Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Visit From the Vet

I'm still learning the ropes with the equine vets around here.  When you've lived in one place for so long and used the same service providers, you take for granted how easily everything flows because you've done it so many times before.  I know all the equine vets in my old neighborhood, their philosophies, their rates, their routines, and their attitudes about ranch visits.  I knew one vet for so long that he filled me in on all the town gossip whenever he'd see me.

So far I've used one mobile vet since moving here, and that was to assess whether Gabbrielle had an abscess in her hoof.  Several hundred dollars later, the vet didn't know, and I was faced with the decision to do x-rays or not.  I opted to treat it like an abscess, see if it heals, and if not, then do the x-rays.  It didn't heal, but then I realized that since the diaper wrap had been on her foot for so many days, it was causing blisters and the continued lameness was because of the blister pain.  Once I stopped wrapping her foot and let it air out, she was fine.  It was quite a confusing process for me, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to use the same vet or try a new one.

I decided against playing the field, and brought the same vet back to do the horses' vaccinations and teeth floats.  The office manager explained that power floats are cheaper and faster, because they don't have to sedate the horse.  I had been doing hand floats forever, with the exception of when my senior horse needed extra dental care, and once the problem was corrected, we put her right back on hand floats.

My farrier, who is very much into natural horse care, said he met an equine dentist who says all kinds of bad things about power floats and discourages people from using them.  I don't remember the reasoning, but it made an impression on me.  I told the office manager that I'd prefer hand floats, and don't mind paying for the sedation.

So, the vet came out and vaccinated the first horse and looked at his teeth.  She asked if I wanted her to float his teeth right then or just look at all the horses' teeth and see if any of them need power floats.  I asked why a horse would need to have his teeth floated with power tools over hand-filing.  She explained that all she can do is file down the points by hand, but if any of my horses have step mouth or wave mouth, that has to be corrected with power tools.  Additionally, the equine dentist who has the power tools also has the ability to look far back inside the mouth for fractured molars.  She made it sound like the horses would miss out on a lot of dental care if I just did the hand float.

Her conclusion was that Bombay and Gabbrielle both need power floats, and Lostine needs nothing.  Interesting.  It used to be the other way around, but things are changing as they get older.  So, I agreed to set up another appointment for two power floats and one rabies vaccination, which is a story in itself.  Since we have so many coyotes, bobcats and bats around here, she recommended the horses get the rabies vaccine.  She said that rabies does not present clear symptoms, so it's best to just get the vaccine and not worry about it, especially since I live in such a rural area with a pretty eminent threat.  It turned out that she only had two rabies vaccines on her truck, so she'll have to give the third horse its vaccine when they come back to do the power floats.

I'm not happy about having to break their maintenance care up into two appointments since I get charged $70 for each ranch visit, but that's the way it goes sometimes, I guess.  The first opening they had for their dentist was at the end of May, and I usually get their teeth floated in March.  I asked about rattlesnake vaccines for horses, and they do have them now.  They used to use the rattlesnake vaccines for dogs on horses, and just double the dose.  The problem is that there are different strains of venom, just like there are different strains of the flu, so there is no guarantee that it will work once a horse gets bit.  On top of that, you have to administer three $100 doses one month apart, and then one every six months after that.  I'd be out for over $1,500 in the first year for three horses including the cost of the ranch visits.  I don't even have the time for that many appointments.  I'm trying to clear my schedule -- not fill it up.

So, I guess if my horses get bit by a rattlesnake, we'll just have to treat it and hope for the best.

The vet looked at Gabbrielle's uneven shoulders and said she's seen that before in other horses.  She said that sometimes it's that they developed that way in utero and were born lopsided.  It's usually that one side has more muscle than the other.  Or they can develop it after they are born by using one side more than the other when they carry themselves or graze.  I did notice that Gabbrielle always stretched the same front leg way out every time she grazed, and it struck me as peculiar.  The other horses can just drop their heads without having to do the splits.

Uneven shoulders can also develop after an injury.  She did have a couple of leg injuries when younger.  Since I'll never really know what the cause is, I asked if I should be concerned about it and get a chiropractor out to look at her.  The vet did a little testing and said that Gabbrielle is borderline stiff.  She's not lame, so a chiropractor may or may not help.  She said that her hips as well as her shoulders are lower on the same side.  I'm starting to think I better stop asking people about her, because each person finds something else wrong with that poor horse.  She's happy and she doesn't act like she's in pain when we ride her, so I guess I'll just stop obsessing over it.

Bombay has had what I interpreted to be a swollen lymph node under his jaw for two weeks now.  He has a good appetite, but does act a little droopy and sometimes has nasal discharge.  The vet examined him and didn't find any other evidence of him being sick or any other symptoms, so she questioned whether it was a swollen gland, but possibly a melanoma.  He does have a history of both melanomas and sarcoids.  Once again, she didn't know what it was exactly, and recommended leaving it alone.  So many questions left unanswered...

My horses are getting the same medical care I've been getting:  Find a lump, leave it.  I suppose a minimalist approach is good as long a my boobs don't hurt so bad that I can't ride a horse for several weeks, which is what happened to me.  I've got so many lumps I'd look like Swiss cheese if they excised them all.  So, I'm on herbal supplements and pain killers, which seem to help.

Veterinary care can be frustrating, because since horses can't talk, you have to run a lot of tests just to reach a reasonable diagnosis.  Everything is a gamble.  It could be something serious, or it could be nothing, but if you want to find out for sure, you have to fork out the big bucks and give up a huge chunk of your time.  The vets I used back in Nevada were very practical.  They'd weigh out the odds with me, and often times recommend that I not invest my money into further testing.

That's kind of what this vet did.  I like having vets who consider their client's pocketbook and don't try to pry it open unless the situation is urgent and in the best interest of the animal.  I'm pretty sure that my dogs' vet is only interested in lining his own wallet, because he is forever insisting upon all kinds of unnecessary procedures, vaccinations and treatments for perfectly healthy dogs.  I find that equine vets are, in general, less selfish.  They just like driving trucks and being around horses.


Reddunappy said...

Having the vet out is expensive!

About power floats, There are some who say that the power tools rotate so fast that it heats up the tooth and causes damage that way.

I give my own shots. Which I need to do soon!
The only shots we can not give here in Washington is Rabies. Its controlled, mostly to monitor it I think.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Yeah, that reminds me... every year for however long I've been blogging people tell me to give my own shots, and I choose not to. Gabbrielle gets really violent and it takes two people to hold her still and one to give the shot. Normally, since I usually can do the teeth floats at the same time as the vaccinations, they administer the vaccinations when the horses are sedated, so there is only that first initial struggle to get her sedated, and then they can keep shooting her up on each side of the neck safely. Everyone's got their own challenges.

I've also heard that constantly sedating horses is bad, but so is the vet and I getting our heads smashed in. My farrier claims that his equine dentist is so good with horses that he never needs to sedate them. I'm tempted to try him out, because I'm sure Gabbrielle would be the first to break his record... and probably his knees too. She's incredibly sweet as long as she doesn't feel like she's under attack.

Katharine Swan said...

My vet is like that, too -- discusses the different options with me, the pros and cons, and lets me decide what to do. I like it because not only do I get to decide how much to spend, I get a better idea of the big picture.

My boys always get power floats. I beg to differ with your vet, though -- ANY float requires sedation, to do a good job at least. I just cannot believe that a vet would be able to see all the way back to the back molars, let alone do a thorough job of floating them, without sedation. And trying to do a power float without sedation is insane -- no horse is going to stand still for all that noise and vibration!

I can and have given shots to Panama myself, but I haven't tried it with Rondo yet. Both horses are good for shots so I am sure he would be fine with me doing it, like Panama is, but I prefer to wait until he is a little older and more used to the routine before he has to face the betrayal of "Mom" poking him with the sharp object. I don't typically give many shots myself, in any case, only when the vet wants me to wait a couple of weeks before giving something so that there isn't a chance of the vaccines interacting.

Marissa Rose said...

I think that in general equine vets care a little more about their clients because of two things

1) anything you do with a vet for a horse is way more expensive than anything you do for a cat or dog, and it adds up faster as well. Just the vet call in the first place is usually twice as expensive as one for a cat or dog.

2) with equines it's a little more personal, because they come out and are able to interact with you and your animal, instead of just bringing your animal to a clinic and dropping them off, or having it be just another appt waiting in room two.

Karen Burch said...

I use a chiropractor/vet and she recommends hand floating with a great equine dentist. The first reason being is the power float will over heat the teeth and cause them to crack. The second reason is that the dentist can take too much off the teeth with the power tools, whereas the hand float takes less at a time. The third thing to have the hand dentist do is even the front teeth as well so they aren't hanging up the jaw. This happened with my horse and once his front teeth were floated he was much happier and his jaw could move freely.

I will never use a power dentist again.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

In my area, one maintenance vet bill for one dog costs more than one maintenance vet bill for three horses.

Cindy D. said...

Marissa, I might have to disagree with you on that one, but the difference could just be because of where I live right now. It seems like in WY vets are used to horses being about on the same level as a cow- nothing but livestock. I have found that a few of the vets treat them just like that too. It is more than a little frustrating. On the other hand our small animal vets treat out dogs like they are best friends- and they charge us accordingly too.

As it turns out, I have an appt this afternoon for the exact same thing. Spring shots and toofies check. I suspect that Trax will be getting the most work done, but we will see. I have considered doing shots myself as I have successfully administered Penicillin shots on my horses before, but I feel better having the vet do it. I do like my vet, as he does not treat my horses like cows, and does a great job of putting up with all my unfounded worries! Plus his prices are reasonable.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

That's interesting what the vet said about only the guy with the power tools has the ability to look at the far back molars...

Whether my horses get a rasp float or a power float, the dentist still uses a speculum and has a light on a wand to check the back teeth. He also wears a 'miner's lamp' on his head, so he can spotlight the teeth while he manipulates the jaw when checking for alignment and grinding action. LOL

I'm going to try a new guy this year. He's a vet and I hear he is very good AND reasonable. I know the guy I was using is a world class dentist...but holy crap...He starts at $150. I'm willing to pay that if I know I have a horse that has some issues going on, but it seems a little excessive when all he has to do is take off a few points with a rasp. I'm pretty sure he has his education paid for by now. LOL

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

BEC - That's what bothered me about this vet. She said she doesn't have a speculum,so I wondered how she could float the teeth by hand. I got the feeling that she's semi-retired and "doesn't do windows" and a few other things.