Morning and Evening Walkabout
By Susan Acree
Do you do the morning and evening ritual I call the walkabout?
My walkabout is basically taking a few minutes each morning and evening to take a good look at each of my horses to make sure all is well. Are their eyes and noses clear? Is there any sign of lameness? Are there any visible injuries? I take extra time to assess their hooves and legs, as these are more usually in harms way.
Until last July, I didn’t make it an absolute must of my routine. Well, I definitely do now!
I was checking on my horses, Baile and Bonus, one last time before we headed out of town to celebrate my oldest son’s 30th birthday.
I gave them each a little treat and a pat on the neck, made sure all of the gates were closed and latched and checked that the automatic waterers were working. Then, just as I was about to head back to the house to finish my last minute packing, I decided the flies were pesky enough, that I should put on their fly masks.
How I found Bonus' leg the day we were leaving
I put Baile’s on while her head was hanging over the stall door. Bonus had turned around and was thinking about heading back out to his pasture, since it seemed I was leaving, so I went into his stall to put his fly mask on. After adjusting it just right and making sure I didn’t catch any flies in it, I stepped back and noticed his left hind leg was swollen and bloody. My first thought was “please be mud, please be mud…” Of course it wasn’t mud, we hadn’t had rain for over a month.
Upon further inspection, I found a very small scrape, about the size of a nickel. I couldn’t figure out why, from such a tiny wound, he would be so swollen. So, as I often do, I called my daughter, Dr. Jennifer Posey, who is a vet with Pacific Crest Sporthorse in Oregon City. (sure wish she would move her practice here). I sent her a picture of the leg and she called me back to discuss it. She said it looked like he was developing cellulitis and I needed to get him on an antibiotic immediately. In addition to the medication, I needed to wrap it.
I called my local vet office and told them what had happened, they know my daughter and were nice enough to let me pick up the meds without having to take Bonus in. Lucky for me, since we were supposed to be leaving shortly.
I wrapped his leg using a telfa pad and vet wrap and headed to the vet to pick up the tablets. When I called Jennifer back to let her know I was able to get the antibiotics, I told her how I wrapped his leg. She informed me that I did it wrong. (I seem to learn something new with every incident). She said you should never put vet wrap directly on the skin. It tightens over time and can cause serious injury. Anything from bowed tendons to sloughing all the skin off the area.
I needed to wrap sheet cotton around the leg from the hoof to just below the hock, this was the main area of swelling, and then use vet wrap over that. Elastikon was used on the skin above and below to keep it in place. The elastikon allows the skin to breath and doesn’t tighten so it is safe to use directly on the skin.
I finally had him all wrapped correctly. Now, I had to find a friend to administer the antibiotic twice a day for the next 3 days while I was out of town. Thank goodness for good horse friends.
We had a great time celebrating TJ’s big birthday with all the family, Jennifer even got to join us from Oregon, so I was able to ask many more questions. When she was growing up, it seemed I knew most everything necessary to take proper care of our horses, and I hope I taught her well. Now she talks about things in a language that is way over my head.
It is very rewarding when your children become the teachers.
I asked what might have happened if I hadn’t noticed the wound and left him for 3 days unattended. She said that a cellulitis left untreated can be very serious. The infection can move from the skin and become an internal infection. If bad enough and ignored this can lead to organ failure and even death in serious cases. Mild cases can lead to a permanent lameness and swelling of the leg if not treated quickly.
In most cases, if you notice the swelling and treat the wound and swollen area properly the horse will recover fully. While not all cuts lead to a cellulitis (skin infection) it important to watch them carefully.
Wound after 10 days of antibiotic and being wrapped
My friend faithfully came over morning and evening and checked Bonus’ wrap and administered antibiotic in his feed. I returned home to find the swelling gone and no lameness (which he never did display, even that first day). I continued with the antibiotics for the prescribed 10 days and changed the wrap every 3 days. With each change the area needing to be wrapped got smaller because the swelling was gone.
By the 10th day the swelling was completely gone and the wound was beginning to heal well, so everything was great, right?
Nope! I’ll continue the story in the my next Blog…… “The Wound That Wouldn’t Heal”