Feb 09

Gross crap oozes out of horse, again

It’s a fact: horses with chronic ventral midline edema are endlessly fascinating. You can bet that a few days ago when my mare Ginger Rogers suffered another relapse after a two-month dry spell I could pretty much see “Internet Sensation!” written all over her crusty, serum-oozing umbilical carbuncles. It was the work of a moment to whip off these snaps. I realize they look pretty similar to the snaps I whipped off a couple months ago, but as you know it’s impossible to ever quench the public’s insatiable thirst for equine dermatology.

Fig. 6, taken from between the hind legs, documents the swollen udder as well as the oozing crust.
Ventral midline edema

Fig. 22 shows the vast quantities of fluid pooling at the lowest point of the spare tire, making Ginger Rogers look even more zaftig than usual.
Funky old edema

What does the vet say? Allergies. Shot of dex in the neck followed by oral dex for 3 days will treat the symptoms, but this is unsatisfactory! Steroids have untoward side effects, and in any event the actual allergen remains a mystery. Is it fly bites? Oak pollen? Arabians?* “Take her to A&M,” is the constant refrain.

“A&M,” for those of you not lucky enough to inhabit the Lone Star State, refers to Texas A&M University, where there’s a vet school and a large animal clinic. Apparently A&M is where all the equine veterinary dermatologists are kept; certainly nary a one has ever been spotted roaming the Hill Country tossing out convenient allergy tests.

Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to schlep Ginger Rogers all the way the fuck up to A&M for some wildly expensive and logistically difficult allergy testing, but there’s a catch. I regret to say that it’s a bona fide Catch-22. I found out about it two years ago when my Arabian mare Stella came down with eyes-swollen-shut. The catch is that in order to be seen by a dermatology specialist at A&M, the horse can’t be sick.

It breaks down thusly: an appointment at A&M has a 1-month wait. One of the requirements for the appointment is that the horse be steroid-free for at least 3 months lest it foul up the test results. But a horse suffering the kind of painful dermatitis that plagues Ginger Rogers can’t wait a week to be treated, let alone a month. Neither can she go 3 months without steroids, because the flare-ups are on a tight 6-week schedule. So the upshot is that neither of my allergic horses will ever get a diagnosis or any decent treatment. Those flippin equine dermatologists might as well be partying in a palace in Dubai for all the good they’ll ever do me.

On the upside, Ginger Rogers appreciates that her dex tablets come stuffed inside Fuji apples.

* “Why not Arabians?” joked the vet. “Lots of people are allergic to them.” In case you aren’t familiar with the petty breed biases of the horse world, Arabians are thought, by people who don’t actually have Arabians, to be unstable, oversensitive, and flighty. It’s a bad rap. Arabians are merely alert.


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  1. Pinko Punko

    If you do indeed happen to come to this place “A&M”, whatever that is, perhaps myself may actually be trapped in such a dimension, and in fact would already be agonizing about the fact that there is no lunch here fit for the jaundiced palate of discerning crones. However, such hypothetical lunch would be offered.

    Both of my dear dear misbehavin’ doggies had their cancer lumps removed at “A&M”- the best part is the fastest thing they do is write you up an inflated quote and have you pay half up front. In our case “half’ ended up being 80% so I don’t know if that is good or bad. Then you have to go through some vet student playing House and then over again with the real doc. I think the care was good, but you have to press for actual recommendations, they like to give you the entire hypothetical buffet. You may find yourself demurring from sending Ginger Rogers to the International Space Station. So basically how you describe them seems somewhat par for the course but perhaps you could check again for a new voice on the phone, because I wouldn’t put the Catch-22 past an isolated eddy of incompetence.

  2. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    Well, Pinko, the 3-month steroid-free thing is pretty much industry-wide, veterinarily speaking. As to whether it always takes a month to get an appointment, it’s kind of moot for me at the moment, since Ginger Rogers won’t be eligible for 98 days anyway. But thanks for the lunch offer; I will definitely look you up when I finally get up there.

  3. Simkie

    Crone, I do trust that you have explored all avenues here, but are you 100% sure that you’re not seeing a totally bizarre presentation of pigeon fever? Have you taken a look at WBC and fibrinogen? After just struggling through a weird pigeon fever, it’s certainly in the forefront of *my* mind. We had some seriously WTF symptoms, and the fibrinogen was really the biggest tell we had.

  4. Pinko Punko

    For Ginger Rogers’ sake, I hope you don’t have to take the drive. I would have a solo marg in honor of possibly unanticipated but hoped for wellness.

    To take you mind off the usual, here is something to ponder that just struck me, pun intended, is the barn a lightning hazard? Is it the tallest thing around? That would be in the Dreadful Acres mold. Please tell me it is grounded. I didn’t even know that was a thing, but I just asked the Google and it is a thing.

  5. Dancing Millie

    I have used “M-T-G” by Shapley’s for several skin conditions successfully. It’s worth a shot if nothing else is helping! Could it be sand fleas or some irritating plant she rolls on in her paddock?

  6. Comradde PhysioProffe

    That whole steroid-free dealio sounds like it is leading to many horses suffering needlessly. Unless I am misunderstanding the implications?

  7. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Poor Ginger Rogers. Having suffered many severe allergic skin rashes, I empathize. We have an excellent veterinary school up here at Ohio State, but that’s not much help, is it? Best wishes and happy thoughts are being sent her way for relief from the symptoms and no more recurrences.

  8. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    “are you 100% sure that you’re not seeing a totally bizarre presentation of pigeon fever?”

    No. I mean, she had the pigeon fever test last fall when these symptoms first presented, and it didn’t come back positive. Which only means that it isn’t ruled in, of course. They also did an ultrasound on her pus-bags, which also suggested that it wasn’t pigeon fever. So we’ve been thinking it isn’t pigeon fever, but there’s been no conclusive test that says so definitely. It’s frustratingly difficult to get the vets interested in this kind of thing. They seem to prefer lameness issues; that’s where the real money is, in those electro-zoomatic treatments at $1000 a pop or whatever.

  9. pheenobarbidoll

    A bunch of flybites in a small area on a horse sensitive to them can cause this, but I’d wonder about lymph node issues.

  10. blog fan

    I’m sure you’ve had the midline dermatitis discussion. None of those pesky midges out right now, but have you considered double dosing Equimax? The anecdotal protocol is double dose Equimax (iver/prazi) every two weeks for three treatments total I believe. This is probably old news to you as you follow the COTH forums, but thought I’d mention it just in case. I had a lovely Arabian mare plagued by this (albeit seasonally).

  11. gingerest

    Huh. For humans, you need to withhold some meds up to two weeks before skin prick testing, but nothing like 90 days. Then again, humans have better treatment options for allergies than scoopsful of cortisone powder.

    I’m sorry your pretty girl is oozy and crusting.

  12. lyophil

    Have you considered colloidal silver, both topical and systemic? I’m aware that some folks may consider it a bit “woo” but side effects are extremely unlikely, and minimal. Silver horses are not stigmatized anyway.

  13. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    I always have a jar of silver sulfadiazine in the first aid bucket, and Ginger Rogers’ eruptions get the treatment 2x day. But only to soothe the skin and minimize the risk of secondary infections. The stuff has no effect whatsoever on the pus-bags themselves. It’s indicated for burns. Colloidal silver has not entirely passed muster in any clinical study that I’m aware of.

  14. speedbudget

    You know, I have no clue what anybody is talking about along these horsey lines, but I fucking love this blog anyway.

    Glad you’re back, Jill.

  15. liet

    It sounds like an infection rather than an allergy the discharge looks internal as it appears to seep out which to me is why idone treatment is not working except topically. Never delt with pigeon fever but a quick read and it looks the culprit. Some times what it is is … I have the vet bills lol too.

    Best of luck & hope you get it sorted nothing worse than looking at a sick animal.

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