Sparkles, Trying to Make sense of this case ... Tick disease, IR, Laminitis


HI all. Sparkles is a senior, we think between 20 and 25.  American Shetland type mare. She is 10.1 hands and has steadily been around 380 pounds (we check throughout the year). I have seen her as low as 375 and high as 390. We use the tape and the formula (if I remember correctly I think she is a little less with formula). She has been with us since 2017. Prior to that was a backyard pony for a couple of years. I do not have much of a history prior to that other than she had been a carnival pony.
In the time she has been with us has been healthy over all. She has had 1 maybe 2 choke spells, she has seasonal allergies in the form of cough and swollen eyes (we think from pine pollen) she has had some colic issues. She has some minor dental issues.

 The first few months she was here, we attempted morning grass (knowing our new Morgan was metabolic I was in contact with our University forage professional) . We think grass triggered colic in both Sparkles and Morgan (they colicked same day .. though Sparkles has some very unusual symptoms). After that we quickly erected a run in shed along with a drylot and small track. The following spring expanded the track system and since our herd of four gets lots of daily exercise. SEE IMAGE OF OUR TRACK.  Because we have a very metabolic Morgan and a probably metabolic prone MFT, beside the track, I always look for a mature 1st cut hay. I normally test my hay but did not this past year because we got hay from 6 different fields.  I relied on my judgment re mature and so forth ... of course I regret not testing right away. My 3 mares, including Sparkles got soaked timothy twice a day. Sparkles no longer gets timothy. Our SB gelding gets soaked alfalfa and was getting Safer Choice. I would sometimes top the girls Timiothy off with a tiny bit of SC as a treat.
NOTE: Even though we use a track system, Sparkles can be quite crafty re putting her head through fence and not getting zapped. We try to keep her forelock and mane brained. We also throughout grass season kill grass with salt and vinegar along fence line. Still crafty Sparkles on occasion has gotten grass. She can crawl through a fence and under a fence. This year we will be reconfiguring all of our fence line and adding more to prevent any of the herd from getting any grass.

Toward the end of this past summer, Sparkles first showed signs of lameness. At first it was simply her not wanting to leave her stall in the morning, but once she got outside she was fine and was out on the track with the herd. She walked and ran just as much. This happened every so often. Toward the end of Oct, it became more consistent and more apparent she was uncomfortable. She was doing a lot of wt shifting and more reluctant to move. Some days downright refused to leave stall or move. Morgan X pony  is very classically metabolic and I have cared for her during laminitis ... Sparkles looked nothing like this. The only thing farrier saw at first was that her hooves were growing faster than her normal. Vet came out beginning of Nov. Did not feel pulses and Sparkles did not react to hoof testers. Vet was thinking possible tick disease so we started Doxy and sent bloods off to lab. Labs revealed Mod pos anaplasmosis and weak pos Lyme. Vet was not sure that Lyme was significant though said it could have been. After a week of being on Doxy Sparkles felt so much better. I put her out in one of the dry lots attached to the run in shelter for a week and then allowed her back on the track. She seemed better.

By the end of Dec she symptoms returned. She had days where she refused to leave her stall in the morning. She seemed more miserable than ever. I still could not feel pulses. Never had that lami stance (I know not all of them do). Vet came out she was able to feel pulses but not much reaction from testers. At this point vet is thinking lami and did a metabolic panel. Results showed she was severe IR with results at >200. I was quite surprised. I always considered Sparkles to be a slender pony (SEE PICTURES). steadily around 380 ... which I did not think was much for a pony that is 10.1. Never any cresty neck or fat pads. Always lots and lots of exercise. I began hay soaking right away. We soak in hot water for an hour. I started switching over to soaked beet pulp pellets. Vet recommended more bute. We did this for a while but then pony stopped eating. We are in Maine and had very frigid temps most of the winter (near 20 below zero). Hay would often freeze so I ended up needing to soak it and then dry it. Still, there were too many days she would not eat. As it was she was always terribly cold. I was worried not eating she would only get colder. I tried teff ... she ate this some. Eventually I found Triple Crown Safe Starch ... she ate this. By this point I continued to give soaked/dried hay, beet pulp, teff and TCSS ... For the cold, I was double blanketing her, put her in wool socks and duct tape boots with Cloud pads ... I tried various boots including Cloud, and Cavallo CLB ... finally we got Softrides which worked well. We also wrapped legs with fleece shipping boots. There were days with even these measures she continued to shiver. If we had a normal house type ... I think I would have brought her in the house!
Since DX of lami, farrier has been doing trims every 2 to 3 weeks.

It became very clear to us that the colder the temp the more discomfort she had ... The bute, the hay soaking and other measures did not seem to help much. What helped most was warmer days. We started Metformin.  Vet came back out in Feb to recheck insulin. She tested after 10 or so days of being on Metformin. Labs showed no changes re insulin! How can this be??? I tightened up diet again since we were getting more warmer days. At that point we just did soaked hay and soaked beet pulp. I do dress a little with alfalfa to get her to eat flax and supps.  Vermont blend, liquid Vit E and white iodized salt. I completely stopped the bute (I was never really sure it helped anyway).  I FINALLY got results of hay. RE ESC and Starch, I sent four samples (I tested the Triple crown as well) and all were less than 8. 

Thankfully Sparkles is on the other side of things and doing much better. I am puzzled that Sparkles continues to be high IR and that she was as sore as she was. Her feet did not look anywhere near as bad as my Morgan but her issues were so much more prolonged. Morgan recovered very quickly!

1. How could a pony who does not have the typical metabolic markers of being over wt, cresty, fatty etc AND be on a low sugar diet (hay less than 8 AND soaked) be so IR >200?         NOTE: ACTH was normal. Vet thinks we should do another test to look for possible Cushings. She does not seem to have typical markers for that either. She did have a slight delay in her shedding last year, but if you look at her June coat in my album, it still does not look that abnormal ... it is just slightly different than her norm. This year she is shedding much faster than her usual.

2. She is clearly sensitive to the cold. She started showing this last winter. Last year was the first year we blanketed her. This year we had to put two blankets on, wool socks boots pads and fleece shipping boots. Sometimes this was not enough. What is this cold sensitivity? Is it anything like Raynauds in humans? Is it possible the cold it self is the actual cause of these issues? When is something like Gabapentin used?

3. RE Tick diseases ... I know Lyme can cause and trigger all sorts of issues, but we are not sure if she actually had LD or not. Anaplasmosis was more clear. Does Anaplasmosis cause similar issues as Lyme? Since Sparkles responded so well to Doxy , I often wondered if we should have done another course.

4. When Sparkles has pads on, no matter if we are using duct tape or any of the many boots we tried, it seemed as though she was on her toes more. Her pads always ended up wedge shaped. You can actually see this in her XRAYS as she had her duct tape boots on her rears. I will also upload an pic of her pad. The pads do not start out wedge shaped. Any thoughts why this is? It is all fours.

5. She has been stalled most of the time in deep bedding since the end of Dec. Occasionally I would hand walk. Maybe 2 or 3 times (including today) I put in a small drylot for a little while. At what point is it safe to start letting out regularly? Beside our track, we have a couple of options to keep her in smaller areas and not with the herd.
Thanks all
Jen and Sparkles in New England 2022 | Album
Sparkles Case History

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