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Piroplasmosis is a tricky disease, and more common in the Zinder area today than ten years ago. All of our horses have had piroplasmosis at this point – with the fillies being treated during my absence in Sweden. Kalahari is looking great these days (round as a barrel) but I was wondering why Isolde took so long gaining weight, depite eating a lot of food.

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Isolde, Kalahari and Sahara

Last week we saw the first signs of disease, when Isolde was kicking away with her hind legs and looking very apathetic. We had her tested, and got the results back: a 40% level of piroplasmosis. 10% is considered acceptable / normal in a country the disease is endemic, and as long as you keep the horses here, you’ll never want to remove the parasites compeletely, as that would wipe out their immune system. Most animals will test positive for pirosplasmosis, and most animals can carry the cronique form for many years. However, when your animal falls victim to anything else, the piroplasmosis parasites take the opportunity to feed on the body’s weakness, and that’s when you’re in trouble.

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With a “mere” 40%, Isolde was not acutely sick, but on addition to the “piro”, as it’s called here, she also tested positive for two types of worms/parasites, which coincides with general weakness. No wonder she was in pain!

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Piroplasmosis treatment is tricky as the treatment itself is toxic for the horses. With the number of red blood cells having been destroyed, the body is left struggling to do its own cleanup. When you have a high level of piroplasmosis parasites at the same time (like the 80% that Arwen had last year, which was considered very serious), you cannot inject the whole treatment at the same time, or the animal can die from not being able handle so many dead parasites at the same time. Even though Isolde “only” had 40%, she responded badly to treatment and had me worried for a while, being completely out of spirits and in obvious pain.

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She is now doing better and has been properly pampered with (being visited at all hours, day and night!), but as always, piroplasmosis is a costly experience. I hope she will recover quickly and get back to all that equine mischeif she was up to just a week ago!

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If Isolde wasn’t enough, Dennis gave me a fright on Saturday when I found him listless in the sand. He had bird poop on him so he had obviously been lying there for a while, which is completely out of character. Dennis is one of the most watchful dogs I know, and this time he wasn’t even acknoledging my presence. I got him up and on to the veranda, but he remained immobile for half an hour, looking very miserable. The night prior to that, he had been prancing around us, eagerly awaiting the arrival of goat milk. Even though he didn’t have a fever and had “only” vomitted once (ten years ago, I would have let this be for a day or two, thinking it was just something he ate), I new something wasn’t right and called Salisu to have him tested.

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So far, Dennis has been really bad when it comes to getting any kinds of shots or vaccinations, which is part of his troubled past. But this time, I got him to lie down on his own accord even though he was well aware that the vet had arrived and there would be some kind of disagreable measure involved. Salisu is the best when it comes to needles, but a dog can never know. In either case, Dennis pleasantly surprised me. He growled but didn’t put up a fight. When it was all over, you should have seen the proud look on his face. A little cheeky, as in “You don’t know what a fight I could have put up with, but I gave you guys that one for free!” Way to go, boy!!

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The results came back positive for piroplasmosis, though in Dennis’ case, it’s not at an acute level (yet). If he had a healthy appetite, he would most probably pull through on his own most animals here have piroplasmosis at some point without us humans knowing), but he doesn’t, so we’re having him treated. He may be a Mugu (bandit) who killed my cat, but he does his job well and Ishtar’s Ark needs him. So hopefully, I’ll have a positive update for you all in a few days!