Tonka's blood tests came back normal. Almost perfect, as the vet said.
Next step he recommended was food allergy testing - a blood test. From what I'm reading online it's possibly a worthless test. But this article has me more intrigued: http://www.holistichorsekeeping.com/resources/articles/foodallergies.html
I'll probably do it, but I'm going to do some other things first.
1. Test our water. It isn't safe for people to drink and I can't remember why. Steve said that if we have nitrates, they could be the culprit. He couldn't think of anything else that Tonka wouldn't have gotten over after some initial sickness. I don't think we have nitrates but maybe I'm wrong.
2. Take in a fecal sample. This will have to wait until Wednesday now. I had planned on doing both today but ended up having to make a quick trip up to Spokane. Steve didn't think this was going to show anything shocking since I worm according to his directions, but you never know. I do feed on the ground. Tonka was wild for two years, maybe he had a bad infestation as a youngster that left him susceptible.
3. Send in some mane hairs for an EPSM (PSSM) test. Now that he's been off his EPSM diet for a couple weeks he is MISERABLE. He kicks at his belly almost constantly and every time he walks forward he lifts his tail. He's crabby, but not in a defiant way, just in an "I don't feel good" sort of way. Sometimes I feel like he's appealing for my help. My only reservation about assuming this means he definitely has EPSM is the fact that I've made some feed changes recently trying to entice him to eat his food and get more calories into his diet. So maybe his digestion is irritated by that.
So we have two conflicting theories - one that requires an elimination diet (allergies - my vet's theory) and one that requires a very specific diet that will include more than one ingredient (EPSM - my theory).
I talked to Dr. Beth Valentine, the national expert on EPSM, today. She said every single symptom I told her points to EPSM (except the skin problem, and I forgot to ask about the dull coat). His "breeding" matches some breeds affected - drafts, thoroughbreds, and gaited breeds. She said to get him back on the diet, with more oil than I was giving him before. I was feeding him the correct amount for a 1000 pound horse, and he's at least 1250 lbs. He had quit eating his feed, and she said that's pretty common and I just need to get creative and get him to eat it. I also need to get him on an exercise regimen, although she said turnout with playful friends goes a long way toward keeping him fit. She also said we need to do the DNA test. So I'm going to get on that.
I'm not completely discounting the idea of enteroliths or fecaliths but when I read about them, we don't fit the bill for the lifestyle of a horse with enteroliths. I just don't see him being a prime candidate, but of course that doesn't mean he might be one of the special ones that have them even without the lifestyle to match.
I also wondered if a Panacur power pack might be a good idea. I don't know much about them, but one vet I've talked to in the past said they often cure odd things nobody can put their finger on. My sister said she's seen a lot of vet students use the power pack and get results, but the symptoms come back later. So I'll ask my vet.
Whatever ends up happening, I've decided I'm not going to ride him for a while. Probably quite a while, since he'll need a conditioning program even after we identify and solve the problem. So I'll be getting Cisco out of the pasture for a spring tune-up soon.
Hope I haven't bored you with my wandering conjecture. My mind is going in circles. Sometimes I come up with some good stuff, but mostly I tire myself out trying to put together pieces of an incomplete puzzle.