Life is busy! I wish I could say it's been good-busy but I've had a bit of worry with Armani.
On Saturday, Jan 5th, I had my awesome vet (I love her more everytime I interact with her) come out to float Armani. Since he's young, his teeth are softer and likely need attention more frequently at this stage. When my vet did the pre-purchase exam, she said his teeth were good but would need to be done at some point this winter. I'm not one to want to wait until there is a problem but also don't believe in doing things to ridiculous excess (often leads to more harm than good), so I decided to have him floated early in the new year. As I hoped, he had nothing that would have begun to cause irritation yet but he did have some points that needed to be addressed.
Although my vet is not an equine dentist per se, she has made equine dentistry an area that she has gained extra education in and I love her approach to floats. She is very detailed yet minimalist in her approach, by which I mean she is thorough but doesn't grind the s**t out of the teeth and she pays attention to what is really going on. Granted, this is how all vets should operate but I've heard enough stories about those that don't to be grateful for what I have.
Right off the bat, I suggested we lightly sedate Armani. While I would love to have a horse who has learned to stand quietly for any weird procedure, I just knew my ADHD baby would not deal with it all that well. What was most important to me was that Armani get a good, thorough, gentle, float accomplished. A touch of drug meant that we weren't stessing him or his TMJ any more than necessary and my vet could focus on the teeth, not the behaviour.
Before we got started on his teeth, we drew some blood for a full blood chemistry and haematoloogy analysis. I did this partly because I'm a data junkie, partly because the clinic was offering a special package deal with floats (which I needed anyway) and partly because Armani is new to me and I wanted to have a baseline for him.While I do think sometimes if you look hard enough you will find a problem on almost any living being, I felt this was a reasonable level of detail to gather.
So blood was drawn, float was done, and Armani was hanging out in his stall for the drugs to fully wear off. I took the opportunity to clip his bridle path.I also did a light TMJ massage to help with any tension from the float. While doing this, I noticed that an area under his jaw was extremely swollen.
"Uh, Megan, I'm going to have to get you to look at Mani one more time..."
Now, to back-track a little. About 4 weeks ago, Mani (I need a better barn name...) had developed two swollen glands under his jaw. Of course, the immediate fear is strangles but it didn't look like strangles. Still, I called my vet for advice, took his temperature religiously and watched for any other signs like nasal discharge. He was fine and the swollen glands returned to normal very quickly. Well, they returned to what I could only assume was normal. I just don't know every detail of him well enough yet to be sure. I noticed when it wasn't right but I couldn't say for sure if it was completely normal, either. Truthfully, I think I've paid more attention to memorizing the legs than anything else.
I feel like I should know from memory every part of him but at that point I'd had Armani for 4 weeks and I guess it just takes me longer to know his normal everywhere. I'm sure I still don't, almost 2 months in, though I actively try. I'm not sure when I would have even thought to memorize under his chin/jaw area. Anyway, I guess it's good that I noticed as soon as there was something abnormal, even if I wasn't sure exactly what normal looked like on him.
So that issue seemed resolved. I kept an eye on the area but nothing changed one way or another. Which I thought was good.
Then comes the day of the float I described above, 4 weeks after the intial flare-up. Before the vet got there, I had Armani in the arena. I was working on some leading and groundwork and then did a free lunge session of sorts (which was very cool, I hope to discuss in another post). Basically I didn't want Armani getting fidgety in the barn while waiting for the vet and I didn't want to get him once she arrived because his turnout is large and he can still be sticky coming in on occasion. So we made good use of the time.
While it's weird that I didn't notice the swelling during grooming, all that groundwork, or during the vet visit, I can only assume it was present before any of the vet work because none of that would have caused it, let alone so quickly.
I was advised to hot compress and take temperature daily. I was also given a swab in case the area decided to drain, I could get a culture to the clinic asap (and of course isolate my horse). We were being cautious but at the same time there were no indications of anything particularly worrisome since he still had no fever, snot etc.
The area looked better by the next night. I got the results of the bloodwork back on Monday and although almost everything was perfectly smack in the middle of normal range, he did have low iron, calcium, and vitamin C and a high WBC count. The particular WBCs he was high in were, I was told, typically related to high parasite load and sometime allergies. The nutrient deficiency could be explained by a parasite load too. I had given Armani a dewormer 3 weeks prior and that can also cause those WBCs to respond but wouldn't explain anything else.
I had them run a fecal Tuesday morning and it was perfectly negative. Humph! It's a good thing yet doesn't explain anything. Kinda the story of my horse-life. I bought a multi-supplement that my vets office supplies that is higher in iron and has good absorption rates. I figure I could spend countless hours researching which supplements have actual bio-available iron etc., buy one off the shelf that probably does nothing, or go with the one my clinic has already done the background on. It was an obvious choice, even though I paid dearly for it.
The swelling got a bit better and stayed better until Wednesday night, when it looked worse. He also had a bit of a temperature. I had the vet out the next morning and although his temp was normal, she put him on antibiotics since the area is clearly not getting better on it's own. I'm hoping it's not an abscess because then the meds won't be able to get to the infection and I will be looking at ulta-sound, drainage, etc.
So I hot compressed every day. Just as I was arriving at work Monday morning I got a call that Armani took a few steps of trot when he was turned out and stopped and started coughing, it seemed like he was having a hard time breathing. I got on the phone with my clinic right away and an hour later was at the barn waiting.
Ultra sound showed the swollen lymph node which itself hadn't grown any, it was the area around the lymph node that was causing most of the swelling and appeared to be starting to abcess. My vet tried to drain it but wasn't able to. After some discussion we decided to stop the antibiotics since they weren't working and we didn't get anything to culture. Do as many hot compresses as possible. Joy.
I was back Tuesday morning for the farrier and brough Mani into the arena to lunge a bit first. He started coughing almost right away and then started blowing goop out his nose. Never thought I'd be so happy to see stuff coming out a horses' nose! So it seems he's started to drain into his airways, which I was told might happen.
When I was back out last night he didn't produce any more gunk, so I don't know if there are more to rupture still or what but either way the only thing I can do is keep compressing, so fingers crossed it keeps draining! The lumpy area was definitely a bit softer last night, so I'll take that as a good sign!
Whew! At least we've had lots of time for bonding the last couple weeks!