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Oliver Rests

Oliver had a hard weekend.  His tumor has grown more, and his breathing seems a little impacted, so I bundled him over to the vet on Saturday morning to check on his tumor’s progression.  The vet heard his breath changes too, and we put him on a steroid to help relieve the inflammation.  The first dose was Saturday evening.

Sunday morning Oliver wasn’t feeling well, and I found him hiding under the bed.  His tumor was more swollen, and felt warm to the touch, and he wasn’t very interested in his breakfast.  I canceled my plans for the day, and we snuggled in to watch a movie in the morning, while he settled down some.  I ended up getting the deck ready to be cleaned and then scrubbing about half of it.  That is a lot of work!

He was perkier in the evening and ready for dinner before snuggling in for the night.  Overnight he did more roaming too, restless before coming back to bed to snuggle more.  I didn’t give him the steroid again, just in case his discomfort was a result of the medication.  This morning he was ready for breakfast, but then went to curl up somewhere out of the way afterwards.

Oliver getting a well deserved nap

I talked to the vet today and he says it is more likely that he is fighting an infection in the tumor tissue than swelling caused by the prednisone.  So, back on the med, and watch and wait for a couple days to see if the swelling goes down.  We’ll see how he does.

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Oscar’s Puff

I was going through photos last night and came across this one that I took last summer.  Oscar, a couple of months before he died.  He loved to sleep in this puff, and in the last months of his life he would sleep next to me while I worked on the computer.  Don’t touch those toe beans though!

Oscar, July 2017

I miss this guy.  He wasn’t ever a cuddler, but he certainly showed his affection in his own way.

 

My 30 Year Old Miracle

So this post is a little different than my typical posts on wine and travel. I’ll warn you now – this post is full of gore and tragedy, so if you have a weak stomach, you might not want to keep reading.  Trust me though – it ends well!

Today is April Fool’s Day, which ever since 1992 has been a different type of anniversary for me. On April 1, 1992, my beloved 4 year old quarter horse gelding Biz, tried to run through or jump the electric wire fence in his field – I will never really know what happened. Upon finding him standing in shock in a pool of blood, I stumbled back to the barn to get help. Friends later told me they thought I was playing a practical joke, until they saw that all the blood had drained out of my face. The vet was called, and he received a police escort to the farm when a Sheriff’s Deputy friend heard the call come out over the radio. Friends at the stable tried to stop the bleeding, and one friend held Biz’s head up and out of the way for 6 hours while the vets stitched and stitched to try to close the wounds (a second vet had arrived about an hour later when he finished up another call). Meanwhile, I was also dealing with a sudden onset migraine headache (Dad, I’m still sorry I threw up in your 1968 Cougar). When the vets finally finished up that first night, after 10 pm, Biz had over 1000 stitches in his front legs, and fractures in his knees, over his eye, and across the bridge of his nose. They estimate he had lost about 4 gallons of blood.

Biz was so badly injured that our veterinarian did not think he would live. At the time, the prognosis was that he had a 5 – 10% chance of surviving the accident, and if he did, he only had a 5 – 10% chance of being anything more than a big, expensive, lawn ornament. The only thing going for him was that although he had cut himself so badly he had exposed bone, nerves and did extreme damage to the muscle, he narrowly avoided cutting any of his tendons. For a horse, severing a tendon would have been a death sentence, because it would mean he would lose the use of the leg.

So, being the stubborn, foolish teenager that I was, I decided to give him a chance. For the next 5 months, extensive wound care, hand walking, and trying to keep him from re-injuring himself became my before and after school job. As the damaged tissue died, he smelled like death. As the skin around the wound died, the stitches pulled out, leaving holes in his legs that were 5 inches deep. For the first several days, he couldn’t move his legs forward very well, so he shuffled from side to side. The fracture over his eye caused blood to pool in the white of his eye, and looking at him broke my heart. The risk of infection was ever present, especially since the wounds were so large. I breathed a huge sigh of relief each day that infection didn’t set in. Sometimes, when cleaning the wound, I accidentally touched the exposed nerve bundle, causing him excruciating pain. When he got bored, confined to his stall for days, he tried to knock me over with his head while I knelt next to him.

Amazingly, he never fought against his treatment. He took it all in stride. He was as content as ever, with a hearty appetite and a devious twinkle in his eye. When I took him out for a walk, he wanted so much to run and play. He didn’t act like he was as badly injured as he was. It was a struggle to keep him from tearing the lead rope out of my hands, which would have meant a serious risk of re-injury. Fortunately, he managed to avoid hurting himself again. When spring gave way to summer, the risk of infection came again, in the form of flies who wanted to constantly land on his wounds. Fortunately, Biz dodged that bullet too. Every day, the wounds closed a little bit. Every day, a little more fresh, pink skin closed in around those gaping holes in his legs.

It took more than 5 months for the wounds to finally close. Biz defied the odds, and he can do most things other horses can do, although he isn’t the most coordinated guy. But then again, he never was. The vet recommended I start riding again at a walk, a month after the accident, because he had so much energy it was getting tough to control him from the ground. We slowly worked back up to normal capacity. If you didn’t know Biz before the accident, you might not notice the hitch he has in his stride, because those front legs just don’t move quite right now. He has extensive scarring across his front legs, where no hair grows. If you look carefully, his chest is still marked with 5 thin, hairless scars, one for each of the 5 strands of that electric wire fence. The bridge of his nose has a bump, and his back legs are dotted with scars too.

I would like to say Biz grew smarter and more cautious after that, but he didn’t, and he has continued to have a talent for rare and creative injuries and illnesses. I’ve come to accept that it’s part of what makes Biz, Biz. He is 30 now, certainly slowing down. For the most part, his flesh tearing injuries have given way to fungal skin infections and the degenerative processes of age. He only has 3 of his original 12 front teeth. Arthritis makes it difficult for him to get up after he lays down to roll – but once he’s up, he still sometimes runs and plays like a young man.

At the time, it seemed unreal to believe that there was any way Biz could have made it through. But now, I still think about that day, 26 years ago.  All my friend’s horses that were his age have long passed over the rainbow bridge – who would have ever thought he would still be here…

Oliver’s Boxes

Oliver’s health seems to still be holding it’s own, even though his tumor is growing.  It is currently about the size of a lime, nestled in between and under his right shoulder blade.  It is just this hard lump, visible under the skin – you can absolutely feel it.  So far, it doesn’t seem to be painful to him, so that is a positive.

His appetite is good, and he still enjoys snuggling with me every chance he gets.  He likes to be warm under the covers.

Oliver loves boxes, even if he can’t fit…

I continue to just try to be grateful for the time I have with him, not knowing how much longer that will be.  No matter what, it will never be enough.

 

 

A Canine Switch

So Biz and I headed back up to the clinic on Monday to see about having two of his canine teeth removed, as they seemed to be causing him a lot of pain. After further consulting, we decided to try continuing the daily painkiller for awhile and then extract later if it is still needed.

If you are newer to this blog, you may not know that Biz has EOTRH, more officially known as equine odontoclastic tooth resorption and hypercementosis disease.  In very simplistic terms, it is kind of like osteoporosis of the teeth. The tooth root begins to break down and get spongy (the tooth resorption), and then the body tries to strengthen the weakening root by creating a ball of “cement” (the hypercementosis) around the damaged root.  The ball of cement presses on the gums, causing pain.  Not to mention the teeth become loose, and can eventually just break off either at or below the gumline.  More pain.  Interestingly, people and cats get their own version of this disease.  Something to look forward to!

Although it isn’t a new disease, it has become much more recently studied in horses, because, in the past horses didn’t live long enough for it to matter.  They died of something far more usual (colic, laminitis, etc.) long before some vet ever started poking around much in their mouths…  Horses are living longer, more leisurely lives, just like people, and now the diseases of old horses are becoming more common.

Biz is 30; considered an old horse.  Domestic horses, like people, have a wide variation in longevity, and most statistics point to an average lifespan of 25-30 years.  He has had 9 of his 12 incisors pulled already, and his canine teeth are now affected.  One canine had already broken off at the gumline sometime in the last year and healed over on its own.  That left three canines…  Two of these canines were the ones that we were eyeing for potential extraction today.

After we decided to go with the more conservative daily painkiller approach, the vets then went to do a routine float on his molars and cheek teeth, and get rid of a sharp edge on the one canine that seemed to not be a problem.  “Floating” a horse’s teeth is the process of filing down the sharp edges to keep them from pinching or poking the horse’s cheeks and gums.  The process of chewing hay and grass just naturally creates these sharp edges over time, as the teeth wear unevenly.  This too, can cause pain.  Most of the time anymore, floating is done with a power tool in the horse’s mouth. Biz LOVES this, I can assure you!  (that was pure sarcasm, in case it wasn’t obvious…)

Well, filing down that sharp edge on that one canine tooth (the one that had seemed to be the most stable), caused it to break off from the vibration of the floating tool.  It was immediately apparent that it was just suddenly very loose, and ended up having to be removed. A quick pull with a pliers and the entire crown of the tooth came out.  The root was left in, in the hopes that the gum will just heal over it.  This same thing actually happened with his other upper canine, and Biz is a great healer, so fingers crossed.

We are hoping that perhaps that upper canine, or the sharp edges on his molars and cheek teeth, might have been causing at least some of the pain that has made him so reactive lately.  And that solving those problems will make the daily painkiller work well for him, or even be unnecessary.  Sadly, Biz never did learn his words, and doesn’t even have fingers to point to a particular spot and say, “that’s where it hurts.”  He’s a prey animal, and prey animals instinctually hide pain…  And even worse, he HATES having his mouth messed with on his best day, so he’s always more inclined to act like it hurts EVERYWHERE!  Hopefully, we will know more over the next couple weeks, as he heals from today.

 

Biz, looking regal before the sedative…

 

So, in true Biz fashion, he lost the canine they didn’t plan to extract today, and kept the other two. He can’t ever just do the expected…  Touche’ Biz… You never can seem to stick to a plan…

How to Pull a Canine…

Biz’s canine tooth extraction surgery is coming up.  We postponed it a couple weeks ago after finding out the issue was not with his incisors, in order to give the vet some time to consult with specialists.  Said consulting has been done.  Monday morning, we are traveling back to the clinic to give it a go.  They will start with his lower right canine.  And ugh, it sounds awful…

When the vet called Friday to explain what he had found out about the procedure and how to best do it, “bone grinding tool, levering against jawbone, and risk if ligament has calcified” were phrases used…  Yuck.  I asked all my questions and he offered the option of having the extractions done by the dental specialist, but that involves either waiting longer until she will be in the area, or traveling two hours south.  Trailering Biz two hours south into the big city and its horrendous traffic doesn’t sound like a good time for a 30 year old man…  So we are going to give it a go at home.

Basically, they will cut off the crown of the tooth (the part above the gumline), then grind away a portion of the jawbone to expose the root to make it easier to access and extract.  This, although it sounds terrible, is the better way to go because it reduces the pressure on the jawbone that occurs when they have to lever against it trying to loosen the tooth.  Hopefully, the ligament that is holding the tooth below is still relatively healthy, and has not calcified, because that bony calcification makes it harder to remove the root.

If, and this is a big if, he is tolerant and the extraction of the right lower canine goes well, then they will try to also pull the left lower canine.  If it’s too difficult, or takes too long, and they are concerned about his reaction or how long he is sedated, then it will be left for another day.

I’m cringing as I write this.  It sounds painful.  Biz on his best day doesn’t like people messing with his face and mouth.  A power tool grinding his jaw bone is going to be interesting. Not sure there are enough drugs in the world for him to tolerate that easily.  But leaving him in pain isn’t an option.  So all I can do is pray that it all goes well, and be there in whatever clothes I don’t care about getting blood on, pulling his ear to distract him, talking to him, and holding him up when he’s sedated.  It’s just what we do.

Getting down on his level – waking up from the sedative a few weeks ago…

 

I am going to need more than one glass of wine when I get home Monday.  For sure.