September Diary Day

My alarm goes off at 6.45am and I get up, leaving susie in bed, usually on her back with her paws in the air in the middle of a very exciting doggy dream.

A big bowl of cereal sets me up for the day and after taking susie for a quick walkies we're ready to start work! My dad is joining me today as trainee vet nurse as the first call is four little shetland foals to castrate! On first glance, they are incredibly cute little bundles of fluff! When it comes to getting about the business of castrating them however they have other ideas! One by one, Fredrick, Hugo, Mischief and Impy give me and their owner the run around while we get them sedated!

Once the sedation takes effect I then administer some ketamine to induce anaesthesia so they lie down. Like skinning a cat, there are many ways to castrate a horse (or shetland in this case!) and there are advantages and disadvantages to each. Today though we're knocking the foals down due to them being so small unless I lie on my back I think I'd struggle!

The jobs run smoothly, and each foal comes around promptly and easily from the anaesthetic, within a few hours they're back out in the field as if nothing had happened! As much as I would love to stay and watch them all day, we need to dash off!

Next on the agenda of the day is a pre purchase exam for a young horse being purchased for a mother and two daughters to ride. They have sensibly opted for a 5 stage vetting examination and fortunately the current owner of the horse has excellent facilities for carrying out the vetting.

The number one reason most of the horses I 'vet' don't pass the pre purchase exam is due to lameness. Many subtle lameness's can go unnoticed by owners, but as part of the vetting process vets carry out certain procedures that are more likely to highlight a problem.

One of those is lunging the horse on a hard surface. Most of us don't routinely work our horses on hard surfaces, in fact I advise against it! But it has now become a standard part of the pre purchase examination and vets have to sign to confirm they have performed it. Plus I can't deny that it really does highlight many lameness's that can't be seen on a straight line or soft surface. Luckily today though, Bertie flies through the vetting process with only a few mild issues cropping up.

Now for one of the routine monthly livery yard visits, I really enjoy the yard visits as it's a great opportunity to meet clients and their horses! Todays yard visit is quite busy, lots of horses to check over, vaccinate and a few dental examinations. I also collect the yards poo samples so I can perform their worm egg counts later on today!

Just on our way home (semi- retired dad is pooped!) and an emergency call comes in for a horse choking! Most horses that choke resolve themselves spontaneously, however, this client has already waited over an hour and the choke has not cleared. So we make a quick divert and get to the yard ASAP. When I get to the stable, it's clear the horse has been choking for some time due to the volume of saliva and food coming from his nostrils and on the stable floor.

In horses, choke occurs when the food is stuck in the oesophagus (unlike in humans when food blocks our airway) so it's not the life threatening emergency as in people. However, horses continually produce saliva in the mouth and if this cant get to the stomach it frequently comes back down the nose along with food from the choke. If any of the food were to get into the trachea then the horse could have a pneumonia. So to avoid that possibility I like to clear the choke ASAP.

Following the administration of some Buscopan and sedation, I carefully pass a stomach tube into the upper part of the oesophagus. It soon becomes clear the the choke is quite high up as I cant advance the tube more than a third of the way down the oesophagus. We then gently lavage the food blockage (Chaff!) with water and siphon as much of the chaff back out through the tube as possible. Tonight, this took about an hour and a half as it turned out to be a fairly substantial blockage! It did eventually clear, much to the owners (and my!) relief. I always give anti inflammatories and antibiotics to horses that have choked to hopefully prevent and pneumonia, and they are left with no food for 12 hours before wet sloppy feeds can be re introduced with a gradual return to longer fibre. Now off home, its 9.30pm so we need to eat and sleep but before then I must get out the microscope and check the poo samples!!!

Written By: Jenny Staddon

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