Canker in a very elderly horse -- is this the end? HAPPY UPDATE :)
Canker is a new one for me as I'm in CA and my vet says it's pretty uncommon here. I care for a 34+ year old rescued mare with various age issues --- uveitis, glaucoma and coffin bone rotation to within 2 mm of sole. She has had very careful management with a high quality of life until this past week.
Because she has had to live in Soft Ride boots 24/7, she has developed canker, which was just diagnosed today. Vet feels that given her age and other health challenges, that it would be unfair to her to put her through the aggressive excision/treatment necessary --- plus we still have those foundered feet to consider. I have scheduled euthanasia for her for Thursday. She is very painful (4/5 lame) in both front feet due to the canker. Banamine is giving her major pain relief so that she is able to comfortably walk around while we take a few days to say goodbye.
I have never dealt with canker. Am I giving up too easily? In my heart I know that letting her go is a good choice but I'm out of my league with canker and thought I'd ask for COTH wisdom... Vet was pretty clear this was not a battle I should fight for her at this point in her life, and I highly regard my vet.
Thanks in advance for your input.
Last edited by Watermark Farm; Nov. 1, 2012 at 03:02 PM.
It's really hard when they are being managed well and perking along at such an age, and then they get that _one_ more insult to the system . . .
It's quite likely that you could drag this on for quite some time with this and that treatment, and you'd have a miserable elderly horse living in pain, expensive vet bills and she'd probably die soon from the stress. I'd go with the vet's advice and let her go now. I'm very sorry.
About the canker, from what I understand it's hard to treat especially with her needing to wear her boots.
Have treated canker successfully in 25 yo, but did not have to deal with the founder. Did not do resection or surgery, but did do hospital plates for antibiotics. Would not bother with that again. On farrier recommendation tried a product sold in Tractor Supply and other feed stores called "Tomorrow" and also "Today" - strength difference - but it's basically for dry cow mastisis.It and keeping her out of pea/muck/mud - her favorite places to stand - fixed it quickly. Places where it was deep enough were packed with cotton.
She has so much going on letting her go will be ok, but it's never easy. Sorry you all are going through this.
My experience is that when any medical professional recommends against a billable procedure, it's wise to listen. Given that the horse is 34 years old and has multiple potentially painful issues, I wouldn't do surgery. Fixing the canker isn't going to remove her other issues. The stress of the surgery might cause yet another problem to flare up. You really don't want to have her go down with impaction colic or something after putting her through surgery.
Canker can be really nasty. Go to www.bestfriends.org and look for the blog on Clyde. He is a young, healthy guy and his canker finally cleared up - but it took pretty aggressive treatment over several years.
And now this poor girl gets this on top of all the other issues ? I'd take your vet's advice, as heartbreaking as it is.
She's getting spoiled rotten over the next few days. Using lots of banamine to keep her comfy. Her owners have scheduled the massage therapist to come out twice for some gentle bodywork. Then we'll let her go on Thursday.
I so appreciate the info, advice and 'reality check' from all of you.
If she were younger I would say, yes, you're giving up too easily. But considering her age, her pain level, and her other health problems, it seems kindest to let her go now. You may be able to treat the canker, have her pull through well, and get back to her normal quality of life. However it sounds like it will be an aggressive/painful road to get there. She is an old horse, it is better to let her go pain free and with dignity.
So sad that she reached that great age and that she will go to the bridge for a foot issue... but no foot, no horse. She is beautiful and she is lucky to have owners and caretakers giving her the best in her last few days.
Thank you for making such a kind decision for her. I went through an aggressive Canker treatment in a young gelding and it was a gut wrenching experience. This really is the best end for this old gal. God speed to her and hugs to you and her family.
Watermark, she's a beautiful girl, and she was lucky to have found a soft landing spot at your place. It's a terrible call to have to make, but it sounds like it really is the right one for her. You and Grace will be in my thoughts this week.
I wanted to post an update. And thanks for all of the kind words.
Grace is still with me and back to normal. I was having some incredible "gut" feelings about putting her down, like I was making a snap decision. The day before she was scheduled to be euthanized, I had my farrier out. I was donating her legs to the local farriers' group for study and he wanted to see her once prior to euthanasia. He looked at her feet and kept saying "where's the canker?" He disagreed with the vet and felt strongly that it was not canker. Huh?
Farrier postulated that since we'd let the mare's feet get a little longer than they should be (due to trimming being tough on her), and she'd grown significant heel, that her angles were changed enough to cause her discomfort, especially at the tip of the coffin bone. We figured we not nothing to lose. He trimmed her, cleaned up her frog, rockered her toes a bit, and she walked off a good 50% improved. Amazing. Farrier also wondered if she had been having a little laminitic episode, even though there was no pulse.
So I cancelled the euthanasia appt and decided to give it a few days. Weaned her off the banamine without issue. A week later, she is back to normal, eyes bright, opinionated, marching around like she owns the farm. Gets a daily Prexicox.
I'm cleaning feet daily and treating for thrush. Had to remove the Soft Rides in order to clean them well, and put her in Easyboots in the interim. She went better in the Easyboots. Farrier is wondering if the clunky, thick Soft Rides are putting too much leverage on her forefoot?
Taking it one day at a time, but today Grace's quality of life is excellent, so we'll just keep going for now.
Clarksdale, MS--the golden buckle on the cotton belt
That's great news. True Canker used to be just about the kiss of death. I have a friend with an elderly mare who had it in all four feet, was treated aggressively to no avail. But there is a new medication which her vet procured through or from LSU vet school. She was in the horsepital for six weeks, then came home to a new and DRY barn. She was treated by her owners every day for nine months with the new stuff. Vet came out monthly and trimmed and did a soak treatment. She is now canker free, but it was very long and slow process, not guaranteed, and for an aged horse almost more than they can stand. She now gets regular, but not quite daily, applications of Sole Paint.
Your girl and you dodged a real bullet, so send many thanks into the aether.
Can you put a medicated pad in her boots? I've done that with an elderly horse who had occasional thrush episodes.
"I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay." Thread killer Extraordinaire