Sunday, May 31, 2009

No Rest for the Convalescence Stall!

We planned to talk about something besides health issues today, but that is not to be. ("The best laid plans of mice and men......")

Yesterday afternoon (Saturday) the farm was at peace. So much so that we finally addressed some long neglected chores - mowing the lawn and disposing of the mountain of feed bags by the back door, for example. Thunderstorms in the distance threatened to soak the farm during the night, so we worked until sundown to accomplish as much as possible in case the bad weather would be with us in the morning.

The horses all seemed quiet, happily grazing in newly mowed fields. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary. For once.

Saturday's peace was short-lived.

Sunday morning, as breakfasts were distributed, Jubal did not come into his stall. Now, Jubal is always - every meal, 100% of the time - the first one in his group to assume the feeding position. Not so this morning. Jubal stayed put where he was in the shed, even when Fitz pointed out that Jubal was in his feeding station.

A quick glance up and down easily revealed the problem. Jubal's right foreleg was noticeably swollen to the knee. There was a small, superficial-looking wound on the back of his fetlock, but nothing that looked like it should cause the reaction we saw. We brought out the thermometer and found Jubal's temperature to be 103.2. Normal rectal temps for a horse are in the 99-100 range, so this was a significant fever.

Our vet was here within an hour. Clipping the hair from around the wound and cleaning the area revealed no puncture wound, confirmed by an ultrasound scan. Jubal's injury appeared to be a very superficial scrape.

Sometimes, though, even very minor assaults to the skin introduce opportunistic bacteria which, under just the right circumstances, cause a major infection. If you have ever known a human who developed cellulitis as the result of a seemingly insignificant scratch, you'll understand what Jubal is dealing with now and how frighteningly quickly it can escalate.

To combat the infection, Jubal was immediately started on antibiotics -- 2 days of injections, then 3-5 days of an oral type. He has been given anti-inflammatory medications for pain and to reduce both the fever and swelling. In addition to medication, cold hydrotherapy will be used to keep the swelling down and to keep Jubal's body temperature down, if needed. Another technique being used is a "standing wrap" which consists of elastic bandaging over cotton-like padding.

For now Jubal seems much more comfortable, his main concern being the separation from herdmates, Fitz and Emma. Or maybe the problem is that his current wrap is pink! Pink! (Don't worry, old man, we have other colors for when we change the wrap tonight.)

While we don't want to downplay the potential seriousness of cellulitis, its a relief to see Jubal responding well to treatment so far. If everyone reading will cross your fingers, hold your tongues just right, and send positive vibes his way, perhaps our stoic old Foundation Quarter Horse will be back to normal in no time.

And after that........well........maybe the universe could give the geezers a break for a while.

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