Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

By the time you're finished reading this post, you'll either think I have the worst luck in the world as a horse owner, or that I suffer from Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

Perhaps if horses had health insurance, the latter could be blamed on me, but since I pay a hefty price each time the vet comes out, that's not the case.

I took my new camera to the barn with me today hoping to get some practice and maybe even a few great shots of my horses. It was relatively cool today too, so I was planning on riding Lilly.

That was until I pulled her out of the stall and saw this:

At this point in the game, I am well beyond the breaking point, which I suppose is good for my sanity and mental health. After the initial shock wore off, I took her to the wash rack for a closer evaluation.

Ok, so her skin SMELLS BAD, is scabby, oozing, and is peeling off. Her entire leg from her knee to her hoof is about as swollen as it can get without bursting open, and the leg is HOT.

I immediately put a call into my vet, who did not answer. So I called the main office and begged them to get a hold of one of the vets to come out and look at my horse. She said she would have someone call me right away.

While I waited, I cold hosed her leg. Then I let her outside in the small paddock to munch some grass. She wasn't 'lame' but I could tell she was uncomfortable and even walked with a bit of a paddle on that leg.

Here's the leg on the other side after 30 minutes of cold hosing.

The vet finally called me back and asked if she had a fever or if I thought Lilly had been bitten by a snake. No fever and no obvious bite marks... Could it be fire ants? I don't think so because it doesn't have the typical fire ant bite look to it.

Bottom line, I have no idea what it is but PLEASE come help my horse.

She couldn't come until after 2:30 (but didn't actually arrive until almost 4). I let Lilly eat grass while we waited and I read my new Nikon book. I was in the lounge area when I heard the pitter patter of little hooves in the barn, so I went to see what Lilly was doing. She had walked down the aisle of the barn and was looking out the back window. I told her to come to me so I could put her back in the stall. Well, when she turned around she SLAMMED her head into the corner of one of the stall door guards.

Poor girl was shaking her head the entire walk back down the aisle. So even when I'm standing right there, she still manages to hurt herself. :(

The vet that came to see Lilly is new to me. She's the only one in the practice that I haven't met before, but she's super nice. When she saw Lilly's leg, she kept saying, "Oh my gosh! You poor baby! That is just... wow."

It's never good when the vet seems to be shocked and surprised by the look of your horse's injury. She said she hasn't seen anything like that not related to snake bites or spider bites. She just couldn't believe it.

So I filled her in on the history and that I suspected maybe she developed some kind of reaction to the Surpass. That's the area of the sloughing skin, but she couldn't imagine a reaction like that to the cream.

Here's the timeline:
Saturday she was shaved and had her ultrasound. Vet said to put the Surpass on the leg, wrap it up for the swelling, and turn her out that night.
Sunday I removed the wrap. It was a bit damp from all the dew on the grass, and I recall seeing that her skin looked a little irritated. I still applied the cream but skipped the wrap. I even rode on Sunday.
Monday I applied the cream.
Tuesday I was unable to go to the barn.

I thought she was getting turned out every night, but when I talked to the BO today he said he only turned her out Saturday night. I'm not sure what part of "Lilly can go out for 12 hours per day now" he didn't understand, but she was only turned out that one night.

So that kind of ruled out a lot of things. We thought maybe something got under her wrap when she was turned out, or maybe the wrap got wet enough that it caused the irritation. Maybe it is a reaction to the Surpass after all.

I don't know, but the diagnosis is that she's got dermatitis and cellulitis, and her skin is going to SLOUGH OFF. All of the red scabby stuff is going to come off and all the black looking stuff under the longer hair will also come off.

The vet tried to clip her, but understandably Lilly was in some serious pain, so she didn't get to do too much of it. She said for me to clip it as Lilly will allow because it will be easier to treat that way.

While she was trying to clip Lilly's leg, she noticed the area where Lilly's abscess blew out. "Oh wow... That is a HUGE abscess!! WOW!" Impressive, right? We're all about that here at Team Lilly.

Lilly got Banamine, steroids, and antibiotics. I'll have to give her bute tomorrow for pain, more steroids, and more antibiotics.

Finally, she applied a cream to the leg that is used for burn patients and then wrapped the leg to try and reduce some of that swelling and inflammation.

She gave Lilly a couple cookies and a bunch of kisses and kept saying, "poor baby" over and over again. My poor Lilly. :(

So no turnout for quite a while, depending on how her leg progresses. Tomorrow I'll take the bandage off and if it's still really swollen I'll put it back on. If not, the bandage can stay off but I have to apply the cream every day and peel the loose scabs off, shave her leg as she'll allow and keep up the meds.

Since I didn't go to the barn yesterday I asked the BO what her leg looked like yesterday. He said, "about like that..." UMM. REALLY?? And you didn't CALL ME?? He said he thought I had already been out... and he thinks I would just leave her leg like that? So I'm pretty sure I made it perfectly clear that he is to CALL ME when he sees anything. ANYTHING.


  1. Ouch, ouch, ouch!!! Celulitis really hurts, but it should resolve with the medicines, fairly quickly - sending good wishes!

  2. OMFG.

    You poor poor girls! Were you just bawling? I would have been hysterical. I am SOOOO sorry!!!

  3. OMG!! I just cannot beleive it! Poor Lilly! Poor you! I am so, so, so sorry. Your new vet sounds really nice. Your BO, on the other hand, sounds like a jerk. Did the vet recommend hydrotherapy for Lilly once the skin heals?

  4. Thanks for the well wishes, Kate. I know my poor girl is in some serious pain, so I hope this passes quickly.

    SillyPony, as bad as it sounds, I've grown quite numb to it all. "Oh, her skin is going to come off? Ok, but she'll be better eventually, right?" It's just been one thing after another after another so it doesn't seem like a big deal anymore. Perhaps that's my mind's way of coping, I don't know.

    The hardest part of it for me is knowing how much pain Lilly is in. That's what really gets to me.

    I did tear up a bit while talking to my mom today because I just feel awful for Lilly. It seems like she's always in pain and as her guardian, I feel like I'm not doing something right. :(

    Terry, yeah, I'm a bit irked at the BO. He hung around for most of the time while the vet was there acting quite concerned. I wanted to smack him. He's nice enough, but I'm starting to wonder about his horsekeeping skills.

    If you saw something like that, would you not call the owner right away? It boggles my mind...

    The vet didn't say anything about hydrotherapy. I'm curious now, though, and will have to do some research. Have you done it before?

  5. First off, you are a wonderful owner - don't doubt yourself. You will get through this.

    I asked about hydrotherapy because a lady I used to board with had a horse with really bad celulitis. They told her to cold hose it at one point. The mare got better in spite of her owner, who couldn't be bothered to cold-hose her ("she doesn't like the wash stall") or even give her meds ("she won't take her medicine"), so I'm sure Lilly will be better in no time with all the good care you give. Try not to worry. I bet she's feeling better already.

  6. Thanks Terry... I sure hope she's feeling better. I just feel terrible for her. First the abscess and now this. Both are considered fairly "minor" issues (that's relative...) but are just so painful for my horse.

    I need a rubber stall to keep her in and a treadmill so she can exercise! Maybe that would keep her safe.

    STUPID GOATS! They started ALL of this!!

    The cold hosing I did this morning seemed to help with the swelling. By the time the vet came the swelling in her pastern had gone down considerably. I did inquire about washing or hosing the leg and her only comment was to make sure Lilly's leg was super dry before any wraps go back on.

    I think I'll go ahead and keep hosing the leg as it seems the cold water is good for the cellulitis.

  7. A thought: perhaps you could put a dry erase board in front of Lilly's stall. You can write down instructions or the date you'll be out next, that way the excuses of "oh, I thought you said" and "I just assumed you..." can be somewhat avoided. A few of the boarders in my barn have them and it seems like a great idea. I'm going to get one for Junior's stall. My barn also has a big board that shows which horses have been turned out and which stalls have been cleaned, by whom, and who is doing each feeding and turning in/out so you know who's been working around your horse. After the complete lack of communication at my last place I am so thankful for this!

    I sure hope she heals fast.

  8. I cant believe this! Good grief! If its not one thing its another. I guess like you said, we have to look on the bright side, they arent serious! Come on Lilly give your poor mom a break!

  9. Perfect, perfect, perfect SillyPony!! Thank you for the idea!

    Thanks Britnie! Could you please come say those things to Lilly's face? I'm desperate!