Caring for a post-op horse

dollymix

Well-Known Member
Joined
4 September 2006
Messages
2,029
Location
North Wales
Hoping for some ‘real-life’ experience type advice after what has been a roller coaster of a fortnight. It has been the most stressful and worrying two weeks a horse owner can imagine.

It’s a long story so I wont bore you with every detail but my mare had emergency surgery a week last Thursday to remove an ovarian tumour which had ‘erupted’ and caused peritonitis. (The story started earlier than that - lets just say I am relieved I know my horse so well!)

The vets, (my own) and the fantastic hospital she is at, were all baffled – as it was suspected that she had colitis. It was only when they opened her up and ‘explored’ that they even found the mangled tumour. Poor girly must have been in so much pain, but wasn’t even showing signs of colic. Just quiet and not eating, with a high temperature (no sweating or shaking). She was also doing some teeth grinding which was really the only pain indicator.

The Head Vet said she must have tough Welsh blood as if she was a TB she would have been rolling around on the floor in agony...all she was doing was looking a bit glum!

I was in two minds to operate as I know the success rate is not always good on equine surgery but I spoke at length to the Head vet at the hospital who said she was a good candidate for surgery.

Anyway – cutting the story short, she had the op, tumour duly found (benign thankfully) and came round from the anaesthetic and has been in hospital since. In herself, she hasn’t been too bad – tucking into grass in hand, but to top it all off, my poor girl was suffering with peritonitis after the damaged ovary leaked yucky stuff into the abdomen. She was treated for this, but all the meds then gave her an auto-immune issue where her body was breaking down red blood cells.

On Friday the hospital attempted a belly tap for the peritonitis and they couldn’t get a sample so they said that this is seen as a good thing…as peritonitis produces excess liquid – plus her temp was down, so the plan over the weekend was to stop the ultra-strong antibiotics and give her steroids to help with the blood issue.

Spoke to the vet this morning and they are very happy with her progress over the weekend and they hope to send her home, possibly tomorrow!

I have been out of my mind with worry for two weeks, especially the day of the surgery and a few days after. I know we all love our horses, but she really does mean everything to me so I was devastated. I think I was driving the hospital mad as I have spoke to them twice a day and also visited every day to hand graze. I think the feeling of helplessness meant that if I at least walked her out for grass I felt I was doing something.

So in theory, I should be over the moon – and I am so pleased they think she is well enough to come home. But I am super worried too because now she wont be monitored 24/7 (she has been in ICU) and it will be all down to me!

I am on a great yard and know the other liveries will keep an eye on her too.

She is on box rest with hand grazing for about 6 weeks and then small pen turnout for 8 weeks after that. If all is good, she can then begin her ridden life again. The vet said the incision they made in her abdomen is much longer than usual as they thought they were looking at a colon issue, not an ovarian problem.

I am wondering if anyone has experienced caring for a horse after surgery such as this? I know colic surgery is similar in that the incision is in the same location, but I understand from the vet that concern over feeding is less in her case as it was not to do with digestive system.

So any experiences in caring for a post-op horse would be great. I know she will still be at risk of colic from adhesions forming – has anyone experienced this after such an operation? Any other issues to keep an eye on? I will probably be a paranoid horse owner for quite some time now!!

Photo of said gorgeous girly sporting her super-slimming girdle
IMG_8321.JPG
 

eggs

Well-Known Member
Joined
3 February 2009
Messages
4,208
Glad they found the problem and were able to fix it.

Some years ago one of my horses was operated on for colic. Fortunately it was in impaction which whey were able to break up and move through without having to open up his colon. He was at Newmarket for two weeks. Rehab was similar to what you will be doing. Box rest with hand grazing for 8 weeks then small pen turnout. Fortunately he was very sensible and I keep my horses at home so was able to keep on eye on him and also keep one of my other horses in (they were rotated round) so that he had company.

He had very small amounts of soaked hay every couple of hours and I found a treat ball kept him occupied for some of the time. When it came to small pen turnout I made an area about 15m x 15m with another bigger area next to it. He was sedated and then after about an hour put out in the small pen with his best friend next to him in the larger area. The other horses were out in a different field that was out of sight. I would take him down with a lunge line and hand graze him (which he was already used to - the pen was built in the same small field that he had previously been hand grazed in). Once I was happy he was settled I unclipped the lunge line but stayed with him for a couple of minutes and then stepped gradually away. I would sit outside the pen reading a book until it was time for him to go back into his stable as I don't like to leave them unsupervised when they are coming off box rest.

I prefer to hand graze a box rested horse with a lunge line as it enables you to keep a safe distance away whilst still having control rather than with a normal lead rope. Usual safety precautions of good footwear, gloves and a hat.
 

sport horse

Well-Known Member
Joined
23 January 2002
Messages
1,121
I had a horse have colic surgery last year and I truly understand the worry over her ongoing care. I would think that she does need careful monitoring for the next few weeks and if you are not in a position to provide that at your livery yard is there a good rehab yard that the vets could recommend just to get through the next two or three weeks? It would be well worth the cost - I am sure it has cost a lot up to now!

My horses live at home so I am around 24/7 and I freely admit that for the first few days I checked the horse every couple of hours in the evening and once in the night. We did have a couple of blips but my own vets are amazing and have full overnight cover too as well as a telephone service for worried owners!

Good luck I hope she goes on well.
 

tda

Active Member
Joined
18 April 2013
Messages
944
Location
Yorkshire
One of ours had colic surgery at the beginning of January, she did not have classic signs either, but then during the exploration there was not much wrong with the guts either. Still don't really know what caused it all.
Anyway, my pony was great at the box rest, as long as there was food she was settled. The wound started to break down so she had to go back to horsepital for a further three weeks, which she also took in good grace
At home she lives on a small hard-core yard with stables, so I was able to let her out for a wander from time to time. There has been a lot of bucking and charging about recently, she has obviously used up all her patience. 3.5 months on, hoping to get her back in the herd now she's fully healed up.
Good luck, and try not to worry. We didn't get a bandage like that, envious ☺
 

dollymix

Well-Known Member
Joined
4 September 2006
Messages
2,029
Location
North Wales
Thanks for all your kind words, tips and encouragement. It means a lot.

I am thankful it is a bank holiday weekend as it means I only have two days off before a long weekend to keep an eye on her. One of those will be a half day too as I have to get my own vet out to remove stitches.

Would dearly love to be able to put her on Rehab livery somewhere (although I think she would find another strange yard stressful?) but sadly funds don't allow. I know my bill from the hospital is over £6,200 and the insurance company are still keeping quiet on whether they will be contributing (She previously had sarcoids so have suggested it may be connected - which the hospital and my own vet are furious about - thankfully the Head Vet at the hospital is willing to fight my corner so fingers crossed there) - I will also have a separate bill from my own vet as she was treated at home for 2 days before hospital admission. Eeek. It is going to be a very expensive month. (not long after an expensive divorce battle with my now ex-dearly beloved!) Good job I have a credit card and willingness to live on beans on toast for life.

I will definitely investigate a little camera for her stable though - my Dad is very knowledgeable about CCTV so maybe he came come up with something which I can get an app for. I was worried about colic, but the vet seems unconcerned largely about this and said it is really about monitoring her appetite and temperature on a daily basis for the peritonitis and auto-immune issue. If her temp rises I should get my own vet in the first instance and go from there. My own vet will be taking periodic blood tests too over the coming weeks to ensure the PCV levels are stable. Over the weekend her levels are been great, although appropriately her urine was slightly discolored again this afternoon (only slightly and not enough for them to want to keep her much longer).

My livery yard is awesome too. It is a shame the YO is away until this Friday as I know she will be a 'mother hen' and treat Luna like her own. She is fantastic. It is a working farm so there is always someone around. Whilst she is away, her daughters are running the place (both mid-20s) and they are both very experienced so hopefully I am stressing for nothing.

I don't think Luna will mind box rest. She is a bit of a princess and likes her stable lol. I will be walking her in hand twice a day to hand graze too (before and after work). I think she will be fairly sensible during the rehab period. She is 13 and although she is part bred welsh, she has a good head on her shoulders haha. Fingers crossed it stays that way.
 

DressageCob

Well-Known Member
Joined
30 December 2011
Messages
847
Aww bless! I didn't know Luna had been poorly.

You mustn't feel bad about the visiting, phone calls and handgrazing. When Albert was in Leahurst I was there about 4 hours a day, sometimes arriving at 7:30am or leaving at 9pm. Thankfully they had prescribed visiting from me because Albert was getting so upset he was colicking but seemed to settle if I was there.

Obviously, completely different operation, but we had a similar routine after he got home. You'll probably find she will just be relieved to be home. Albert was so happy to be back in his stable with the people he knows. I made sure that he was hand grazed several times a day, just so he wasn't stuck in the box for hours on end. The main thing for me was keeping my head under control. Given his remaining eye also had a breakdown I was staring at it obsessively and comparing it to photos and to Toby to check if it was shiny enough! And rushing across the yard every time Albert bumped into something. Luckily I have a great yard owner, great yard manager and excellent members of staff who (a) I trusted to look after him while I was working and (b) could slap me around the face and get me to be less hysterical 😄

Good luck and hope luna has a speedy recovery
 

dollymix

Well-Known Member
Joined
4 September 2006
Messages
2,029
Location
North Wales
Aww bless! I didn't know Luna had been poorly.

You mustn't feel bad about the visiting, phone calls and handgrazing. When Albert was in Leahurst I was there about 4 hours a day, sometimes arriving at 7:30am or leaving at 9pm. Thankfully they had prescribed visiting from me because Albert was getting so upset he was colicking but seemed to settle if I was there.

Obviously, completely different operation, but we had a similar routine after he got home. You'll probably find she will just be relieved to be home. Albert was so happy to be back in his stable with the people he knows. I made sure that he was hand grazed several times a day, just so he wasn't stuck in the box for hours on end. The main thing for me was keeping my head under control. Given his remaining eye also had a breakdown I was staring at it obsessively and comparing it to photos and to Toby to check if it was shiny enough! And rushing across the yard every time Albert bumped into something. Luckily I have a great yard owner, great yard manager and excellent members of staff who (a) I trusted to look after him while I was working and (b) could slap me around the face and get me to be less hysterical 😄

Good luck and hope luna has a speedy recovery
Ah thanks. Your boy is doing so well now. Loved his camp photos.

Luna really does mean the world to me and I’m not exaggerating when I says it’s been the worse fortnight of my life. I feel like I am scared to get my hopes up... like it’s tempting fate? If that makes sense? But the fact she is coming home is a positive step.

Can’t wait to see her in her own stable again 😊
 

sport horse

Well-Known Member
Joined
23 January 2002
Messages
1,121
It is great that you have a lot of support in your yard - I am sure with all those people looking out for her she will be fine. Very different from so many yards described on here where noone looks at, touches or anything else to someone else's horse. It is in your situation that you appreciate a bunch of caring friends/staff/YO etc.
 

scats

Well-Known Member
Joined
11 September 2007
Messages
3,264
I had one have colic surgery in 2007. He was very poorly afterwards as they couldn’t get him to eat anything in the days after surgery and he developed hyperlipemia. There was a fantastic student there at the time who made it his mission to encourage him to eat and bless him, he hand walked him to grass almost every hour he was there, night and day and eventually got him eating. He then developed an infection at the site of the wound so his home coming was further delayed.
Once home, his recovery went well, although he did develop adhesions and have a couple of minor colics as a result in the first 16 weeks. He coped with the box rest fine and then the small pen, although keeping him quiet was quite hard by this stage, but he was generally a good lad. His surgery was in the July (on my birthday...) and we were able to start riding again mid-November.

We made sure he had soaked hay and his feeds were very wet and sloppy. He had had a caecum impaction and was found to have a problem with his levels of gut bacteria.

I hope your horses recovery goes well x
 

little_critter

Well-Known Member
Joined
20 June 2009
Messages
2,323
I have no experience of this but is it worth asking your vet for the key things to look out for and laminate these and put them on her door with a note saying if you see any of these then to let you know ASAP.
Might also be worth having a list of don't worry about these symptoms they are perfectly normal......other wise you might end up with calls 24/7 from concerned liveries.
Fingers crossed she heals well.
 

ponies4ever

Active Member
Joined
14 April 2014
Messages
383
Im so sorry to hear this it sounds like it would be beyond stressful! My mare had a double ovariectomy about 2 months ago and I cried my eyes out when I went up to see her just after her op! I also then visited everyday just to keep her a bit sane. Luckily her surgery was much less complicated than the one you've described but I really wish I had the same well behaved horse that you sound like you have!

Mine was on box rest for 4 weeks. Had she needed even a day more I think I would have started sedating her as she was *cough* a bit of a nightmare but I was fully expecting it. She could have gone and grazed in hand but unfortunately she had the classic ovarian tumour temperament which meant I couldn't trust her not to piss off/rear/kick out/etc (she is normally a PITA but it got a LOT worse). Im also on a livery yard where there's normally someone around so people did keep an eye on her which was great and could tell me if she'd been particularly agitated or hadn't been interested in hay etc. Only complication in recovery was that she managed to burst an internal stitch on one side probably through trying to kick someone but luckily on check up it was fine.

Her scars are healing really well and the hairs growing back quite nicely and I managed to have a sit on her for the first time on Sunday! Although there was nothing better than being able to turn her out for the first time!

I really hope your recovery goes well OP
 

dollymix

Well-Known Member
Joined
4 September 2006
Messages
2,029
Location
North Wales
Thanks for all the messages of support folks. It’s really helpful to hear other people’s experiences, tips etc

Thought I’d give a quick Luna update for those interested.

So far so good. She is tolerating box rest pretty well though is a little feisty in hand when I take her for grass (had to dig the dually halter out of the cupboard for a bit more control!). But I’m taking that as a positive sign of feeling a bit better?

Temperature has been consistently normal.

She is still a little lame though. The vet came yesterday to remove her stitches so I asked him and he didn’t think it was laminitis (despite the steroids)... he thinks more likely to be pain related to the op and a little foot sore as shoes were removed. He said keep in mind at hospital she was still on pain relief (well, they stopped it the day before we collected her) so would only show these signs really now.

She is happy enough on grass and in a straight line (as proven yesterday when she tried to tow me down the track for more grass), but on loose chipings she is “cautious” and when turning in her stable she does look sore bless her.

So I’ll keep an eye on the situation. Vet is coming again after the back holiday to take bloods to we can monitor the haemolysis - no red wee since coming home (hurrah). It may be that I ask the blacksmith to put her shoes back on if vet says she is well enough to keep her feet up long enough to have them on.

Hopefully she continues to make good progress.
 

MDB

Active Member
Joined
29 June 2014
Messages
950
Location
Spain.
I don't have advice for this kind of post op care, but I didn't want to read and not comment. She is obviously tough as nails and a real fighter. She has come through the worst and the vets would not be letting her home if she was not ready. She will already be feeling a million times better than she did before and no doubt she will be happy to be home. You are clearly a very vigilant and loving owner so I would only say that if she does have ups and downs or setbacks when home, then trust your gut feeling and never feel worried about calling the vet or driving them mad. That is what they are there for. Goodluck. She looks a lovely horse.
 
Joined
26 March 2007
Messages
21,007
Location
Hades
Hi
I've had two horses who both had colic surgery for rare conditions. I looked after them myself and followed this rough schedule.
Morning - feed, hay, muck out.
Then - groom and take for an in hand graze (could be a little exciting at times) before popping back in box.
Lunch - I had the yard manager check and give a section of hay at lunchtime.
After work - feed, hay, muck out, and another lengthy graze in hand (45 mins plus). Then back in with a haynet and the radio on.
10pm - checked, popped into night rugs, radio switched off, carrots/apples given.

As they both got better, and their wounds healed, I put them in a stable sized grass pen next to their normal companions - and eventually would leave them in the pen for longer and longer, making it gradually larger.

Good luck with your mare.
 

dollymix

Well-Known Member
Joined
4 September 2006
Messages
2,029
Location
North Wales
Another little update for those interested - the lameness issue seems to have resolved itself (so was likely attributed to the pain killers wearing off and over-exertion of coming home on the lorry perhaps?)

But unfortunately the bloods taken on Tuesday show that her red cell count has decreased again since she came home :-(

We had decreased the steroids to half a dose this week, but now she has to go back up to a higher amount (higher than previous too) as we really do need to get on top of that situation.

In herself, she seems pretty well. Is very talkative to anyone who walks past her box, bright and attentive. Plus, when I walk her out for hand grazing twice a day she drags me out to the track and eats like she is starving. There is definitely no problem with her appetite!

Her urine is still a normal colour and her temperature is consistently normal too. Her gums are quite pale though.

Sigh.

I suppose it was too much to expect it would be a straight-forward recovery given what she went through.
 
Top