Sunday, May 9, 2010

I cried for the first time so far in Clinics..........

Of course I didn't allow anyone to see, and thankfully I had on sunglasses so it covered my red face and watery eyes. We responded to a call this afternoon that involved a horse who had been fed too much sweet feed. This horse presented with the stance pictured above, as well as dehydration, bruxism (teeth grinding--symbolizes pain), increased heart rate, in-ability to stand on three legs when asked to raise the front feet and so on.......all of these signs point to


If you knew me about 5 years ago you would know why this is a sad case for me. I was taking riding lessons from "Kinsey Paint & Quarter Horses." After a few months of riding and training, I performed in a "fun day," which was nothing more than all the trainees getting together and having fun racing barrels, running poles, roping, ect. Well, at this show I won Dixie. That's what I named her. She was beautiful!

She was the filly of Mr. Mike's prized horse "Bit O Olympia." I was so happy to have won her. She was my first horse! I had always wanted a horse but my parents wanted me to get riding lessons first to be sure I was interested enough. Well, of course Dixie and I were best friends for a short while. One day, her feet were being trimmed and while this was happening, Dixie freaked out a little and threw herself down. She broke her shoulder. We took her to UGA Vet Hospital, they did radiographs, and gave her a guarded prognosis. We were instructed to keep her in a 12x12 stall, keep her feet wrapped, provide water, and hay, and keep it deeply bedded with shavings. My parents and I cared for her for what seemed like years (really it was only a few months). We scooped her pen, cared for her "bed sores," kept her brushed and as happy as we could.

She was doing great until the day she presented with laminitis. She was acutely "down" and would not get up. We tried what we could, but when we called the Vet out, he said there was nothing he could do. We euthanized her while her head was in my lap. It was, and still is the worst feeling I have ever felt. There was nothing I could do, after I had worked so hard for so many months. It's still very painful to think about. I am thankful that I had such supportive parents who were willing to take her to UGA Vet School, and who were willing to get down in the ammonia smelling shavings to clean my horse and treat her wounds with me, and who were willing to call a friend to bring a front loading bulldozer to dig a hole in the pasture to place her. I couldn't stand the thought of having her dragged away. I still believe this was one of the main reasons I continued to want to be a Veterinarian.

This is an example of a laminitic hoof.

There are two types of laminae in the horse's foot. The sensitive laminae attached to the pedal bone and the insensitive laminae attached to the inner hoof wall. The function of the laminae is to bind to each other and to keep the pedal bone suspended within the hoof capsule and to allow for normal hoof wall growth over the stationary bone. Laminitis is inflammation of the sensitive laminae of the hooves. Basically the suspension of the pedal bone (pictured here between the arrows), gives way and the bone sinks down, eventually poking through the sole of the horse's foot. Once this occurs there, is nothing you can do to save the horse, if you do not euthanize, the horse will not be able to walk and is in immense pain. To reference one of my favorite quotes "With a true appreciation of life, comes the responsibility of ensuring a humane death" -Pam Hullinger, DVM. The failure of the mechanism can be caused by many things. In Dixie's case it was that all her weight was being distributed to her opposite limb, to try and take the pressure off the broken shoulder. The extra weight was too much to bear for one limb and the suspension mechanism failed. In the case of the clinic horse, he had too much grain to eat---the grain killed the normal bacteria in his gut---the bacteria released endotoxin---this all compounded to cause decreased blood supply to the hoof and thus, the mechanism failed. There are many other causes of laminitis and some aren't even fully understood.

So, as we were practically carrying this horse up the hill from the pasture to his stall, I was holding back many tears, as the memories came rushing back; the times we hoisted Dixie up just so she could get out of her own feces, moving her around so the sores wouldn't be so severe in one place, treating and spraying her with fly spray, hand feeding her because she couldn't stand to eat, praying, crying, begging that she be spared....she was my first horse for goodness' sake!! There was a boy involved with the clinic case, who had been coming to feed the horse and the mistake had been made where the boy fed the horse as well as the owner. The horse had also not been fed everyday consistently. It was a sad situation, because I could put myself in his shoes. We treated the horse as best we could, and we are just hoping and praying that the pedal bone has not dropped too far to be saved.


SM Edens said...

It still makes my heart hurt to think about Dixie. :(

Jerry said...

Me too.