I took Dressy to Guelph this morning. They did an EKG on her and confirmed that she has Atrial Fibrillation. They did a full physical exam, and also an Ultrasound of her heart. There are no complications of any kind, and she is “disgustingly healthy”. That’s a quote. She has a bit of leakage from one valve (not sure which one), which the vet said was normal and that if she hadn’t had it she wouldn’t have been a Standardbred. Apparently every Standardbred they check has a slight leakage (heart murmur).
They offered two options. Drug treatment or electrical shock to restart her heart. The drug treatment starts out with a test dose to see if she is allergic to the drug (quite a few are). The test dose is about $500. Occasionally a horse will convert just on that alone. But generally not. Then they give the real dose every two hours until conversion occurs. Each dose costs that much more. The horse almost always gets sick. Sometimes they colic. Sometimes founder. Lots of bad side effects. Sometimes the horse dies. Success rate is 70-80%.
The shock treatment itself has no side effects. However the horse has to go under general anesthesia. Which does sometimes have its own problems. Success rate from shock therapy is around 97%. But… ack. $1800.
Not a nice decision to have to make. However, with the help of some creative financing and a really terrific boss, I figured out a way to pay for all this. And opted for the shock treatment. I felt a bit sick thinking of putting her through the drug treatment when there was a much better option. I am going to be living on KD for a long time, but with luck, it will be worth it.
I left Dressy there, and they will do the procedure in the morning. I will hear the results by around noon or so. If all goes well, I will pick her up on Sunday. And, believe it or not, I will be able to put her back into full work within a few days after that. Though I think, despite what they tell me, I might go kind of easy for a while!
I asked what could have caused the fibrillation. They did not think it was anything in her feed, none of her supplements, nor anything to do with speed or exertion at Aprilfest. The biggest single factor is just that she is a Standardbred. It’s far FAR more common in Standardbreds than in any other breed. The other factor that Dr Physick-Sheard zeroed in on is Dressy’s personality. He thinks that probably her intensity is the main trigger. The whole race-brain thing that has been haunting us lately is probably what tipped her over.
They had two management suggestions for me. Neither of which is in any way proven. They are just guessing that it might possibly help.
One is extra potassium every day. And probably to continue giving very large doses of electrolytes at competitions. Maybe even extra potassium (lite salt) along with the electrolytes. They think low potassium is involved somehow.
The other is to never give her any pyrantel-type wormer again. For the rest of her life. There is absolutely NO proof about this. Just that several horses have reverted to Atrial Fibrillation a day or two after worming with a pyrantel wormer. She has not had any lately, so that was not a factor this time. Since there are other wormers available though, I might as well avoid those just in case.
The vet checked her race lines to see if it looked like she’d ever had an episode before, but didn’t see anything suspicious. He commented to me that this was exactly the sort of mare who ought to be used as a broodmare. Her race history is quite consistent and she had almost no breaks throughout her 76 race career, which is the sign of a very sound horse. He also commented to the residents and other vets watching that her legs were amazingly clean. I actually knew all that about her (which is why I picked her, way back when).
And just because it’s hard not to brag… I had many many comments on her from the staff. Much oohing and ahhing over her beauty. Her conformation. And obvious fitness. And how much I must brush her (LOL! I am a very lax owner actually… she’s just naturally shiny). One of the staff asked me about her and said that she thought for sure Dressy was actually still racing, given her really obvious fitness. One of the residents told me that she wished she saw more horses in such good health, fitness, and perfect weight. So that was nice to hear too 🙂