’ve been at it for almost 2 weeks now and I can see a visible difference – the muscle loss has stopped and his hips are starting to fill out again. It seemed like we had nailed down the feed regime and the exercise was the next logical part.
Is this the magic solution? No, we still have bad days where Big limps throughout the field and doesn’t want to come out of his run-in. But the bad days are becoming fewer and further between. His attitude has perked up and he will try to turn tail when he sees the halter and lead rope. I did call out Dr. Jack and Dr. Sally the other day to try to find another pain management solution since it seems that Big has yet to get over this initial “flair”. He was started on methocarbomal to relax his muscles (you can see how tense he is in the May 18th pic), a low dose of acepromazine to promote blood flow to the muscles, and gabapentin for pain management.
To say that this has been a roller coaster ride is a bit of an understatement. I just want my Big back.