Rugby is still here. He has been through hell and is slowly coming back. At the time I last posted it was pretty bad. I finally requested that my vet just give him antibiotics. This was a suggestion from one of the vets consulted on Rugby's case. My vet was hesitant to do it since he had no idea exactly what he was administering antibiotics for, as nothing definitive has shown up on any tests. My vet was concerned if he gave Rugby antibiotics without knowing what he was treating, we could kill off the good bacteria in his gut and give the bad stuff a chance to get stronger. I saw it as our last chance. If this didn't work, I was finished and if he had another bad episode, I was going to have him euthanized. He has maxed out a credit card, caused me major emotional stress and it's affecting my family.
Things didn't change immediately for Rugby upon introduction of the antibiotics. They were broad spectrum and very strong. We were watching him very carefully and he was being medicated as needed in addition to the antibiotics to keep him stable. Then as the antibiotics ended their course, he just didn't get worse. He wasn't getting better, in fact he dropped even more weight and if I had to guess, his body weight registered about a 2 on the equine body condition score scale. He was stable, but now very. very weak and still laying down a lot.
The vet carefully gave him a judicious dose of steroid to stimulate his appetite and Rugby has slowly but consistently been eating himself back to life. I have been going to see him every evening and hand grazing him for up to 45 minutes. He eats a few "mini meals" throughout the day and at this time I'd give him a 3-3.5 on the BCS scale.
What I am still worried about is his "bottoming out" in his back end. Sometimes when he walks, his hind fetlocks just seem to knuckle over and he stumbles behind but quickly rights himself. The vet feels it is just extreme muscle weakness from the muscle wasting that went on through his illness. As he regains his weight and muscle, his co-ordination should hopefully improve. He's also developed a rather unsettling cough. It's not constant but usually happens when he starts to move. Again, the vet feels this is residual from his illness and it's compounded by the extremely hot and humid weather we've been having here in the northeast.
And slowly, Rugby has been returning to himself. His eyes are brighter and he's more alert. He's happily returned to his "home" stall from the medical barn and I can see he's been gaining weight faster since he's back in the company of his horsey friends. If I jog as I'm leading him, he will gamely try to jog along with me, sometimes he'll even canter a stride or two. Then he'll cough and we quit. He is sniffing my pockets for treats and I have thrown all my hand feeding rules to the wind and buy him a small bag of fresh carrots almost every night and snap them into pieces for him to enjoy.
It really hit me about a week ago, when I came to the barn in the evening on that first really hot day. Rugby was standing under his stall fan, waiting for me to feed him some treats and take him down to the grass. I led him out of the medical barn and noticed a new patient's stall door was open and the lights in the clinic were on. The card on that horses' door read "colic". Never a good sign. About 20 minutes into our grazing time, the vet came to the clinic. And a little while later, I heard the sound of the farm tractor starting up. And my heart sank. At 9:20PM the tractor starting up means only one thing - the poor horse didn't survive the colic, had been put down and now needed to be removed from the clinic for disposal.
I kept grazing Rugby and hoping the removal from the clinic would be finished before I had to stop grazing but it wasn't and I had to stop Rugby's grazing and lead him back to the barn. If I stayed on the grass any longer I was afraid for my own horses' health. So we walked quietly back, and as we passed the remains of the poor, chubby little chestnut who didn't make it, I looked at my big, skinny horse and whispered to him, "You're still here. I don't know how or why but you're still here. That horse was probably feeling well and healthy just 24 hours ago and you have been gravely ill for weeks but you're still here. You don't want to go, do you?" All I got for an answer was a sniff search for treats upon our return to his stall and he dumped my grooming bag to see what was in there, too. For Rugby, that was as good an answer as any. I guess as long as he has someone to spoil him with snacks and love, he wasn't ready to go.
Thank you to all if you kept us in your thoughts. I am sorry I left this blog in limbo but it was too depressing to keep posting about as it all was rolling over me. I just want to believe now that I will get my rideable horse back at the end of all this.