The day kicks off early as I need to get to Womersley to my first call. I’m booked in to sedate for a dentist and when I arrive on the yard I’m pleased to see it’s Robin Earnshaw. I have a lot of respect for Robin as a dentist and he’s also a member of the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT). As the veterinary goverening body now recommends that vets only sedate for BAEDT members it does mean that from time to time I have to decline some appointments.
But today, Robin has two blind wolf teeth to remove so we get the horses sedated so they are nice and still. The sedation also contains a pain killer so sometimes its not necessary to use local anaesthetic as well.
The first horse has a blind upper wolf tooth right in the position the bit would sit so it’s agreed that it would be better to remove it to avoid any bitting problems.
Blind wolf teeth are slightly more tricky to remove as they have not yet come through the gum. I make a small incision with a scalpel blade over the tooth and robin sets about removing it. I do enjoy working alongside dentists and it’s always good to catch up on new techniques and equipment. So two blind wolf teeth later and its a quick goodbye to Robin and off to the next call.
My next call is a bit of an unusual one for a vet! Its a little old mare with very bad arthritis in her knees, unfortunately it means she can’t bend her legs very well and she has become a farriers nightmare! Unfortunately if her toes get too long she can trip up as she cant bend too well, so every now and then I get my farrier chaps on and do my best to trim her feet! Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a trained farrier! But we just do our best to keep on top of her longs toes and keep her feet as balanced as possible. Due to her lack of flexibility, most of the trimming is done with me on my knees and her feet pulled forward onto a small foot stand so she doesn’t ever have to bear all her weight on just the one front leg. She’s a happy little thing and although a little slow on her legs is otherwise in good health. I’ve discussed with her owners how we’ll make the decision when the time comes to let her ‘go’ and we’ve set some guidelines so that we can subjectively assess her welfare. But today her owner tells me she had a canter in the field for the first time in months! Bless, it must be the autumn sunshine!
Next on the list is little Fox, the most accident prone yearling on my books! I’m off to change his bandage after he escaped from his field and sustained a nasty deep puncture wound right over his back fetlock joint! At the time, I investigated the wound by first clipping and thoroughly cleaning it and as it was so close to the joint I inserted a needle into the fetlock joint and distended the joint with sterile fluid. The idea is that if the wound had punctured the joint capsule fluid would come out from the wound. Luckily on this occasion it didn’t! So we all breathed a big sigh of relief as joint penetrations in horses can be life threatening. Today it’s just a dressing change, the wound looks great and we apply a new bandage. Fox has to stay in until the wound has fully healed but he’s quite amenable to all the attention he’s getting!
Time for some lunch and let the two assistants Susie and Ellie out for a quick run around, then off to the next yard for an afternoon of dentistry- this time I’m doing the dentistry rather than sedating for an equine dentist to do it.
The afternoon goes well and all the horses were very well behaved and needed nothing more than a routine dental rasp- until the last mare, she’s here on a two week trial and has come from a dealers yard so we have no history. But the rider is reporting a lot of head shaking and head tossing along with a general reluctance to work nicely. As soon as I place the gag on the mare reared up and struck out in front so we decide the safest way to proceed is with sedation. I don’t routinely sedate horses for dentistry but there are times when I need to in order to do the job properly. As the saying goes, if you’re going to do something, do it right.
Once sedated and the gag in place, it’s immediately obvious what the mares issues are- she has two wolf teeth, both positioned far forward in the mouth right in the area the bit would sit. On one side the tooth is large and coming out of the gum sideways, on the other the wolf tooth is blind. This mare is 8 years old so it’s unlikely that she’d ever had a dental examination before, as those teeth should ideally have been removed prior to putting a bit in her mouth as a youngster.
The first tooth comes out easily but the second blind one is a bit more fiddly.
Once the wolf teeth are out, I give the rest of the teeth a rasp and then she’s all done. She’ll need about a week off with no bit in to allow her mouth to heal, but most cases heal very quickly without the need for any antibiotics.
Just as I’m washing and packing away the dental equipment I get a panicked phone call from an owner worried her horse has colic. It’s definitely colic season as I’m seeing on average 4-5 cases a week. This one doesn’t sound too bad but you can never be too careful so I decide to pop over and check on the horse.
Thankfully when I arrive, the colic seems to have subsided but I can see the mess the stable is in so I give the horse a full examination. Due to the recent inclement weather he hasn’t been getting as much turnout as usual which is effectively a change in routine and diet. He has very active gut sounds and all other parameters are normal so he’s most likely suffering a mild bout of spasmodic colic. We decide to hold off any treatment as he seems back to his usual self so I just advise to keep his routine as normal as possible and if he can’t get turned out then try to exercise him daily to keep his activity levels up.
So that’s that, its 8.30pm and the end of a long but fun day. Just need to walk the assistants and get some food on the go then its back home to write up all my notes for the day!