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Arthritis? Ulcers? Back pain? Something? HELP

Hey guys,
I have a 11 year old (12 in April) 17.1hh dark bay ottb gelding. He raced in large races, mostly at Churchill Downs. He raced 43 starts up through age of 9. Since then, he has been a lesson horse until I purchased him in August. Due to poor nutrition with his previous care taker, I “started him over” and got him on a complete grain, built his muscle back, and started him into eventing. Now he is all personality and a lot of strength. He is the type of horse that is silly and goofy but wants to please me with all is heart.
In August, we had his hocks injected to help with the arthritis that he unfortunately developed when racing (that was the only injury he got from racing). With the arthritis, sometimes he suffers from “shivers” in his back right leg where he feels like he absolutely has to hold his leg up high for a bit and then slowly will relax and settle, but only when he is standing still for a while. Up until the end of January, he was very happy with my new saddle that fit his “shark fin withers” much better, maintenance Cosequin, hock injections, and great grain.
However, suddenly at the end of January, his shivers became much worse, his body very sore, and was lame. This was not due to over work because for the past two weeks before this, we were doing very light work due to my heavy work load at college. The vet prescribed him muscle relaxers and bute as well as Pentasin (which is an injection into the muscle for the joints, similar to Adequin) and he began to improve. Although his muscle soreness only reached about 50% improvement. On the 5th shot on Pentasin the week before last, he had a big local reaction to the medicine, however has fully recovered. Now, he is on the low dose of muscle relaxers and a moderate dose of bute, and although he is acting much better he is still very body sore…
Blood work came back negative with only a low level in total proteins. (which we are getting a multivitamin to help). Detailed blood work came back negative for any diseases (ex: lyme disease).
The vet wants to run a muscle biopsy however I am thinking that he is tight and in pain do to something internal rather than simple muscular because with all the medication, he is still sore to the touch. I know that ulcers are claimed a lot more than they should, however I am thinking that he is so uncomfortable with how the medicine is hurting his gut that he is clenching and making himself sore by trying to get comfortable.

I started the doses of ulcergaurd and I believe that it is making a difference! However, he is still having the shiver issue and almost can decide which foot to put down… I feel terrible because I know he is uncomfortable. We are planning to continue with the doses of ulcer gaurd and then to use Total Gut Health to strengthen the walls of his gut to help prevent more ulcers… but I am hoping someone may have some reassurance or advice or may have seen something like this before…

Does your vet want to do the muscle biopsy for PSSM or as a diagnostic for something else? If it’s for PSSM, there is a blood test now through U of Minnesota. That would be less invasive.

The “shivers” you are describing sound quite a bit like tying-up:

Also, remember that it is entirely possible for your horse to have more than one issue- so he may have ulcers, but that’s likely not the only cause of his discomfort.

As KnRponies said, there is a blood test for PSSM- BUT it only tests for type 1 PSSM, which is rarely seen in Thoroughbreds. To test for type 2 PSSM, you have to do the biopsy. http://www.cvm.umn.edu/umec/prod/groups/cvm/@pub/@cvm/documents/asset/cvm_88617.pdf

OP, if I were in your shoes, I would do the muscle biopsy. If you’re still concerned about the procedure, I’d suggest having a conversation with your vet so s/he can explain what is involved and why they think it is important to do this test.

I know this is old but I would love to hear how you went with your boy. I have horse with eerily sounding similar issues and would love to know if you got answers, or had success from the ulcer treatment.


If he is not being ridden does he really need the bute. You say the ulcergard made a difference I would scope to rule out ulcers before staying on a regiment of daily bute. It could be a combination of pain and ulcers.The internal medicine specialist was telling me that thoroughbreds tend to be the most stoic about their ulcers. Previcox is better tolerated than bute.

I have a horse with what would be categorized as an extreme case of shivers. Of all the problems he has/had, the shivers have not contributed to his discomfort. It’s always ended up being something else upon further diagnostics/xrays. For him, his ulcers were being caused by back issues, not the shivers.

For his shivers, I just try to not put him in situations where its exacerbated and it stresses him out. So for instance, he likes to turn right rather than the traditional left when being led, its easier for him so thats what I do. He has less pronounced shivers if I pick his feet in the stall or aisle rather than the closer confines of the cross tie, so thats what I do. Anything to keep his shivers related stress down seems to really help him not be concerned about it.

I also found that focusing on hind end strength exercises while riding also helped his shivers. The stronger he feels about his hind end, the less he panics about the shivers and then the less the shivers are exhibited. For him, his shivers gets more pronounced if hes worried. If he stopped at a jump, he’d immediately pick up a hind leg lol.

If I were you I’d scope him and get some xrays of his back. Better to treat him knowing what youre dealing with. Ive seen too many people spend so much money on treatments before diagnostics and then not have any results to show for it.

OP: I was looking for something unrelated and stumbled across this article. It’s got an article on the physiology of shivers and other related things like string halt. Thought you might find it interesting

https://issuu.com/fvma_faep/docs/practitioner_issue1_web (pg18-19)

Does he have RER? I wonder if he has a muscle condition if the complete feed you are using is exacerbating it…maybe too much sugar. He could also have PSSM in conjunction with it, but at least RER is not uncommon in TBs. You could see if low dose of Ace improves anything. You might want to reduce grain and try to get more calories from forage and fat.