Saturday, May 11, 2013

Houston, we have an abscess...

This is Salina's 30-year old birthday portrait. She's had a good year thus far, and is now on Pergolide for Cushing's disease, which many older horses get as they age. If you have a horse older than 20, it would be a reasonable thing to get ACTH levels checked to see if the Cushing's process has started. I won't try to detail symptoms and treatment here, but the best website and information I know of lives HERE. Dr. Eleanor Kellon has created the largest database there is for horses and their people living with Cushing's. Many vets don't have the full picture on this disease - I highly recommend educating yourself if you have senior horses.

Salina does not have the long, curly coat often used as a diagnostic for Cushing's. The current thought is that once a horse gets to that stage, the disease has probably been in process for years and may then be more difficult to control.


This week I noticed that Salina wasn't heading for the gate after breakfast to go out with the entire herd. She was happy to hang out in the barnyard with her donkey boys. On Wednesday, she hung out mostly in the barn. Thursday afternoon I noted she was moving slowly. All the worst scenarios began to play out in my head.

When you live with a senior horse I think you start getting prepared for that day none of us want to think about. I know I go through the psychological preparation for goodbye every single time Salina has an off day. It's not something I particularly want to do - but I think it helps me get ready for when the inevitable happens. Salina is patient with me. If I get to the point of asking her if it's time, she makes it perfectly clear (so far) that it's NOT. Her usual response to my question is a pinning of ears and a disgusted look with her one eye in my direction.

I'm trying to get to the point where I let go of having to ask - and simply trust that when that time arrives, she will TELL me.

So when I went to the barn yesterday to feed breakfast, it was clear she was off. She didn't come out of her stall, didn't whinny or nicker for her breakfast, and once again, I got on the roller coaster of wondering. What is going on? Where are we in this journey?

When I fed her tub I stood there for a minute as she began to eat and just noticed what she was doing. She was subtly shifting her weight between the two front hooves. I thought, but wasn't sure, that she was favoring the left front.

I pulled up a chair and sat in the barn aisle, working on a to-do list for the weekend, intending to watch her come out of the stall after she ate. I think the best way to figure these things out is to watch the horse move on its own volition. I don't like making horses move when they're clearly off, especially on a lunge line, to pinpoint the lameness. I know that's what the vets like to do, and I understand why. But my time is not limited here. I can sit and watch and let the horses show me what I need to know.

She came out of the stall slowly, in stages. Once she was fully out on the mats in the barn aisle, I looked at her hooves and lower legs. The left front did seem a bit stocked up around the coronet band and back to the heel bulbs. I kept watching. She reached down to the left front and licked it at the coronet band. That was her first clue. She went over to the water bucket and had a drink, then a second drink, and then she tipped it over so that it ran over her left front hoof. Aha!

I put her halter on and took her out to the oak tree so I could hose her off. Yesterday was our hottest day of the year and it was already 80 degrees outside, so I decided to give her a complete hosing. She stuck the front left hoof out a little so I could focus the water onto that hoof. Just in case I hadn't fully gotten it in the barn aisle. When I checked more closely, there was a small white area right at the coronet band, clearly the point where the abscess was aiming to come out. I pushed on it gently and she jerked her leg up. Bingo.

Both Salina and I breathed a sigh. Hers was likely exasperation. (Why does it always take the woman so long to figure everything out?) And mine was relief. We know the routine with an abscess. Usually with Salina we don't wrap the hoof unless it takes more than a couple of days to burst out. She likes getting the hoof wet but we don't do extended soaking. I'll sometimes put a warm wet cloth around the coronet band to help draw the abscess. I have two homeopathic remedies that help, and if it doesn't come out in a couple of days we use Animalintex.

The funny thing about this abscess business is that it used to be the worst thing I could imagine. I stressed and worried and fussed over it. Now, it's the thing we hope is going on when Salina is off. There are so many worse things.

Fortunately, we're dealing with an expert. She knows the cues to help us and over the years I have learned to let her show me. Which hoof, what she needs. And then we wait together. I guess this is the same process we'll need when that other day arrives. Meanwhile, we're good.


Grey Horse Matters said...

Salina is one very smart mare. She knows how to communicate where she hurts and what needs to be done. She's just wonderful. Love her birthday portrait too. Beautiful girl.

Nate and I are dealing with an abscess right now too. Sorry to say he is not as communicative as Salina. He simply limped in the other night and had me figure out it was his left front. We're soaking with Epsom salt and Betadine in water and then Animalintex in a boot. I wish J. were here right now but she's on vacation in Europe. I don't like when something is wrong with one of her horses and I'm responsible for him. Oh well, he seems to be doing fine so fingers crossed he will be healed soon.

billie said...

I think the geldings are much more apt to come in and say "figure this out." Sending good thoughts to Nate.

This morning I took Salina out and hosed her again (another hot day, especially when they're still shedding out winter coats) and things had progressed to the point that it seemed like a nice walk would help.

Husband took her on a slow loop of the top front field and by the time she got back, things had definitely shifted. Not draining yet but her movement was about 75% better.

I know J. trusts you with her horses - hope she has a wonderful vacation!!

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

I'm always impressed with Salina, and her communication skills. Glad you've (she's) got things under control.

On our last farrier visit, the most recent since the mystery lameness, we found the abscess exit point, which was hidden underneath (caused by?) a thick toe callous. Relief! Glad not to be an abscess virgin any longer! ;D

Hugs to Salina and the boys!

billie said...

C, glad you found the exit - it always makes sense after the fact! And thanks for the hugs. We just had two 85 degree days and now it's cool as heck and going down to 40 tonight and 38 tomorrow night! We're on the roller coaster thermometer ride this week. :)

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