Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Prince and the Pea

Some horses and donkeys are prone to getting bed sores - nasty little sores on their hocks, knees, elbows, etc. that can lead to nasty joint infections.  Most equines can lay down on all sorts of terrain and never get a sore.  Maybe 1 in 500 do.  It's a genetic thing.

If you happen to have a critter who gets bed sores, there is only one way to prevent them or get rid of them: you have to pad the bony parts.  If the animal only gets sores on the hocks, which is most common, you can use special padded wraps or you can provide deep bedding.  One way or another, the only solution to bed sores is a lot of padding.

If you have a creature like Prince Ramsey, who gets bed sores on his hocks, knees, elbows, stifles, hips AND above his eyes, the only option is lots and lots of deep bedding.

Ramsey got his first bed sores on his knees about an hour after he was born and we have battled them ever since.  I had hoped that he would eventually toughen up and grow out of them, but no such luck.  His Majesty is why there is always bedding my barn.

The best bedding for bed sores is a deep layer of hay and/or straw.  There is only one problem with this for my herd, who are all on perpetual diets - they have taken to eating all the bedding.  So, I have been experimenting with other options.

I have tried pelleted bedding that I soak first.  The pellets break down into sawdust when soaked in water....

That is three bags of pellets and several buckets of water.  The chicken is purely gratuitous, she was not helpful to this endeavor.

The pellets work well while they are fresh, but they dry out quickly and become extremely dusty.  They still work OK if they are very, very deep, but tend to keep breaking down into finer and finer particles and if they get thin, they actually make the sores worse.  They act like sandpaper unless you can keep them 4-6 inches deep.  In an open barn like mine, that is very difficult.  I tried putting some old hay in there as well and you can see how well that worked...

I have just started adding shavings on top of the pellets and that is working better for now.  The combination packs in better than either alone, but I can see where they too will be very dusty and need frequent refills.  I'd rather not have to use any bedding in the barn because of all the dust, but I can't have Prince Ramsey being a bloody mess.

I am still looking for something that works as well as a nice bed of straw, that is not dusty, won't cause bankruptcy and won't get eaten.  It is a work in progress.  We wouldn't want the Prince to be feeling all those peas after all. 


  1. This is a timely post. My donkeys both get sores on their hocks this time of year once the ground gets dry and hard. Every time they roll or get up from a nap they abrade their hocks. I use pine shavings in the barn but they roll outside in their dust bath areas and like to sleep outside. For the past 10 days I have been using Dr. Scholl's moleskin to pad the outside of their hocks. I cut a piece to fit, about 1 inch wide by 1 3/4 inches long (or any size appropriate to the area you need to cover). I cut a small piece of non-stick padding and stick it in the middle of the moleskin when I peel the backing off. The non-stick pad goes over the wound and the moleskin sticks very well to their fur and will mold to the shape of their hock. Their fur has to be dry but once in place the moleskin will stay on for several days. Nothing sticks to the wound because of the little piece of non-stick padding and the wounds stay clean and padded. It's still an experiment but the abrasions are healing slowly. Ramsey has more sore spots in different places but I wanted to mention what I was trying on my donkeys.

  2. Tell me about it. We've had to resort to buying the bagged shavings and it's been so expensive. Use to have a guy who would bring a dump truck load, but he doesn't do it any more.

  3. That is a puzzler. I've heard of using peat moss and bedding but I've also heard that it causes health problems. (Cancer? Respiratory? I can't remember.) Seems like it would be comfy if it was safe. Plain old dirt would probably get too compacted. Poor Ramsey! He needs bubble wrap.

  4. I use a combination of pellets (soaked and puffed) with Pestell shavings. Seems to be a good combination for me. Have not experienced the dust.
    Deep bedding makes all the difference and I have never experienced the bed sores on a horse.

  5. Oh dear. I am not a fan of the pellets for the reason you describe. I use the kiln dried shavings but the cost adds up. For my two it's not too bad as it soaks up a lot. Some of my friends use peat moss and swear by it. Especially for horses that are allergic.

  6. I've heard of chopped cardboard bedding. I think some alpaca people use that, or at least at shows or something.

  7. I think some people like shredded paper? They might eat that though and might not be available where you are.