Far from rou­tine

When colic surgery turns up un­ex­pected and dif­fi­cult com­pli­ca­tions, a young geld­ing faces a pro­longed and un­cer­tain re­cov­ery.

EQUUS - - Eq Case Report -

Owen, a draft-cross geld­ing, was a healthy and promis­ing young horse when Beth Carey brought him home. “I bought him in Septem­ber to be my fox­hunt­ing and com­bined train­ing horse,” she says. “He was only 4---still a baby--so we weren’t do­ing much with him. He was worked a bit be­fore the weather got bad, but dur­ing that time he was de­light­ful.”

Just four months later, how­ever, a case of colic put Owen’s fu­ture in jeop­ardy. On De­cem­ber 16, barn man­ager Christie Baker ar­rived to do the evening feed­ing and found Owen ly­ing flat out next to the gate. “She got him to his feet and into the barn, but we could tell right away that things weren’t good,” says Carey. The geld­ing was paw­ing, rolling, sweat­ing and look­ing un­com­fort­able.

Baker called the farm’s vet­eri­nar­ian, Pete Radue, DVM, of Da­m­as­cus Equine As­so­ciates in Maryland, who in­structed her to give Owen a dose of Banamine and call back in a half-hour with an up­date. But the drug didn’t help: The geld­ing re­mained un­com­fort­able.

Radue ar­rived on the farm a few min­utes later to ex­am­ine Owen for colic. Most of the find­ings were en­cour­ag­ing: The geld­ing’s heart rate was only slightly el­e­vated at 40 beats per minute; his gut sounds and tem­per­a­ture By Chris­tine Barakat PROM­ISE: A 4-year-old draftcross, Owen was pur­chased as a fox­hunt­ing and com­bined train­ing prospect. He is shown here a few months be­fore his health cri­sis. were nor­mal. Radue in­serted a na­so­gas­tric tube, but no fluid (called “re­flux”) emp­tied from the stom­ach, which meant that in­gesta was not back­ing up from the di­ges­tive sys­tem into his stom­ach thus far. The only un­usual sign came up dur­ing a rec­tal ex­am­i­na­tion: Radue no­ticed dis­ten­tion of the small in­tes­tine, which could have been due to gas or a pos­si­ble ob­struc­tion.

This could just be a very mi­nor colic episode, Radue ex­plained, or it could be the early stages of a po­ten­tially se­ri­ous prob­lem. He and Carey agreed that the first step would be to ad­min­is­ter one more dose of painkiller­s plus a mild seda­tive, then to watch for im­prove­ment.

The sec­ond round of med­i­ca­tions seemed to help. Owen re­mained com­fort­able for a few hours. Around 9 p.m., how­ever, when the med­i­ca­tions wore off, his pain re­turned. Carey called Radue, who left his of­fice Christ­mas party to ex­am­ine the geld­ing again.

Owen’s heart rate had climbed to 48 beats per minute ---a sign of in­creased pain---and his gut sounds were di­min­ish­ing. “I re­mem­ber Pete say­ing, ‘Beth, don’t sit on this. I don’t know what it is, but I don’t like it,’” says Carey. “That’s all I needed to hear.” Within min­utes, Owen was in the trailer, and Carey and Baker were on their way to the Mar­ion duPont Scott Equine Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Lees­burg, Vir­ginia.

A vet­eri­nary team met the trailer when they pulled into the hos­pi­tal just un­der an hour later. Owen’s vi­tal signs hadn’t changed since they’d left the farm, and an ul­tra­sound ex­am­i­na­tion con­firmed the dis­ten­tion of a por­tion of his small in­tes­tine. The team also per­formed an ab­dominocen­te­sis, a test

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