Zayat Stable's Paynter, the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational winner who has been battling colitis for more than a month, will be transported from upstate New York to the New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in Kennett Square, Pa., on Monday morning for further diagnosis and possible surgery of his gastrointestinal tract.
At New Bolton the 3-year-old colt by Awesome Again will be under the care of Dr. Louise Southwood Parente, DVM, MS, PhD.
Ahmed Zayat, who has provided regular updates on Paynter through his Twitter account (@Jazz3162), spoke on Sunday afternoon with the Paulick Report about the horse's fighting spirit, the “phenomenal” care Paynter has received since Aug. 26 at Upstate Equine Medical Center in Schuylerville, N.Y., and the recent discovery of a possible abscess on the colon that led to the decision to send him to New Bolton.
“He has been battling two serious illnesses: colitis and laminitis,” Zayat said. “He has actually won a lot of battles, but did not win the war. Paynter has been so courageous, an unbelievable fighter. He really wants to live and has this desire to keep fighting. He's saying 'Don't give up on me, believe in me,' he gives inspiration to his whole team, and I hope people do not think that is corny or theatrical, because it is true.
“Today, he is bright, alert, playful, happy, and has totally healthy feet (having overcome laminitis). He is turned out every afternoon, he loves eating, loves playing.
“If you didn't know he was sick internally, you would not know anything was bothering him. He is not in pain, not suffering.”
Zayat said until four days ago Paynter had been losing weight; he was down to 912 pounds from about 1,100 pounds when healthy. “The last four days, with a special nutrition plan designed for him, he has been gaining some of that weight back,” Zayat said.
Despite his improved demeanor and better outward appearance, Paynter's blood work was “mildly abnormal” and his temperature slightly above normal, said Dr. Laura H. Javsicas, VMD, DACVIM, of the Upstate Equine Medical Center. She also said Paynter's GI tract continues to have some signs of inflammation, one of the symptoms of colitis.
During a regular ultrasound last Wednesday, Javsicas said a localized area that is “consistent with infection or devitalized tissue” was detected on the right side of the abdomen that appears to be associated with the large colon. She said it was several centimeters in length.
“The thought is this area is secondary to his original problem,” Javsicas said. “The tissue either got so damaged that a part of it has developed infection or is devitalized secondary to the original colitis.”
“We feel this was good news and bad news,” said Zayat. “The mystery has been revealed of why he has been spiking this low grade fever for some time, on and off. In some ways it is a relief.”
The options were to continue to give antibiotics, which Javsicas said can be a risk to a horse with a sensitive GI tract, or get more aggressive.
Zayat consulted with numerous specialists and determined the best course of action was to transfer Paynter to an equine hospital in the region specializing in internal medicine, either Cornell University or New Bolton. He chose New Bolton, about 6 ½ hours to the south by horse van.
“Dr. Southwood is one of the foremost specialists in colitis, and they have an entire team of internal specialists waiting for him,” said Zayat. “He leaves at 8 a.m. Monday. We believe he is mentally and physically able to stand traveling. He's gained enough weight the last couple of days to ship him. We need to go and see what he has internally.”
Javsicas said the New Bolton team will ultrasound Paynter to make an evaluation and determine whether an exploratory procedure can be done without resorting to anesthetizing the horse for invasive surgery. “There is a chance they can try laparoscopic surgery,” she said, “which means putting a small camera inside the horse while he is standing, allowing direct visualization of the GI tract. The problem with that is sometimes you may not see everything you need to see.”
If laparascopic surgery is not an option, Javsicas said, more invasive surgery, similar to colic surgery, may be required.
“In the big picture,” Javsicas said, “he's shown signs of improvement, but since we found this we want to do everything we can to fix it and get over the hump, have the fastest resolution.”
“I cannot tell you how much appreciation I have for my angel, Dr. Laura, who has done a phenomenal, phenomenal job, to cure Paynter's laminitis, and to get him happy and healthy enough to fight,” Zayat said. “Dr. Laura has shown unbelievable dedication.”
“He has been a great patient,” Javiscas said of Paynter. “He is a very, very tough horse and has been a fighter. He has a reputation for being hard to handle when he is completely healthy, and we have started to see some of that lately. But he's been very cooperative, which has made our job easier.
“Clinically, I am very happy with him,” she continued. “He's sick of getting oral medications. He's been turned out every day, and he's eating and playful. He drags us to the field and is dragging us around the field. He makes us want to keep fighting because he is clearly still fighting.”
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