Nearly put my horse down due duff advice from vet.

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15 February 2020
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I bought a lovely horse that had kissing spines. I knew this from the outset and it was very much reflected in the price. In short, I had myself a cheap schoolmaster dressage horse. Incredibly, he had got up to a very good level despite having pretty bad overriding processes.

Once I had bought him he had the kissing spines ligament snip. I sent him down to south Wales, four hours away, to be operated on by the surgeon who pioneered the ISLD, and the operation was very successful. He then went on to be a much happier horse - a lovely ride, and just generally ace.

Fast forward to 2020 and he went lame. My own vet up here said it was his hocks, they were arthritic. He wasn't insured so we discussed options and decided that, as it was quite likely that arthritis was the problem, we would medicate the hocks. After this he was much better but still 1/10th lame. They said ride him as much as possible and it will improve once he gets stronger. So I stayed patient for a few weeks and when he hadn't come right I consulted the vet and went back. They scanned and examined him and said his SI joint was very sore, and it looked like that needed medicating. I agreed with this as palpating it was very sore for him.They said there were arthritic changes there. I was told that he could be medicated there and then if I wanted. I said yes that sounds sensible.

At this point, I started to smell a rat about the actual spine, so I asked the vet to take an xray of it. She said it was not sore as she had palpated it and he was ok. She knew his history of kissing spines. I said please could you just take an xray for my peace of mind, she said fine.

She came back 20mins later, bootfaced. The kissing spines were back, she said, and he was basically unrideable. I was devastated. She showed me the xrays and I saw what she meant. They looked awful. We discussed options for him and it was decided that I would move him from the yard that I'm on and turn him out in a field that I have and he could live there. I am very lucky to have a field or I don't know what I would have done. I couldn't retire a horse on livery forever. She said he would be pasture sound, but come winter I may be a different story. I was heartbroken - I would never sit on my lovely lad ever again. I couldn't believe it - in 20 mins my world just changed in a heartbeat. My poor boy - his kissing spines had come back and he never told me.

In the meantime my trainer said he knew of a horse for sale that would fit the bill for me since I was probably going to need another. I tried the horse and it was lovely but quite expensive. I knew it was a good buy though so I bought him. So, new horse.

Meanwhile I kept my kissing spines boy at our livery yard for a few weeks while I sorted out my field. I cried every time I handled him - I was heartbroken.

On the morning of moving him I decided to message the vet that did the snip, and show him the xray. I figured he would appreciate seeing how the case went even though it was an unfortunate outcome. I sent him the xray with the words 'I assume this is a write off'.

He phoned me back there and then. What did I mean, it was a write off? I told him and he was speechless. He said there was nothing wrong with it and that was the spine that he operated on, the operation was a great success and the xray is the same as it was straight after surgery. What you see has no bearing on the result, he said. He said he always tells his young vets to look at the horse, not the xray, and that this xray had been misinterpreted. He said that the vet had been 'let's say sloppy, to say the least'. This vet pioneered the ligament snip and is internationally renowned and respected. He wouldn't say it was fine when it wasn't. He was completely confident that this back was of no concern. He said the vet was probably right on the money about the SI needing medicating because of the changes on the xray, and also the hocks were flexing fine now suggesting that the lameness was in that area. He couldn't believe that they had, in is words 'almost sent your horse to heaven, right there'. It was indeed true that I had almost asked them to pts there and then, since we were at the hospital anyway. I came away from that phone call with my head spinning.

So, I'm beyond relieved that the KS are not back, and that I will ride my lad again. But I am also very angry about this.

My friends think I should take this further - at the very least ask for a decent credit on my bill. I have gone through this awful time, nearly euthanised and bought another expensive horse.

Should I, can I, take this further? I'm not a litigious person by nature but I'm getting angrier and angrier every day. I know that I was dumb for not going straight to the surgeon straight away, but that xray looked like a foregone conclusion. And to be honest I didn't want to bring him bad news about his work. Stupid I know.

But what would you do? Anything or nothing?

Sorry for the long post by the way!
 

Apercrumbie

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While I understand that you feel aggrieved, I would always have asked the vet to consult the surgeon once kissing spines were suspected again before taking any action, with the view to understanding the deterioration. As it turns out, his spine hasn't deteriorated, but vets are human, and it sounds like the x-ray isn't pretty. Your horse was lame, and the x-ray probably looked like a very reasonable cause for the lameness. Sorry, but I'm not blaming the vet here.
 

SusieT

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You have two different vets opinion - just because he is a pioneer in a treatment does not mean he is always right.
Everybody is human, either one of them may be wrong. He has not seen the horse, but vet 1 may be wrong also.
To claim money back etc. you would need to probably get a third opinion that agrees with one or the other or take him for exam to the specialist vet.
What would the credit be for? The x-ray, the injections ? There doesn't seem to be an excess of fees here? If for 'emotional damage; I would say unless it is persistant repeatable wrong diagnosis or rudeness I thnk you chalk this one up to believing vet b knows more than vet a. As for buying a new horse- I think that is nothing to do with the vet...
 

meleeka

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I’d be fuming too. If the vet wasn’t experienced in ks surgery they should have sought advice, as you did.

I think proper legal advice would be the best course of action.
 

be positive

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I think the main issue here is that your vet did not have the xrays taken after the op to compare with the more recent ones, they may have jumped to the wrong conclusion but if the history had been complete, as it should have been, they could have compared them and seen that the spine had not changed, the vet who operated was able to see that, in this case I think the only fault was that those xrays were not where they should have been, I don't think you have anything to gain by complaining it was not their fault and the fact you bought another horse is not relevant.
 
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15 February 2020
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Wow, thanks for all the comments I am reading them all avidly.

Cortez, yes, he's still lame. Previcox does the job so that it's not bothering him and he looks sound. Ultimately he needs his SI medicating and according to vet A he should be good to go.
 

Cortez

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Wow, thanks for all the comments I am reading them all avidly.

Cortez, yes, he's still lame. Previcox does the job so that it's not bothering him and he looks sound. Ultimately he needs his SI medicating and according to vet A he should be good to go.
I think if I was you I would just wait a bit before getting all annoyed at one or the other vets. He's still lame, his SI is still bothering him, so he's not "good to go" yet, is he?
 
Joined
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No Cortez he's not yet good to go - I think what the vet meant was that he would be good to go once he's had all his creaky bits medicated 😀
 

fankino04

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I'm sorry that you've gone through this, it's obviously been very upsetting for you but I think you have to accept that (as someone else put) vets are human and therefore not infallible, if the x-rays look as bad as you say then obviously the vet would assume ks was back. Many years ago I had a horse that was collicking all day, vet had been out 3 times in 12 hours to give buscapan and liquid paraffin but at most she had had 2 hours of respite from it. On his 3rd visit he said it was now clearly surgical but as that meant getting her to a surgery in North Yorkshire (we were in Northumberland) he didn't think she would make the journey and said we should pts. Thankfully we were on the yard that I was working on and my boss used different vets who had a surgery so he called them and we took her straight there (a 30 min journey). They gave her lots of liquid paraffin and more buscapan and she was sent home the next morning, no need for surgery. Why was the 1st vet willing to PTS rather than refer to a local vet who could treat if surgery was needed. That is definitely a case where anyone would be right to be livid with the vet but in your case I think he has made an understandable human error, thankfully you didn't PTS without a 2nd opinion.
 

Red-1

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I'm afraid I wouldn't blame the first vet either. You say yourself, the horse is lame and the X rays looked 'awful.' TBH, I presume you had seen X rays first time round? So would know that, even after treatment, the back didn't look good. So, if even you didn't realise it was the same as after surgery, I'm not sure how your vet could have known?

When I have a tricky decision to make, I have a second opinion anyway, knowing that vets are human. I had one horse with a colic were the first vet said it was time to PTS. Got a second opinion, and the second vet saved her then and there with excessive paraffin. It was all a bit embarrassing, as the first vet was also my employer! But, he had done his best.

I don't think he first vet has been unprofessional. He didn't have enough information to know better. Also, as the horse still is not sound, it is entirely possible that the back is still at fault.

Enjoy your new horse!
 

HashRouge

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I get that you are upset OP and I do get why, but I think that you need to separate out a few things. The fact that you bought an expensive new horse is neither here nor there - the first vet has nothing to do with that. Secondly, it sounds as though you don't definitely know what is causing the issue. SI sounds likely, but you won't know without further investigation. Even if it is the SI, it is notoriously difficult to treat properly and many horses don't successfully return to a full ridden career, so (without being unkind) I wouldn't get your hopes up too much yet as the outcome for your horse may be very similar. I'm also slightly confused about the spine X-rays - it sounds like the vet thought SI and was all set to medicate, but you wanted an X-ray of the spine (so were predisposed to think is was KS again)? You then accept that the X-rays looked awful. If the X-rays look horrendous and the vet has nothing to compare them to (would she have had access to any previous X-rays?) then it is probably unsurprising that she thought KS was the cause of your current issues. Can you be 100% certain that the back isn't the issue? Sounds like more investigative work needs doing.
 

Pearlsasinger

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I understand why you are upset and I would be too but as you were paying for professional opinions, I'm not sure how you could ask for money off your bill. They , haven't done anything that they should not have done You insisted on the x-ray of the spine, if you hadn't done that the SI would have been medicated by now. A lesson to take from this is, if you are not sure, or there is a big decision to bee made, ask for a 2nd opinion.

We had a retired, elderly cob vaccinated one year, young vet was concerned about her heart, to the point where we were seriously considering pts, rather than take her through another winter. Then the vet qualified dentist came, shortly afterwards, I explained about the cob's heart, she listened to it and said that she couldn't hear anything out of the ordinary. So I asked the senior vet to come out from the original practice and asked him to listen to the cob's heart and explained why, not because I wanted money off my bill (which had already been paid) but because I wanted the young vet to have the opportunity to learn. When the cob was eventually pts, several years later, the reason was completely unrelated to her heart.
 
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Cloball

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I'm not sure about vets but it's pretty standard in people to compare x-rays to look for acute/subtle changes, chronicity. It's all in the interpretation of a snap shot in time if you are not happy with how to properly interpret an image don't do the investigation (by which I mean refer back to the operating surgeon) or do it with a more experienced second opinion on the phone.
Particularly as the horse has a known KS history, as a professional I would expect an investigation to be interpreted with that knowledge which I imagine is more complex and subtle than say an initial diagnosis. Acute things and chronic changes can be a completely different ball game. But I say this with a sort of professional hat on, I am not a radiologist by any stretch of the imagination.
 

SEL

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Firstly sounding off because you are angry is absolutely OK! Vets do work within the limit of their own personal experience though. Perhaps this vet didn't really understand what the ligament snip operation had done and didn't think to compare x rays - in which case I would politely feed back that you've spoken to the original consultant and all seems OK. If they want to learn from this then hopefully the practice will make a note to double check in future.

I had two vets both tell me the suspensory ligaments were scanning fine on my mare (they were both there at the same time for the scan). Fortunately for the mare I went on holiday for 2 weeks after the scan so she wasn't worked because when their colleague came out to inject her hocks I mentioned how convinced I had been that her suspensory on her left hind was going to be a problem. The vet decided to re scan there and then - and yup, right up by the hock was damaged. I never said anything to the original 2 vets, but I'm pretty sure their colleague did because one of them went bright red and avoided me at the yard. We all make mistakes, but we all also need to learn from them.

Hopefully your new horse will turn out to be everything you wanted and if your older one is suffering from arthritis then a quieter life sounds like a plan.
 

MiniMilton

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Vets are human and can only give their best opinion.
I had an unlucky mare that came in from the field hopping lame, local vet dug around and found what he said was an abcess. Poulticing for 2 weeks she didn't improve so I went to a equine hospital. Poor mare had broken pedal bone. I was raging with the first vet he was so sure it was just an abcess.

The mare did 3 months box rest, still lame. Back to the equine hospital and xrays showed the fracture had healed but horse had developed keretanoma. Xrays were unusual so many vets at the equine hospital looked at them and puzzled over them. We went back a few weeks later to remove keretanoma. Another xray beforehand to double check and it appeared to be magicly gone. Horse still moderately lame at this stage and because the differences in the x rays were so strange lots of the top vets there studied them. Then by accident a student vet spotted at the top of the xray that the sesamoids had been shattered presumably 4 months beforehand when she came in from the field hopping lame.

So what I'm saying is all of those vets missed an obvious injury because their eyes were drawn to other problematic areas. My rage for the first vet subsided and a few years later he saved that mares life in an emergency so I was very glad I hadn't burnt that bridge and he was able to stop her haemmhoraging (a pretty severe uterine prolapse)
 

Apercrumbie

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Vets are human and can only give their best opinion.
I had an unlucky mare that came in from the field hopping lame, local vet dug around and found what he said was an abcess. Poulticing for 2 weeks she didn't improve so I went to a equine hospital. Poor mare had broken pedal bone. I was raging with the first vet he was so sure it was just an abcess.

The mare did 3 months box rest, still lame. Back to the equine hospital and xrays showed the fracture had healed but horse had developed keretanoma. Xrays were unusual so many vets at the equine hospital looked at them and puzzled over them. We went back a few weeks later to remove keretanoma. Another xray beforehand to double check and it appeared to be magicly gone. Horse still moderately lame at this stage and because the differences in the x rays were so strange lots of the top vets there studied them. Then by accident a student vet spotted at the top of the xray that the sesamoids had been shattered presumably 4 months beforehand when she came in from the field hopping lame.

So what I'm saying is all of those vets missed an obvious injury because their eyes were drawn to other problematic areas. My rage for the first vet subsided and a few years later he saved that mares life in an emergency so I was very glad I hadn't burnt that bridge and he was able to stop her haemmhoraging (a pretty severe uterine prolapse)
MiniMilton makes a good point - it sounds like the vet (admittedly at your request) has got distracted by a dodgy-looking x-ray and as a result has stopped investigating what else it might be. I'd go back to his original thought and see what comes up.
 

Trouper

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Would your KS op vet be prepared to write a note about his view of the latest xrays? If so, I think I would be forwarding it to the local vet and, in a calm and considered manner, pointing out that there are a number of lessons to be learnt here from everyone involved and inviting their response. You might just get an apologetic letter back, you might get some discount on the treatment that your horse still did need but the point will have been made in a manner which preserves your relationship with them for the future (unless you think they have been so hopeless that you are looking for a new vet).
 

Kamikaze

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I have also had a vet Mis diagnose and almost kill my horse. Horse wasn’t right but seemed to be both front feet. I had vet out. Vet said it’s just his fetlock arthritis. I queried this as felt he was sore on both and only had arthritis diagnosis in one. I suggested laminitis. But no she was adamant it was his arthritis, including saying h. Best thing to do was keep him turned out and give him acupuncture.

2 days later I rang the vets again and said I needed a particular vet to come and have him pts as he had gone down hill so much. Took that vet approx 5mins to realise it was laminitis. Thankfully saved him but of course had to live with the consequences which would have been much less if treated 2 days before. Thankfully that vet “moved on” shortly after.
 
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