Choke. *Warning-some pictures are bloody…proceed with caution if you’re the queasy type.*
Yep. Remember that vet assisting class I took back in April/May? I remember when she talked about the signs of choke and how to handle it, I thought, for as common as that is, I’m surprised I’ve never seen one. Well, outside of from a distance as a ten year old, which didn’t really count.
So last night, my best friend was in town for the first time in a while and was coming over to see the babies and hang out with me at the barn while I fed. She’s not a horse person, but shows interest in what I’m interested in generally. Since it was raining, I decided to let the mares and foals in the barn to eat their dinner where it was dry. As usual, I just slid the door open and let them amble in. I put Legs and Chunk in a stall with their grain and Paige and Joey in the big foaling stall with theirs. Paige had, as usual, already paid a visit to the square bales in the corner of the barn before going in the stall, but I didn’t think anything of it until I turned to walk away from the foaling stall, but saw something odd out of the corner of my eye. Paige had arched her back like a cat and retracted her neck in a painful looking manner.
Choke. I knew it immediately though I’m not sure why as she hadn’t attempted to cough anything up at this point. I just looked at her and knew something was wrong. Paige is very rarely distressed, so when she is, it is more obvious. I went back in the stall quickly and pulled her grain (which of course she still wanted to eat…) and haltered her to lead her around while I called vets.
I didn’t call my normal vet practice since they’re an hour away and have been beyond slammed lately because the vet that I typically use from there is still out with his own medical condition. I tried a local practice that I haven’t used in a while because they’re always swamped and seldom arrive in a reasonable amount of time (you know, within 6-12 hours…) and they couldn’t treat her until 10pm, over four hours later. While choke isn’t as time sensitive as other issues, it isn’t something I wanted to make Paige struggle with for hours unnecessarily, so I told that vet I’d let her know something later.
At this point Jason and S (A’s husband) had showed up at the barn to help me out. S rides and is horse savvy, so I handed him Paige while I continued to do evening chores to keep my mind off of things while I was waiting to hear back from a vet. S recalled that a friend of ours had used a vet that was fairly new to the area, so we got his contact info from her and called him. Luckily he was in town, and oddly enough, not doing anything and would come on out. I ran up to feed Copper, Harley, and Highness and within 10 minutes of finishing that, the vet was there.
Naturally Paige had stopped being overly distressed at this point and we wondered if she’d managed to pass it on her own, but still wanted the vet to double check. He came in and complimented her off the bat, saying she looks like a nice horse, and asked about who Joey’s sire was. At this point Paige was quietly standing and Joey was in the midst of all of it, introducing himself to the vet. The vet said that Joey was a stout colt for two months old and gave Paige a tiny bit of sedative. He didn’t want to give her too much because she can secrete it through her milk to Joey, and that worst case scenario, we could just give her a little more if she fought the nasogastric tube.
I’m glad this was the first time Paige has needed to be sedated, because if she’d been dosed as I’ve seen Copper dosed before, she would’ve been on the floor. Paige is a lightweight! She started swaying and crossing her legs trying to hold herself up. As I held her (now super heavy) head up, he inserted the NG tube two times and both times it went into her airway instead of her throat. He blew into the tube like it was a straw and when his own breathe flowed freely through the tube, he knew he was blowing into her lungs. The third time was the charm and he managed to get her to swallow the tube so that it would be able to go to the site of the blockage. This time when he blew into the tube, it was like blowing into a straw with your finger over the other end, so he knew he had found the blockage. Jason got to play veterinary nurse and insert the tip of the water filled syringe into the NG tube and push the water through. After Jason filled the NG tube with 1 syringe and 3/4 of another into the tube, the vet put the water filled tube in his own mouth and blew HARD into it and pushed the obstruction and water into Paige’s stomach.
Unfortunately due to the numerous efforts to get Paige to swallow the tube some of her sensitive nasal tissues were scraped and she bled a lot (or a lot to me…) and we had to apply pressure for a long time to get the flow to slow down to a drip. Overall the vet seemed impressed with Paige, as she only fought the tube a little bit before giving up and letting us take care of her in spite of the limited drugs that had been administered. Once we got the bleeding stopped she hung out in the middle of the barn sedated for a couple hours before waking up enough to go outside.
I’m very grateful to this vet for coming out on the fly to see my horse and I’ll definitely use him again in the future. He was very easy to get along with and conversational while we waited on Paige to stop bleeding. Luckily Paige was her saintly self and Joey stayed mostly out of the way, so hopefully we sit positively in his mind if we need to call him again in the future. Overall it was pretty stressful, but mainly because I’m not used to seeing Paige struggle with anything. Even giving birth to Joey was quick and easy for her, so seeing her in distress and not knowing how to help her was frustrating.
This morning she seems mostly back to normal, though she seems tired like she had a rough night, which is totally understandable. Me too Paige, me too.