Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It is so hard to see a beloved friend go

Animals and their love stay in our souls, once we've let them in. And we are better for it, more complete, more whole, more compassionate, and often transformed. Loving this much, we also know the searing pain of losing them.

My thought is that one fine day we shall see them again, and that my dear, Kylie, just went on ahead.

Two wonderful friends sent me flowers last week. It was so unexpected to see them on my front porch and really made me smile. I was overwhelmed and so thankful for their thoughtfulness.

Over the weekend I got a call from the vet with the autopsy results and thankfully it revealed something that was a complication from the colic surgery and not something that they could have fixed in a second surgery. It actually did bring some piece of mind that truly there was nothing else that could have been done for her. I felt that the vet was sincere, when he expressed how bad he felt that he was not able to save her.

It is hard to go to the barn and see her empty stall, but I am thankful I have her daughter, Mazzy to bring me happiness and help fill the void Kylie has left.

After a week off of riding due to rain, I had three great rides in a row with Mazzy on Saturday, Sunday and yesterday. She is on the upswing right now and feeling better, stronger, and much easier every time I ride her.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In Loving Memory

They say some horses leave hoofprints on our hearts, I, however say only a few are actually capable of sailing away with them.

The pain and loss I feel right now feels unbearable. The only comfort I have is knowing she is in a better place.

Somewhere, somehow in time's own space
There must be some sweet pastured place
Where streams sing on and tall trees grow
A Paradise where horses go
With all my love to you I send
I know Great Horses live again

Kylie came to me wrapped in what dreams are made of. Her beautiful soul made my world a better place.

Thank you, Kylie, for being the horse of my dreams, I miss you more than words can say. Forever and always in my heart, my love; until we meet again.

The Rainbow Bridge For Horses
Author Unknown

By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,
is a lush, green meadow where time stands still.
Where the friends of man and woman do run,
when their time on earth is over and done.

For here, between this world and the next,
is a place where beloved creatures find rest.
On this golden land, they wait and they play,
til The Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.

No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness,
for here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness.
Their limbs are restored, their health renewed.
Their bodies have healed with strength imbued.

They trot through the grass without even a care,
til one day they whinny and sniff at the air.
All ears prick forward, eyes sharp and alert.
Then all of a sudden, one breaks from the herd.

For just at that second, there's no room for remorse.
As they see each horse.
So they run to each other, these friends from long past
The time of their parting is over at last.

The sadness they felt while they were apart
has turned to joy once more in each heart.
They nuzzle with a love that will last forever.
And then, side-by-side, they cross over...together.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A better day

When I went today to see Kylie, she was definetly more herself. And she was HUNGRY. I welcomed the spoiled behavior of pawing for treats or attention when normally it drives me crazy. She is back on the IV drip of Lidocain for pain, which is a step back, but I am happy it is keeping her comfortable.
I took her for a walk and was so happy and content to just be with her. I wish I wasn't so emotionally attached so that I could make clearer decisions, but after being in a relationship for 11 years, there is an attachment that clouds everything. I want what is best for her not just today, but for her future. She deserves a great quality of life, and I am trying to take that into account when making all of these difficult decisions.
I had a long talk with the vet today (it seems like he is there 24 hours a day, seven days a week!) and is happy with how Kylie looks today, so he has backed off the pressure of giving her a second surgery. Thankfully! I learned some interesting things about ulcers and treatment that I did not know before. Kylie developed ulcers that she did not have when she first came in from all of the acid in her stomach. Hers are caused from fasting and all the medication. Horses evolved to graze, eating many small meals frequently. This way, the stomach is rarely empty and the stomach acid has less of a damaging effect. If horses do not eat frequently, the acid builds up and ulcers are more likely to develop. Research has found that an average horse can produce up to 16 gallons of acidic fluid every 24 hours. Thety started her on Zantec (ranitidine) on Friday, but it takes 24 to 48 hours to take effect. This is one possibility for her discomfort on Friday,

It's been well-documented that over 90% of race horses and over 60% of performance horses (hunter/jumpers, dressage, endurance and western) have ulcers. Even small changes in the routine of a recreational horse can cause ulcers in as little as five days. The signs of ulcers in horses include poor performance (often mistaken for musculoskeletal or back pain), behavioral issues (poor attitude, resistance, girthiness), colic and loss of weight or condition.

The part I did not know was associated with the treatment of ulcers. I have had Kylie on ranitidine in the past due to a heavy show schedule and to prevent ulcers, but this vet told me that unless I administer it every 8 hours it does no good. I have also used GastroGard and given just one tube, which I have done during a show, and come to find out one dose does nothing . Good to know because it is expensive! GastroGard or UlcerGard (Omeprazole), requires three to five days to reach a steady level in the body; after the first dose, there is only 25% inhibition of the parietal cells (large oval cells of the gastric mucous membrane) that secrete gastric acid. So, for it to do any good, you have to start at least two to three days prior to stressful situations. Alternatively, you can use an H2 blocker, such as ranitidine, which inhibits parietal cells with the first dose, but this medication must be given three times per day for continued effect.
So basically to treat ulcers you can use ranitidine, which is much more cost effective, but must be given every eight hours for it to work OR GastroGard can be given only once a day for 30 days. Research showed that once treatment stopped, the ulcers came right back. That means you have to do more than just treat the existing ulcers, you have to create an environment in the stomach that makes it hard for ulcers to form. For the prevention of recurrence of gastric ulcers, continue treatment for a least an additional 4 weeks by administrating at the recommended daily maintenance dose.

Here are some diet and management tips to reduce the risk of ulcers in your horse:

■Provide pasture turnout--this is the best method of preventing ulcers!
■Provide constant access to hay—keeping hay in front of your horse is next best
■Provide hay frequently—if free-choice hay is not an option, feeding it four to six times a day is an acceptable substitute
■Use alfalfa hay—the protein and calcium in hay help reduce stomach acid
■Limit fasting periods—keeping food in the stomach at all times protects it from acid which causes ulcers
■Limit grain feeding—sweet feeds especially lead to heavy acid production
■Provide “down time”—heavy exercise is a risk factor for ulcers so include less intense work days and even rest days in your training and showing plan
■Reduce stress—allow social interaction with other horses and keep the feed, turnout, and exercise schedule as regular as possible
■Limit NSAIDS—anti-inflammatories like phenylbutazone have been linked to ulcers, so give the smallest amount necessary for the shortest time possible.

And she got some alfalfa leaves today! She was so happy!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A step back

What a gloomy Saturday. Kylie has had a rough weekend so far. She doesn't feel well and they aren't sure why. So she is back off of all food and back on all the pain meds. So frustrating. I hope this is just a bump in the road. I spent a few hours with her Friday night. I took her for a walk when I got there and she seemed ok, but as soon as she got back to her stall she layed down and was acting colicky. She rolled and groaned and did not look comfortable. It was heartbreaking. They gave her a round of drugs to make her more comfortable, and they gave her visible relief. Then after they wore off she seemed ok. I groomed her for a couple of hours, and she definetly seemed to enjoy that. Every time I stopped she would take a step closer so I would continue.

This morning I went back and she seemed more comfortable, but she is back on all the pain killing drugs and back on the IV. The vet wants to do more surgery to see if he can find out what is wrong, but I do not want to put her through any more torture than she has already been through. I wish someone would tell me what the best thing to do for her is.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day four after surgery

I think I have been home for about 10 hours total, including sleep for the past 5 days. Of course, all of this has happened during the busy time at work, quarter end, so no chance for any time off there. And I still need to get Mazzy out the days my trainer doesn't ride her, so no break there, but I am still managing to make it out to the equine hospital each night, driving 125 miles a day to get it all done.

The reflux stopped, so Kylie was able to graze a little yesterday. I'm talking on grass as long as astroturf, so a very little. It went through but she has diarreah. I guess its good that at least it made it through. However, she was moved to the isolation barn because of risk of Salmonellosis. During a colic episode, your horse's immune system may become compromised and any bacteria or organism they carry in thier gut can no longer be controlled. The salmonella bacterium, in particular, which all horses carry, can flourish and cause severe diarrhea. Not sure if that is what is going on here, but if so, they don't want it to get any of the other horses to get sick.

She's looking brighter everyday. After I grazed her for a few minutes and took her for a walk, we went over to her new home in the isolation barn. I picked her out a stall that had a window so she could watch the baseball game. She was mezmorized. Her face was glued up against the window watching every play. She forgot I was there. I'm glad she has something to keep her busy.

Watching Baseball

Her view

After the first 72 hours, other long-term complications can set in. Scar tissue formation, adhesions and intestinal constriction may decrease the motility of the intestines and cause more colics. Persistent diarrhea from salmonella infections, microflora imbalance or inflammation of the lining of the colon, is a possibility. Horses may become hard keepers and require additional supplements to maintain. Hernias or infections along the incision line on the belly are also possible.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Post Colic Surgery

Thank you everyone for you concern and kind wishes!!!
The first couple of days after surgery Kylie was really painful. They keep her on drugs to make her as comfortable as possible. She is monitored frequently and I get out to see her daily and get calls from the vet with updates. She spiked a fever Saturday night (about 24 hrs after surgery), but they managed it and were able to get it back down.

On Sunday and Monday, Kylie had gastric reflux pooling in her stomach. She had to be refluxed every 4 hours or so (obtaining stomach contents via a tube, threaded down through the nasal passage). It means slow motility of her system, which is not totally unexpected, but things better start moving along soon. I was there Monday night when they refluxed her and the girl commented on what a great patient she has been. Most horses need a lip chain in order for them to get the tube down thier nose, alot of horses need sedation, but Kylie just stands there and lets them do it. They told me one horse wouldn't let them do it no matter how heavily sedated he was, and he died. After they felt like they got most of it they took her in for an ultrasound, because they said she "hides" it. Hehe. It must take alot of training to read an ultrasound, because as much as they explained what we were looking at it just looked like a blur to me. No food or water yet until the reflux stops.
She still has to wear a muzzle, but she has figured out how to go in the corners of the stall where the straw sticks straight up and finds a piece to stick through the muzzle and eats it! I went and got one of the interns and alerted them to my tricky eater and they said if she tries that hard to get a piece she has earned it :-). My heart breaks when she paws at the straw and then puts her head down to eat and you can hear her lips flapping in the muzzle trying to get it.

I got to take her for a walk Monday night. It was nice to get her some fresh air and not have to breathe in the stench of DMSO. I smell it even when I am not with her. She was alert and more comfortable. There is a baseball field behind the hospital facility and she was very interested in the all the bright lights a screams coming from over there. She whinnied to them a few times cheering them on.

Every hour counts for the next five days. I hope she sticks to the vet's plan for survival.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Colic continued

Well the good news is Kylie made it through surgery. BUT she has a long, winding, very difficult road ahead of her. She got up after an hour, which the doc said was pretty normal after being in surgery for so long. He removed 95% of her colon (large intestine), which they can live without if they survive all the potential complications from surgery. I feel so awful seeing Kylie this way. Her eyes are swollen from being on her back for so long during surgery. She is still out of it, and has IVs hanging from the ceiling attached to her, huge bandages around her belly, she has a Hannible Lechter leather muzzle on so she doesn't eat her staw bedding, and she stinks almost unbearably of DMSO (smells like rotting garlic and onion). It is overwhelming to see her like this. Just a day ago I was riding and jumping her happy and free. The vet told me that heart rate (HR) at 24 hours after surgery was significantly associated with survival. Thankfully, Kylie's is in the range for survival.

The term "colic" means only "pain in the abdomen" or "pain in the belly". There are many causes for such pain, ranging from the mild and inconsequential to the life-threatening or fatal. One of the problems with equine colic is that it can be very difficult in the early stages to distinguish the mild from the potentially fatal. This is why all cases of abdominal pain should be taken seriously right from the onset. Some horses are so painful on presentation at the hospital that there is no question surgery is needed, this was our case.

Kylie had the most severe form of colic - a twisted bowel, these types of colic cause a total blockage of the intestine and require immediate surgery if the horse is to survive. Not only is gas and food material trapped inside the twisted gut, but blood supply is cut off, causing damage or death to the intestine. As the gut dies, toxins are released into the body, causing severe illness or even death. For some horses, pain medication helps keep them quiet for approximately an hour. But some horses are so painful that the drugs seem to help very little. Horses can die from this type of colic within a few hours. So thankfully my friend noticed there was a problem!!! The cause for this type of colic is poorly understood, so I have no idea why this happened to her.

The large intestine fills a significant part of the abdomen. The total length of the large intestine is about 25 feet, but it holds approximately 30 gallons of material - twice as much as the small intestine. Surprisingly, this large unwieldy structure is tethered to the body wall at only two points: at its beginning (where it joins the small intestine and caecum) and at its end (where it joins the short, narrow small colon which leads to the anus). With only two immobile points, the large intestine lies in the abdomen in a neatly-arranged double-U formation, one "U" stacked on top of the other. This arrangement entails the food making it round a number of 180 bends (known as "flexures") in the intestine. In addition to these problems the only thing that holds the colon in place is bulk. So a hungry horse without access to forage and an empty colon is a prime candidate for a twisted gut.

So many challenges lie ahead...

The first 72 hours after surgery are the most critical. This is when the intestines are trying to reorganize themselves from being manipulated, cut open, et cetera. As a result the intestines sometimes stop moving, which is very painful for the horse. Also, if the circulation to the intestines was cut off for too long, the lining of the intestines sometimes reacts by becoming inflamed, or dies, resulting in severe diarrhea. If the horse had intestine cut out, the site of reattachment may fail, causing either another blockage or rupture at the site. After surgery the horse’s immune system is compromised from stress, and infection is a concern. Laminitis, may also occur.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Dreaded Colic

I know I have been gone for a long time. It is due to a horribly long commute which is eating up all of my spare time. Commuting 17 1/2 hours a week + riding every night = no time for blogging. It actually doesn't leave much spare time for anything. No time to make jewelry either :-(. But I wanted to document this awful event I am trying to live through.

I got a call on Friday afternoon from a friend who said Kylie didn't look right. She got up and down a few times and was lifting her lip. She took her out and walked her for a while. I asked her to show her to the barn manager and get her feedback. The barn manager took her vitals and they seemed normal. I called my vet and she was a couple of hours away so she told me to give her 10cc of Banamine IV and if she still didn't seem right to get another vet out. The Banamine seemed to make her content for about an hour, and then she layed down again right at feeding time. My friend recognized this as a red flag and notified the barn manager, who said as long as she wasn't rolling that she was fine. NOT TRUE. Thankfully, my friend followed her instinct and decided to start walking her again. At this point I was trying to get there, but friday rush hour traffic in LA is brutal. Within a half an hour Kylie started going down hill fast. I got another call as I sit stuck in traffic that she was now trying to lay down while my friend was walking her. She told the barn manager, who apparently had something far more important to attend to becasue she got in her car and left. This I find to be a HUGE problem, since the horse was getting worse and the girl walking her was just being nice and had no responsibility to the horse, but I will deal with this later. I had a vet on the way and I was trying to brave the traffic and get there as soon as I could. By the time I got there around 6, Kylie was in bad shape. Her legs were buckling and she was trying very hard to lay down. The vet showed up soon after and gave her some sedatives to make her more comfortable. He oiled her and palpated her. I continued to walk her for a while hoping things would work themselves out. The vet said as soon as the drugs start wearing off in 20 min, if she is still uncomfortable I needed to get her to the hospital. He gave me another shot to give her right before she got on the trailer to keep her comfortable for the ride there. When the drugs started wearing off she was even worse, and I could tell in major distress. We had to kept her walking for a while until my husband showed up with the truck. That was a challenge. I am so grateful my friend was there to help me and to have noticed there was a problem to begin with. She saved her life. I gave her the shot and she reluctantly loaded on the trailer. By the time we hit the end of the driveway the shot wore off and she was not a happy traveler. It was the worst trailer ride of my life. She thrashed the whole way there, and I could hear her trying to go down. Nothing we could do but get there as fast as possible. Luckily the hospital is only 30 min. away. When we pulled in I was afraid I was going to open the trailer to a pile of body parts. It wasn't that bad but when she got off the trailer she wanted to go down BAD. They gave her some more drugs to ease the pain but they wouldn't hold for more than 2 min. The vet said I needed to make a choice right then, put her down or surgery and I didn't have 5 min to decide.

After a few hours, the surgeon came out to talk to me. It wasn't good news. On a scale of one to ten, it was a ten. Her large intestine was twisted like a wrung towel. He needed to do a colon resectioning to remove most of it. The chance of survival was 50/50 if that. Oh boy! Not what I wanted to hear. I looked around for second wondering if someone could pinch me and wake me up from this nightmare. Then I looked through the window to my precious baby upside down on the operating table with all of her guts outside her body. I said ok do whatever you have to do.

to be continued....

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