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.
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.