Tag Archive | colic in horses

Farewell to Another Year – See you later 2013!

And just like that, another year has flown by and it is time for another annual recap.  The top 10 for another (mostly) great year in chronological order, rather than order of importance, are:

1. Jon and I took our first trip to Walla Walla wine country, after Jon ran his 3rd half marathon in Richland, WA.  He placed 3rd in his age division and 11th overall!  We had some great food, great wine, and visited the Whitman Mission National Historic Site.

2.  My dear sweet bitchy kitty Martini went home to the angels after losing her battle with lymphoma on March 1.  I’ll never know how old she was, but I will always remember the nine years I got to spend with her.  And unless you are Oliver, to know her was to love her…

3.  Jon and I took a fantastic road trip to California, down the coast through the Redwoods, the Anderson Valley wine country, San Francisco, Monterey and finally Sacramento.  We saw huge trees, big elk, lighthouses, one of the world’s most awesome paintings, and we ate great food, tasted great wine, and saw great views.  And I puked.  Several times.  Ten days and almost 2,500 miles later, we came home exhausted and thoroughly spent, but happy and with memories to last a lifetime.

4.  On April 20, this sucker for a cute baby brought home sweet Coraline, a six month old kitten who was brought to my vet’s office after being dumped on a farm.  She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, but she does love her kibble.

5.  I got to indulge my inner nerd in June with a trip to Antiques Roadshow in Boise!  We didn’t make it on the show, but if you are interested in watching other people from the Northwest, the 3 hours are airing on January 6, January 13, and January 20 (who knows, maybe the back of my head will be on!).  Although we can’t fund our retirement by selling our treasures, we had a blast, and had a great time seeing the Old Idaho Penitentiary and the World Center for Birds of Prey.

6.  I completed my fourth (on September 1 in wine country!) and fifth (on October 5 at home for a great cause!) half marathons.  Next year, I will have several friends testing their resolve with me!

7.  Jon and I enjoyed a weekend trip to Olympic National Park, where we hiked in the Hoh Rain Forest and listened to the crashing waves of Rialto Beach.  Although Hurricane Ridge gave us the finger with a huge downpour, we’ll be back to see those views.

8.  I had a scare with my horse Biz, who had a scary bout with colic after his most recent dental x-rays.  At 26 years old, I am aware that my remaining time with him… well… you know…

9.  Jon and I welcomed our newest nephew on November 13 (that makes two nieces and two nephews now!).  He is sweet and perfect and cuddly.  His parents love him dearly (at least until he starts talking back).

10.  Jon finished his first full marathon on December 8, in Sacramento, California.  I got a trip to California out of the deal (no more trips to California Jon!), where I got to visit the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, the Governor’s Mansion, and the John Muir National Historic Site.  Posts on the trip coming soon, I swear!

This annual recap reminds me of how truly blessed we are to live the life we do.  We are surrounded by awesome friends and family, loving animals, and we are lucky to have the freedom to enjoy our travels to wonderful places.  Although there are always the highs and lows, I am thankful that there are many more highs…  I hope you have all been blessed by 2013, and that all your dreams come true in 2014.  So bye, bye 2013 – you have been good to me!

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Old Horses Get Gas…

Yesterday, Biz had some new X-rays on his teeth to determine whether there has been more progression in the deterioration of his teeth.  If you have followed this blog, you know that Biz has EOTRH, which causes the roots of the teeth to break down and become spongy, eventually undermining the stability of the tooth.  Biz had a second tooth pulled back in May, and since then we have been watching a third.  With the fall change in weather, he started dropping a bit of weight, something he has been known to do even before his teeth went bad, but lately he has also been showing more signs of pain in his gums.

So the X-rays went well, and I’m waiting for final word, but the preliminary assessment was to continue watching and waiting, as it didn’t appear there has been a lot of further deterioration in this tooth.  A couple of others we were watching actually seem a bit more stable, as they are forming more cementum.  Basically those tooth are building up extra calcium around the tooth to shore it up – it shows up as a ball type formation around the root of the tooth.  My vet is going to compare his current X-rays with his May X-rays on a high resolution monitor to make sure he wants to stick with the watch and wait theory, but for now…

So today I got a call at work from the friend who owns the stable where Biz lives.  He’s not eating much, pooping even less, and although he doesn’t seem acutely distressed, he just looks “off.”  Those of you who have animals understand what I mean by off.  There’s nothing specific, but you know something isn’t right.  And when your baby is 26 years old, you can’t ignore “off.”  Biz had laid down a couple of times, and gotten back up, and overnight had been down and up several times.  He still had enough pep to run away when I went to catch him (some things will never change), and while a small apple was enough to lure him in, he didn’t want to eat it.  Biz loves apples, so him turning his nose up at one is big news…

The vet arrived, and after the exam, diagnosed a case of gas colic.  A horse’s digestive system is very sensitive, and since they are designed to graze all day, the stomach isn’t intended to hold much food.  It is supposed to move into the small intestine (over 75 feet long in a horse!) relatively quickly to begin digestion.  If the food doesn’t move quickly enough into the intestines, it will start to ferment in the stomach, causing gas.  Almost all horses can’t burp or vomit (although I did have a mare who could burp the most fouling smelling burps, always in your face, but that’s a story for another time), so gas causes extreme discomfort.

Fortunately, we caught his colic early, because it can be fatal for horses if left untreated.  Eventually the discomfort will cause the horse to want to get down on the ground and roll to relieve the pain, but doing that can cause the intestine to twist and cut off the blood supply.  The only treatment at that point is surgical intervention, which is complicated and dangerous.  Biz’s colic was likely caused by the fact that he was sedated yesterday for the X-rays, slowing down the body’s processes, including digestion.  That slow down was enough to cause the colic.

The treatment was a painkiller and a large volume of electrolytes and mineral oil via a nasogastric tube.  That’s right, the vet had to get a tube up his nose and down into his stomach.  Preferably this would be done without sedation, because further sedation could just compound the problem, so we tried it that way.  Biz showed me that he would be perfectly at home among the Lipizzaner Stallions at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.  Each time we tried to get the tube in, he would rear and jump forward, trying to leave us both in the dust.  My somewhere more than 100 pound body was no match for his 980 pounds of muscle, even if he wasn’t feeling well…

REAR!  LEAP FORWARD!  Drag Camille and the vet along with him!  That was the routine.  Quite impressive really, considering he hasn’t been trained in these maneuvers – if you want to check out his airs above the ground, they looked something like these.  After about a dozen attempts to intubate him, a minor rope burn on my finger, and coming close to a shoulder dislocation (my shoulder, not his), I could barely conceal my relief when the vet concluded that we needed to try Plan B.

Plan B was a mild, short-acting sedative for Biz – sadly I wasn’t offered any – by that time I needed some!  It worked like a charm, the tube went in, followed by about a gallon of electrolyte solution and a Costco size bottle of mineral oil.  Apparently mineral oil prevents gas from forming – I never knew this, but it is certainly information that could come in handy!

Biz got some immediate relief, and I spent the next couple of hours watching him walk around, first in the arena, and then later, in his small outdoor field.  He was interested in nibbling a little grass, and was clearly more comfortable.  Crisis averted.

Sadly, with an old horse, you never know when the next call will come…

Biz and Me, Back in May

Biz and Me, Back in May

Biz is Back in the News

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!