Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Little Mingo

My Little Mingo

I mentioned in last month’s newsletter that Mingo was suffering some health problems. Here is the whole story.

Mingo hadn’t seemed like himself. He had lost some weight, and there were days that he seemed so out of sorts. I also noticed that he wasn’t finishing his hay all at once. He would eat half of it and then take a nap. Later, he would finish it off. In fact, it seemed like he was sleeping all the time. Sometimes he would be laying down, and sometimes he would stand in his corner to rest.

Just about the time I was really getting uneasy about the change in his behavior, the vet came out to give him fall shots. She hadn’t seen him since the spring and was shocked at how much weight he had lost. She had me lead him around, and she watched how he moved. She took his temperature, and it was 99 degrees—slightly high. She suggested a blood work.

She was concerned about EPM, kidney disease, internal infections and tumors. She suggested Cushing’s Disease, but his coat had been growing normal, and he was a little on the young side for it. He also had four hoof abscesses back in May and June, (one in each foot) and this was possible a symptom of something.

So, then I waited and waited an incredibly long 2 days for the blood results. Thanks to the internet, I learned I didn’t want him to have EPM, and that kidney disease is often fatal. Needless to say, I was worried.

The test results showed on increased fibriginidin (sign of swelling) and low albumin (not absorbing protein.) She suggested what every non-trailer owning person fears—taking him to a clinic for further diagnostics.

Ugh. I made arrangements for the following week. That evening, the farrier came out to take care of our horses. To my horror, one of Mingo’s legs was swollen. My first suspicion was a hoof abscess. I told my farrier to look for one, but he didn’t find any sign. His pastern on that foot had been stocking up for some time, but it would go away in a few minutes with exercise. This was much worse, but he showed no signs of pain in the leg. Since he was going to the vet, I decided to wait until then.

Back to the Internet. From his blood work, it sounded like he might have an internal abscess. It made sense. He might have something that was causing abscesses all over him. I knew that the specialist planned to do an abdominal ultrasound as well and a body tap. I was sure that she would be checking for one. An internal abscess could be serious, and I was worried. It could burst any moment, and he would be dead. New worries. I was waiting for the phone call from the barn with bad news.

He still wasn’t eating enthusiastically, was more lethargic and the leg was more swollen. He wasn’t lame on it. I would lead him around, and he moved fine. A couple days before he was supposed to go, I was leading him and stooped down to look at it. He didn’t want me to touch his leg. He pulled it away violently. I did feel the heel—it was wet—and it smelled of a burst abscess! It must have been very deep for my farrier not to detect it, and for it to not make him dead lame. (This has happened before with heel abscesses—very little lameness.) That explained the swelling, too.

I brought him back to the barn and heated up some water. It was a struggle to get his soaking boot on. He flew all about stall—this wasn’t normal.

I called my vet the next morning and told her what happened. I wanted to know if the abscess was the cause of the problem or a symptom. She thought it was a symptom. It would explain the fever and the high fibriginidin, but not the weight loss and lethargy. She said to continue with my plan.

The next morning, the trailer arrived. I wanted to soak his foot that morning, but I just couldn’t get the soaking boot on. His leg really bothered him. Loading him took about 15 minutes, but he traveled well.

The vet examined him—said his leg had cellulitis and she wanted to keep him. I reluctantly said yes. She was particularly concerned that he might have Equine Motor Neuron Disease. (EMND) It happens to middle-aged horses that don’t have access to pasture. One of the factors is vitamin E deficiency, and it is treated with supplements. She noted that sleeping when he should be eating hay, lethargy and rapid weight loss along the topline (like his) are the main symptoms. She would check for other problems, too, while she had him.

I went home without him and without any answers. That evening, she called to say he was resting well. They had the leg wrapped and were giving him IV antibiotics. They had done a full rectal and a few other things, and all came in negative. They still had tests to run.

She called me the next morning to tell me all the other tests were negative, and that they did the biopsy and Vitamin E/selenium test. They would get the results on that the following week.

That evening, she called to tell me the leg swelling was already down 90 percent, and I should be able to get him on the weekend.

Back to the Internet. EMND is a serious, but very rare disease. It is the horse version of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease.) He did have most of the symptoms, and it made so much sense. I was miserable. It is sometimes fatal and often the horse doesn’t make a complete recovery.

I was able to get him on Saturday. He had been traumatized. Poor little guy was afraid to come out of the stall at the clinic. We had to tranquilize him and even then, we had to back him out of the door with much difficulty. Getting him in the trailer wasn’t much better. It was an awful experience. Those of you who are lucky enough to have your own trailers don’t realize your good fortune. Not only can you practice loading, you can take your horses to enjoyable places—instead of only to the hospital.

Once he got home, he was eager to get back to his stall. All the horses and his girlfriend, Katie the Mule, called out to him. I had my horse back, a big bill and no answers.

He was no better than before we went to the clinic—still lethargic, uninterested in his hay and very tired.

Monday night, I took the bandage off his leg as instructed. It looked good. The next morning, I had a vacation day. My most wonderful boyfriend bought me a ticket to the Bruce Springsteen concert for that day. I was going with his daughters—both Springsteen nuts, just like me. I have been a fan since Junior High School when we used to sign his albums out at the library.

It was not to be a happy day. Mingo’s leg was all swollen up, again. Ellen and I took the other horses for a ride. When I got back, I called the vet and waited for a response. I didn’t get any. I decided to lead him about, and the way he reluctantly placed him foot on the ground told me the whole story. I realized he had the abscess back in his hoof. I struggled with the soaking boot and gave it a good soak. When I was done, I led him, and he walked fine. I had gotten the abscess draining, again.

The vet did call when we were in the restaurant before the concert. She told me that the leg had been depending on the bandage, and I would have to re-bandage it and wean him off of the bandage. It wasn’t the cellulitis returning. I started to relax a bit, and I really enjoyed the concert. It was the best I had ever seen Springsteen perform.

I still had worries. I was waiting for the EMND test, and he was still out of sorts. Getting the soaking boot on and off was a trial, too. I was resigned he had the disease—until I remembered she was checking his selenium levels. Back to the Internet. It turns out the selenium deficiency can cause some of the problems that he is experiencing. Well, that would be better than EMND.

Finally, she had the results, and they were negative. I was very much in shock at the good news. We discussed how to get the weight back on him. I asked her what caused the weight loss. She told me that I’d be surprised how fast a horse can lose weight when he has an infection and chronic pain. It was the hoof abscess all along. It must have been going on for some time. They x-rayed his feet, and suggested putting on shoes with pads—, which we will do—but right now, we are working on getting him to left his foot up readily.

This went on for two and a half very long weeks. I wasn’t eating well, either, because I was so worried. I figured we had, at minimum, a chronic, if not fatal problem. Rather, we had the same old problem. I hope shoes will help with the abscessing. It sure is worth a try.

The moral of the story—don’t worry until you know what you have to worry about. It is so hard for me to not stress out over those I love—whether they have two legs for four. I will try to be more logical, next time.

Yeah right—that’s like telling me not to like Bruce Springsteen.

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