Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Tale of a Tooth....and a Blonde with a Sore Head

I expected something horrible. Driving back to the equine clinic to pick up Kwintus on Monday morning, I kept psyching myself up, anticipating a huge, gaping hole caked with clotted blood in my horse’s left cheek. I imagined giant, pirate-like scar-stitches slashing right across his face. I imagined a permanently disfigured horse.

But when I arrived and was taken to see him, the only sign of the complicated three-hour surgery he underwent on Saturday morning to remove an infected molar right at the back of his mouth was a teeny silver staple in his cheek. This may sound weird, but it almost looks like he's had a very discreet, not too trendy piercing!

Why had I imagined such horrors? I suppose it was the idea of the dentist drilling through the side of his face that conjured up the gory images. I’d been upset when the vet phoned me on Saturday afternoon, telling me the op had been more complicated than expected. They’d initially aimed for a simple extraction, but as the badly broken tooth crumbled under their instruments, they were left with no alternative than to tackle it from the outside. My stomach tied itself in knots. Three hours of surgery? Poor horse! To make matter worse, I realized as soon as I’d hung up that I’d forgotten to ask whether they’d been forced to administer a general anesthetic because of the complications. Turns out they didn’t. Thank goodness.

Frankly, Kwintus doesn’t seem much worse for wear. Although I experienced prickles of fear when I walked into the clinic and saw him standing in his stable, ears down, tail down, eyes flat and depressed, he immediately seemed to perk up at the sound of my voice, and was thrilled when I lead him towards the van. He was a little less thrilled when the vet led him back to his hospital stable three minutes later, with me staggering behind him, a lump the size of an egg in the centre of my forehead. As I’d stooped and reached under the “bum bar” on the unoccupied side of the van to grab Kwintus’ leg protections, I misjudged the distance as I stood up again and slammed forehead first against the bar. Believe me, I saw those twirling, proverbial stars!

The vet, holding Kwintus alongside the van, hadn’t noticed me hit my head. Groggy, I turned to face him, clutching the leg protections (funny what you do when you’re in shock!) and asked him whether I was bleeding. His mouth dropped, he ooh-la-laed, and suggested we put Kwintus back in a stable in order to fix my face.

Back in the surgery, he disinfected my teeny cut (thank goodness it was only a graze), gave me a drink of arnica in a syringe, put some anti-inflammatory cream on the bump, and sat me down in the reception area with an ice-pack. I felt pretty silly. I was also a little concerned about embarking on the two-hour drive back to the stables, all alone with the van. What if I started feeling dizzy, or nauseous, or something? With road-works taking place on large stretches of the motorway, the overtaking lane is often narrowed to two metres, with the regular lane smushed against the concrete barrier (no escape lane!), making towing the van in these areas a little bit hairy for amateurish little me. It was also horribly windy. But I wasn’t dizzy, nor nauseous, I was just worried about possibly being dizzy or nauseous (have I already mentioned that I’m a worrier?!) so I pulled myself together, popped an Ibuprofen, and went to get my horse.

The ride home went fine, although I found myself squeezing my buttocks and contracting my abs quite a lot during the narrower bits of the motorway, especially when giant lorries overtook me, screaming past a series of long, dark tunnels! Kwintus helped by standing quietly, hardly ever shifting his weight at all. We made it back without further incident and he plodded out of the van, standing with his head high and his eyes full of sparkles, delighted to be home.

Kwintus will be on antibiotics for a week, and will have to see a vet in ten days to remove the staple in his cheek, as well as the silicone plug the dentist fitted in the deep hole where his tooth was. He can’t wear a bitted bridle for three weeks (although the vet told me he’ll probably be ok in a rubber snaffle in a week or so; it’s metal in his mouth that’s a big no-no), but can be turned out, and walked in hand until I think his mouth is well enough to deal with a rubber snaffle. For now, I’m giving him a break, letting him chill out in the field, finally free of that awful, painful, infected tooth.

As for my forehead, it’s still tender and a little swollen, but I think I saved myself a giant rainbow bruise by slathering it in an amazing, seriously gloopy arnica gel normally reserved for horses, but which works wonders on people too. A few months ago, irritated by flies, Kwintus stomped on my daughter’s foot while she was tacking him up and hurt her badly enough for me to imagine her foot might be broken. We immediately put her foot in ice cold water, then slicked it with this magic arnica cream before going to the hospital for an x-ray. Thank goodness her foot wasn’t broken, but she was on crutches for a week nevertheless. However, she never developed the slightest suggestion of a bruise. Amazing!

Have your horses ever had to have surgery? And, incidentally, like my experience with the “horse arnica”, have you come across any homeopathic preparations for horses that work surprisingly well on humans, too? Or even vice-versa. Tips on things like this can often come in really useful!


Anonymous said...

My horses have never (so far) had surgery, although Dawn has had an abscessed tooth. The vet actually left it in place and it was treated by antibiotics - for a long time. It left a large lump on her jaw that has gradually been reabsorbed - you can hardly feel it now.

And Dawn's had a bunch of stitches when she got a very bad cut on her leg from being kicked.

word verification: porbaby!

Bouncin' Barb said...

I am familiar with arnica oil used by my old massage therapist in CT who did very deep tissue massage on me. It worked wonders. I've had other massages where I had little bruises all over my back but this does help with that.

When our Morgan had the really bad eye infection that could have caused him to lose his eye the vet had us by over the counter monistate cream and put a measured amount into his eye to keep the swelling down and to keep it from drying up as well.

Hope your head is all better by now.

Laura Crum said...

I'm glad Kwint is doing well. And sorry to hear about your head. Henry's colic surgery was by far the most major surgery I ever had to do on a horse and it (and the rehab) was a real ordeal for me. But Henry is 100% fine and sound today (we just got back from working cattle up at the arena and he did great), so it was all worth it.

Francesca Prescott said...

Kate: touch wood!!! But an abcessed tooth sounds horrible; lucky it went away with antibiotics.

Barb: I've been using arnica in all kinds of forms for years now, but have never seen results like this thick gel for horses. It really is remarkable. What is monistate cream? I'm not familiar with it. I've used black tea to soothe my horses' (and dogs) minor eye irritations and infections, it works really well. Works well on my own puffy eye days, too! My head is much better, thanks; there's a tinge of yellow on my forehead, and the bridge of my nose is a little blue - I hadn't noticed that part being bruised so hadn't put any arnica there. It's all still pretty tender: I went to a yoga class the other day and there was no way I could put my forehead on the ground!

Laura: colic surgery must be traumatic, I can't even imagine. I think one of the French eventing horses in Kentucky last week had to have colic surgery soon after it arrived at the horse park. How long does it take to recover from? I'm happy to hear Henry is teaching your son to work cattle; sounds like a one-of-a-kind horse.

Jan said...

Francesca, I'm so glad to hear your horse's surgery went well, and that it only caused a tiny staple! I read your earlier posts about his teeth and your worry was understandable. My horse had to have two teeth extracted last fall, and by the time I got to the barn, the vet had already taken them both out. My poor horse was standing in the stall, so droopy and sleepy! The vet even saved the teeth for me. Horses' teeth are really something to see! He too was on antibiotics and soft feed for a while, but has been fine. I'm so glad for you, but sorry for your head injury!