Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Udderly Unique

Back a ways, dp recounted the mysterious saga of Tonka's swollen Willy.
This week, Kate has developed a similar, though notably feminine, issue.

After Maddie's show on Saturday, it was Kate's turn for a ride on Sunday. Neither girl has any competitions for a few weeks, but, now that they're going well, I want to keep them going, and develop some muscle tone--on myself, as well as the fillies. So when my trail-riding neighbor/friend Pat suggested we join her and a few others for a Sunday ride, I was more or less game (I'm still fighting the crud). In the on-going battle of shedding season, I was working on everyone's coat with the shedding blade, while they munched on their breakfast.

But when Kate responded with uncharacteristic nastiness to a belly scrub, I looked in her nether regions to find the right front quarter of her udder swollen quite dramatically: general puffiness through an area bigger than my hand, and a center area the size of a clenched fist and as hard a not-quite-ripe pear! I quickly brought her in for further assessment.

Appetite was good (it's Kate, after all), temperature was pretty normal (99.8), respirations seemed a little high, though I had no watch to actually time them, but not labored, pulse--well, even with a stethescope, I've never been very good at getting a pulse--even back when Corky and I were trying to track P&R's for competitive trail rides (the 25-50 mile kind, not what I trying to do with Kate). I was able to "milk" a very small amount of clear, yellowish fluid from the one teat (after cleaning the udder completely). Kate was obviously tender, but not so much so that she didn't let me do all of the above investigation.
Called the vet's after hours line and got the young associate at my regular clinic (they share on-call with another local clinic) who is familiar with Kate. He, however, always seems skeptical of my information. I didn't even call it mastitis, yet he was dubious that it actually involved her udder--he wanted to make it an edema from a random kick.

Now granted, mastitis is fairly uncommon in horses, just because their udders are so far from random bacteria on the ground, and pretty well protected between the hind legs. And in a maiden mare, who has never nursed a foal, it's even more rare. Young vet seemed to want it to be just an edema that just "navigated" to her belly, and then "settled" in the general region of the udder. He suggested hot packs and a little bute for the pain and swelling. When I suggested that Kate and I would be waiting at the clinic when it opened on Monday, he reluctantly agreed.

I was already feeling negligent that I hadn't seen this earlier--it couldn't possibly have developed overnight. In fact, I was worried that it had maybe occured the previous weekend at the trail challenge, and I had forced her to compete at less than 100%! How could I have missed it?

Monday morning, after calling in to school, we hauled into town (luckily the trailer was already hitched up, from Maddie's show). It's frustrating to me that the primary vet, who admittedly was young and inexperienced himself when we first started using his services 10 years ago, seems to rarely be at this clinic, focusing more on the adjunct clinic 40 miles away. Dr. Mark knows me and my horse handling background and skills, and treats me, if not as an equal, since I have obviously not gone to vet school, at least as a knowedgeable horseperson. I can suggest possible diagnoses and ask about treatment options, without feeling talked down to. Dr. Ben, on the other hand, seems to need to reinforce his authority and expertise. I had to bite my tongue when he proceeded to be surprised that Kate seemed to have an "unusual" case of mastitis!

Recommended treatment: continue the bute, the hot soaks, and expressing what fluid I could, to relieve the pressure. He took a sample of the fluid to send out to be cultured, but in the meantime started her on the expensive powdered sulfa-based antibiotics (I forgot to ask for the much cheaper ones that I crush myself). When the lab results come back, we will know if a different drug would be more appropriate for this particular infection, but that could be anywhere from 3 to 10 days, and we didn't want to waste time waiting.

So Kate and I headed home.

First dose of drugs in half of her daily pound of grain (so we would have some to add to any leftovers in the bottom of the bucket). "Just mix it in" the vet had said. Yeah, right! Miss Piggy, who will eat absolutely anything, won't touch it. Even with applesauce and maple syrup (okay, maybe I overdid it--but that stuff's expensive, and I wanted to make sure she got it all). So she stays locked in the stall (a rarity in itself) while the rest of the girls get to go out to the pasture:

What a hissy fit she threw!
Eat your grain, Kate, and you can go out too.

No way, lady!

Well, you're staying in there until it's all gone. It's expensive, and it'll make you feel better.

I'll feel better if you let me out!

Goodbye, Kate. I have to go back to school and teach 5th graders how to solve problems.

I'm NOT eatin' it!

Goodbye, Kate. I'll see you at supper time.
When I got home, she still hadn't touched it, and was whining that she was starving. So I mixed another $6 dose into a paste of applesauce, put it in a big syringe, and shoved it down her throat. At least I tried. We ended up wearing about half of the dose (scrape it back into the syringe and try again). I let her out in the pasture for a couple of hours, then gave her a half-flake of hay and left her in the stall for the night. I figured the extra dose still in the grain bucket wouldn't hurt (maybe even jump start the treatment a bit), and it would be easier to give her a dose of bute in the morning before school if she was already in.

Tuesday and tonight, I didn't put the bute in the grain (syringe again), and she ate the antibiotics in her grain a little less reluctantly (nibbling it as I did chores, and gone by morning). General swelling is down, but the hard core seems only slightly less so--and more tender--she actually kicked out because I even approached her tender parts.
I checked with the vet's, but culture results weren't back yet.
I'll keep you posted.


  1. Poor Kate! Tonka offers to donate some of his "Special Formula" to her cause. Can you get paste bute? If so, try what I did with Raven -- drilling a big hole in an apple and injecting the bute into it. Worked a charm.

  2. Ugh, poor girl! I wish horses were as easy to give meds to as dogs: "Hey Kate! Look what I got! It's CHEEZY PILLS, it's your favorite!" Maybe a Bute Apple will be the next best thing for her.