Nov 10

Ginger Rogers’ massive swelling baffles science

Oozing EdemaBehold Ginger Rogers’ awesome pair of pus-bags.

Well, technically they’re not pus-bags. The vet says “generalized cellulitis.” Well, what does she know? ‘Pus-bags’ is more poetic, and therefore more accurate.

In any event, the facts are these: poor Ginger Rogers is afflicted with a hideous oozing inflammation, as well as with 15 or 20 hard, walnut-sized lumps over the rest of her body (a few of which are also oozing), and nobody knows what’s causing it.

I spoke to one vet on the phone who suggested that it might be onchocerciasis, a pretty disgusting situation involving the larvae of a delightful species of parasite called the neck threadworm. But the vet I saw yesterday said, no, onchocerciasis doesn’t usually present with huge, goopy edema.

She thought it was pigeon fever. Which totally pissed me off, since the first thing I’d said when we walked in was “whatever you do, do not utter the words ‘pigeon fever’.” That’s because pigeon fever is another one of those gory horse diseases that fall into the GAPF category: ghastly abcesses, potentially fatal.

The vet, a woman of science, said we could do a culture, and the culture would take 7 days, and would cost $100, and even if negative wouldn’t actually rule out pigeon fever, but would definitely rule it in if it came back positive.

A hundred bucks for an inconclusive lab test? Hell yeah! Sign me up! I thought you’d never ask!

Meanwhile, the vet performed an ultrasound on the pus-bags. She was looking for the pus pockets typical of pigeon fever. I studied the ultrasound screen over her shoulder, nodding and pretending to grasp what I was looking at.

“Congratulations,” I told Ginger Rogers. “It’s a girl.”

“Good one,” said the vet. Her dispirited tone seemed to suggest that I was not the first crone to witticize thusly while her horse’s pus-bags were getting ultrasounded for pigeon fever.

And so it came to pass that no pus pockets were observed, whereupon I smirked the cronal smirk of relief. With pigeon fever now somewhat less likely, the vet’s next bright idea was fire ants.

Ginger Rogers at the vetFire ants? Come on. Even if Ginger Rogers had rolled luxuriantly in a fire ant mound — not beyond the realm of possibility, as she’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer — I was skeptical that she could have managed to get stung so symmetrically along the ventral midline. And besides, fire ant bites result in many little pustules, not big-ass pus-bags and isolated, hard-yet-oozing bumps. As a world-renowned expert on equine ant bites, I rejected this theory.

In the end (pending the results of the $100 culture), I was forced to accept a diagnosis of “hypersensitivity.” Hypersensitivity to what I still don’t know. Perhaps to the Christian rock constantly blaring from the truck parked at the barn construction site. Or maybe, like me, Ginger Rogers is hypersensitive to country life. I’d have massive swellings, too, if it weren’t for my daily dose of margaritas.


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  1. Nolabelfits

    Whatever it is, the whole ordeal sounds expensive. Best of luck to you and Ginger Rogers.

  2. tinfoil hattie

    Poor Ginger. I find myself ‘way over here in Northern Virginia, worrying about her at odd times of the day. I hope you find a better answer soon.

  3. Map

    Did the vet take a sample of whatever that ‘yellow stuff’ is coming out of Ginger Rogers? I thought originally these were worms/parasites, but I guess not.

    Maybe Ginger Rogers needs a beer. There was a great race horse a couple of years back, who I think just about won the Triple Crown, and he drank a Guinness every day.

    I lived in Bluegrass Country for a few years. Maybe you could call a vet up there. They’re supposedly the best. Google the horse farms of Lexington, KY, get the number and ask for a recommendation. Or just call a horse vet up there for an opinion. Send her/him the pictures. Say one of those fancy trainers, Mr. Lukas, gave you her/his name. Better yet, google KY trainers. I think Lukas may be based somewhere else. I forget the names of the ones in Lexington. My memory becomes more like Swiss cheese as the days wear on.

    You may come upon a horse vet who recognizes the symptoms of Ginger’s disease right away.

    I used to go to the Horse Auctions at Keeneland and all the big trainers were there…along with the Arabian sheiks with all of their money. I saw a colt go for $1.2 million once. Big Whoop. I can’t watch horse races anymore or attend. There is a dark side to it that makes me ill.

    I think of TX as cattle country…not horse country. Lexington, KY is horse country. Some of the best horse vets are there. I’m not knowledgeable about Arab horses vs. Thoroughbreds as far as diseases go. I grew up with Pacers and Trotters. But I’d think horses are horses for the most part.

    I am not buying hypersensitivity. Unless this started when some new ‘material’ came into your area due to the barn being built? If a vet called my cat ‘hypersensitive,’ I would say, “Don’t you mean you simply don’t know WTF is wrong with her?”

    I hate to see an animal with a health problem. People? They can talk and usually make pests of themselves.

    I hope Ginger Rogers is not too uncomfortable.

    Best of luck to you and Ginger Rogers.

  4. Map

    I was just thinking about your post on the 4th of this month where Ginger Rogers got pretty beat up. Do you think she could have had something icky enter her system then?? At home or at the vet’s.

    Those were some nasty cuts.

    You probably have thought of that.

  5. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    Yeah. Well, both vets have openly admitted that they don’t have the slightest idea. However, we’re treating her symptoms with steroids — oral, IV, topical, and anecdotal — and this afternoon she seems much improved. So hopefully it will turn out to have been just some kind of immuno-spasm. Although pigeon fever hasn’t been ruled out. Nor, apparently, will it ever be. Swell.

    As for the incident with Ginger Rogers and the fence, that was over 6 months ago. The likelihood of a connection is slender.

  6. minervaK

    So glad to hear that GR is on the mend. Worrying about one’s animals is the pits. Thank Hera for margaritas.

  7. Mortisha

    My horse did have a similar swelling once; turn out it was a giant hematoma.
    She was galloping around playing in the rain. I found the giant skid marks into a fence post. Sigh.
    Took about a month for it to be reabsorbed.

    Hope it is not pigeon fever. Nasty bloody disease. We call it bastard strangles over here.

  8. quixote7

    I was almost too afraid of the photo I knew would be in this post to click on the title, but my addiction to cronal horse stories is too strong.

    What made the vet(s) decide it couldn’t be onchocerciasis? It sounds just about classic, so far. (E.g. dippy site with basic info)

    I hope Ginger Rogers gets better soon!

  9. Jenni

    I hate to say anything because I know jack shit about horses, but my recent medical adventures prompt me to ask if they can do a Staph culture from the pus. My limited understanding is that horses can get staph and what you are describing sounds terribly like what I have spent the last three months and umpteen rounds of antibiotics fighting. Staphylococcus aureus is some nasty shit lemme tell you. On the up side if it were that the antibiotics will help.
    Just a thought. I hate to hear of any animal suffering. Life’s hard enough without pus bags.

  10. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    Jenni, so sorry to hear of your foray into the wild world of medicine. I feel ya. After having done the whole cancer thing, I now have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the doc for anything at all. Scarred for life. Literally.

    Don’t worry about Ginger Rogers suffering. She is in good spirits and does not appear to be in any pain. Plus, she’s getting time off from riding, and extra carrots for standing still for the ointment, and extra sweet feed into which I mix the crushed-up dex tablets. She didn’t even mind going to the vet, to which the photo of the happy horse in vet stocks will attest, because they give her cookies there. All in all I think she regards this as a pretty fun vacation.

  11. EmbeeMarianna

    Her reaction seems allergic to me. You’ve probably already considered that. Best of health to Ginger Rogers and you. Pus bags are never good.

  12. Comradde PhysioProffe

    I hope your horse feels better soon!

  13. jenicillin

    I just wanted to thank you for your unfailing witty humor, honesty and insighfulness, Both here and IBTP. you have helped me a lot, with humor and just thinking. thanks. also… POOR HORSIE!

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