Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another Day, Another Vet Bill

Since making our home at City Limit Stables, Murray has: pulled a check ligament, been kicked in the forearm by Maggie (causing football-like swelling in his knee), and kicked himself on the inner part of his cannon bone (again, causing serious swelling and leaving a nasty-looking, but superficial gash). None of his injuries required a vet-- until now.

Friday May 14th.
Murray has his hooves trimmed and shoes reset. I ride him that evening. He seems off. I'm not that concerned, he does occasionally get sore after being re-shod. I take him for a walk around the property and call it a night.

Saturday May 15th.
Murray has the day off.

Sunday May 16th.
Dave and I are puttering around outside. We fill up the water bucket in the pasture. As Murray comes up for a drink, we see that he's licking his lips obsessively, and sticking his tongue out and twisting his head. Then he rubs his lips on the fence, and on the ground. Something is clearly bothering him.

I bring him in, I check his mouth but find nothing. While I groom him, the licking lessens. I tack him up and go for a ride. We warm up on a loose rein. There's a slight touch of unsoundness in our first few turns, then it disappears (again, not too worrisome for a boy of his age). I take up contact on the reins. His head shoots up and he stops. I try again. As soon as the right rein tightens, he shakes his head as though a fly has landed on his nose. We try this a couple of times, and things improve...well, things change. He stops shaking his head when I pick up the right rein, but now he's leaning on my left rein and is not willing to flex or bend to the left at all. He's also struggling to canter on the left lead. I have a short ride, and check his mouth again. I don't see anything. I begin to think that he may be sore behind, and that the head-shaking is a reaction to being asked to step underneath of himself a bit more.

Monday May 17th.
I ride Murray again. Again, it's the same. He's fine on a long rein, but as soon as I pick up contact, he clearly becomes agitated. Bending him to the left is almost impossible. Things improve as the ride goes on, but he's clearly not comfortable. There still don't seem to be any problems with his mouth. He's eating fine, and chewing fine.

I check his back. It's slightly tender, but that's quite normal for him too, especially now. I bought him a new saddle a few years ago to accommodate his changing, ageing body. But his mountainous withers have become more prominent, even since then, and his back seems to sink ever lower and lower. As a result, even his "new" saddle doesn't fit him perfectly. I think that perhaps one of his stifles (rear knee joint) is acting up. I start him on bute (anti-inflammatory).

Tuesday May 18th.

It's hot. Murray is lethargic and hounded by flies. I give Maggie a bath, and give him the day off.

Wednesday, May 19th.
Murray has now had four doses of bute. He should be feeling no pain. I ride. It's the same thing. He shakes his head on contact, he leans on my left hand and avoids all contact on the right rein. I take things very slowly and ride with a very soft hand, and by the end, he's going better than I would have expected, but something's still not right.

Thursday, May 20th

Before I turn Murray out, I feed him an apple. He has no problem crunching through its crisp core. I check his mouth again anyway. I run my fingers along the pink flesh on the bars of his mouth (the space between his incisors and molars-- the place where the bit sits). On the left side, all is fine. I move to the right, and before I even pry his mouth open, I notice that there seems to be some swelling along his jaw, just in front of his pre-molars. I slip my fingers into his slimy mouth. The flesh on this side feels different, like a soft sack. Before I can explore too much, he jerks his head up and away. I try again. He yanks his head away. I try pressing on that area from the outside of his mouth. He is NOT happy. BINGO. There's something wrong here. I call the vet for advice. He wants to come out and see for himself. At this age, he says it's not uncommon for horses' molars to split. He says he can be out in a couple of hours. I'm beginning to think I should get a preferred customer discount. *sigh*


The vet gives Murray a sedative and pries open his mouth with a metal contraption that evokes images of Hannibal Lecter's famous mask. Even in his drowsy state, Murray lets it be known that poking and prodding on the the right side of his lower jaw is painful. When the vet squeezes on that side, he uncoordinatedly jerks his head up, or sideways.

The teeth seem fine. None are lose or cracked. The only thing the vet finds is a very small (about 2mm wide) scrape, or prick on the inside of Murray's cheek. Much to Murray's dislike, he pushes all around it to see whether there might be a thorn, or a tiny piece of hay, or anything stuck inside. He doesn't come across anything, and there's no tell-tale stench of infection.

The vet concludes it's one of three things:
1.a brewing abscess in the root of the tooth. It doesn't seem likely to me, and the vet seems to think that's the least likely scenario too.

2. a hairline fracture in his lower jaw. This is the diagnosis the vet seems to be leaning toward. It's entirely possibly, but I would be surprised, only because the swelling is pretty moderate, and when Murray gets even a scratch, it usually swells to balloon-like proportions.

3. there's a foreign body stuck in his cheek, and there's an infection festering there. I tend to think this is the most likely explanation. The vet says usually horses don't have a whole lot of pain with something like that, but he doesn't know Murray that well. He doesn't know what a complete and utter wimp he is.

In either case, the vet says "wait and see" is the best plan of action for now. Five more days of bute, just to help Murray feel a bit better. Call him (the vet) back in 10 days with an update-- unless of course things get worse. Here's hoping that whatever this is will simply clear up on its own. With Murray's luck, that's not entirely likely.

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