Earlier this year I attended a veterinary conference and listened intently as the speaker discussed pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID, or equine Cushing's disease). As you might remember, our 24-year-old Miniature Horse, Brandy, was diagnosed with the disease in late-2011, so I'm always eager to hear all the new tidbits researchers have learned about the disease.
The session was wonderful and very informative, but a conversation after the presentations concluded struck me as most interesting. While discussing PPID treatment, one attendee stood and shared a story from his practice, in which he initiated treatment on an old, quiet horse and soon, that old, quiet horse was feeling really good and had regained the energy and attitude he'd had as a younger horse. Other practitioners agreed they'd had similar experiences. It brought a smile to my face that simple medical treatment can make such a difference in a horse's life and comfort level. Three cheers for veterinary advancement!
I share this anecdote with you because not long ago it came to the forefront of my mind as I listened to my mother relay her experience earlier that day with Brandy and her spring shots.
We purchased Brandy from owners who weren't well-versed in horse care and didn't provide ideal care for her. She came to us extremely obese and with some behavioral issues due to improper handling. For instance, we couldn't lift her tail for years because her former owners had used it in a restraint technique. So it didn't necessarily surprise us when Brandy went ballistic—rearing, kicking, bolting, etc.—when our veterinarian tried to administer vaccines for the first time. Clearly there were some issues from her past that we'd have to deal with, and our veterinarian was very understanding and helpful as we tried to help our new addition adopt a normal (and well-behaved lifestyle).
Over the years, we tried several different options to help keep Brandy quiet when she got a shot. By the time we moved from Massachusetts to Michigan, our veterinarian had a routine down by which to administer all Brandy's vaccines, and while it wasn't the most graceful production, it was effective. Eventually, Brandy "quieted" from utterly horrible with shots to just extremely uncooperative (trust me…there's a difference).
For several years after we moved to Michigan, Brandy's uncooperative antics continued. Our veterinarian in Michigan was also successful in vaccinating her, although like in Massachusetts, it wasn't the prettiest picture for several years.
Eventually, Brandy's vaccination antics waned. She stood relatively quietly and maybe shook her head a few times in objection to the needles in her neck. We were all relieved that she'd apparently grown out of her objection to vaccines.
So this year when the vet came to give spring shots, we were expecting Brandy to stand quietly like she'd been doing for the past few years. And of course, Brandy did the exact opposite. Akin to her first vaccination experience with us, she reared, bucked, bolted, etc. Eventually, and after a struggle the vaccines were administered. But of course, we were left wondering why Brandy's bad behavior had suddenly returned.
Looking back, a few points emerged. Brandy's bad vaccination behavior began subsiding around the time she started suffering from laminitic episodes, which later were determined to be side effect of her PPID. Could her good behavior actually have been the result of her not feeling as good as she used to? Maybe.
Since she started treatment for PPID in late 2011, her physical condition has continually improved. After being treated for a full year, and then some, could her comfort level and mental state finally have finally returned to where they were before PPID set in? Maybe.
Could the two just be coincidences? Maybe.
We don't know for sure what caused the sudden change in Brandy's behavior. But thinking back to the discussion at the veterinary conference, I can't help but wonder if her treatment has improved her comfort level to the point that she's "back to the old Brandy," bad vaccination behavior and all. I'm not sure we'll ever know, but we do know that day to day, Brandy hasn't looked or felt this good in years. She loves running around the pasture with her friends, taking a good roll, and popping up with a buck to run around some more. She's a very happy and—at this point—healthy little creature.
At the end of the day, my parents and I agree that whatever the reason for the change, at least she feels good!
By the way, I'm not condoning Brandy's bad behavior during shots. It's something that we've dealt with for years and it's something that will continue to be addressed. We're just glad Brandy feels good enough to play, considering her ups and downs with laminitic episodes and PPID in recent years.
Have you had a senior horse become young again after treating a medical condition? I'd love to hear your experiences. Share them below!