Friday, May 27, 2016

When Do You Call the Vet?

I'm really curious to get the range of answers on this one, cause I constantly second-guess myself on this.

I sadly don't have the budget to exhaust every possible avenue when something is potentially wrong with Tucker.  I think most of us horse-owners are in the same boat.  Tucker has been slightly off up front, here and there, at random times over the past - I'd say - month or so.  I'm wondering if my game plan falls in line with most other people's, or if I'm more or less conservative in my approach than others are.

First, we did chiro and acupuncture.  His wither was all jammed up, we fixed it and I noticed a major difference in how he was traveling.  All of a sudden he was moving more freely and going forward and I didn't feel like I was trying to steer a lopsided surfboard around turns.

Then we had a lesson where Amy and I didn't love how he was going, so we flexed and jogged him on hard ground and noticed he was a little positive after fetlock flexion in both sides, and a little positive in the right hock.  Right hock is usually a little positive with flexion, fetlocks were new for him (not that I flex him all that often, to be honest).  The next day he colicked, so it's very possible he wasn't going well in my lesson because he was starting to get uncomfortable.

I had my farrier out on the following Tuesday, who found he was positive to hoof testers on his front heels and changed his shoes around to resolve that issue.  Great, I was hoping that would eliminate the front end ouchiness I was seeing on and off.

I had good rides last week/weekend, but I was riding very lightly and not asking for much because as I think I've mentioned, I was going through some shit.  He felt fine, but I was riding inside where the footing is softer anyway.  He did have some minor little cuts on him, which I learned was because Tucker and Goose fell in love with a mare across the fence and apparently neither one of them subscribes to the bros before hoes rule.  Mare was moved, and they stopped trying to kill each other in the name of love.

Tuesday he saw the dentist so he had the night off.  Wednesday night I had a friend scheduled to ride him and he had a bit of heat and swelling in his left front fetlock/ankle, a slight pulse in the foot, and wasn't sound on the turns to ride. We all thought it was probably an abscess, given the bruising and the fact that it came on all of a sudden.  I had my friend cold hose and wrap for the night, just so the leg didn't blow up with the humidity.

Yesterday he was a little off trotting in the field, as per my barn manager.  Last night he jogged pretty sound on the driveway and in the round pen (though in the round pen he went prancing around like a demented llama for reasons only Tucker understands, so adrenaline may have been at play).  There was a little bit of swelling, a little sensitivity to poking and prodding on the fetlock, and no pulse in the foot.  Barn manager explained that she's going to run electric along their fence line because apparently now that his lady love has been moved, he's trying to climb out of his field to find her. He's a hopeless romantic, what can I say.  [Srsly. Tucker. Stahp.]

Had my farrier out this morning, who said he doesn't think it's in the hoof.  No reaction to hoof testers.  He did say there's a bump on his ankle, which looks like he's banging it on something.  Both my farrier and my barn manager think Tucker's fence climbing activities are to blame.  

Given the on/off questionable soundness, I made an appointment with a vet for Tuesday morning, which I can always cancel.  My plan is to take it very easy this weekend, and ice and wrap him as much as possible.  Might poultice too, just to draw the heat out.  If there's still heat or unsoundness, I'll have him looked at Tuesday.  Not sure I have the finances to go full boar at addressing the situation at the moment, but at least I can get an expert eye on him.  

If it turns out he just banged himself pretending to be a mountain goat, and he's perfectly sound in two days, I can always cancel the appointment or reschedule it for later when I don't have a giant security deposit bearing down on me.  Or, I might proceed with it anyway to see what she says, given that he's had some on and off issues for a while now.  He is fourteen... it could be time to start paying attention to things like routine maintenance.

So out of curiosity, I'm polling my readership here.  Would you have already had a vet out by now? Would you try to treat this yourself for more than just the weekend with conservative work and ice/wrapping?  If your horse presents as slightly off (not head bobbing lame, which makes it a more obvious choice), do you get someone out right away in case it's serious, or are you a wait and see kind of person?  Would you have called the vet asap if your horse seemed colicky in the morning, or given him a few hours to see how things went?  

20 comments:

  1. For me I will wait if I think it is some freak accident related offness but I think depending on how much I was seeing your timeline seems reasonable. With Houston I took him to the vet right away when I got him back Becuase I knew he needed his routine injections.

    So I guess long story short I do usually try to asses the situation on my own prior to calling the vet. Colic is one where it depends on how bad. But usually I'll do banamine and watch close to see if things improve. Hopefully you don't have to have the vet out or if you do that it's nothing serious!

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  2. I rarely call the vet, you are totally not alone! I can typically find a reason that explains why a horse is acting ill or lame and can solve it without veterinary intervention. Granted, my horses are not accident prone or high maintenance, so I have it pretty easy. Gina trotting out stiff? Probably because she's 19 and just spent the night in a stall. Moe lost the pep in his step? Try hacking in the hay meadow; if he's still unenthusiastic, he's probably getting ready to die. Major injuries and colic are basically all I ever dial the vet for!

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  3. I would do what you did- with the off and on, maybe this, maybe that I would have the vet out the check. If the bump is new and possibly because of the fence climbing I might delay the vet until that is gone.

    I tend to be conservative and treat myself with a phone consult if I think I need it. But that means when I call my vet and tell him that I think I need him, he never questions it.

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  4. Over the years I've discovered that it depends on the horse. I used to have an OTTB jumper who wouldn't limp if he broke a leg. My current horse acts like he's dying if he gets an abscess, or any small injury. Last week I almost called the vet because one of the mares was spitting her grain out and wouldn't eat it. I thought she might have a tooth abscessed. I checked the bag of oats and saw that it had a lot of dust or dirt, so I stopped feeding it and just fed Safe Choice and she was fine.

    I'll always call if I think they need stitches, if I think it's colic, if they stop eating, pus anywhere, or if there seems to be "too much" heat and swelling that doesn't improve in a couple of days, or actually gets worse.

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    1. Mine is the same, she's a VERY sensitive flower so I usually would only call if she's got something going on for a while. It always makes me feel like a bad horse owner but usually a day or too after I may have called the vet for a different horse, she's bouncing around in her pasture again and completely sound.

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  5. Stephanie & HomerMay 28, 2016 at 8:16 AM

    Ugh!! Figuring horses out is NEVER easy!! As for the colic, I freak out extremely easily as my horse before Homer lost his fight to colic. He was apparently sick for days but no one noticed (he was still going bathroom, eating, drinking etc- even giving us some of his most incredible rides).. i only noticed cause one evening at feeding his nostrils were blowing a little bit more then usual (it was 99 out that day) - but he was sick.. he wound up in the clinic for 2 weeks since after the colic subsided, he went septic and foundered. There's no rhyme or reason why I lost a 9 year old

    As for the lameness - and i know the first hand fear of "do i even have money for this or should i move right after and go off the grid" - but i'd have the vet out. with everything going on (Horse and real life) it would probably be a huge weight off your shoulder for a vet to say XYZ is or isn't going on.

    and honestly the final verdict is we decided to have horses as our main solar systems therefore there will never be a firm answer on how to do anything. the only thing we can predict in our sport is that there's nothing predictable !

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  6. I agree its never an easy call. I used to be more out a wait and see kind of person but now after I lost Bodhi my brain automatically jumps to the worst possible explanation. My Vet is great though and answers text questions and I trust her judgement on whether she should come out or not.

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  7. I agree its never an easy call. I used to be more out a wait and see kind of person but now after I lost Bodhi my brain automatically jumps to the worst possible explanation. My Vet is great though and answers text questions and I trust her judgement on whether she should come out or not.

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  8. I think this is why it's so important to know what's normal and what's not for your horse. Bobby has looked dead lame before and my old BO was in a panic he'd seriously injured himself, but a quick visit from the chiro got his wonky stifles back where they belong and he was good to go. I usually do chiro, farrier, and if they can't find anything THEN vet. I think you were being totally reasonable holding off to assess from the vet this long. Hopefully they're able to pinpoint what's up with him--even if it is just a colossal crush. :P

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  9. Eek! I hope it's nothing.

    I'm mixed about calling the vet ASAP. It used to take a lot to call the vet out- we'd manage the everyday bumps, bruises and swelling and you called the vet when Trainer told you to. Well she probably already called by the time she notified you (I've had that happen!). That's always served me well- when she's concerned about internal structures or just weird colicky/sick behavior, the vet is out ASAP. Ever since Mikey's hock accident, I'm a bit more vet-happy than I was before. Nothing about his injury pointed to bone chips, so it took some time before we had the vet out for xrays (where we found chips). He had surgery and the surgeon told me at a month old, it was an old injury and he would have had a better prognosis if he was there sooner. Luckily, it worked out OK for Mikey. Penn has had more xrays in less than a year of ownership than I had in 11 years of Mikey's ownership.

    I think you're being totally reasonable in waiting to call the vet- I would have gone farrier/chiro first too (except my chiro is a vet so...), then called the vet if the lameness persisted or got worse.

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  10. It depends on the horse and its history. However, if it's a more seasoned horse that's starting to have lameness that is associated with its joints, I'm pretty likely to have the vet come out and usually get them injected. It tends to provide quick and dramatic relief. If the pain is truly originating in the joint and is a result of normal wear and tear, not much else is going to fix the problem, IMO.

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  11. Obviously it's going to depend on the situation and the severity. in this case I think I would do the exact same thing you're doing/have done. It's all about trouble shooting. They can't tell us so we've got to figure it out. It doesn't always require a vet.

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  12. in my world, it's more like "when do i call the owner?" since i don't actually have the authority to call the vet myself... that said, tho, it's perhaps for the best since i have slight hypochondriac tendencies lol. and the mare is generally fine despite whatever i might be freaking out about. hopefully that proves to be the case for Tucker this time around too!

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  13. Our vet sees our horses way too often, because everyone seems to have some sort of chronic thing going on (Paddy's foot and hocks, Brego's tooth and foot) plus regular stuff (spring/fall vaccines, health certs for interstate travel) and nobody can actually synch things up. This year our vet has been out every month (it's embarrassing but they actually have our CC number so I don't have to bother with the bill). I'm luckily in a situation where both husband and I have horses, and good jobs, so I don't worry too much about the bills, but we know our boys and when they need to see someone. I am trying to have a wing in our vet's office named after us lol!

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  14. I tend to be more "just call the vet" than many. My typical routine if my horse comes up randomly lame:

    1. Consult trainer and knowledgable friends
    2. Rest for a few days
    3. Farrier
    4. Vet

    Typically rest and farrier fix things, but if I'm still struggling, I'll call the vet. Luckily we have a smaller practice vet who is a little bit cheaper, so I call her first.

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  15. I am sooo in the "let it hang out for a few days" camp. Really, my mentality can be pretty perfectly described by this article by Dr. Ramey (http://www.doctorramey.com/eighty-fifteen-five-rule/).

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  16. Now that Ries is 14 I am in the let it wait camp. If he was younger and I was concerned about a life altering injury I would probably have the vet out sooner. Though I am so terrified of losing him, so if he did present signs of colic the vet would be out ASAP.

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  17. I have been thinking of you and Tucker - Boca has been NQR in his right front for 3-4 weeks. No heat, no swelling. He comes out a little funky, but seems to work out of it. I have been delaying calling the vet, because, you know, KS SURGERY in Feb, just 4 months ago!!! How many vet bills can I rack up???

    But the issue, though slight, has been persistent for 3-4 weeks. Not getting worse, but not resolving either. I finally broke the news last night to the hubby (who took it amazingly well) and called the vet this AM. I hope it is minor and can be resolved easily. Fingers crossed.

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  18. One of my projects just came up with real funky swelling and pulses in both fronts. I usually call the vet, to make her aware and bounce ideas on what it could be and what to do and follow up if it gets better or worse. I was afraid she was foundering, but vet thinks it's an allergy to new grass. Either way, we treated it as both with cold hosing, poultice, a little banamine and no more grass t/o.
    I'm not sure if everyone has this kind of relationship with the vet though, and I feel pretty lucky that we can eliminate a barn call if there's something I could do.
    -Venessa

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  19. One of my projects just came up with real funky swelling and pulses in both fronts. I usually call the vet, to make her aware and bounce ideas on what it could be and what to do and follow up if it gets better or worse. I was afraid she was foundering, but vet thinks it's an allergy to new grass. Either way, we treated it as both with cold hosing, poultice, a little banamine and no more grass t/o.
    I'm not sure if everyone has this kind of relationship with the vet though, and I feel pretty lucky that we can eliminate a barn call if there's something I could do.
    -Venessa

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Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I love reading them! If you have a question, I will make sure to get back to you.