Monday, June 2, 2014
Ice- My Only Weapon
Before I had even arrived at the barn that morning after my Very Big Mistake I was already plotting my strategy for the coming battle against laminitis. I knew I had a few factors working in my favor- First was that I had been pounding the feed to Hola over the previous few weeks as she had dropped a good chunk of weight (she could ill afford to loose) the month before. Hola eats more than any horse in the barn and weighs half as much (or so it seems). So she was used to having a high calorie diet and free choice feed. Actually, all three of my horses have had pretty much free choice hay in slow feeder nets which makes them more likely to walk away from feed... walking away from knee deep lush green spring grass might not be as likely as walking away from my low sugar 2nd cut local... but it probably still helped and they also had a good belly full of hay that night. So Hola was used to being on more grass and feed and has a speedy metabolism. So right away I decided to kick her to the back burner of my worry list. Now luck was on my side with Marmalade too. At about 9:00pm that night I had a given Marm a killer hard work out in the (soft ground) hay field. I mean a hard work- as in she had sweat around her eyeballs. And thanks to BrownEyedCowgirls reminder of the importance of pre and post work care I had not only cooled Marm out very well but also had cold hosed her legs for 20 minutes after that ride. So her metabolism should have been burning fast and hot. However Marm is a quarter horse and prone more towards the fat so I was cautiously optimistic that she might not have a problem. Then there was Abs. I had not worked her the night before. She is still very fat and not in a good way. At 14.2HH and 950 pounds Abs is the kind of quarter horse you have to worry about. She has those tell tale fat pockets and smaller feet. Since getting her home I have been babysitting her feet quite a bit and have kept her shod in order to get them back in to shape. Her feet have been sound but by no means ideal. I have been really careful with the levels of sugar in her diet. Abby is the last horse you want to get out on the field overnight. I was not just worried about her, I was in full a full panic mode. I happen to have a farrier that is very well educated in laminitis so I called him for his advice but unfortunately he was out of town until the second of June. I called my vet and had him paged to call me back. I didn't have time or the mind to get on the internet and sort through the litany of information out there so I was on my own for the moment.
I thought back to a conversation I had with my farrier and tried to recall everything I could about laminitis. My frantic mind tried to condense that hour long conversation in to one simple concept that went something like this- when a horse eats to much sugar it causes a reaction in the gut that causes bad shit to be created, that bad shit goes in the blood...because every drop of blood in the horses body goes through the feet that bad blood goes through the sensitive laminae and causes something to happen that makes them react badly and basically die which is really bad news. The enemy is in blood so blood is the enemy. I remember my farrier saying how the old cowboy way was to stick a horse in the creek to keep the feet as cold as possible as long as possible but then scientists came along and said that was wrong and that lack of blood flow as causing the dying off so you had to encourage blood, but then it turned out that those cowboys were right all along and that cold is the best defense and really the only defense besides anti-inflammatory drugs and anticoagulants. I needed to try to stop that bad blood from getting in to her to feet and the only way I could do that was to make them really really cold. My weapon was going to be ice.
Barely an hour went by in that first day where Abby and Marm did not have their feet standing in or wrapped in ice. They had no heat or digital pulse, no temp and normal vital signs. I took a tentative sign of relief. After talking to my vet in the morning he opted not to come down until the end of the day as there wasn't much to see/do at that point besides cross my fingers. I sat down with my horse (standing in an ice bath) in one hand and my phone in the other and started reading about laminitis and what, if anything, I could do to prevent it. One of the first things I found out was that I was drastically premature in breathing a sigh of relief. From what I read it was unlikely that the would show any signs of for 36-48 hours after carbohydrate overload. I started scanning page after page of material and most, if not all, were explaining how the event that occurs in the hind gut, the release of endotoxins in to the blood stream was a process that would take days to occur. I also read in a study published by Virginia Tec that there was a anticoagulant drug called Neparin that has been clinically shown to prevent the onset of laminitis while in the prodromal stage (before the laminitis event). So I call my vet and ask him about the drug. He says he will be by late in the day to talk about it. Meanwhile, I decided to continue icing as it is the only thing I have in my power to do. So around 5:30pm my vet comes down and feels Abby's feet for heat and digital pulse, checks her vitals and uses hoof testers on all 4 to check for tenderness. When I asked him if it was too early to see any kind of flare up he replied "Not at all, it can happen almost immediately." I then asked him about the Neparin and he said that they use it for severe cases after a laminitic episode but never before hand and he hasn't heard of that is being used in that application. I explain that this was a published study and he says that he will look at reading it but was familiar with that use... in other words he was not going to administer it and was probably rolling his eyes at yet another wannabe vet with a Google degree. He felt that all three horses should be just fine and that my icing should have made a difference and that I could ice a few times the next day to be safe. I continued icing until past midnight Saturday night before finally heading home to catch some sleep. The next morning I was driving to the barn trying to breathe and think positively when I received a call from L. asking why Abby would be foaming at the mouth. My heart sank. Not three minutes later I ran up to her stall and there was sweet Ab's, her mouth covered in froth, and not a single pile of manure of manure in her stall.