When Problems Arise
No matter how diligent we are, life is life and problems can still arise. This is especially true of the elderly and chronically ill. For us, lately, that has been Sandelee. At almost 36 years old (her birthday is in March) she has had a very trying year. Her joints are getting older, her eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be, and she lost her “sister” of over 30 years. While we’ve tried very hard to find her a new friend, it hasn’t worked out as well as I had hoped, with a lot of the issues being that she is a “bucket” horse (all foods go in a bucket and no hay) - and all of our other horses need to eat hay. That makes it very hard to find her a good companion. So, while we have her young boyfriend (Sven), and her friends, Nina and Maizy, who are far too over zealous for Sandelee, and even young Kaia (who adores her grandma Sandy!) I can still see that Sandelee is stressed and feeling alone. That much stress (and age) reduces the immune system and unfortunately problems will arise. Our current issue is a skin problem.
Since late summer, we had a huge uptick in “bugs”. We started the summer off with nematodes in the yard (like we always do) that helps keep down fleas, ticks, flies, mites etc because, well, with all the animals dealing with bugs is part and parcel to owning lots of fur babies. All was good until late summer hit and with it came flies (so stinky fly bags all around the property), mites that like to bite just one of our cats, fleas on everyone and mites on one goat and one turkey (mites love weak, stressed bodies). All of my usual treatments just weren’t as effective as usual and I’m having to find new ways to treat these issues. That’s where Sandelee comes in.
Its January and I’m still trying to beat down the bug invasion, which in itself is really odd. Still battling fleas, and even after a really hard cold snap, the mites!...though I am slowly making progress. Then suddenly Sandelee starts scratching her neck far more than the norm. The scratch becomes a sore spot (which I treated with a homemade green healing goo that is very effective) but the itching is spreading! Even though herbs are always my first "go to", unfortunately herbs were not cutting it in this case, so I had to move onto stronger options. As I couldn’t tell for sure what was actually causing the issue (since seniors are very creative with coming up with problems and its hard to address a problem you aren't sure of), I tried a variety of approaches with only a small bit of success. After a variety of herbs didn't seem to be helping, I did several low dose treatments of ivermectin (because the sores resembled threadworms) but that showed no signs of helping. Anti histamines only slightly reduced the itching so my first thought was it was not an allergic reaction, and I also sprayed her with fly spray in case it was mites (which are very hard to see as they are so tiny!) My vet also suggested checking for lice (no signs of that) and after Sandelee scratched a LARGE spot on her back into a bloody mess, I went back to the internet to check for more options. While rain rot was a potential, I have yet to see rain rot act like this so I was still stumped. It was time to call in our trusty vet, Lynn Caldwell.
Lynn happened to be available this morning and came to check out our old lady. After a thorough check to make sure the issue wasn’t bug related (I’m happy to report it wasn’t, especially after all the bug issues lately!) she decided our best “guess” was an allergic reaction of some type as the sore Sandy rubbed on her back looked like a "hot spot", which are generally food related but Sandy has had no diet changes. Since Sandelee has never shown any allergies in the past, its now going to be up to me to try and chase down what exactly is causing the allergic reaction, if indeed that is what it is. I asked Lynn to do a blood panel to make sure that is what we are dealing with and Lynn cautiously advised some steroids to bring down the inflammation in Sandy’s body. Since steroids can potentially trigger founder, especially in someone like Sandy, it’s a risk but at this time it’s a risk worth taking because Sandy is feeling so miserable. And as I pointed out to Lynn, its about quality of life at this point, not quantity since at her age there isn’t a whole lot of quantity left! Once Sandy lost her sister Amber, it was pretty much expected that she would soon follow - but we are happy and appreciating every day she has with us.
So stuff happens, problems arise. Sometimes the answer comes quickly, and sometimes you have to keep pushing until the right answer comes along even if occasionally its not the answer you want, but you do your best...after all, I hate anything I can't address with herbs and only go on to "medical means" when herbs aren't strong enough to address the issue. Because of that, I often get the privilege of helping people find the answers to their problem horses but occasionally it’s not an answer they want to hear, just like some of my answers aren’t what I want to hear. I don’t want to hear that Sandelee is old and might be beyond help, because we want our fur babies to stay with us forever. They take a little piece with us each time we lose one. But sometimes we find miracles and sometimes old ladies choose to stay around with us just a little bit longer.
Here’s to hoping you will be here to celebrate your next birthday with us, Sandelee! March is just around the corner!