eb23sheree

Sudden Death - Swollen Belly, Stiff Legs ?

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It's been a few days and I'm finally starting to get over the shock of my beloved horse, Cheyenne. Unfortunately we were unable to get an autopsy performed because of the hurricane winds that went through, blew all of the power out in the area and shut down our vet's office (and her cell was not working til later that night, AFTER we had our horse taken off our property). :-(

Now I am adamently trying to narrow down what in the world happened to her.

She was 13, healthy as could be. She did colic last week once and this colic was different. She had almost a sick smell to her. I noticed one of her back legs being almost stiff as she walked. It wasn't extremely noticable, but was slightly stiff and then went back to normal. We gave her banamine and checked on her routinely throughout the evening. She seemed to go back to herself.

Then the other day I came home to find her dead in the pasture. She looked like she'd been there for hours. She EXTREMELY stiff - her legs stuck straight out which I thought was odd. Her belly was very very swollen. That morning at 6 AM my husband had fed her and she had been fine. There was no hay or grain left in her stall the evening that we found her.

She had oak leaves in her mouth. I know oak leaves are poisonous but I haven't read anything that said they could kill in a matter of hours.

She was out of her stall (this is another WEIRD thing because the door wasn't broken so someone had unlatched it.) We couldn't figure that out either. But right now I'm trying to focus on what could have caused a death like this.

I found one other case on the net where a guy reported a very very similar finding with a friend's horse. the horse was fine and then a few hours, it lay dead with the same straight legs and swollen belly.

So many thoughts are running through my head right now and we will probably never know what ultimately caused her death, but I need to know the possibilities, especially since we have 2 horses left that I'm scared for their welfare.

We've called the vet again since I've calmed down so I can talk to her about the possibilities. I've also called an excellent vet who used to be my professor so maybe I can discuss this with him.

Have any of you ever seen or heard anything like this?

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I have a couple of questions --

Was she dirty or skinned up from being up and down with a colic episode?

What color were her gums and tongue? Were they white or blue?

Had she urinated or deficated where she was laying?

Was her rectum protruding?

When I come back and have more time, I will tell you about the wierdest Post mortem ever done on my place. So strange, in fact, that the Vet took pictures and sent an article in to a Vet Magazine.

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I'm so very sorry to hear about your horse.many hugs and prayers are sent out to you.Maybe she had bloat.That is what happenend to our 8 yr old German Shorthaired pointer,Dutch.He was healthy and happy,But one night he started whining and he never did that,I went out to see what was wrong with him and I was in shock when I saw him,he was bloated.I called the vet and woke up my husband at 3 in the morning.We got there as fast as we could and the vet operated and he made it through the operation,but he just couldn't pull through.My husband and I still get emotional just talking about him.we feel like he should have been able to grow old like other dogs.Anyway with bloat what happens is after they roll or jump the wrong way their stomach gets twisted and if nobody is around to see it there is usually a bad outcome.But sometimes you can flip the stomach back and if it wasn't twisted for too long the animal can pull through.I know when we lost him I came here looking for answers and a vet came on and explained things to me,even though it was painful to hear at least now we can prevent it in our other dogs.I hope you find some answers.

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I have a couple of questions --

Was she dirty or skinned up from being up and down with a colic episode?

What color were her gums and tongue? Were they white or blue?

Had she urinated or deficated where she was laying?

Was her rectum protruding?

When I come back and have more time, I will tell you about the wierdest Post mortem ever done on my place. So strange, in fact, that the Vet took pictures and sent an article in to a Vet Magazine.

Hi Cheri, thanks so much for answering. I remember seeing you on here before when I used to frequent this forum, so I hope that you can help me at least narrow down what this might have been.

She was not dirty, in fact the left side of her that was facing up didn't show any sign of dirt. Also the pasture dirt did not look like she'd been rolling anywhere.

Her face had a few white marks on it (the side facing up) but I was thinking that was due to horse flies :-(

It almost looked like she just fell over right there and never got back up.

We also checked her stall - no sign of struggling or lying down in there.

Did not notice the color of her gums and tongue... all I noticed was that she had oak leaves in her mouth, which was open. The oak leaves in the pasture had been blown in with the hurricane force winds we had the other day. My husband and I had just remarked the day before how they were covering the ground and we couldn't allow the horses out til we had raked all of them up. That evening, a lot of them were gone. The next day, we went out and raked up the remaining ones and took 4 wheelbarrows out. However, Cheyenne could easily down 2 flakes of hay in no time. She was my piggy :-) It wouldn't take her long to consume loads of poisonous oak leaves. Until now I thought that's what killed her, but after looking on the internet, it appears that oak poisoning takes longer than a few hours.

My neighbor reported that she had seen nothing out of the ordinary so it had to have happened between 2 and 5 PM. That's a very small window for her to become sick and die.

She had not urinated or deficated where she was lying.

Her rectum area looked slightly larger, almost like maybe she'd been trying to push out (gas?). Her eye looked bloodshot. It also looked like she may have had redness or maybe a tinge of blood in her ear. I was trying to look, but trying not to look at the same time :-( She looked sweaty from her eye up to her ear.

I hate describing the scene - it was just horrible. But if it can help me come to answers it will make me feel more at ease.

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I'm so very sorry to hear about your horse.many hugs and prayers are sent out to you.Maybe she had bloat.That is what happenend to our 8 yr old German Shorthaired pointer,Dutch.He was healthy and happy,But one night he started whining and he never did that,I went out to see what was wrong with him and I was in shock when I saw him,he was bloated.I called the vet and woke up my husband at 3 in the morning.We got there as fast as we could and the vet operated and he made it through the operation,but he just couldn't pull through.My husband and I still get emotional just talking about him.we feel like he should have been able to grow old like other dogs.Anyway with bloat what happens is after they roll or jump the wrong way their stomach gets twisted and if nobody is around to see it there is usually a bad outcome.But sometimes you can flip the stomach back and if it wasn't twisted for too long the animal can pull through.I know when we lost him I came here looking for answers and a vet came on and explained things to me,even though it was painful to hear at least now we can prevent it in our other dogs.I hope you find some answers.

So sorry to hear about your dog. :-( I wondered about bloat but wasn't sure exactly what caused bloat or even if that might have been something that could have happened in case of a colic. The weird thing though is that there wasn't much sign of a struggle or rolling.

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Unfortunately, abdominal distension and rigid legs are normal post-mortem changes. Rigor mortis causes rigid extension of the limbs. Ongoing bacterial fermentation causes the abdominal bloating and as the intestines distend, it will cause protrusion of the rectum. Without a postmortem exam, unfortunately there is no way of saying what happened.

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CVM2002, how quickly would those changes have taken effect after death? My husband said that he had looked outside throughout the day and hadn't noticed her lying there or even walking around the field. The last time he looked out was around 2 PM so that means her death was sometime between 2 and 5. I got home at 5 which is when I found her.

It just seems like that's such a short amount of time for her to get out, somehow injest something and then die and for all of those things to happen. It's all such a horrible mystery to me.

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The rigor mortis effects on the limbs takes place very rapidly, easily within an hour of death. As far as the abdominal distension goes, it really depends on 1) ambient weather conditions (hot & humid will speed up the process) and 2) what the underlying problem was. If she had a bowel obstruction for example, the process would be faster. But I've seen these animals unfortunately blown up like balloons in a relatively short period of time.

Its highly unlikely that somthing was ingested and lead to her passing. Colic is the #1 killer of horses regardless of age or breed. It could very well have started as a mild colic that ultimately led to a bowel or stomach rupture; those animals will collapse and die where they stand. There are so many other potentials, without a post-mortem exam its all speculation....

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I don't have anything to add to help, but I just wanted to say I am sorry for your loss and sorry you had to witness something so terrible. [Angel]

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CVM- that's what my trainer was speculating - that it was colic. I think that is probably what happened too but wanted to rule out any other possibilities especially since we have two horses and if we can do anything possible to prevent what happened, we'll do whatever we can. We were so careful to not feed Cheyenne alfalfa (she was on a timothy/orchard grass mix) and she only got about a quart of grain each feeding. We always watched her so carefully and for years I've always been so super super precautious with my horses. I guess this is one of those things where sometimes no matter how careful you are, there is always a possibility of something happening when it comes to horses.

Still the whole thing was so bizarre. With her being out in the pasture rather than in her stall that's what really gets us. I mean there was no way in the world that she got the door open by herself. We don't want to think someone might have poisoned her but that thought has crossed our minds too.

Thanks to all of you who have expressed your condolensces. It's still so unbelievably difficult realizing that she is really gone.

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I was just wondering if anyone thought of tetanus? I just remember when I was really young we had a young bucking horse die from tetanus. I remember the protruding third eyelid and stiff legs while she was still alive but being put down...Im very sorry for your loss also that has to be very difficult.

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I've had a mare die form colic in the middle of summer and not blow up that fast. Not sure what happened to yours. But you should really look into how she was in the pasture not the stall if thats where she was to be. We had a horse in the barn once and when I went to feed that morning he was dry sweaty and had sores also found boot prints in the barn. called police and was fond that someone had come into the barn and taken him out for a ride in the nite. never found out who though. Hope you get some answers. Your heart will rest easier knowing what happened.

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I would lean towards some sort of rupture - cecum perhaps. After the rupture they feel better because the pressure is gone and that could be why she started eating the leaves. It's the leaves in the mouth that puzzle me. Are you sure these were oaks leaves? Wilted wild cherry leaves are very toxic. I have also heard that horses are found dead with wild cherry leaves in their mouths - its that quick. Again, just speculating. It is too bad this happened.

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Sorry about your horse. :huggy:

Like CVM said, The bloat can happen very rapidly.

I went to look at a horse one time and when I pulled in the drive there was a dead grey horse lying about 50' infront of me. Legs were stiff and parallel to the ground, rectum distended, poop on the ground behind it,

She fed at 9:30 am but fed goat feed, since she was out of horse feed :bang_head: She said she was fine when she went into the house at 11. The 20 something grey mare coliced and died.

I got there at noon

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My mare, Beauty, too, died suddenly 3 weeks ago. Sounds a lot like yours. I was just devastated to find her in her corral, dead, early in the morning. Legs stiff...belly swollen, only 1 mark in the sand from one leg moving. I couldn't afford the rendering AND a vet exam. I've cried for 3 weeks now. I miss her morning whinney, her calm personality, and her youthfullness! She was only 5 years old.

Sending you hugs from one who NEVER thought I'd be there in your shoes.

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I am so sorry for your loss I hope you find the answers your looking for.

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Not to be crude but I think how fast they blow up partly depends on what they ate and how long ago

And weather conditions and that sort of thing. :(

In any case I am so terribly sorry for your loss. Hang in there.

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I am so sorry for your loss. I just want to throw something out there that happened to me.

My first horse had 'coliced' and recovered, or so we thought. A week later he 'coliced' again, we called the vet out. As he was preparing an injection of painkiller my horse dropped dead. Just like that. The vet hadn't even gotten close to him with the injection. Believe me, if anyone thought that he was going to drop dead like that I would not have been allowed out there-I was 10 at the time.

The vet was shocked and had to know what happened to him. He sent him out for a necropsy at his own expense. It turns out that he had had worms as a young horse (he was 9 when he died) and his intestines were gangrenous. Poor guy never had a chance.

It has to be so difficult not knowing what happened and I hope you can find peace. [Angel]

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My mare, Beauty, too, died suddenly 3 weeks ago. Sounds a lot like yours. I was just devastated to find her in her corral, dead, early in the morning. Legs stiff...belly swollen, only 1 mark in the sand from one leg moving. I couldn't afford the rendering AND a vet exam. I've cried for 3 weeks now. I miss her morning whinney, her calm personality, and her youthfullness! She was only 5 years old.

Sending you hugs from one who NEVER thought I'd be there in your shoes.

deserthorses5

I am sorry for your loss. [Angel]

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I'm so sorry for your losses.

I also wonder about stroke or heart failure. Do horses and other animals sometimes just drop from those things?

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I realize it's been a few years, but I was wondering if anyone ever found any answers on what the cause of death was.

I had two of my horses (that I have raised from birth-one was my best friend) suddenly die in a pasture they have been in for a month w/in 2 hrs of being fine. One horse was left in the pasture and she is fine.

Same findings-very swollen, leg sticking high up in air, no signs of rolling/colic except for head thrashing marks on the ground. 12 hrs after death, one actually swelled to the point of her chest cavity bursting.

We were able to have a necropsy performed & it showed only a ruptured stomach (I am waiting a return call from vet to find out if it ruptured before or after death. They didn't colic.

my best guess is they were poisoned, but the lab can only test for specific toxins and I have to tell them what to test for....so any help or ideas anyone has will be VERY HELPFUL as time is running out for the tissue samples to be tested.

Thanks!

Heather

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1 more thing-the feed we had been feeding was an all stock 12% from Tractor Supply. Lab noted the stomach content had a sour smell to it. Other than that, the pathology results were normal. The feed that we bought the week they died had a weird smell to it, but didn't seem to affect any of the other horses (we feed 8 total). Purina immediately came out and took feed samples, tested it themselves, & said it was ok......

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Fermented stomach contents and stomach rupture = colic. Outflow problem, typically small intestinal obstruction. Stomach gasses can't get out, distends the stomach and it ultimately ruptures. Post-mortem stomach ruptures generally don't happen because the gasses would naturally escape through the relaxed esophagus post-mortem. Horses--when alive--can't belch to relieve stomach gas.

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A few months ago in our area the vets were running more colic calls than normal.There seemed to be a common denominator in many. They seemed to think many of these were due to the horses eating green acorns.Many horses love these things. It's the tannic acid in green acorns that is toxic. We had had alot more wind than normal and they were falling off the trees before turning brown. I just noticed you mention the oak leaves in her mouth.

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Also, rosary peas.

I am not sure if some of you are in the area for them, but they contain the toxin Abrin- which is one of the most deadly toxins in the world.

They are invasive vines, that grow throughout trees and other plants. They are red berries- with black heads.

While a horse can eat them and swallow them whole, if they happen to break it with their teeth, that is when you are going to have problems.

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