the barn in fall

the barn in fall

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

X-rays, Poultices, and Nerve Blocks, or What I Did During My Summer Vacation

I thought strangely rippled horse flesh was going to be my veterinary mystery for the summer.  I wish I'd been right.  (Update - the fungicide from TSC worked.  Thanks, Laurie.)

Nine days ago, Fritz came up lame in his hind leg with no obvious reason.  I gave bute (sort of like asprin for horses) and it got better.  Then came back.  Then went away.  Then came back, but this time it was the front foot and he was dead lame.  Time to call the vet.

We had a mystery - Fritz didn't respond to pressure tests and we couldn't localize the problem.  So she took X-rays for a better look at the foot.  First, front and side views:

The X-ray machine is the yellow box in the foreground.  Results are displayed within seconds on a laptop computer:

Cool, huh?  The third view was from a different angle:
Results: Fritz gets an A+ in feet.  They look better than expected, like a horse much younger than 30 years.  Wonderful!  Now, if he could only walk...
So the vet used a nerve block to numb the foot.  It's like when you get your mouth numbed at the dentist.  First she did part of the foot, and when he still couldn't walk, she numbed the whole foot.  This was the first injection - two, actually, one on each side of the leg above the hoof.  The second was about an inch higher:

Success!  Suddenly Fritz could walk.  Perfect - Dr. DeWitt can go home now.  Hahaha.  No.

Now we've localized the pain, and it must be an abscess we can't see and can't make him feel with pressure.  So if you've hung around these pages for long, you know what comes next - the poultice.

This stays on for three days to soften the hoof, so she can cut away more hoof wall and hopefully find the sore spot so she can let the infection drain.  That was Friday; I'm supposed to call in with the progress report Monday morning.  Meantime, I can increase the bute to see if it makes him more comfortable.

It didn't.  But it did give him an allergic reaction - irregular flat, raised areas all over his neck and sides.  Hives!  Great; cut back on the bute.

And by Monday - today - no change.  He's still hobbling, hesitant enough to make you cringe in sympathy.  So the poultice came off and she did more cutting away at the softened area.  (Not too soft, really - in this dry wether, hooves get especially hard.)  A bit more success - she made him flinch and jerk away.  Now we know where the abscess is, but it still needs to make its way through the hoof, and drain.  So we have another poultice, another green and black clubbed foot, and another three days to wait.  I sure hope this one works.


  1. Awww Poor Fritz. I hope he feels better soon.

  2. Thanks, Doreen, so do I. It hurts to see him hurt for so long. Twelve days now since he first started limping.

  3. Glad the fungicide worked. I'll let my son know too. My heart goes out to Fritz... hope he gets better soon.