Saturday, November 1, 2008

Baby Boomer Dreams - Dandy's Story - The Vet Call

Part 1

When I called the vet to schedule an appointment, I actually got the vet himself on the phone. I remember clearly what I said to him once I'd him what the groom had said about my Arabian horse. "Please, tell me this isn't EPM."

The vet's response was that he couldn't. It was too early to tell. It did sound like something neurological was going on with Dandy but there were lots of things on the list of what it could be. EPM was definitely one of them but one of the least likely ones at this point. He would have to do lots of tests to find the cause of Dandy's symptoms.

I don't know if it was luck or if the vet changed his schedule but he came to see Dandy that afternoon. I took the time off work to meet him at the barn. I got there early to visit with my horse a bit before the vet began poking and prodding him. I remember the heaviness in my heart wanting answers but really just wanting my horse to be well.

When Bo Weeks arrived, Dandy and I were up in the cross ties again. I remember thinking that Bo looked more concerned that I usually saw him. We had a long history together and I knew his "bedside manner" to a tea. This current demeanor was one I'd seen only a couple of times before. Both times those horses had died so seeing this concern again only reinforced my already rampant fear.

Bo got started examining my horse as I watched closely to see what I could discern by his responses as well as those of my horse.There were the usual tests that are done for lameness........walking, trotting, flexing and such. Then there were some tests for reflexes which I'd never seen done on horses before. I wish I could remember all of them but only one stuck in my mind.

Bo took Dandy's right hind foot and crossed it over the front of his left with no resistance from the horse. Then he put it down, still in that position, so my horse was actually standing cross legged on his hind feet.

The horse just stood there patiently "OK, what's next." He never did pick up his foot and put it back where it belonged. Bo ended up replacing the foot back on the floor in its correct position. I could tell by his expression this not only wasn't what he'd expected, it wasn't anything at all good.

From there he repeated the test on the left side with the same results. I heard a deep sigh from my vet as the second foot stayed in the awkward position just like the right one had done.

Bo also tried to back my horse but at the first signs of stepping backwards Dandy nearly fell down. Then Bo tried the back going more to the left than straight back with still the same response. Repeating that on the other side had similar results.

It was at this point that Bo explained to me that Dandy definitely showed signs of nerve damage. It is not "normal" for a horse to allow his feet to be manually crossed over without major resistance. It usually will take the vet several tries to even get the horse to comply at all.

Then once the foot is released in the cross over position, a horse without nerve damage will immediately replace the foot to where it belongs. That fact that Dandy didn't replace the foot and his falling on backing all suggested that Dandy didn't know where either of his back feet were. Which in turn suggested considerable nerve damage. The big question was what was causing it.

For an answer we had to wait for the results of Dandy's blood work. Hopefully there would be something in there that would give us a clue to what the culprit might be. In the meantime, all we could do was wait.

For me waiting was not a good thing. It just gave me more time to think of all the possibilities and what this might mean for my horse. I already knew enough to know that most horses never recover fully from neurological disorders.

Those tests that showed the horse didn't know where his feet were put my horse into an even higher category of risk. Not only was a horse who didn't know where his feet were very dangerous to ride, horses like this rarely if ever recover from this kind of damage. Whatever the diagnosis, Dandy and I were heading down a difficult road.

To be continued............

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  1. Pinched nerve?? Would be nice if it was that simple...

  2. Oh. Our Dandy. Our willing Dandy!