Friday, February 27, 2009

The good, the bad and the ugly

First, the bad news: frustrated by Snoopy's inability to trot without a pronounced limp, we scheduled an appointment with the doctor to have him evaluated. Pam at the Chino Valley Equine Hospital could not be nicer to deal with and set us up with an appointment with Dr. Fischer right away.

I have a love-hate relationship with Dr. Fischer, although I'm certain he's unaware of it. Surgically, he did a wonderful job of repairing Snoop's broken sesamoid. As far as communications go, however, he is a black hole of response. I cannot get him to call me back, even when I leave the most dire of messages. Every time I need an answer, Dr. Murphy has to chase him down for me. Before yesterday, I had never even seen him "in de flesh".

After giving Snoop a significant dose of his favorite cocktail, Tina, Niki and I walked him down to the hospital (the ranch is located maybe two blocks away). We stuck Snoopy in an outside pen then went inside to wait for Dr. Fischer. True to form, he walked into the office without acknowledging us, then walked out, then walked in... you get the picture.

Suddenly, I look outside at the Snoop and see one of the interns (the young blonde girl with a German accent whose name I can never get right) go into the pen with him, so I went outside to join them. Good thing I was watching my horse!

"I haven't seen Snoopy in a long time," she said. "Why are we seeing him today?"

"It's been ten months and he's still not trotting," I told her.

She turned him around in the stall. "Well, he seems to be walking just fine."

At that moment, Niki walked up.

"Oh, he walks fine," I said. "But his trot is... no good."

It was not quite the precise and detailed explanation I had hoped Tina or Niki would give the doctor, but Niki laughed and told me it was exactly right. His trot is no good. Tina and Dr. Fischer appeared at that point, along with another intern. The doctors all took turns poking and prodding his back pasterns, then discussing what they felt. Then they took him onto the dirt and trotted him. Apart from failing the sobriety test (he couldn't trot in a straight line), he wouldn't reach underneath himself with that left foot, although he didn't mind putting weight on it.

Then came the x-rays, then more x-rays, then an ultrasound. It all took a long time, so Tina and Niki had to go back to the ranch to teach their lessons. The hospital staff wouldn't let me into the x-ray room, so all I could hear was some general stomping about. With all of the waiting, he had started to mouth Tony, the guy holding him, which was a sign that the tranquilizer was wearing off. By the time we got to ultrasound, Snoopy was awake.

I'd like you to take a look at the picture:

Tony is holding Snoopy. We are in the hallway between the offices and the examination rooms. I don't know why, but that's where the doctor wanted to do the ultrasound. Just beyond Snoopy's nose is a ficus tree. It was a general recipe for chaos.

Snoopy wanted to eat the ficus. Failing that, he wanted to chew on Tony. When Tony objected, he tried to play with the handle on the door. He certainly did not want to stand still and have a gooey object run up and down the back of his pastern. They picked up his front foot to keep his back foot down. There was more general wiggling, after which he yanked his foot away from the blonde intern, stretched out and peed in the doorway. That settled him down for about a minute.

"I will need to sedate him," the blonde told me, "if I ever want to get this done today."

They did 'get it done today'. There was more discussion between the doctors that I couldn't decipher - were they saying they knew what was wrong or were they clueless? At least, Brigid (Dr. Murphy) showed up. I knew she could translate for me, if need be. Finally, Dr. Fischer asked me to go wait in the office and he'd explain all.

He showed Brigid and me the x-rays, comparing both hind legs. There was a marked difference in the angles of both pasterns. According to Dr. Fischer, the reason for this is a stretched suspensory ligament - basically, it's tendonitis. He doesn't believe it happened during the injury, but most likely was the result of Snoopy straining to compensate while he moved about during his recuperation. I'm wondering if that little episode of getting his cast stuck in the stall door may have started the whole thing.

The good news is that it's still recoverable, although it may be a long road. Stretched suspensory ligaments typically take a good 6-8 months to heal, and we don't know how long this thing has been stretched out. We're supposed to give him 60 days of physical therapy and then go back for another ultrasound to see where we are on the healing curve. Dr. Fischer wouldn't, of course, guarantee that Snoopy will return to complete soundness, but I'm hoping he's young enough to bounce back. I'm also happy to report Dr. Fischer is a lot nicer in person. Apparently, he just doesn't like to talk on the phone.

The ugly news? Physical therapy for tendonitis is walking. More walking, 30-45 minutes a day. More of the boring sameness that we've been doing for the past 6 months. Tina could weep.

Oh, yeah, and the 'evaluation' cost me nearly $700.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hope, we must have hope

Dr. Murphy still thinks that Snoopy is progressing, even if all we can do is walk him. She says (rightly so) that his left side had atrophied quite a bit. He needs to both rebuild the muscles and re-gain flexibility.

As Brigid says, "I'd like to see his butt cheeks look more even before we start trotting."

According to her, we're a long way from calling him permanently disabled. So we're walking him every day and having chiropractic adjustments and keeping our hopes high.

After all, what else is there for us to do at this point?