Laminitis: The Death of "Bud"

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Below is a compilation of e-mail exchanges between Geronimo and a horse owner about her foundered Clydesdale gelding. 

FOUNDER IS THE SECOND LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN HORSES!

April 14, 1997 6:29 PM
I have a 16 year old Clydesdale gelding who I am extremely attached to that has foundered. He had some congestion that we were attempting to clear up with the use of Naxcell and he got a very severe case of diarrhea from the drug which led to the laminitis. I have not had him x-rayed yet, but have an appointment to have this taken care of tomorrow. I guess my main question is what is the outlook for an animal of this size who has foundered? I am willing to keep him shod and do the extra veterinary work if he can be comfortable, but I don't want him to be in pain constantly.

I read your article on founder, and though he is hesitant to move around, he will walk if prodded (though he does groan the first couple of steps) and he has not shown any tendency to arch his back, or stand with his feet under himself. He did rock back and forth the first day we saw him exhibit the onset of laminitis, but we stopped the diarrhea immediately with the use of Tribrussen, and gave him I.V. DMSO and Bute the next day. When he does walk, his stride is fairly normal, and when he's under the effects of the DMSO and Bute, he looks and acts very normal. (He has a lumbering stride, but that's typical of him, as with many draft horses.)

As I mentioned, I am attached to this horse, but I want to be fair to him -- if he's going to live a life in pain, I will euthanize him, but if he can be kept comfortable, I'd certainly do everything I could to keep the old guy around. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

April 14, 1997 7:30 PM
It is imperative that some questions be answered before I can make any suggestions. I have a very large soft spot in my heart for the old Clydesdales myself. I need to know some things before I can help.

Before x-rays are taken a piece of coat hanger or similar device must be taped vertically on the wall (dorsal surface) and a thumb tack must be placed at the point of the frog (3/8 of an inch back from the apex). It will not hurt the horse to push a thumb tack into the frog as there are no nerve endings in the horny frog that would cause him pain. These bits of metal will show clearly on the radiographs and allow vital measurements to be taken.

We should have clear, crisp x-rays of the horse's hooves. Certain measurements will need to be taken and sent to me so I can intelligently consider shoeing alternatives. These measurements are: 1. An accurate measurement of the distance between the proximal end of the coffin bone to the dorsal surface of the hoof wall. 2. The distance of the distal end of the coffin bone to the dorsal surface of the hoof wall. 3.The distances from anterior and posterior portion of the coffin bone to the horny sole.

These measurements will help me to attempt to determine the degree of rotation and/or sinking of the coffin bone within the horse's foot. This is not always easy to determine; therefore accurate measurements are necessary. If you have a veterinarian and/or a blacksmith (farrier) who you can communicate with and who is capable of understanding what my requests are, they might quite possibly be able to explain to you the degree of rotation and/or sinking of the boney column. Otherwise it may be necessary for you to get the measurements yourself from the x-rays using a ruler that will give measurements in 16ths of an inch.

Sixteen years of age is not extremely old for a horse. If the amount of damage that has been done is not too extreme this horse should certainly be able to be kept comfortable and possibly be returned to useful service. All this depends on the measurements I am requesting.

Go easy on the Bute. Do not allow your horse to be over-dosed on Bute because of the dangers of toxicity advancing the founder condition to a more exaggerated level. Be aware of the dosage per hundred weight.

There is always a desire to keep the horse comfortable by giving him Bute. However if he is made too comfortable before corrective shoeing is done, the horse may move about too freely, causing more damage. This could be one of those times when pain can be your friend by keeping him immobile.

As my article has stated, this is not a wait-and-see time, so be sure and get good x-rays, some kind of a diagnostic commitment on the part of the veterinarian, and if you are still desirous of my help, get this information to me as quickly as possible.

Be sure and read all my Q&A's regarding founder.

April 15, 1997 6:14 AM
Thank you for your quick response to my request for help. I am having the horse x-rayed this afternoon and I will take a copy of your note with me to show to the vet.
I have another question. What is your suggested dosage of Bute per 100 lb..?

Thanks again for all your help. I will write back later tonight to let you know the results of the x-rays.

April 15, 1997 3:02 PM
We lost our Clyde today. I had the vet on his way out to evaluate him for the founder and to take some x-rays so we could see what was happening with his feet, and he went down just before the vet arrived. We don't really know why. Possibly heart failure from all the stress, but who knows? The problem with horses is that for all their size they are such fragile creatures. Bud was my first draft horse, but he won't be my last (though it's much too soon to think about that now), and he'll always have a very special place in my heart.

Please warn your clients about the use of Naxel for their horses as an antibiotic choice -- the vet who came to take the x-rays has had two different clients before me lose horses to founder (incidentally, Bud was a sinker, and would have had to be euthanized) after the use of Naxcel, and he firmly believes there is a connection.

Thank you again for your response and your kind offer of help.

April 15, 1997 8:08 PM
Sorry to hear that you lost your Clyde. I know from the tone of your last letter to me that Bud was and always will be special in your heart.

I would like to request that we not allow Bud to just pass on but let us use his passing to help other horses and other owners who love their horses as you obviously loved him. I would like to print your story by way of our communication concerning Bud in my Q&A to serve as a warning to others who do not take laminitis as well as the careful selection of farriers, veterinarians and the treatment of their animals seriously enough.

I hope that you will give your consent concerning this matter and I am sure there will be other draft horses in your life. People such as you and I have too much love for the equine to live for very long without them in our family.

You have my profound sympathy over your loss.

April 16, 1997 8:21 PM
Thank you for your kind thoughts regarding Bud. I am not involved with horses for any other reason than that I love these big creatures and they bring great pleasure to my life. Bud was not only my sole draft horse (I also have four quarter horses and a paint), but he was the guy who would hang out with me when I was out doing chores. While the rest of the herd romped out in the pasture, Bud would hang out with me in the drylot or the barn, and occasionally if I stopped suddenly he would bump into my shoulder with his nose because he liked to follow me around. His sheepish look after one of these frequent occurrences was priceless. I am a school teacher, and he was the first introduction to equines for many city children, and though they were at first intimidated by his size, he quickly won them over by snuffing their hair and ears, and his gentle, calm mannerisms. Each of my horses is special to me, but Bud was one of those characters who was incredibly easy to love.

Please feel free to use the letters we've written to each other to inform others about the serious nature of laminitis. I would like see you stress the dangers of the drug Naxcel, and also to use Bud as an example of how quickly laminitis can progress. It was on a Monday that I first noticed that Bud was uncomfortable and had some heat along his coronet bands. Tuesday he was rocking. The following Tuesday when he died he was a "sinker." I had an eight day window from diagnosis to death, and perhaps if I'd acted sooner I might have been able to prevent his deterioration, but I simply didn't have enough information. Competent, knowledgeable farriers and veterinarians are scarce, and I guess I now know just how
critical it is to have help before a crisis occurs.

I wish that there were more educated, concerned farriers out there such as yourself; I think you are providing a wonderful service for horse owners, and I hope people appreciate the information that you've provided.


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This entire web site is copyright protected.  1996-2001 Geronimo & Mary Bayard,  2001-2008 Mary Fitzpatrick
All rights reserved. Contact Mary for reproduction information & permission.