Saturday, November 26, 2011

Farewell, My Sweet Girl

There's a huge Husky-shaped hole in my heart. On Wednesday morning, I had to say goodbye to my Sasha girl.

Last year on November 23rd, my vet told me that I had a year until Sasha's hip fell apart--there wasn't anything that could be done to save it. And on Wednesday, exactly one year to the date, that prophecy came true.

Tuesday night, I took Sasha for her walk around 11:00 and she was pulling me like a sled in the Iditarod, as usual. We got back home and she was her normal happy-go-lucky self--pawing me for attention, begging for treats, and smiling her big wolf-puppy smile. I let her out around 1:00 am, then gave her a Rimadyl, Glycoflex III, Prilosec, and chicken jerky treat when she came in a few minutes later. Finally satisfied, she laid down on the tile floor next to the wine cooler, her usual late evening cool-down spot, and took a nice long nap.

Around 3:30 am, I called her to come to bed. She didn't come--nothing new, as she had a definite mule-like stubborn streak. I called several more times and still nothing. Then I heard her cry and my heart dropped.

Instantly, I just knew. And while I spent a few minutes trying to convince myself that maybe she was just a bit sore, deep down I knew it was time. She tried several more times to get up, and after the second time she was screaming in pain. I've never heard a dog scream before and I hope it's something I'll never hear again. I pulled some clothes on, grabbed her hip X-rays, and somehow managed to pick her up and carry her to the car.

I'm thankful that I had those X-rays, as it meant Sasha wasn't subjected to a long, drawn-out physical examination, consultation with the vet, etc. I just wanted to take her pain away as fast as possible. Luckily, the vet on call was very understanding; in fact, although they usually don't allow owners to stay while the IV is being put in, he asked me to stay with Sasha and comfort her. For that, I'm extremely grateful--I stayed by my girl's side every second until the very end. I looked into those gorgeous blue eyes and rubbed her ears and told her that everything was going to be okay, and she peacefully slipped away.

It kills me that I couldn't fix her. It kills me that she was a young, healthy dog brimming with life, and yet her body fell apart because her previous owners didn't do right by her. It kills me that I only got a year and 8 months with her.

And yet, as hard as it was to lose her, I would do it all over in a heartbeat. That year and 8 months were perfect--Sasha was a special dog and I'm lucky for every second that I had with her. She was a sweetheart, brimming with personality. Literally everyone who walked into my house fell head-over-heels in love with her--probably because that girl was all heart. In fact, on Wednesday morning the vet asked me why I had brought her in then, what was different. I said, "She couldn't get up." He seemed confused and asked, "But hasn't she not been able to walk the whole time you've had her?" Based on her X-rays, he said he would not expect her to be able to walk. And yet, that dog would tear around the yard like a bat out of hell, wrestle with other dogs, and play like a puppy. She could jump up on my bed, crawl onto the couch and armchairs (usually to get into someone's lap), and hop in and out of the car. And she did all that without a whimper or cry or limp, and always with a smile on her face.

I know that letting her go was the kindest thing I could do for her. But that certainly doesn't make it any easier. I miss her big, goofy, happy self nudging me to get out of bed, greeting me at the door like she hadn't seen me in a year, lying next to the treat cabinet giving me the "I'm starving" look, and pawing me for belly rubs. I miss her annoying-yet-endearing car ride antics of hopping in the front seat and then constantly changing the radio station, unclipping my seat belt, putting the car in neutral, and completely blocking the rear view mirror with her giant wolf head. I miss waking up in the morning and looking over my bed to see her lying upside-down with her eyes rolled back in her head and her tongue lolling out of her mouth. I miss every single white and grey and black hair on her body and those piercing blue eyes.

Sweet dreams, little love. You will be sorely missed, but I'm sure we'll meet again.

*Everyone, please hug your puppies today.*

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Game Plan

All four of Tiff's hooves have been set firmly on the road to recovery. She is looking brighter and more feisty with each day and is even starting to get a bit of her bitchy alpha-mare personality back. When Salem stopped by her stall to visit the other night, Tiff pinned her ears back and nipped at him--a great sign! And in order to fully restore Tiff to her former alpha self, Candy has laid out a thorough plan for Tiff's rehab. It goes as follows:
  • X-rays: During the consultation, Candy asked Judy to see all previous rads in order to establish where Tiff's rotation had been and where it was currently. When Judy replied that no rads had been pulled, Candy and I both had to pick our jaws up off the floor! Candy told her,"We need X-rays of this horse's front hooves. ASAP." Luckily, Judy was able to get ahold of Dr. F immediately and he came out the next day to shoot the films; we reviewed them last week (I will get them up as soon as I can figure out a way to scan them). In a few months, we'll pull another set to reevaluate.
  • White Lightning soaks every other day--this is to kill all the fungus/bacteria/etc. in Tiff's hooves, tighten the laminae/wall connection, and soften all the retained sole/bar that needs to come off 

Tiff enjoying her WL soak (we put Cavallo gel pads in the dry sacks
to give her a bit more comfort during her soaks)
  • Oral arnica & calendula three times per day--this will promote healing from the inside
  • Cavallo boots and gel pads worn 24/7 to provide cushioning and keep Tiff as comfy as possible while her hooves are being rehabilitated
  • Hoof trims once a week--there is a LOT of extra hoof that needs to come off, but taking it all at once would cause Tiff to be in a great deal of pain; making small, frequent changes will help her heal both quickly and comfortably. We've got three trims out of the way already and Tiff has improved exponentially each time. (I can NOT say enough good things about Cheryl Henderson's HoofPrint Trim; or my trimmer Candy Giordano, who applies it to perfection!)
  • Diluted Lysol sprays every other day (on non-White Lightning days) in order to keep hoof funk at bay. We also use this solution to clean out Tiff's Cavallo boots every day
  • Arnica Gel applied to the soles every day--this helps alleviate some of Tiff's discomfort and promotes healing of  bruising
  • Icthamol applied to the large area of separation on the RF hoof (where live laminae is exposed) every day to pull out any infection and close up the wound
  • Gold Bond Medicated Powder dusted into the boots every day to absorb excess moisture and discourage hoof rot
Simple enough, right? ;-) I swear, Tiffany now has more "product" than the most snotty, self-obsessed prima donna. Just getting everything set up for her daily spa treatments takes at least 15 minutes of schleping armfuls of stuff out to the washrack. No joke, EVERYTHING in the following pic is for Tiff:

On the far rack: freshly laundered fly sheet and fly mask
On the near rack: Alushield, bandage scissors, rolled cotton, Lanacaine wound spray, fly spray,
brush, hoofpick, Ace bandages, Vetrap, dry sacks, bath towel
On the ground: vinegar, White Lightning, icthamol, Gold Bond, arnica gel, gel heel inserts, plastic Rubbermaid containers

The other essential ingredients to Tiff's recovery: lots of love/TLC, positive attitudes, movement, movement, and more movement. They're all free, and they're all absolute musts. And with all the positive energy being showered on Tiff from near and far, I *know* that we will restore her to all her former alpha-bitch mare glory. :-) 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Zombie Hooves

They're scary. They're ugly as sin. And they're slowly being brought back to life. Zombie hooooves!

At Tiff's last Farrier trim on Oct. 7th, her shoes had been pulled, her front hooves had been basically chopped in half, and she was padded with dental impression material and wrapped with Elastikon. While I felt it was 1/4 of a step in the right direction, I could see that Tiff didn't feel any better--because the trim was not done in a way to make her hoof balanced and comfortable.You can pad up a hoof with the most squishy, high-tech, cutting-edge material known to man, but it isn't going to make a lick of difference to the horse's comfort if the trim is incorrect.

So, when Judy asked Candy to take over Tiffany's hoofcare, I was ecstatic--literally jumping up and down and squealing like a school-girl giddy. Finally, after months of feeling powerless to help Tiff, I had managed to ensure her recovery. I'm so grateful that Judy was willing to go out on a limb and try something completely different. There are many people who would have either given up or been too closed-minded to listen to the hippy weird-o barn girl and strike out onto a new, uncharted path. I'm also extremely thankful that I had a knowledgeable, highly skilled, passionate trimmer to explain things so clearly to Judy and convince her to take a leap of faith. As Candy later remarked, "You served me up on a silver platter."

Since Judy had been brave enough to leap in with both feet, Candy wasted no time--she had another trim appointment at a barn around the corner, but afterwards she came straight back in order to get started on Tiff. As she cut through the dirty mummy-linen wrappings on Tiff's hooves, we all wondered exactly what horrors we would find under there.

Right Front Before

Note the extremely long heel. Oh, and the giant chunks taken out of the wall. ;-)

Yep, that's a Mummy Hoof  pre-de-wrapping/trim ^^^

Right Front After

Much better! The heel has been lowered significantly and moved towards the back of the hoof, where it belongs

Here, you can see how thrushy and "rotten" these hooves are. When the wrappings were taken off,
we all took a step back because the hoof smelled like a mostly-rotten corpse. Yep, Zombie Hooves!

The place Candy is pointing to with her hoof knife is an area of separation so bad that you can see the live laminae

Left Front Before

Yes, these hooves had been trimmed one month prior; and the farrier had left this giant flare--why?!?

No, this photo and the next two were not taken at a weird angle--that
huge flare on the medial side makes the whole hoof  look twisted

Left Front After

This is Tiff's most painful hoof--as you can see, she's reluctant to put weight on it

Wow--it's actually hoof-shaped!

Lots of bruising

Tiff's spiffy red temporary Cavallo Simple boots--these are at least two sizes too big
(hence the padding & Vetrap), but they're a loaner pair she'll use until her new Sport Boots arrive

What Farrier failed to do in nine months, Candy managed to accomplish in one trim--Tiff walked away from that washrack much easier and more comfortably than she had walked onto it. And later that evening, I came back to the barn and Tiff was still standing. She had been up since 12:30 in the afternoon and didn't lie down until after 8:00 pm, whereas before she would spend the better part of the day lying down. Over the next few days, she started finishing all her feed and whinnying for more, instead of  barely eating half of her ration and then lying down. Most importantly, the life and spark came back into her eyes; she finally wanted to live again.

Here's a video of Tiff that I took the night after her trim:

As you can see, she certainly isn't cured. She has a long road ahead of her and it's going to take months of hard work to get her sound.. But at least now she's headed in the right direction. (And, yes, I backed into a poll and made a weird squealing sound in the video. I'm quite graceful. ;-D)

And here's a video from one week after the trim:

There's really no way I can express how completely overjoyed I am. To know that I played a part in saving this sweet mare and making her life better...well, it's a bit overwhelming. And while there's still much work to be done for Tiff, I've already got my eye set on my next target. There's a whole legion of zombie hooves out there and I'm ready to fight. Farrier, prepare to lose another client.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ray of Light

Watching an animal suffer is a terrible thing; watching an animal suffer when you know its suffering can be alleviated is emotionally crushing. And yet, I am certainly not about to walk up to someone I hardly know and say, "I'm not a vet or professional hoof care provider or, in fact any sort of equine professional , but you need to listen to me implicitly and do XYZ with your horse, despite the fact that it's 180 degrees from what your farrier, whom you've been trusting and employing for over twenty years, is telling you to do." I imagine, if I had been completely blunt with Judy right from the beginning, she would have brushed me off--just as I would have done if someone tried to tell me what to do with my horse. So, for a while I bit my tongue so much that it's a miracle I didn't bleed to death.

And yet I knew I had to convince Judy to place Tiffany in Candy's capable hands. I also strongly felt that failing to do so would be a death sentence for Tiff--she was on a downward spiral, becoming increasingly sore, spending more and more time lying down, losing interest in food, and developing numerous new pressure sores. So, I developed what I now call my "Friendly Gnat" strategy--I started off by occasionally telling Judy about barefoot trimming methods and how they've saved hundreds of laminitic horses. During conversations, I would slip in snippets about Dr. Bowker and Kristen and Laz and Pete Ramey and Cheryl Henderson. I didn't want to be annoying or overbearing, so I made sure not to lay it on too thick; but I was patiently persistent. Friendly little gnat. :-)

Next I began mentioning Candy as often as possible, explaining how she had brought Salem's hooves around not once but twice, how she had worked on many severe founder cases, and how she does the best, most balanced trim I've ever seen. Candy asked me to tell Judy she would love to meet with her and discuss a strategy to heal Tiff's hooves. So about two weeks ago, I told Judy, "My trimmer will be here next Monday and she would love to have a consultation with you and explain how she could make Tiff more comfortable." Unfortunately, at that point Judy wasn't ready.

But this friendly gnat does not give up. A few days later, Judy was out at the barn and became quite upset--it was the third night in a row she'd been at the barn and Tiff had been lying down, extremely reluctant to get up. Judy hadn't seen any improvement in Tiff's condition in months and didn't want to see her suffer anymore. At that point, I could see that she had hit rock bottom. But the great thing about hitting rock bottom is that you finally have something to push up off of. :-) I knew it was time. Again, I mentioned my desire for her to meet with Candy and hear what she could do for Tiff. This time, Judy answered with an enthusiastic "Yes."

I truly believe that Monday Nov. 7, 2011 is the day Tiffany's life was saved. During the consultation, Candy's first words were, "Are you ready to save this horse?" She explained that this would be a long process, but she could and would heal Tiff. Always armed with an arsenal of information, she had brought out numerous articles for Judy, as well as pictures of X-rays, cadaver hooves, laminitic hooves in all stages of rehab; and she sat there and patiently, thoroughly explained every detail to Judy. It was very much, "This is where we are; this is where we need to be; and this is how I will get us there." And I could see Judy just getting it--she said nobody had ever explained things like that to her before. And she asked, "So, can you trim her today?"

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hoof Pathology: Holy Crap!

Back in May, Tiffany's farrier resected her front hooves--basically, the front half of her hooves were chopped off. The explanation given to me at the time was that it would relieve pressure within the hoof capsule. It made absolutely no sense to me; and after reading this article on hoof resection, I am still perplexed. The article explains that some laminitic cases require resection of part of the coronary band area because:

 "The lower rim of the coffin bone becomes [infected] due to compromised blood flow and dying tissues... and fluid resulting from this can travel up..., breaking out at the coronary band. If initial treatment, usually a poultice, doesn't stop the process, the coronary band will swell and prolapse over the hoof wall. The wall then cuts into the swollen tissue, causing further inflammation and restricting blood supply to that tissue.Performing a resection...can relieve the pressure on the laminae and thereby allow the critical blood circulation to be restored. With meticulous aftercare, the foot's underlying tissues can then repair."

But, looking at theses hooves, it is apparent that her resection is completely different from the one described above. Neither were resected at the coronary band and they did not go completely through the hoof wall. Furthermore, she did not require any "meticulous aftercare" that the article goes on to describe--no Betadine-soaked felt or tight bandages. So, why was this done to her hooves? I certainly don't see how the procedure would have relieved pressure withing the hoof capsule. I am certainly open to hearing any information/ideas/guesses you all may have.

Also note the backwards shoe

And, even after such drastic measures, poor Tiff was still spending much of her days either lying down or standing in a classic founder stance:

Those pictures were taken back in May. Over the next few months, I watched Tiffany's feet grow and grow. And grow. And grow some more. For some reason, her farrier just did not come out to do her hooves. By September, she was in agony. And it's no wonder, as her hooves looked like this:

Are you spitting Diet Coke all over your keyboard and screaming at the computer screen yet? Well, take a deep breath and scroll down; it actually gets worse.

Yes, Tiffany's hooves went untouched from May to September (possibly October--unfortunately, I don't have exact dates for everything). I am ashamed to say that I didn't go around screaming at people and demanding that action be taken. Shame on me for letting her suffer. But shame on the farrier for allowing these hooves to get in such a condition while under his care. I'm no farrier, but I can take one glance at those hooves and tell you at least ten things that are glaringly wrong with them--namely the fact that they are about a mile too long. She's tipped up onto the point of her coffin bones, which is putting her in even more pain than she was previously.

But at least there was one thing I could do for Tiffany: her back hooves were unshod, and of course they were also grossly overgrown, so I grabbed my rasp and went to work. Sadly, I was too angry to take true "Before" pictures, but I'm sure you can imagine how terrible they were--there were so many flares that, when you picked her hoof up, the edges were scalloped and wavy. The toes were so long that she could barely get out of her own way.

These pics were taken after the first rasping:

Also note the overlaid bars--they were so long that it sounded like Tiff had rocks stuck in her hooves. I ended up rasping the bars back as much as I could

Under-run heel (one this farrier's trademarks, unfortunately)

And these pics were taken after the third rasping:

Big improvement, but still a long way to go. At least backing up those toes made it a bit easier for sweet Tiff to walk:

And that's on three grams of Bute. :-/

I know this is heartbreaking and very difficult to see. But, trust me; it gets better. In fact, I'm right in the middle of "Better" now. :-) But I do want to tell this story from the beginning, so I'm doing a bit of backtracking at the moment. Hopefully, I'll get all of you caught up in the next few days.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Under My Wing

Apparently, spending hours fussing and fretting over one horse isn't enough for me. :-) Ever since April, I've kept a close eye on one of the full-board horses--her name is Tiffany and she's a feisty 21-year old Mustang mare. Unfortunately, she has Cushings disease and because of it she foundered--I'm not sure exactly when, but it was approximately 9 months ago.

At first, I would just occasionally look in on Tiff and see how she was doing. On the weekends, some of the other boarders and I would maybe take her out for a bath and some pampering. And of course, being obsessed with hooves, I was always snapping pics of the latest (usually frightening) things that had been done to her hooves.

But I didn't start really getting involved until August. I became very concerned because I would walk by her stall and every day she would be lying down and panting heavily--some days, I honestly felt like she was in major distress. I even alerted the barn owner, who told me that, "yes, that's just how she is now."

Of course, I started taking her out and hosing her down for 20-30 minutes several times a day. I asked the BO to ask Tiff's owner if I could body-clip her. He told me that the lady who normally clips her had been called, but said she wouldn't be able to make it out for at least a month. After I had hounded him about my offer to body-clip Tiff several times, he told me, "Well, Dr. F was out here today and demanded she be clipped, so go ahead and do it." (I just want to point out that I put absolutely no blame on the BO--it was just one of those communication breakdown things where nobody could get ahold of anyone else!)

Tiff The Yak pre-clip

The hair you see here is from ONE leg!

Much better! :-)

Honestly, how could anyone resist that face?

After I clipped Tiff, I got a call from her owner Judy, thanking me profusely. The BO had told her what I'd done and she was thrilled that I had been able to make Tiff more comfortable. She had been trying to get Tiff clipped, but had had no luck. And, since she has some health issues that severely limit what she can do, there was no way that she would have been able to do it herself. Looking back, I'm SO happy that I did just step in and shear Tiff because that's what brought Judy and me together. I had seen her once before, but hadn't really gotten to know her because we were never at the barn at the same time.

And yet...what I *really* wanted to do for Tiff, I didn't feel like I could do. Yet. Her hooves were in horrible shape and I was watching her deteriorate, growing more and more uncomfortable with each passing week. She was lying down so much that she developed raw, painful pressure sores all over her body. Every time Candy was out to do Salem's hooves, I would have her look at Tiff--we were both dying for Candy to get her hands on those hooves.

More to come...