Early last month, Mikki posted about Romeo’s leg injury. It was a surprise that we discovered a little later than we should have. Infections are much harder to treat than fresh wounds. In fact, we ended up treating that infected wound for 35 days. Of course it was smack in the middle of winter, mild though it was.
Romeo learned to dread coming to the barn about as much as we did but the bandages had to be changed twice a day at times and the wound cleaned and treated and then re-wrapped to keep the dirt out (we used blue camo horse wrap, like the one in the picture). The antibiotic pills weren’t pleasant, even when we crushed them into something yummy like molasses or apple mush or a sweet oatmeal cake. It didn’t take long for him to be on to us. But considering the pain and unpleasantness of it all, he took it well. We usually cross tied him in the barn. He mostly stood quietly. Having two of us work on him was key. One of us talked to him and rubbed his neck, delivering a needed distraction. He never kicked or bit, though he did try to walk away at times.
Today, Romeo is still not very interesting in coming to the barn, despite the treatment being over. But he walks and runs well and the wound has healed nicely.
Moral of the story? Check your horses every day! Any kind of stiffness or limping needs immediate attention. And if your horse has any kind of open wound injury, expect to treat it several times a day and don’t skimp on cleaning, even though they hate that part. Also, seek medical attention immediately if you have any concerns. Develop a relationship with your horse vet because these things almost always seem to happen late at night on a Friday or Saturday when it’s hard to reach a vet until Monday. We have our vets cell phone number just in case.
You’re probably wondering why we’re feeding a horse Honey-Nut Cheerios. Well, it’s to mask the taste of the bute. And why are we giving someone bute? Well, let me just tell you.
Monday night, we got home from Chattanooga late, as often happens when we go to the “big city.” And guess what? It was snowing. It was supposed to be well below freezing that night, and not get above freezing the next day. You know what that means, right? That’s right, a sick or injured horse. Since we have four, plus a mule, someone would surely oblige us. Sure enough, when we let the horses in, Romeo was limping. It was dark, late, and he was covered in mud. But, he was just as enthusiastic about his food as ever, so we decided it might as well wait till morning. Shame on us, I know, but there truly wasn’t a darn thing we could have done.
Tuesday morning, we let everyone else out and got him out into the sunshine where we could see. Poor thing was still limping, occasionally holding up that leg, and the muscle in his flank was twitching – he was definitely hurting and we needed to find out why. I did mention he was covered in mud? No problem, we could hose it off. Did I mention it dipped below freezing and wouldn’t get above freezing until sometime on Wednesday? So no hose. Luckily, we have a de-icer in their water trough, so we filled a bucket and I started dumping water on his right rear leg. It wasn’t long before we uncovered the problem – a hole in his leg, just below the hock. At this point we decided that both Romeo and I would be happier if the water we were using to clean him off was more than just above freezing, so Bill went to the house to fill the bucket with warm water. I got out the Dawn and cleaned off all the mud I could. There was a fairly deep hole about the size of a quarter. (I would post a picture, but sadly, my co-author is a tad squeamish.) It was oozing pus and smelled kinda bad. (I do hope Bill isn’t reading this.)
At this point, I would recommend horse owners to call the vet. A wound like that requires a very good cleaning and antibiotics ASAP, not to mention pain meds. So keep that vet on speed dial. I am very fortunate to have spent the last three years working for a vet, so while I am far from qualified to diagnose and treat serious injuries, I felt that I could probably handle this one. I took pictures (the ones you won’t be seeing) and headed over to the office. I described his symptoms and showed around the pictures, and the consensus among professional staff was a burst abscess. He probably got stuck with something several days beforehand, and it got infected. Because of the mud plastering his leg, we didn’t know anything about it until he started limping and by that time, the infected, closed wound had burst. Poor Romeo!
His treatment plan:
Antibiotics. Ten days’ worth. We got a powder that we can mix into his feed. No problem, he likes it fine.
Clean and Wrap. We (well, I) scrubbed the wound with surgical scrub, applied drawing salve to the wound and wrapped it well with cotton and vetwrap. We’ll leave that on for three days total, then start using Wonder Dust plus wrap until it’s good and closed up. No problem, he is so tough! He dances a little bit but mostly lets me do whatever. As you can see, pictures of the wrapped leg are okay.
Tetanus shot. No problem – again, he is one tough horse. (Bill couldn’t watch though.)
Bute. I got tablets to crush and mix into his feed like the antibiotic. The first day, no problem. I didn’t have any oats, so I used – you guessed it – Honey-Nut Cheerios. I added a bunch of molasses and some chunks of apple, and it smelled pretty darn good. I put a little Strategy in for good measure, and he ate it up! Yay! The next morning, same thing (he was supposed to get it twice a day for two days, then once a day for three). After that, he was onto me. He picks at it but never really finishes it off. Luckily, he’s feeling much better, so if he doesn’t get it all down, that’s okay. He’s still getting all the antibiotic, and that’s the important one.
Stall rest. Boy, does he hate that. He just can’t be out sloshing around in that gross mud, though. Sorry! I think we’ll put him out tomorrow (Friday). It’s been dry for a few days and tomorrow is supposed to be warm and sunny. And the hose is working again, so we will be able to clean it well. Oh, and it looks A LOT better now.
So that’s what’s going on at our barn. Lessons learned: Horses always get hurt at the least convenient times. Mud sucks. Cold weather sucks. And horses like Honey-Nut Cheerios – at least before you put yucky medicine in them.