Tag Archives: tri state equine surgical specialists

When horses get sick

Our blog has been rather quiet lately because I have been trying to figure out what, it anything,  to write about things that have been going on. I finally think I know how I want to say, what I want to say.
We generally try to keep our blog posts focused on the positive things in life, but that leaves out a lot of other things. On Nov 1, we rode in the Ayer Mt Hunter Pace and that was our last post. The aspect of that story that was understated was how bad the ride really was for Misti and I. While not every ride on a horse is the always rewarding,  there are only a few that stand out as truly horrible. Ayer Mt was horrible on top of Misti (the rest of the family had a great time). In fact, it was so bad, we were ready to just get rid of Misti and give up on her. We even started down the path of finding her a new home.
However,  by Wednesday of that week, we had calmed down and decided to try and figure out some possible medical causes of the situation.  Since we already had the vet coming that week,  we added Misti to the list of patients to be seen.
In June 2012, Devil had surgery to remove some cancer. Dr. Anne Schwartz of Tri State Equine Surgical Specialists performed the surgery with Dr. Cara Knesser doing to the anesthesia. It had been about 2.5 years since Dr. Schwartz had seen Devil, so we had her out for a follow up. The very good news is Devil is doing great and there are no additional treatments planned for him.
King has been with us for 13 years.  At 21 years old, he was starting to show some weakness in his hind end, so we wanted to investigate if joint injections might hell him out. Dr. Schwartz did an exam and concluded, yes, he would probably benefit from hock injections. However,  during the exam, she honed in on a number of neurological symptoms that we hadn’t picked up on. After some blood work to confirm her suspicions, it was determined King has both Lyme and EPM. Here is a good reference for any of our friends who want to know more about EPM. King has been started on Marquis to treat the EPM and we are hopeful that he will have a full reversal of all symptoms,  as is common in 60-70% of horses. After the EPM is treated  (which will likely take 2 months), we will deal with the Lyme treatments.  Then the hock injections. King also had an episode of choke recently which got him an after hours visit from Dr. Ennis for a tube down his throat.
And that brings us back to Misti. Anna and I suspected Lyme and ulcers both as possible causes of her behavior. It turns out, we were right. She has both. She is almost done with her 2 weeks of IV oxytetracycline for the Lyme treatment and she was just started on her Gastrogard for the ulcers. Dr. Schwartz used a scope to confirm the ulcers. Dr. Knesser was also present to participate in the procedure  (and she just loves to come to our farm).



Since we are already dealing with treating Misti for ulcers, we decided to go ahead and treat Huey too, but went with symptom diagnosis instead of a full scoping.  We are going to get past all the treatments for Misti, and then see where we are with behavior issues and figure out the way forward.
As anyone with animals knows, vet bills are not cheap. In fact, we have almost spent more on horse vets this month than the combined purchase price of all our horses. This is why I cringe when people want to own a horse, but can’t afford to purchase one. The purchase price isn’t what you should be worried about.

So all of that information simply brings me to the point on this Thanksgiving Day. I’m not thankful for the vet bills. But I am thankful for a family where everyone agrees, we will treat the horses. There haven’t been any arguments about wasting money or “your hobby” like I know many owners deal with.  Horses are a family affair for us. I’m thankful to have the horses at home which greatly simplifies all the treatments. But most of all, I’m thankful for both my Navy job and my hoof care business that allow us to be able to buy the medicine our horses need and pay the vets to treat them.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends and family. Love what you have.

Devil’s cancer surgery

Warning: This post contains explicit details and graphic pictures of equine cancer surgery. 

Last summer, we got Vicki a Paint pony named Devil in Disguise (Devil).  He has been absolutely fabulous with the kids and Anna uses him for teaching lessons to new riders.  In late April, we noticed an unusual lump on his sheath, so we decided to have Salem Valley Vet out to evaluate the issue.  Salem Valley came and took a small cell sample for analysis, but was pretty certain it was a sarcoid tumor. In the about 3 weeks from when we first noticed the tumor until Salem Valley checked it, Anna and I both noticed a definite size increase in the tumor. The recommendation came back to book him for surgery at Tufts.

As we were moving through this, I met Dr. Kara Kneser at a 4H goat showing clinic, and she referenced me to Dr. Anne Schwartz of Tri State Equine Surgical Specialists.  Based on the cost estimate from Tufts, we decided to have Dr. Schwartz give us a second opinion.  Dr. Schwartz has experience working in equine hospitals in Florida and a couple of years ago moved to RI to branch out on her own.  Right now she is specializing in on-farm surgery.  We did a consult with her to evaluate the tumors.  The advantages of doing on-farm surgery are lower stress (no trailering, familiar environment, etc), convenient, maybe better recovery, and cost.  Of course, the risks are higher because there are no monitors and fewer options if things go bad.  We decided to accept the risks and cost because Devil is only 9 and has many more years ahead of him.  Due to some shifting schedules, the surgery got moved up to today.

Dr. Schwartz did the actual surgery and Dr. Kneser was the anesthesiologist.  The surgery was actually conducted in the grassy area just outside our barn.  They started by sedating Devil and then actually giving him the anesthesia.  Once he was down and on his back, Dr. Schwartz got to work.  It was about 2 hrs, 15 minutes from her first incision until she finished sewing him up as much as possible.  Brittany Banning introduced us to Devil in the first place, and since she is a vet student, we invited her to the surgery.  Dr. Schwartz let her jump in to help.  The tumors were much more involved than any of us had imagined.  Samples are being sent for analysis to confirm the are sarcoids.  In all, 1-1.5 lbs of tumors were removed, and a number of times Dr. Schwartz commented on how in over 20 years she didn’t remember seeing any sarcoids that involved.  There were a few touchy points when his heart rate dropped or his breathing got irregular, but in the end, he survived the surgery.

It took about 45 minutes for the anesthesia to wear off and for him to stand up.  At first, 5 of us were helping keep him from falling back over.  After a while, Vicki came up to check on him.  Devil was very happy to see Vicki and actually, kept stepping forward to get closer to her.  We used Vicki to lead him back to his stall.

Devil will be on stall rest for 1-2 days, and then get to go back out.  He will get 4-5 chemotherapy injections throughout the summer where the tumors were located.  How he does will determine how long until Vicki gets to ride him again, but probably about 2 months.

We are very pleased with the work that Dr. Schwartz and her team did, and definitely give them a “4 hooves up” endorsement.

What follows are pictures from the surgery.