Today has been a loooonnnngggg day. We are in mediation on one of our union contracts at work, so we were at it all day long. Periods of activity with periods of total boredom in between, plus ordering in lunch and working through the break. Mom called in the afternoon with some family news and left a message. When she called again a few hours later, I wondered what was up. I checked the message to learn that my horse was ill and the vet was there. Mediation had just wrapped up at that point, so I grabbed my stuff and left in a hurry. En route, a call to my sweet hubby ensured I would have some more barn appropriate warm clothes (somehow my trousers and heels just weren’t going to cut it – good thing I hadn’t worn a skirt today!)
I got to the barn when the vet had just finished trying to insert a nasogastric tube up Biz’s left nostril. She couldn’t get it in – kept getting it into his lung instead of his stomach. She tried the right side with no success either. Meanwhile, I got the lowdown on the afternoon’s progression. Biz came in from his paddock and started pacing in his stall, laying down and rolling. Pretty classic colic signs – which can be fatal in horses. In fact, it is the leading cause of premature death in horses. Colic is basically a symptom, and can have numerous causes. When a horse gets an upset stomach, because they can’t vomit, their urge is to lay down and roll. That can cause a twist in the intestine that cuts off blood flow and causes a section of the intestine to die. At that point, without surgery (and lots of times even with surgery), colic is fatal. So it is really nothing to mess around with.
My mom took Biz out into the arena to walk and he lay down there too. She told me he was lying on the ground stretched out with his eyes half closed like he was in a lot of pain. They got him back up and kept him walking until the vet got there.
The vet’s exam showed that his heart rate was low (about 24 beats per minute) his temp was normal, and his capillary refill time was slow – indicating that he was dehydrated (thus the attempts at the nasogastric tube). She gave him a painkiller and an anti-inflammatory and tranquilized him to put in the tube. That’s where I walked in.
After the tube failed, Biz was prepped for a catheter. I have enough experience with IV’s over the years that administering fluids isn’t a scary proposition for me. So in with the IV so we could get some fluids into him. And then we wait. Meanwhile Biz is starting to feel better, the tranquilizer is wearing off, and the painkiller is obviously doing it’s job. Anybody who has ever tried to hold a bored horse still knows what I’m talking about. He’s tossing his head, trying to eat his IV bag and tubing, and generally making a nuisance of himself. But the fact that he’s feeling better is promising. Halfway through the fluids, he let loose an extra-runny, super-smelly diarrhea. YUCK! But if that’s what it takes, let ‘er rip!
After his fluid cocktail appetizer session, I let him loose in his stall to see if he was still going to try to lay down. He stayed standing – excellent! He was very interested in dinner too, and the vet said we could give him a little hay if he was doing better. We put a half-flake in his haynet and watch. So far so good….
So now, I’m hanging out waiting until I need to recheck. I’m crossing my fingers that things are ok. I’ll need to recheck every 3 hours tonight, so I won’t be getting much sleep tonight. It’s like having a baby, except one that lives in a barn several miles from home on a below freezing night. At least the cold will wake me up!
P.S. At the 9:30 pm check, Biz was standing staring at me when I walked in. He had eaten all his food, and was looking pretty perky. He had good bowel sounds, albeit a bit growly-bowly (yes, that is a technical term), and no new diarrhea. Hopefully he’s doing as well in 3 hours.
P.P.S. At my 1 am and 4:30 am check, Biz was much more comfortable and perky. His bowel seemed to be settled, and no new diarrhea. Hopefully the worst is over!