Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Elusive Beauty of Denial

I mentioned yesterday that Ben is on some new medication.  That is because I had that niggling little feeling in the back of my mind that something wasn't quite right.  I knew what it was, but I didn't do anything about it for quite a while as I was clinging to denial.  Unfortunately, I've never been very good at that.  I often think that life would be a lot easier if I could embrace denial, but it remains elusive.

I saw the signs when I looked at pictures like this one taken in May...

Ben is just dozing and he looks rather scruffy because he was shedding.  However, you can also clearly see the hollow along his spine that indicates a loss of muscle mass down his topline.  That can be an indication of inadequate protein in the diet, especially in older horses, but I know that is not the case here, Ben gets plenty of protein.

There were a couple of times that I trimmed Ben's feet late this summer and he became sore afterward for no apparent reason.  I am firm believer that a hoof trim should never make an animal sore and if it does there is either a problem with how the farrier did the job or a problem inside the animal and the feet are trying to tell you.  The eyes may be the window to the soul, but the hooves are the window into the body.

That loss of muscle can also be an early sign of Cushing's Disease, as is a scruffy coat that sheds unevenly or slowly.  Some other very subtle early symptoms of Cushing's are lethargy or variations in energy level, a swollen sheath/udder, chronic white line disease that does not respond to aggressive treatment, dullness or disinterest in the environment, increased likelihood and severity of infection....the symptoms are many and varied depending on the individual and you have to know your animal well to see them. 

I knew in Ben's case that I had not done anything that should have made him feel sore.  However, late summer is when a natural rise in the levels of a hormone called ACTH begins.  In this area it peaks in the last two weeks of September and then begins to taper off. 

The normal levels of ACTH are between 9 and 30.  During this seasonal rise, it is common for the levels of healthy animals to be as much as 3 times the high end of this range.  The ACTH levels in animals with Cushing's can rise as high as 1000.  This huge upswing in ACTH can trigger a bout of severe laminitis and most horses first get diagnosed with Cushing's when they have a sudden case of acute, life-threatening laminitis in the Fall for no apparent reason. 

Thankfully, this never happened to Ben, but the fact that he got ouchy on his feet after a routine trim tripped more alarm bells in my mind.  The fact that I keep the donkeys on a diet of low sugar/starch hay with very limited access to grass is probably what kept Ben from having worse problems.

I might have been able to continue clinging to my denial for a while longer, but I had also been trying to convince Riding Buddy to get Hawkeye tested for Cushing's.  I have been highly suspicious about him for several years now, mostly because he continues to have problems with his feet that should have responded to treatment, but never have.

We talked to the vet about it and found out that the manufacturer of the only drug used to treat Cushing's has a program every Fall where they will pay for ACTH testing.  Given the opportunity to have the testing done at no cost, neither RB or I could find any excuse to put it off any more.

I was not surprised when Hawkeye's test came back unequivocally positive.  His ACTH was around 300, which left absolutely no doubt.  Ben's test came back at 95, just over the upper threshold of the high limit during the seasonal rise.  Hawkeye was started on meds right away, but we decided to wait a month and retest Ben in November.  His second test came back at 64 when it should have been well below 30 by then and the last shreds of my denial blew away.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Up Close and Personal

I went out this afternoon intending to finally play with my new camera. The past few days have been super cold and windy and I was afraid the camera might freeze to my hands so I have not done much with it.  Today, the wind died down at least and the models were willing to leave the barn. 

Emma wasn't interested in posing for me.  She is finally starting to talk to me again after the terrible, awful procedure I foisted on her.  She has just begun allowing me to give her some ear rubs and butt scratches, which is generous of her.  She told me not to push my luck with that pesky camera though, so I kept my distance.

Ramsey was willing, but getting a quasi decent picture of a brown donkey in the snow on a grey day was more than we could manage. 

Fortunately, I had one big, nosey volunteer who isn't yet sick of having his picture taken. 

Ben is on some new medication (which I'll tell you about in my next post) and has been having a bit of a tough time adjusting to it.  However, it's been about three weeks now and it is all smoothing out and he is feeling better. 

I guess he decided it was time for an up close and personal exam to prove it. 

Eyes are bright...

Nasal passages are clear.

Nose is very soft and smooshy.

Quite kissable.

Ears are in fine working order.

 Hearing is acute and well tuned.

All-in-all, very huggable and in good shape.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Calling all Internet Users

Do you like reading this blog?  Shopping online?  Watching YouTube videos, NetFlix, cute cat videos?  Even cuter donkey videos?  Do you work from home?  Do you rely on Internet sales to pay your bills?  Do you like FaceBook?  Twitter? 

Do you use the Internet?

If the answer to any of the above is yes, then please call your Congressman right now and demand they uphold Net Neutrality.

Click here to find more ways to help spread the word:

Monday, December 11, 2017

Say it Ain't So

"Hey Ma, We heard a nasty rumor today..."

"We heard that Fall is over and Winter is about to descend.  That makes us very sad."

"Please, say it ain't so."

If only I could.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Stare

These don't think that the very little bit of grass they get each day is enough and let me know frequently that they are displeased.  Can you feel the stare?  They are making the paint peel off the front of my house.

This one thinks that anything less than 500 frisbee throws per day is insufficient.  I'm sure you can feel this stare. 

There should even be frisbees in the woods to hunt, but squirrels will do.

And this one thinks the chef should be serving 6 meals per day.

I hope that all of my California friends and readers are OK in these awful fires.  It seems like this year has been one long disaster and I wish there was more that I could do. 

Be safe.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

1/2 an Hour

I finally bought a new camera, which means the blog might survive.  I decided to try something very different this time.  My last 3 cameras have all been Canons of one version or another.  I've taken a lot of good pictures with them and even more bad ones.  They all had some good features and some that I hated, most especially that they are very slow.  Since I am terribly hard on cameras and they only live for a couple of years at best, I decided I'd like to try some other varieties.

I wanted a pocket-sized camera that focused (no pun intended) on photographic quality and options rather than other gadgetry like GPS and touchscreens.  After looking around and reading a bunch of reviews, I kept coming back to the Lumix ZS-50.  It is actually a slightly older model with a few less bells and whistles and a lot more lens. 

I just got the camera and have only spent about half an hour with it, but so far, I am liking it.  I didn't do anything other than charge the battery before going out and playing with it but still got a few decent pictures.  It seems easy and intuitive to use.  My only concern about it is that it feels rather light and fragile compared to the Canons.  Light and fragile does not fit well in my life, but we'll see. 

What do you think?


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Barnyard Gynecology

If you actually made it past the title of this post without getting scared off, be warned, there is more to come.  You may consider this to be TMI, but a lot of mares have problems like the one below and this is generally a very successful option that not many people seem to be aware of...

After giving birth to a big lug like Ramsey when she was only 23 months old, Emma had a lot of stretching of her vulva.  She managed to give birth unaided despite my valiant attempts to be awake when the time came, but she did have a great deal of vaginal bruising after the birth.  The bruising went away within a few days, but the stretching never has.

I had hoped that this problem would repair itself as Emma finished growing up, but instead, it has gotten steadily worse with time.  It is not an issue when she is standing, but the edges of her vulva tend to gape open when she is lying down and bits of straw or shavings tend to get stuck in this most sensitive of places. 

This is not only terribly irritating and uncomfortable for her, it is a real health hazard as it can cause all sorts of urinary, cervical or uterine infections.  Constant irritation and an influx of air and/or debris into the vaginal canal not only leads to infection, it also causes increased pain during heat cycles. In broodmares, it is also a cause of placental infection and abortion.

So, what is a poor young donkey lady to do?

Make the long dreaded, but necessary appointment with the gynecologist vet and schedule a caslick's procedure.  This is usually done on mares with poor vulva conformation, but is also a good option for cases like this.  It is also particularly helpful for broodmares (especially those with a tipped vulva or a history of miscarriage), athletes in heavy work or for any mare who has suffered some kind of vaginal injury.  It is quite common to see caslick's procedures on racehorses and eventers. 

Basically, the top half of the vulva is surgically closed to prevent any air or debris from getting into places they have no business being.  A very narrow strip of mucosal tissue is cut off from either side of the vulva and then the sides are sutured together so that they will grow back with a clean, tight seal. The sutures generally extend downwards until they are level with the pelvic floor.  This provides good protection without interfering with urination.

Emma has very good conformation in this area and her problems are not very noticable when she is standing, only when she lies down.  On the left is before and the right is shortly after the procedure.  There is some swelling caused by the local anesthetic - that was gone within a few hours. 

If I ever decided to breed Emma, this would have to be undone or giving birth would cause very severe tearing.  However, much as I would love to have more baby donkeys to play with, Emma will not be producing them.  Breeding Emma would not be a safe or responsible thing to do.  She should not have been allowed to become pregnant at such a young age in the first place, but things like that happen in neglect cases. 

The Caslick's procedure should significantly decrease Emma's risk of infection and improve her quality of life since she will no longer have to deal with the constant irritation of having hay chaff in the worst of all possible of places.

That is what I keep trying to tell her anyways.  I am not sure she is convinced yet.

She had the procedure done the Wed. before Thanksgiving and she is only just now starting to talk to me again.  I can't say as I blame her having been through more than my fair share of tortuous encounters with the gynecologist, but it really is for her own good.  I am sure she will forgive me eventually.

I hope.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Enjoy it while it lasts

By this time last year, we already had over 30 inches of snow.  This year, we have been having a lovely, extended Fall.  You can tell which one we prefer.