VTH Helps Nugget the Palamino Regain Her “Pretty Gait”

June 30, 2017

A palomino named Nugget overcame a condition that caused severe weight loss thanks to the Large Animal Hospital team at PVM’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

A palomino named Nugget overcame a condition that caused severe weight loss thanks to the Large Animal Hospital team at PVM’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

When Nugget, a ten-year-old palomino, was referred to the Purdue University Veterinary Teaching Hospital with severe weight loss and diarrhea lasting over five months, her diagnosis wasn’t immediately apparent. “By the time we got her to the Purdue Veterinary Teaching Hospital, she looked like a rescue horse,” said Nugget’s owner, Eileen Miller. “I was worried she was going to starve to death, so I told my veterinarian, ‘let’s take her to Purdue.’”

When Nugget arrived at the Large Animal Hospital, she was alert and her physical exam was within normal limits, but she was more than 40 pounds underweight and her symptoms were persistent after several months of unsuccessful treatments. After some testing, Dr. Kira Tyson, a large animal medicine intern, diagnosed Nugget as having “sand enteropathy,” a condition that occurs in horses that are kept in a muddy or sandy enclosure and who graze on sandy ground. Sand ingested as part of their day-to-day routine builds up over time and compacts in the gastro-intestinal system, causing symptoms like fatigue, weight loss, watery stools, and abdominal discomfort. When a veterinarian listens to the horse’s abdomen, it often sounds like “waves on the beach,” and an abdominal ultrasound will show a clear line in the imaging where the sand sits in the stomach and intestine.

Dr. Tyson administered a psyllium (Sand Clear) treatment to Nugget, which adheres to the sand and allows the horse to pass the sand naturally. Psyllium is a natural, plant-derived ingredient that has a wide variety of uses, from a dietary fiber that relieves symptoms of both constipation and mild diarrhea, to a food thickener. “If the psyllium doesn’t work, the next step is surgery,” said Dr. Stacy Tinkler, clinical assistant professor of equine community practice. “Your hope is that the horse will pass the sand [with the psyllium treatment] because the surgical option is invasive.”

Yet after several months of treatment with the psyllium added to Nugget’s feed, her symptoms remained unchanged. Led by Dr. Sandra Taylor, assistant professor of large animal internal medicine, the VTH medical team needed a more aggressive approach, and decided to keep Nugget as an inpatient. They administered a combination of mineral oil and psyllium directly to Nugget’s stomach through a nasal-gastric tube. After five days of twice-daily treatment, Nugget had passed enough sand to go home.

“Nugget is a gait horse, and the owners said as soon as they turned her out to pasture she did her fancy walk. She was feeling pretty good,” said Dr. Tyson.

“She’s getting spunkier and bossier every day,” owner Eileen Miller said. “Today when I called the horses up from the field, Nugget was leading the pack [with] her pretty gait, something I have not seen in a long time.  Her shine has come back and she is gaining weight.” Miller also praised the treatment they experienced at the Large Animal Hospital. “The thing I like most [about the VTH] is the friendliness and professionalism. When describing Nugget’s condition, the doctors talked to us in everyday language and explained the treatment plan in a way I can understand. We were really satisfied. It was a good experience.”

Writer: Lauren Bruce, pvmnews@purdue.edu

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