One of the interesting things about this line of work is the sheer variety of what we do -- and we just never know what opportunities we'll get to enjoy on any given day. This morning I was on a conference call working on donor database migration issues and this afternoon, I was ... well, I was cleaning a horse's sheath. (Um, that's a veterinary euphemism for "horse pee-pee.") I had noticed our old, blind Appaloosa Shasta out in pasture swishing his tail and stamping his hind feet, acting downright uncomfortable. I knew it wasn't flies because our horses are fly-sprayed, and based on prior experience, I knew this suggested a sheath problem of some sort. I asked our employee Cindy to bring Shasta in from pasture so I could take a look at him.
Now, before you can grab a horse by his (irritated) penis and start poking around up in there, it's always wise to have the animal thoroughly sedated. Even a gentle old soul like Shasta might finally end up kicking you into the fence if what you're doing to him is uncomfortable enough. And sedation is also very important to get these geldings to "drop it" so you've got something to work with. Thus this morning I had called our equine vet and surgeon, Dr. Erin Taylor, to get the correct dosing for a horse of Shasta's considerable size.
After giving Shasta his IV injections, I went to work with warm soapy water and a wash cloth. Cindy was helping me and took these photos. Erin had explained that these old male horses can get big and pendulous "down there," and their prepuce becomes heavier and fattier. This means more folds in the skin to trap sweat and the urine that can back-splash if they don't extend all the way before they pee. Add summer heat, and it can become a bacteria hothouse. The fact that Shasta is light-skinned with a lot of pink also predisposes him to skin problems in the first place.
I started cleaning on his right side and found plenty of red, raw tissue. On his left side I was scrubbing away when ... a wriggling maggot fell out of a fold of skin. Ick. I moved my (gloved) fingers around deep inside his prepuce and more maggots came out. Eeeeeeew. We had one other horse, blind Domino -- also a light-skinned Appy with pink pigmentation -- develop a similar problem a couple of years ago. This was what I feared was happening when I saw Shasta out on pasture swishing his tail and stamping his hind feet.
Knowing I was in over my head at this point, I called Erin for on-the-spot advice, which is what I'm doing in this photo:
Erin sees my number on her caller ID and answers.
Me: "Lots of 'em."
Erin: "Okay, here's what you do..."
Then she walked me through it: A repeat dose of the sedatives to keep him under for a while longer. Rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle to kill the maggots. (I didn't have her preferred maggot-killing solution.) Continue to thoroughly wash and clean. Rinse. Apply Morusone ointment, a steroid cream in a jar helpfully still labeled "For Domino's P.P." (our earlier maggot case). Give 2 grams of bute, an anti-inflammatory, and continue with the bute tomorrow. Monitor.
The whole process out there in the corral took over an hour.
Meanwhile, I am emailing Erin this afternoon the graphic close-up photos so she can decide if we need to do more. (Alayne won't let me post those photos on the blog.)
And that was just another day at the office here at the Rolling Dog Ranch.