Thursday, July 21, 2011

Vet Visit

Funny how something as simple as a vet visit can set you on a high. Well, it does me, when things are deemed good and all the questions I had written on my list were adequately answered. Plus, once again, I learned a few things. This particular vet is strictly an equine vet. We're lucky to have him. He does alot with local breeding programs and power dentistry. He's a local "boy" who worked at the University of Kentucky and at the Lexington horse farms before returning to his home town. I decided after the choke incident, with Spirit, that maybe it was s good idea to try to stay on Dr. R's client list since it's difficult to get any of the other vets in the county to come out on farm calls.

The main reason for the vet call was that I have put off giving my two horses their vaccines this year. I usually do it in May, myself. This year though, I don't know, I just decided I wanted a vet to do it. Then the weather has been so bad with storms and rain, I kept putting off calling Dr. R. Then I decided since I had the vet out here, I was going to make good use of his knowledge and add to mine. I've learned alot over the past six years, but there's always more.

I keep a notebook on my horses. I log their de-wormings, vet visits, farrier visits, any problems I run across with the horses in general, how I dealt with it, what worked, what didn't and hay purchases. I was able to show Dr. R when I gave the vaccines last year and what they were. He was fine with the vaccines I'd used, which I bought from one of the local vet clinics, but said he was adding the West Nile to it. Well, I can openly admit, I actually thought I'd been giving West Nile but he told me it came in a separate injection. So, I learned that the vaccines I'd asked for at the local clinic which were 5 in 1 did not have West Nile. That was an eye opener. I knew what they had in them when I bought them (East and West Equine Encephalitis, Equine Rhino, Equine type A2 viruses and Tetnus) but didn't even think about WN and "assumed" it was covered. Sometimes it does pay to have a vet visit once in a while to get educated.

After the injections were given I started asking him my laundry list of questions and concerns. Oh, actually, it wasn't that long of a list but since I had him there I was going to hit him with them. One thing about Dr. R, he enjoys explaining things. I told him about Spirit's choke incident. Once again I was reassured that most choke events take care of themselves. He advised me, if needed, to use water into the mouth to help the horse salivate so the food, or as it was in this case, hay cubes, can soften and the horse can then swallow. When the episode is going on, the horse is still trying to swallow. Dr. R said he hasn't run across any serious scarring issues. He told me he hasn't run across a case of choke where the horse hasn't been able to handle it, but there are always those cases where the obstruction may not be food. He just hadn't run across one yet.

From that point I told him that I was pretty sure Spirit needed his teeth floated because he was exhibiting some of the signs: dropping food, turning his head, and I thought the choke incident may have also been and indication although part of that was brought on by him being startled from behind when he was trying to grab a few cubes from Bo's pan. I also mentioned that Spirit was drooling in the evenings. Now this was something I thought was part of a teeth problem but Dr. R told me that right now white clover has developed a fungus. The horse eats the clover with the fungus and it in turn irritates their mouth. He said the drooling would probably last a week or so then I wouldn't see it anymore. It's nothing that affects the horse in any way, other than the drooling short term. Makes sense because the drooling happened in the late afternoons after I'd brought the horses in from their grazing field. I never saw Spirit do it in the mornings when I was feeding, brushing or preparing them to go out. Mystery solved.

I made another appointment to have Spirit's teeth floated next week. After that, we should be good to go for a while and I know I'll feel better.

Dr. R also eased my mind on Bo's weight issue. I was shocked at the amount of weight the big boy had lost over winter. He looks good now but I'd never seen him that skinny in the six years I've had him. He's always had plenty, probably extra, meat on him. I showed Dr. R a picture of Bo when I first brought him home six years ago. He laughed and said  "He looks pregnant" Yeah, that's how fat Bo was because he'd come from a big open pasture home where there was more than enough to eat. Dr. R said he knew of many horses who'd lost extra weight this past winter because we'd had a pretty cold one. He said horses in our area cannot keep weight on through January and February no matter how much they're fed because in very cold seasons their bodies are busy trying to keep them warm. So, I felt better about that knowing I didn't do anything to cause it. He told me he prefers to see a horse on the thin side anyway because it's easier on the joints especially on big boys like Bo.

I felt satisfied when Dr. R rolled out of the driveway. I looked at the receipt and even though it was more than my last doctor appointment I had a sense of relief that we were all in good health.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Finally, the vet will make his visit!

I don't know why, exactly, but I've put off this vet appointment for waaaayy too long. I used the weather as an excuse. And honestly, I am embarrassed about my mud situation. But, after talking to my friend, who's been into horses for 20+ years, we both agreed, Spirit is probably in need of a good float on his teeth. The signs are there, dropping food, the choke incident, turning his head to the side when eating his pellets. 

First though, I need to have a wellness check and probably the dreaded vaccinations. Dreaded, because my guys are usually lethargic for a few days following their vaccinations and now, our temps are soaring into the 90's with heat index around 105 during the late afternoons. I'm questioning my brevity at finally making the appointment, but I know it must be done.

I've made a list of questions for the vet. Since I don't have him out very often I thought this would be a good time to address some questions and concerns. He's an equine vet who grew up in the area and moved back here after working for a while at the University of Kentucky and at Lexington farms. He has an on call business, no office so you have to call him to make an appointment. So, right now, I'm feeling fortunate that I finally have a vet coming to look at my guys and hoping to make the most of this visit. I'm guessing I'll need to set up another appointment to get Spirit's teeth floated but I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rant about my mud problem

I'll preface by saying I realize there are bigger problems in the world but in my personal little dot on the planet this is a big issue for me this year. MUD. Freaking mud when it should have dried out. Why does this bother me so much? Well, because it won't go away and I can't keep my horses cleaned up, and any number of issues that comes with mud in close proximity to trying to have a life with horses. UGH!

I have a run-in shelter stall to the side of our barn style garage set up for my two Spotted Saddle Horses aka Tennessee Walkers. The area they have to move through to get to the run-in stall is the problem. I was going to post a photo but we changed out computers last week and my IT guy (husband) hasn't decided which photo program he wants to install since the Kodak photoshare we had isn't up to par. me, the mud problem is more than just an annoyance. I'm thankful each day the horses haven't had a leg wound this year because it would not be pretty trying to keep it clean. Last year at about this time Spirit ripped open his back leg and I was tending to that into August but there was no mud.

So, I realize the weather can't be controlled. Most years the mud dries out by mid June when the rains have usually calmed. Unfortunately this year, the rains keep coming. They're not nice summer showers either. They're gully washers as we like to call them around here.I have been trying to get the property manager (husband) to agree to put something in the mud prone area so I can have piece of mind. Finally, I think he's relented because he's probably tired of hearing me rant about it. We are talking health issues here as well, for us, and the horses, is what I've been explaining to him.

I looked up Geotextile fabrics which I'd read were great for the base of a muddy area. The stuff sounds super! I presented the information to the grounds keeper (husband) who was intrigued by the idea. He then estimated the cost of the Geotextile fabric and the two layers of different size gravel (recommended) and informed me we were looking at $2000+. He insists he can order in 40ton of smooth bank run rock to lay as a base and get a good result. He also informed me that to do that project, the mud needs to dry out and he needs to get the tractor, with blade, in there to smooth it out before laying out the gravel. He has also told me he just needs to cut out the gigantic sycamore tree next to the corral fence, which would allow for sun to dry out the mud. He's been meaning to do that for a couple of years. It's a huge tree and does need to go because if any of it falls, and we've had limbs drop, it could take out a number of fencing sections in the corral area and front field as well as the roof of the run-in stall and garage itself.

How does something as simple as mud turn into a big ordeal?

I've almost quit looking at the long range weather reports, brings on a sense of dread. Lately, I only look to the next day. I think the property manager and grounds keeper have decided to go with the tree removal and the 40tons of bank run.When asked my opinion I said as long as I get the horses better footing and rid of that horrible mud, I'm game for just about anything right now.

To end on a positive note I found this quote by Mother Teresa which I have now adopted as my own life quote:  "In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

FYI...You can't do the Heimlich on a choking horse!

While the title was meant to be amusing, I actually saw someone ask, on an obscure forum, how to do the Heimlich on a choking horse. I often shake my head and wonder where common sense has gone but I also thought maybe the person was as freaked out as I was when it happened to my horse, Spirit, a few weeks ago.

In short, Spirit, my nine yo Spotted Saddle Horse, was eating some hay cubes. I usually put out a small amount of Alfalfa-Timothy hay cubes to get my two horses to come in from the front field in the afternoons. Plus, I have to use hay stretchers and hay cubes have been my choice for about a year. My other horse, Bo, ran up behind Spirit, startling him. I didn't think anything about it until I saw Spirit walking and coughing. I didn't panic at first because he's coughed before, figured he was just clearing out some material. Then, when he walked into the run-in stall and continued coughing I became concerned. It got worse. Mucous and gunk started coming out of his nostrils. I knew nothing about choking. I've been involved in many horse emergencies over the past seven years but choking was not one of them. I admit, I panicked. I felt helpless. I didn't know what to do. I tried to soothe him but he couldn't clear the debris. Obviously, he'd probably sucked down a hay cube when he was startled. I ran into the house to see what my emergency book said about choke but this time it wasn't much help. I ran back out and tried to keep Spirit calm. It was hot, he was hot, so I sponged him off with cool water. At the time, I didn't realize he could still breathe, unlike humans when we choke. I was afraid he would pass out right there but I noted his breathing continued. After about thirty minutes things calmed down. The hay cube must have moved down. I took the opportunity to run into the house and look up "choking horse" online. I found a very informative, to the point article by Bob Brusie, DVM, Preventing Choke in Horses. I was relieved after reading.

What I learned: Most choke cases resolve themselves within 30-45 minutes. If you call a vet,by the time a vet gets there the episode would have ended. It all depends on the obstruction. You can use a gentle stream of water from a hose to run in the horses's mouth if he'll tolerate it. This helps to stimulate the horse to swallow and move the object down if it's food. I've since purchased a 50cc large animal syringe to have on hand. If you feel a knot on the left side of the horse's neck, below the throatlatch, you might be able to dislodge the object by massaging. You'll need to watch the horse for at least the next 72 hours because it is possible the esophagus has been stretched and may not be back to normal. There is a possibility of another incident. Water down all food you believe my be a problem to make it easier for him to swallow, dry pellets, hay cubes, etc.Surgery is rarely needed. Sometimes a tranquilizer will relax the esophagus enough to allow the obstruction to move on down.

I also asked my personal vet, when I took my cat for his monthly steroid injection, for his thoughts on choking horses. He said in his experience, 95% of the time by the time a vet can get to the farm call the incident will be over.  Again, it depends on the obstruction. Horses can still breathe while choking so asphyxiation isn't a problem. He agreed that a water hose would be fine but it was his suggestion of a large animal syringe to control a smaller amounts of water and might be more acceptable to the horse. You don't want water getting into the lungs then you'll have a pneumonia problem within a few days.

This incident made it clear to me, once again, when you're a small time horse owner you'd better be prepared for any kind of emergency. You can't pack them up and take them to the ER. If you call a vet you may not get one for a very long time at least that's how it is in the area where I live. Oh, and this happened on a Saturday afternoon so fat chance getting one of our local vets. It just ain't gonna happen. On this occasion I was very thankful for the internet!

I realized I need to make an appointment to probably have Spirit's teeth floated because it's been quite some time. It's one of those things I put off because he has to be sedated and I really hate that but better to have healthy teeth than an hour or so of me being uncomfortable. 

From now on the hay cubes are soaked for 30-45 minutes before putting them out. I don't want to take a chance of a choking episode like that again! I'm thinking about finding another kind of hay stretcher. There are many different products out there these days. I decided I don't necessarily want to be soaking the hay cubes every day if there are alternatives.

If interested in learning about dealing with a choking horse I found Dr. Brusie's short and informative article here at the following website: