My Horse Looks Like a Six Year Old Kid

Tuesday was Biz’s surgery day – I left work at noon and loaded him up in the horse trailer for an afternoon at the vet clinic.  My vet and the equine dental specialist were teaming up for Biz’s latest tooth extraction.  If you have been following this blog, you know that Biz had his first tooth pulled two years ago, because he suffers from a degenerative tooth disease called EOTRH.  Now, Biz is two years older, 26, and we continue to watch his teeth.  About 6 weeks ago, he developed an open sore below this latest tooth, indicating an infection, and it was now time to make a move.

Biz Before His Surgery

Biz Before His Surgery

We got there and went through the “process”, beginning with bloodwork and the beginnings of the anesthesia.  It was raining, so we took Biz inside the exam area right away, instead of giving him the first doses of drugs outside in the sunshine as we had on his previous trips.  I think being closed in the treatment area made him nervous, and he danced all around until the drugs took effect.

Biz and Me, On Our Way to the Vet Clinic

Biz and Me, On Our Way to the Vet Clinic

But soon enough, the drugs took hold, and I walked him into the stanchion for the procedure.  For you non-horsey folks, the stanchion is a holding cell for horses and cows – see photo below – this will become relevant later in the story.

A Veterinary Livestock Stanchion - This One Isn't Set Into the Floor, But You Get the Idea

A Veterinary Livestock Stanchion – This One Isn’t Set Into the Floor, But You Get the Idea

Gordon and Bob set about further numbing Biz up, with lots of tiny little novacaine injections into his gums.  Apparently, there is almost no fluid in the gums, so you can only inject a little tiny amount each time.  It looked like hard work – Gordon was squeezing the plunger on the syringe with all his strength, and he even bent a couple of needles (mom don’t read that part – it will just freak you out…).  Then finally, after many tiny injections, Biz was ready for his nerve block – the last anesthetic that would ensure he felt no pain.

Now, they were ready.  If you read the post about his previous extraction, you know it was quite traumatic, with lots of tapping on a hammer and chisel to loosen the tooth.  Well, there are some new tools on the market!  Gordon and Bob used a sharp ended tool with a small curved spoon-like end to insert underneath the gum on the side of the tooth.  The sharp tool cuts the ligaments that hold the tooth in place, and they can wiggle the tooth to loosen it enough to pull it out.  It looked like a much more pleasant experience than last time!

So after inserting the tool all around the tooth and wiggling and cutting, it was ready to come out with a pliers.  There wasn’t quite as much ooohing and aaahing over this tooth, probably because the ball of hypercementosis was not as pronounced on this tooth.  Then we had to do some new X-rays to see where any remaining pieces were so they could make sure to remove them.

That’s when trouble hit.  Biz was quietly standing in the stanchion and the vets were looking at the X-rays with their backs turned to Biz.  I was curiously watching a little mini-horse who was getting an ultrasound in the bay next door.  We think Biz, in his sleepy state, leaned forward on the stanchion just a little too much and cut off his blood flow.  I heard a noise, turned around and watched Biz drop to his knees!  Then a split second later his hindquarters dropped and now he was laying on the ground!  He had fainted dead away!

Now things are immediately dangerous.  Horses’ legs are very delicate, and those support posts on the stanchions are solid steel placed in concrete.  If he had started thrashing, he could easily have broken a leg…  The vets immediately got to work, and were joined by the vet who had been doing the ultrasound next door.  They released the side walls of the stanchion and swung them out of the way.  Two vets each grabbed a front leg and started pulling, sliding and rotating Biz away from the steel support posts.  Gordon grabbed his tail and pulled it, helping rotate him away.

The whole time, Biz lay quietly, allowing the vets to maneuver him away from the posts.  He just looked at me with his one eye, seeming to say “Mom, I don’t understand how I got down here?”  Once he was clear, he was able to quietly stand up and the panic was over.  I’m happy to say that I didn’t panic either, but I was very worried.

Since he was still pretty sedated, they didn’t put him back in the stanchion while they removed a few remaining chips of tooth, and packed and sutured the hole.    He did go back into it for some IV fluids, as he was just a touch dehydrated.  They left the front panel open though, so in case he leaned forward he wouldn’t have anything to lean on.

Biz now has one tooth left on his bottom right side and all three on the bottom left.  And a big gap just like a little kid!  And the process of watching the remaining teeth continues, because this disease will continue to march on – there is no cure…

After about two and a half hours, Biz was done and awake enough to get back in the trailer to head back to the farm.  He’s probably never been so glad to see home…

9 thoughts on “My Horse Looks Like a Six Year Old Kid

    • Thank you! Fortunately, he has always been a great healer (good skill to have when you are accident-prone like he is). As long as he continues to be healthy otherwise, there will be more extractions at some point, but so far his disease has been manageable. Have you had to extract any of your Walker’s teeth?

      • Not yet. When the pasture dies down for winter I do have to put him on an alfalfa cube mash to supplement with his hay as he balls up the hay. Hope Biz by some miracle doesn’t have to have any more extractions.

      • Hello, I chanced upon your site while researching EOTRH. Our 26 year old Arab Gelding was just diagnosed. Looking towards the suggested trip to UC Davis(Speaking of California) equine clinic and was wondering how you and your Vet decided on extracting only a few teeth? If you would be willing to pass along what you have learned during this journey we would be most grateful.

  1. Hi Phyllis,

    Biz was diagnosed about 4 years ago now, and we have had a lot of discussions about the pros and cons of the various approaches – either removing all at once or going tooth by tooth. My vet is a generalist, but has taken a special interest in equine dentistry, and we are fortunate that there is a specialist about an hour away who is more than willing to come up and consult and partner with my vet when they do an extraction. My vet has consulted with other experts around the country and sent his x-rays out for other recommendations on whether a tooth is ready to come out.

    There certainly doesn’t seem to be a general consensus on which approach is the right one. My vet says there are vets out there who he has a lot of respect for and trusts their opinions that advocate on both sides of the debate.

    I think there are a few things that leaned us towards the slower, one by one approach. First – Biz has never shown any significant outward signs of pain. His only pain indicator is some mild head tossing, which is somewhat deceiving because he has been a head tosser his whole life (I got him when he was two). He doesn’t show specific pain signals even when pressing the lips, gums or teeth themselves. He also doesn’t have any trouble with eating or food aversion. He has been holding weight well, and doesn’t show any pain when eating hay. We do supplement him with beet pulp because he has always been slender, but we started doing that before we had any signs that his teeth were affected.

    I did stop riding with a bit, going back to a bosal, but I’m still riding him regularly with no problems. That was more a precaution just in case I could potentially do damage with the bit, or cause him pain. If Biz were showing more signs of pain or having trouble eating or losing weight, I certainly think we would be pulling the remaining teeth. But so far, he has healed very well after the procedures, and the approach seems to be working well, getting rid of the problem teeth but attempt to not over-treat.

    Good luck with your boy, and I hope all goes well, whatever approach you decide. I have learned it is a manageable disease and I’m grateful for all the time I get with him. Please let me know if you have other questions, and I hope you’ll let me how it goes. Camille

  2. Pingback: The Horse Tooth Fairy, Times 3 | Wine and History Visited

  3. My 24 yr old gelding was just diagnosed with EOTRH. I happened on your posts while researching what was going to happen to my beloved barrel racing and trail horse. During this summer, it was slightly more difficult to keep weight on him. I also noticed mild head shaking, salivation, tongue thrusting, and he chewed his hay differently. Otherwise, he was happy energetic and healthy. The vet took X-rays and he needs to have his 5 lower incisors removed. He is scheduled for surgery on October 29th, and I am petrified. Does Biz let his tongue stick out? I have read that this often happens. I found your posts to be upbeat and reassuring. Thank you for sharing.

    • Hi Dallas,

      Sorry to hear about your gelding. The diagnosis is a bit shocking at first, but I think you will find that it is really more of an inconvenience than anything. Once he is healed from the surgery, I think you will find that the weight issues and head shaking will resolve. Biz has had three of his bottom incisors removed; he is missing every other one. His tongue doesn’t stick out, and he doesn’t have a different shape to his mouth either, but my vet said that was a possibility, especially when more teeth are removed.

      Once he got the diagnosis, I stopped riding with a bit and switched back to a bosal, and that is working fine. He is still just as happy and healthy as ever.

      I wish you all the best – I’m sure things will work out just fine. Stop back by sometime and let me know how things go! Camille

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