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A NIGHT SHIFT TO REMEMBER
A recent on-call shift for Torch Vet Caroline Blake, began with an emergency visit to a neonatal filly that had suddenly collapsed. Caroline takes us through her dramatic night.
“Patsy had delivered her foal the night before and all had seemed well. The following day, Patsy and her foal spent the afternoon in the paddock soaking up some warm sunshine, while their exhausted owner took a well-earned break for a couple of hours, having camped outside her stable for a week in his truck!
However trouble was brewing. On the owner’s return, the day-old foal was found in a collapsed heap with her desperate mother watching over in confusion. One phone call later and I was soon accelerating towards the setting sun, trying hard not to break any speed limits. On arrival, it soon became clear that this was a very sick foal and I was going to have act quickly and effectively to save her. It was going to be a very long night. The foal was unable to stand, lying flat on her side. Her gum membranes were brick red, and her breathing was fast and laboured. Losing awareness of her surroundings, her heart was racing while her body temperature was soaring. The foal’s condition had deteriorated from normality to collapse in a matter of hours. I immediately placed an intravenous catheter into her jugular vein, but before giving any medication I took some blood samples that would give me valuable information.
I started to give intravenous fluids, with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and tetanus antitoxin. In the meantime the blood results confirmed my fears. The foal’s immunoglobulin (IgG) levels were very low meaning she hadn’t received the vital antibodies in her dam’s colostrum to protect her against infection. Her white blood cell count was consistent with acute infection. Foals are not born with well-developed immunity to the germs in the outside word. This crucial immunity is provided in the form of antibodies in the rich yellow colostrum (or first milk). It’s essential that the foal receives this milk within the first four hours of life. After this time, the ability of the foal’s gut to absorb these large protein molecules reduces.
In this case, Patsy had been running milk from her udder for a few days prior to foaling, and it would seem that despite feeding well from birth, the best of the colostrum had been lost before her foal had chance to benefit. As a result, this day-old foal was unable to cope with the barrage of new challenges in the world outside the uterus, causing acute infection and resultant collapse.
To restore the antibody levels in the blood, an immediate plasma transfusion was required. We keep a supply of frozen plasma in stock for such cases. The foal’s condition continued to deteriorate rapidly. She was now having severe seizures, with tetanic convulsions contorting her tiny body; sweating profusely with her head arched back and limbs rigidly extended.
Seizures occur in neonatal foals as the barrier between the bloodstream and brain is not fully formed meaning acute infection can quickly lead to inflammation around the brain and hence neurological signs. I gave repeated injections of intravenous diazepam to control the seizures, and started a slow plasma transfusion. Keeping the foal warm with blankets and cushioning under her head was vital to prevent trauma.
The long night followed, which saw me continuing to monitor the foal during and after the plasma transfusion, and controlling the seizures. Thankfully, these gradually became less severe and frequent, and then eventually stopped. As the foal could not suck, Patsy‘s udder was soon overflowing with milk. This was collected and fed to the foal via a small stomach tube to ensure that she was still getting adequate nutrition.
In the hours of early morning, the foal’s condition stabilised and she was left to sleep while we humans also shut our eyes, albeit for a short while. The spring sunrise brought with it a sleepy and rather traumatised foal, but with help she was able to stand and suck. As sunrise gave way to another bright day, the foal too became brighter and stronger with each hour. I repeated another intravenous fluid infusion and topped up her antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.
Happily, she became stronger and stronger, and was able to stand and suck on her own, meaning she didn’t need any further stomach tubing.
I’m delighted to say that the foal never looked back, going from strength to strength over the next few days”.
A great result – well done Caroline!
Torch Vet Jennifer, was called out to see Smartie, a mare who had somehow sustained a blow to the head resulting in a deep wound to her the arch above her left eye.
As you can see from the photos there was marked swelling and infection with a fracture of the left zygomatic arch. The wound was cleaned and the mare was placed on broad spectrum antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.
It took three days for the swelling to reduce to the point where it was possible to do a full examination and amazingly there had been no damage to the eye itself. The wound was debrided and the edges were cut back with removal of the bone fragment. It was then partially sutured.
After 10 days the wound healed really well, and the site is healed without a prominent scar. A very pleasing result!
TORCH TEAM TALK – CAROLINE BLAKE
Q: How long have you been a Torch Vet?
I have worked at Torch for 15 years now. I have been part of the evolution of Torch Equine as a specialised equine only practice, (from what used to be Charter Vets, a mixed practice). The advances in expertise, facilities and equipment are quite amazing.
Q: Can you describe your earliest riding memory?
I was animal and pony crazy as a child and had my first pony when was 10 (my mother sensibly insisted I could carry a full water bucket before I could have my own pony!) He was the most handsome palomino welsh cob called Sam with 4 white socks and was my pride and joy. I devoted all my weekends and school holidays to him (much to my parents’ dismay). That pony taught me so much: not just how to ride.
Q: Do you currently ride?
I don’t have my own horse which is a shame but time does not really allow at present. However I do still enjoy the occasional ride on a borrowed horse. I enjoy riding on the open moor and I am unashamedly a very happy ‘happy hacker’.
Q. Do you have pets?
I have a very affectionate border terrier cross who takes me for lovely walks and has never slept in a dog bed in her life (preferring human beds and sofas). I have two cats – a grumpy, middle-aged, silver tabby, and a mischievous ginger kitten whose antics make us laugh.
Q. What’s your favourite restaurant?
Has to be Squires in Braunton – best fish and chips in the world!
If you happen to be competing at or visiting any of the local agricultural shows this summer, please pop in and say hi, it
would be great to see you! Find us at:
• Woolsery Show on 30th July
• North Devon Show on 1st August
• Holsworthy & Stratton Show on 23rd August
We will have refreshments aplenty, entertainment for the kids, a chance to win a rug for your horse and members of the Torch Equine team who would be delighted to have a chat with clients and offer any information we can on how we can help you with the services we offer.
Come along and find out more!
We are thrilled to congratulate our vet Jennifer Rodliff, who has recently passed her final exams to become an Advanced Equine Practitioner.
After 2.5 years of extra study, in addition to her full time role at Torch, Jennifer now holds the additional qualification of a Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice (Equine Practice).
A fantastic achievement and just reward for an awful lot of hard work!
NEW SMALLHOLDER GROUP
Do you keep chickens, sheep, goats, pigs or other beasties as well as horses?
Our sister practice, Torch Farm Vets has launched a smallholders group on Facebook. Tailored to our clients who keep a smallholding, this private group is designed to offer useful information on all aspects of animal health management and provide a supportive forum for like-minded users. There will also be the opportunity to organise co-ordinated vaccination days for smallholding livestock, which should prove to be a cost-effective initiative for members.
We’ve kept it as a closed group to make sure it remains a local, relevant place for our clients, so please apply to join – find it on the Torch Farm Facebook page: www.facebook.com/torchfarmvets