Sunday, May 4, 2008

Allergic Headshaking Reaction in My Boy

This afternoon was sunny. Beautiful. After running a few errands I headed up to see My Boy. When I got there I noticed he was standing under the overhang of his run-in shed, with his head into the shed (he is not allowed into the shed because there are some unsafe panels in there that need to be replaced.) I thought it was odd because he never does that, he always stands under his tree. When I went to catch him he actually trotted down to the gate (also unusual) and was shaking his head like he was irritated. I thought it was the fly mask or that a fly had crawled up under the fly mask. I haltered him and took the fly mask off. He ate his apple but was still shaking his head, very irritated and agitated. I took him to the grooming area and decided something was not right. My Boy is irritated by flies, but this was to an extreme I had never seen. I groomed him, put fly spray on him, and checked him out. I could find no apparent wounds or swelling. He was not cooperating so that I could not get a good look into his mouth. I decided to take him up to the arena to walk him out on the lounge line. He drank water from the trough on the way up. In the arena, he continued to be irritated. Constant up and down head bobbing and shaking, almost like an uncontrollable twitch. Rubbing his nose on the ground. Or on his leg. Sometimes he held his head cocked to the side, as if something was crawling in his ear. He also snorted/sneezed more than usual (once all over my t-shirt.) I began to feel panicked that this was very abnormal and I checked him out all over again, and found no apparent reason for his distress. I called my sister at work and troubleshooted with her. Was it a sharp tooth? Bee sting? Something in his ear? We decided I should call and talk to a vet and make a determination on whether or not this was an emergency. I put My Boy away. He stood by the gate still showing the sporadic head shaking. He eventually made his way back under the overhang and stuck his head into the shed. What prey animal puts their head into a shed and leaves themselves so vulnerable? Like I said, even in the biggest downpour, he will not stand under that overhang, he stands under his tree. Or, the few times I have seen him use the overhang, he stands horizontally under it, not vertically with his head into the stall part. When I fed him, he ate his grain, but spit out half of it because he kept head shaking while eating. An irritated tooth?




He ran over to eat his hay afterwards but still appeared agitated. Like the biggest mosquito in the world was dive bombing him and he couldn't shake it. Because there appeared to be nothing I could do and he was eating and drinking normally, I watched him for a while, then left for home.

I did some research online and have found various reasons for head shaking, including anxiety, allergic reactions in the spring (like hay fever) And even a reaction to sunlight (photic head shaking) which causes triggers some kind of neural skin irritation on the face. Now this intrigues me because my horse, according to my sister who checked on him since I left, said he has gone back to the head in the shed thing. I was able (through many lengthy runarounds and referrals) able to get a vet on the phone. She determined this was probably not an emergency if he had an appetite, was pooping, and all that normal stuff. She said that head shaking is kind of a mystery with horses and it could be caused by an allergen, or something in his nasal passage (which could only be determined by scoping him.) Of course, as you can imagine I am worried sick. This is not colic, but because this is so strange and I don't know what is causing it or how I can help him to feel better, it is almost worse. And from what I have read, horses can develop this head shaking behaviors for various reasons and it might not go away. Today was an unusually sunny, warm day. I heard the pollen count was high. At this point I know I am going to worry myself sick until I can find out how he is tomorrow. I am also calling the vet back tomorrow to schedule an appointment to finish his shots, I am hoping to get an appointment on Tuesday so if he is still having the irritation and head shaking they can assess him then. My sister is home all day tomorrow and said she would keep an eye on him, and if seemed to get worse, she will call me so that I could leave work and get an emergency vet out. Have any of you experienced this kind of situation or reaction with your horse? Irritating flies are one thing. But this is an extreme agitation, and it appears to be in his nose. He was fine when I saw him on Friday. Yesterday was cool and rainy, and according to my sister he did not exhibit any of these behaviors. And he ate all his breakfast hay this morning. I took a lot of pictures and videos of his head shaking while he was eating his grain and hay, I will try to get the video downloaded and on here but I am not sure how to do it. I will keep you posted but please let me know if you have experienced this or know of anyone who has! I just want My Boy to be okay. I do not handle illnesses well, with myself, family members, or any beloved animal in my life.
Video of My Boy eating his hay:

video

13 comments:

  1. Were you able to check his ears. I have seen head shaking when something has got imto the ear canal. Water, hay, a bug. But you said he was trying to rub his noxe on the ground and was sneezing so I doubt that would be related.
    Is the area you live in now, with in the same area he lived prior? It may be seasonal allergies due to new climate/surroundings? Can you contact his previous owner to see if there has been anything like this before? Are there nettles that he could have brushed his nose on or possibly gottem in his mouth? You did not metion any swelling on his face, so I am doubtful of an injury (ie Kicked in face or on emd of nose)

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  2. Do you guys have nose flies? They are nasty buggers-that you can never see-that drive horses crazy. It sounds similar to what our horses do. Where any of the other horses doing this?

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  3. I was able to look inside his ears and did not notice anything, they are still really fuzzy from winter. There were a lot of bugs and flies out there but this was much stranger than typical headshaking due to flies, he does that all of the time and I know what is normal for him. I purchased him from someone who lived 10 minutes from where he is now. I called her but have not heard back. He has been on this current property since last August, so he has not been here in the spring. There are a lot of alder and cedar trees around the property. No nettles that I know of, or at least in his pasture (it is mostly dirt) but I will check the fence perimeter tomorrow. He is pastured alone so could not have been kicked....thank you so much for helping me brainstorm. My video is attempting to download but taking forever and previously would not load via blogger. It really shows what he is doing. I will try youtube, too.

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  4. is the hay any different then what you have been feeding, possibly new variety? Sorry for the awful spelling last comment, brain works faster than fingers type I am afraid.

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  5. He has been on alfalfa. He was getting one extra flake of grass hay for good measure. I opened a new bale of alfalfa on Friday. They hay we have been feeding him is really green, good quality alfalfa. I wonder if there is something wrong with that particular bale of hay?

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  6. Off the top of my head, I am not sure what to suggest, other than an allergen. If I come up with anything else, I will shoot you a comment here ASAP.

    Good luck with him, and please give him a special pat from the Southland.

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  7. I have two horses that get horrible coughs every spring. Then they get runny eyes and runny noses to go along with the cough. I have been giving them a supplement call, AniHist, it's an Oral Anihistamine/Expectorant. It's great for seasonal allergies and you can get it from anywhere. Country Supply has it for 13.99. I think a little anihistamine in his feed once a day will help him out! The only time he may need something else is if his clear runny nose turns into a thick green runny nose, then you may need some antibiotics. But that is what I would do first! Good luck.

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  8. Oh, and too I have a pony mare that I sold last year and the new owner called me and asked about why her eyes watered and she coughed in the summer. She never did those things at my house, but she was always out in a big 20 acre pasture and then went to a smaller pen where she was fed hay twice a day. Sometimes dust is a killer on top of spring and summer allergies! Try watering down the hay, to limit the dust. Okay that is all I can think of for now!

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  9. These kinds of horse mysteries are SO hard on us - I feel your pain. I've never experienced this kind of behavior with any of the horses I've known. The best thing you can do is what you've already done - recognize immediately that something wasn't right and get a vet scheduled to look at your boy. You can research this on the internet till your eyes bug out and you drive yourself crazy, but nothing can replace a good vet's experience. He or she will know what to do and how to treat it and My Boy will be back to his old self before you know it.

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  10. Andrea: my sister's mare got a severe cough last year, when she was stabled in a barn for training. It appeared to start as a cold virus, but ended up being chronic for months, along with severe, ugly nasal discharge. The mare was on antibiotics various times. We have been concerned she somehow got permanent damage. She still exhibits coughing symptoms at times, but we are keeping an eye on her in hopes that it does not resurface this spring.
    7msn: I have stopped reading info. online. You are so right, it will drive me crazy and since I am such a hypochondriac anyway, I will just diagnose him with everything under the sun. The vet is scheduled to come out tomorrow, and will come today if he worsens. Thank you for your thoughts!!

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  11. Pretty impressive head shaking. Hope you get some answers when the vet comes out.

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  12. I would guess it has something to do with his ears. Gently fold it back and see if there are ear mites. It will feel "gritty". Good luck tomorrow with the vet..hope there is a simple solution.

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  13. did you come right with your horse and headshaking. i have a horse who does/did the same. I have tried so many things from cloth nose pieces on fly veils, homepathic drops, vaseline in nostrils, vet checks(ear nose teeth), preddy granules for 9 weeks. anyhting and everything i tried. Suddenly i thought about it and have had a breakthrough!! it started more or less when our new season hay arrived. have done a week now of hay from different region and so far it is better if not mostly gone other than the occasional habit now formed shake. holding thumbs it continues. he is a very allergic horse he gets nasal runs and big glands, hives when our easterly blow. any luck your side?

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