When something bad happens to one of my animals, I feel compelled to share it. Possibly you have the same animal? Possibly this information could be useful to someone? Possibly I just need to purge it from my life, and this makes that happen?
I find it really hard to write about things as they happen. I think it is important to - First, get a handle on the situation. Second, the animal has to be okay. Third, I need time to recover. I told you I would fill you in, and I have gone through the above needed stages of recovery, so here you go.
This is going to be a bare bones, not a lot of fluff, gross things will be covered, sort of story. If you eat at your computer, don't read this. If you don't understand part of this story, feel free to ask your questions in the comment section. Then make sure to check back for answers.
1. paroxysmal pain in the abdomen or bowels.
2. pertaining to or affecting the colon or the bowels.
Now that I have convinced you to put your afternoon snack or dinner plate down, I will explain. Some of us are only familiar with the term Colic as it pertains to babies. The unsettled, incessant crying of a colicky baby is something that is hard to forget. If you are familiar with horses, you know that they too can succumb to the pains of Colic. It is quited dangerous for the large animal and can result in death. The major fact to realize is that a horse's digestive system is a one way track. They can not throw up. What goes in one end, must come out the other.
A horse can colic for many reasons. Colic can range from a mild episode of upset digestion to an all out emergency resulting in an impaction or a twisted bowel. In the event of the latter, you are faced with the decision to perform colic surgery or put the animal down. For those that are curious, colic surgery runs from $5000 - $7500. As with any major surgery, there is always the risk of complications.
A little background on our history with Colic.
Our old Stallion, very prone to colic. He was a tough guy, but he had a very sensitive digestive system. A bout of colic could start with a sudden change in the weather. Usually a hot, humid, still day would send him over the edge. Maybe sudden cold would be the culprit? Over time, we began to notice the potential triggers, and we were able to head things off a little better. Hot, humid day - I would hose him down three or four times. Cold day - I would drag him out of his stall and walk him a couple of times a day. I also started feeding him three times a day, instead of twice a day. This gave him smaller meals to digest. Not to mention, becoming very picky about the quality of hay he consumed. He was sort of a pig and would eat anything and everything.
Our old mare, not a lot of episodes for her. She experienced a couple of rounds of colic around vaccination time. It took a bit of time and effort, but we realized she was having a reaction to the rabies vaccine. Once we determined the trigger, she no longer recieved that particular vaccine. All other times seemed to be more mild. I could usually spot it as it started and head it off with her. It may be as simple as a walk and tie her to the trailer. This usually stimulated her bowels to get moving.
The other two in the barn have greatly benefited from the education we received from the first two. They eat three smaller meals a day. They never get all their vaccines at one time. They get hosed down on hot days and walked on cold days. That doesn't make them 100% protected, but it helps.
Deuce had a mild case of colic when he was only months old. He got a little too hot. The vet was called out and he was tubed with a little mineral oil and was good to go.
His sister has had a few bouts with colic. Once I recall when she was a year or two old because we had started giving her alfalfa cubes. She really liked those and had too many. She had a case of colic once when the Man in Charge was out of town. The girls and I had to load her up and haul her to the nearest vet. This was probably only the second time I had ever hooked up the trailer and hauled a horse.
More than a little never wracking.
It was also the first time this horse had ever left the farm alone. The vet was rude and hit her with a broom because she was freaked out. If I hadn't needed him at that moment, I would have taken the broom and beat the crap out of him. He did tube her and give her mineral oil. Once we were outside trying to load her, he locked the doors and left. We were out there for a good hour trying to get a tranquilized horse loaded in a trailer in the dark. There were so many shadows, she was scared to death. If I ever see him (the vet) again, I hope he has a broom in his hands.
Colic is serious. It is not fun. It is better avoided.
We have had mild cases that we caught early and managed quickly. We have had more severe cases that required vet care and a lot of sleepless hours. Not to mention that you are usually out in the worst weather - hot and humid or freezing your butt off.
So, last Monday, I walked out to the barn at about 4:30 in the afternoon to throw some hay. I tossed out a few flakes and quickly noticed that my mare was not interested at all.
I went inside her stall and I could tell that she had been walking a lot. I could also tell that she had laid down. This is not unusual for her, but a piece of the puzzle. I walked out into her run and spotted a fresh poop.
fresh poop is good.
I pulled her out and hosed her down due to the heat that day. It wasn't crazy hot, but it was a little humid and still. Then I took her in her stall and checked her gums. They were nice and pink and looking healthy.
gray/blueish color - bad.
I then pulled out a stethoscope and listened to her abdomen on both sides. There were plenty of gurgling and rumbling sounds.
loud gut sound - good.
Scratching my head a little, I pulled out a digital thermometer and started searching for the Vaseline.
can I say?
not being able to find something at a time like this - super irritating.
Finally finding the Vaseline, I lubed the thermometer, clicked the button until it beeped, raised her tail and inserted it. Having to stand close enough that you can hear it beeping as it reads the temperature is a little akward, but necessary. Once I hear rapid beeping, I pull out the thermometer and find that her temperature is in the normal range.
normal is good.
The Man in Charge came home and I filled him in. Based on the information we had, he wasn't very worried. All the above signs were good. My gut was just telling me something else. I ran to the feed store and grabbed some bags of shavings. Once I got back, I pulled her out of her stall and tied her to the trailer. I was hoping this would stimulate her a little. It always worked with the older two horses, but they were athletes. Competitors. They thought if you were tied to the trailer, you were about to get saddled and the work would begin. This usually stimulated a poop response.
Sort of - "Oh crap! We're about to get down to business."
No such luck with my little one. I then began the process of stripping her stall. This is when I noticed fresh poop #2.
I gave her fresh bedding, and then proceeded to walk her around the back yard. The Man in Charge came out, I gave him an update, and again, he wasn't too worried. We walked for a good 20 minutes or so, but one thing kept giving me pause. There are certain things in the yard that would normally have peaked her interest or caused her concern. Today they were not even phasing her. After noticing that little fact, I decided to push the envelope. I made a point to walk by one of the dog's balls in the yard and I started playing soccer with it as we walked. This would bother her normally, but I wasn't even getting a rise out of her. I finally took her back to the trailer and tied her to stand there for a bit. I sat down on the back porch to watch her from a distance. I picked up the phone to call a friend, and within five minutes of the conversation, poop #3. I am guessing it was about 8:00 pm at this time.
I finished my conversation, went to the trailer and untied her. I pulled her inside her stall and grabbed a chair. I positioned myself and a floor fan in the opening. The Man in Charge came out and listened to her gut again. She still had good sound, but I was noticing that she would lift her tail slightly, and pin her ears back.
Whatever it was, it was uncomfortable. I ran to the house and grabbed a shot of Banamine (pain medicine). A standard dose for her would be 10cc, but due to the fact that we had good vitals, good gut sounds, and three poops - I only gave her half a dose. Just a little something to take the edge off of her belly ache. This seemed to work relatively quickly.
My Full-Timer came home from class at about 9:45 pm. She came out to the barn and filled me in on her day. I filled her in on mine, and we just chit-chatted for a while. The Man in Charge came back out and I updated him on our progress. We both agreed that if we could get one more poop out of her, we would probably be in the clear. He suggested that I walk her around the yard a bit more and see what happened. He headed inside, and my Full-timer did the same to grab a bite to eat.
I walked that horse around the yard for maybe 15 minutes, at which point she took a nose dive. Once she hit the ground, I got her right back up. We walked some more. My Full-timer came back out, and Blaze took another dive in the yard. This time she started rolling. All the way to one side, then back over to the other. I was able to get her stopped and up on her feet. I had my Full-timer run in to get the Man in Charge.
rolling is bad.
this is how things get twisted.
twisted gut - very bad.
I managed to get her back into her stall before the whole crew showed back up. We discussed what happened, and what we thought we should do. The Man in Charge suggested a little old school method. Hooking up the trailer and taking her for a ride to stimulate her. It sounds crazy, but it has worked for us in the past, and is a lot cheaper than calling the vet. It also doesn't hurt to give it a try.
He managed to hook up the trailer and pull it out. At the same time, I was in the stall with Blaze and I had her loosely tied. She was acting like she wanted to lay down, but I was able to keep her on her feet. At the same moment that I heard the trailer moving, she took the biggest poop I have ever seen - poop #4.
Then all hell broke lose.
Literally, her knees started buckling, she went down and she immediately started thrashing around. For those of you who don't know, this is dangerous. Dangerous to her and to anyone near her. I yelled for the Man in Charge, and when he got in there he told me to call the vet. The only horses he had ever seen like that had died, so the emphasis was on hurry!
I ran to the house, made the call and waited for the vet to call back. I then grabbed a syringe and loaded up another shot of Banamine (pain killer), but a full 10cc dose this time. I could hear a lot of commotion outside, and my first thought was that the Man in Charge was trying to load her in the trailer anyway.
For the record, this would have upset me.
For the record, upset means make me madder than hell.
When I opened the door, I could see him standing outside of her stall, outside of the barn, but trying to hold the lead rope over the door. He yelled at me to hurry. As I made my way across the yard, the vet called. I filled him in quickly, and explained that I had already given her 5cc of Banamine, could I give her an additional 10cc? He told me to give the shot and he was on his way.
I am pretty sure he was calling from a deep sleep in bed.
11:00 pm at this time.
When I came around inside the barn, I could see scrape marks all over the stall walls from where she had been down and thrashing, kicking anything and everything. The Man in Charge was leaning over the door, but he had her up, and her head was against the door.
"If you're giving that shot, you better do it now before she goes down again!"
Talk about a little pressure. I jumped in, and Thank the Lord, hit the vein on the first stab. The Banamine hit her pretty quick. The Man in Charge came inside, and the wait began. The longest hour of our entire lives. It started out okay, but the Banamine was not strong enough to last. It took both of us to keep her on her feet and we were constantly asking the Full-Timer how long it had been. Literally, the minute before the vet pulled in the drive, I was trying to call him to see if I could give her more.
I met our vet at the truck and filled him in. He grabbed some necessities off the truck and rushed inside with me. Very calmly he started his examination. He checked all her vitals. He checked her gums. He listened for gut sounds. He took her temperature. He then stepped out to grab a tranquilizer to send her to "her happy place."
It didn't take long and her head was hanging a few inches off the ground. We were then tasked with the job of turning an 1100 lb. drunk around. Once we had her in position, our vet slipped on the dreaded rubber glove. This glove goes all the way to the arm pit. He lubed it up with some jelly and lifted her tail.
The Full-timer made a prompt exit of the building.
Girl was out of there.
He did his examination or palpated her. He explained what he was feeling, and the areas that seemed to be tender to her. He wasn't feeling anything twisted or horrible, but he prefaced this with the fact that his arm could only reach the back third of her intestines.
We then were tasked with the job of turning our drunk patient back around. At this time he pinched her nose with a twitch, and then proceeded to run a tube up her nostril, down her throat, and into her belly. After finally reaching the belly, he was pleased that it was not full of fluid, I didn't even ask why this was important. Then he pumped her full of mineral oil and some electrolytes.
As if all of this wasn't interesting and exciting enough, now is when the real fun began. Upon completely his examination, the vet explained that he was encouraged by her vitals and color. Usually, in worst case scenarios, these things would be elevated. He explained that the tranquilizer she had been given would last about another thirty minutes. Once that wore off, our instructions were as follows:
Let her rest and stay quiet.
If she becomes agitated or starts trying to lay down, take her out and walk her for thirty minutes.
After thirty minutes of walking, is she was still unsettled, give her another tranquilizer shot.
Then wait and repeat.
As long as she is quiet - she is okay.
If we reach the third shot - not good.
If we reached the third shot, we would then be faced with the decision of hospitalization and surgery or putting her down. The cold, hard, ugly of it - we both agreed that surgery was not in the cards for her. She has had a hard couple of years, and if we reached that point, we would just put her down and end her troubles.
The thought of calling in the back-hoe - chilling.
The vet left. Now we were well into 1:00 in the morning, and everyone was tired. The Man in Charge had an early day ahead, and my Full-timer had work. I told them both to go inside. I felt like I could handle it. Whatever it was, I knew it was on me. The Man in Charge felt much better after the vet left, and bet me Blaze would come out of the tranquilizer relaxed and on the other side of things.
The standing bet between us - $0.25!
I just told him that I hoped he was right, and went to the house to grab a cup of coffee and a couple of lawn chairs. I came back, turned off all the lights in the barn, except for one, and set up camp just outside the door. It was quiet. Nothing but time to think. It is crazy where your brain goes at times like these. You start off positive.
It's going to be okay.
She'll pull through this.
Then, it can get really dark and negative.
I'm going to have to call the back-hoe.
I hate planting horses - not a good crop.
Then, it just gets weird.
This will cut down on our vet bills.
I won't need anymore hay for the winter.
Sad. Sad. Sad.
At 2:00 am, she came out of the tranquilizer. At first she was calm. Then she started pacing a little. Then she laid down. The vet said laying down very still was okay. Thrashing or rolling was not okay. She got right up. She paced a little more. She laid down, then shot right up. She then laid right back down on the other side and shot right back up. I grabbed the halter.
We started walking circles around the back yard. The first fifteen minutes were uneventful. Then she started cramping because she would stop walking and pin her ears back. I would stop and wait, once they passed, we moved on. This lasted about ten more minutes and then she took another nose dive. This time, she hit the ground hard. She tried to roll, but I refused to let her. Once I had her back on her feet, we made a bee-line for the barn. I got her in her stall and gave her the tranquilizer shot. Then I waited.
It did not work.
She was getting no relief from the medication. She kept trying to lay down. I wouldn't let her. This is no easy task. There was pleading. Yelling. Crying. It went on for about twenty minutes. Twenty minutes of panic for myself. This was not part of the plan. We did not cover this scenario. What was I supposed to do? How long do I have to wait to give the next shot? Can I give it this soon? That last shot would be the beginning of the end. I did not want to go there. We could not go there.
We wrestled around for about twenty minutes and she finally went down in her stall. She laid out flat, and when she jerked her head up, she whacked the bottom of her water bucket. Well, this caused her water to splash out and drench her head. She immediately shot up, with a look on her face that said,
"What the hell did you do that for?"
This worked in my favor for a few more minutes because she stayed on her feet. Then she hit the floor and started thrashing. She flipped over and got herself stuck right up against the wall. At this point, I was useless. Having to bail out of the stall for my own safety, the only thing I could do was grab a whip and try to motivate her to get herself out of the mess she was in. It was scary. Neither one of us liked it, but it worked. Once she got to her feet, I jumped in and put the halter on her. At this point, she broke out in a solid sweat. I drug her outside and started hosing her down.
She seemed to like this and calmed down a little. Then we started walking. I had no other choice. If I gave her the next shot, it would be admitting defeat, and we would be making hard decisions. If I could keep her up and keep her walking, maybe we could get through this. It was 3:00 am.
During something like this, time plays tricks on you. It felt like we had walked miles and for hours...only fifteen minutes.
We kept at it. I walked. She walked. I drug her at times. She still walked. The neighbor horse would give out a yell. She yelled back. Deuce would throw his two cents in from inside the barn. This went on and on. I am still shocked that no one inside my home could hear this. Finally, at 3:30 in the morning, I put her back in her stall. She seemed worn out. I turned off the lights and took up my post outside the barn. All was quiet. This was good. She stayed calm. Only making a lap around her stall every now and then.
The only distraction, a crazy hoot owl. It was dark and impossible to see where he was exactly. I do know that he changed positions a few times. He remained persistent with the hooting. I thought it was odd, considering one would think he should be hunting. Hooting and hunting don't seem like they go together to me, but he kept at it. At first it was cute. Then, super annoying.
By 4:00 am, I was getting a little punchy. The owl was starting to get funny. I had already blown through my five lives on Candy Crush, or Candy Crack as I like to call it.
If you don't know what Candy Crush is - do not look it up!
It is the most addictive game on the planet and of course, I have it on my phone. I also vaguely recall posting something on my blog. Then the strangest thing happened. I got cold. I have been complaining about the heat. I am sick of it. I have never been so ready for winter. The sensation was very odd and I tried to ignore it for a bit. I finally had to make a trip to the house for a jacket. I snuck in, and everyone was out. I grabbed a hoody and another cup of coffee.
how many cups of coffee can one drink in a night?
I went back outside. Blaze was still quiet. The owl was still hooting. I settled in. I drank my coffee. Waited thirty minutes for my new life on Candy Crush. Played that to the death a little too quickly and then moved on to the game Collapse. Who knew, but the dew sets sometime between 4:00 and 5:00 am. If you are sitting outside when that happens, watch out! I went from cold to chilled to the bone. I was literally shivering. I had my hoody pulled down, my hands shoved in my pockets, and I was freezing.
At about 5:15, I snuck inside. Flower was sleeping in my recliner, and she was laying on a blanket. I rudely shoved her out of my chair and grabbed that blanket. As I was wrapping up in it, I was thanking her for getting it warm. She was not saying, "Your welcome." She was giving me a dirty look as she went around the corner to get in her bed. It was sort of rude of me. I know she was waiting for me to come inside to go to bed. That is just the kind of dog she is, but, damn it. I was cold. I allowed myself about fifteen minutes to sit wrapped in that blanket, then I headed back out.
All was quiet. Even the stupid owl at this point. I stayed at my post until 6:15. I felt pretty good that we were heading in the right direction. I had not seen any poop out of my girl, but she was resting quietly. I headed inside, and fell in my chair. I crashed pretty quick because when the Man in Charge woke me at 6:45, it seemed like I had just sat down. He wanted to know how things went. I told him he owed me a quarter. Then I filled him in.
The next day was long. I had to keep an eye on her. At this point, we were waiting for poop with Mineral oil. It was the last thing that went in, and if you see it making it's way out, you know you're wide open. She was more than a little upset that she was not getting fed. I didn't take this personally, but took it as a good sign. Finally, about noon, I gave her a handful of hay. Literally, a hand full. I went inside and crashed for two hours. I was so tired, when I woke up, I did not know what day it was. I did not know where I was. What I was supposed to be doing. I was in a fog. When I finally shook it off, I jumped up and ran to the barn. Where I promptly started celebrating the poop in the corner.
Glamorous, I know.
This started the process. A little hay, a little poop. It proceeded for the next 24 hours. It was crazy. It was not typical. It was scary, and I don't ever want to do that again.