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Colic surgery, after care advice and tips? (and jingles)

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  • Colic surgery, after care advice and tips? (and jingles)

    My 6 year old mare Pearl had to go in for emergency colic surgery on Monday. She had large intestine displacement, a partial torsion and was full of gas. Thankfully her intestines had good blood supply and she did not have to have resection or anything. She also did well coming out of anaesthesia even though the shaking and general look of misery on her face was hard for me to watch.

    She is now on day 2 post op and is doing well. A few hours after surgery she kept dozing off, swaying and falling to her knees. The vet thought that she might be narcoleptic at the time but now they think she was just exhausted from the surgery. Last night she seemed to rest well but she had a low grade fever that went away this morning. And she has started to eat a little bit of equine senior mash every few hours. Her vitals and blood tests have all been normal so at least things are looking good for her recovery. But she has a long road yet so any jingles are appreciated!

    Hopefully she should be able to come home sometime this weekend. I am planning on following the vet's post op instructions but was wondering if those of you have been through this before have any tips or advice for me? In my 29 years with horses I've never had to have one of mine go through colic surgery before.

    Specifically my thoughts/questions are:

    1. Tranquilizers - this mare is very high energy. She is not a happy stall horse. She usually lives in a run pen with shelter that I am planning on shortening to a box stall when she comes home. I have asked the vet already about a solution with slow acting tranquilizers and she said that we can go that route if necessary. Are there possible side effects from this and what are your experiences? What kinds are best?
    2. Protecting the incision site - Do they send you home with a belly band like the one that is on her now? (I forgot to ask vet about this but will) Would this be helpful if I were to buy one or does the site need to stay open to the air? Would you get a sheet/blanket with a belly band or anything to keep her shaved belly warm and the incision clean or how would you deal with this? Her stall will be bedded deeply with shavings. Would a belly band help with prevention of hernias?
    3. Feeding & supplements - I will definitely be following the vet's instructions according to feeding, but is there anything that you had success with that isn't the norm and I can ask the vet about? Her normal diet was 3 flakes grass hay & 1 flake alfalfa 2x a day. Then for grain she gets 1 lb ultium, soaked beet pulp, some flax, a small amount of rice bran and a multi mineral. I am thinking of switching my supplement to equipride once the vet gives the okay for her to have supplements but is there anything else I can give her? Some sort of immune support like immunall or something?
    4. Intensity of care - What was your schedule like post op? Did your horse need 2x daily hand walking or just once? Feeding & meds how often a day? What was the recovery timeline and when did your horse go back to work? My vet said to expect 2 months of stall rest with hand walking, in the 3rd month turnout in a small space, and then at month 4 I can start riding her at a walk & work up from there.
    5. Recurrence - What are your experiences with recurring colic once they have had surgery? Is Pearl always going to be more susceptible to colic now? Why is it that once they have had a serious colic that they seem more prone to it?

    Any other thoughts or suggestions would be welcome also! I hate that she had to go through this! I also have pictures from the surgery and recovery room that I will have to post later, I was out of it at the time but my boyfriend thought to take pictures. It is nice to have them to be able to share with friends and my co-workers have been gratifyingly disgusted & shocked.

  • #2
    When my friend's horse had colic surgery, our surgeon gave us a list of things to do and things not to do and we followed them, feeding times, feeds, etc., and medications and hand grazing.
    Get a list from your vet and get someone to help you, as the timeline is pretty strict as to when to feed and when to graze and when to medicate.
    And her oldTB gelding who had always demanded to be outside with the others was a real trouper as he stayed in his stall 24/7 while in recovery.

    And it's multiple grazings per day, I think it was every 2 hours all day long. For 20 minutes so we worked our schedules so it was done on time everytime. And hmm I had the midday feeding, so I guess fed 3 or 4x a day? It's been 4 yrs, but it was worth it, soaking hay, soaking feeds, etc.
    Your vet will have the whole schedule for you.
    So line up help now.


    • Original Poster

      Yes, the vet said that they would send me home with a 2-5 page list of after care instructions. I am planning to follow these to the letter but just wanted some other people's opinions and advice to see if there is anything that my vet does/doesn't having me do that I can ask her about. I just want to be doing everything possible to make sure that she makes it back to full health.


      • #4
        I know that soaking alfalfa hay and making alfalfa tea was one of our tasks. (We have coastal here so had to buy alfalfa for the recovery period.)

        Oh and the horse didn't get a belly band, but he had no problems as the incision site drained properly. We had to clean it off to make sure it stayed open and drained.
        I think those bands look good for support though, so ask your vet if you need one.
        And get lots of help. We did a 2 person routine as we boarded and BO wasn't so helpful. (She turned horse out when he was colicky and he rolled in pasture and double looped his intestines. ) So my friend the horse owner and I essentially did all but feed early morning breakfast.


        • #5
          Two years ago my (now) retired show horse had an entrapment, no resect. He was a big boy, 17 hands. He came on on a senior mash (which I kept him on) and a small amount of hay. The hosital may or may not transition your mare back to hay prior to coming home. Feed changes are to be made gradually. They will talk to you prior to discharge.

          He came home with the elasakon wrap which stayed on until the staples came out - usually 12-14 days.

          We had 30 days stall rest, 30 days round pen, 30 days paddock then return to work. I actually waited six months as he was older and had a hard time coming back.

          I have seen some of them bounce right back, and some take much longer to come back. Depends on the horse. Depends on how fit they were prior to surgery.

          Was hand walked twice a day. 30 days stall rest was not an issue for any of them. Its major surgery, and they are recovering as we would.


          • #6
            Just Jingles for Pearl & you ~ Jingle Jingle Jingle & AO ~ Always Optimistic ~
            Zu Zu Bailey " IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ! "


            • Original Poster

              Thanks everyone, at least I have both my boyfriend and my Mom to help with the crazy feeding & walking schedule! The barn manager is pretty helpful so far with just talking to her about what Pearl is going to need. So hopefully once I know the schedule I can get the normal feed times worked in with her too.

              I think it might be helpful to make up a written schedule that has feed instructions & times and then the person feeding can initial when they've done it. And maybe I can lay out the daily feed that she needs to get so it's all ready to go. It might make it a little easier at least!


              • #8
                Get better Pearl!
                "I'm holding out for the $100,000 Crossrail Classic in 2012." --mem
                "With all due respect.. may I suggest you take up Croquet?" --belambi
                Proud Member of the Opinionated Redhead Club!


                • #9
                  Jingles & a good recovery to Pearl. Best of luck.
                  Quality Hunter Ponies


                  • #10
                    Jingles from PA!


                    • #11
                      I'm 6 weeks, 2 days post-op with my Arab, and so far all is going well. Like your mare, he had a displacement with a "kink", but no twist.

                      I was absolutely dreading the one month of stall rest, but he tolerated it much better than I thought. To keep him "settled", I had to completely block his view of the outside -- sheets over the windows and the upper half of the dutch doors and keeping the doors at the ends of the barn partially closed so he couldn't see outside. Once he had nothing but four walls (or sheets) to look at, everything was fine. There was always one horse in the barn with him -- I don't think he would have tolerated solitary confinement. I never used tranquilizers.

                      His bellyband was removed 3 or four days after surgery. The 20 staples were removed around two weeks after surgery. I never blanketed him, but kept the stall deeply bedded and would lightly wipe or brush off the area around the incision.

                      I took hay from home up to the hospital for him -- I didn't want to have to worry about transitioning him from the hospital hay to mine once I got him home. My directions were to give him free choice hay. They started him on Purina Senior and I've been continuing with it, slowly adding Enrich 32 (the ration balancer that my horses normally get.) He hasn't been on any medication or other supplements.

                      I handwalked him 5 minutes twice a day for the first month, and am now walking him 10 minutes twice a day during his second month of "limited turnout". During this second month he is in a sectioned off area of the loafing shed from which he has access to a 20 x 20' area outside that is gradually being increased in size. At the end of this second month, he is to be turned out in an area approximately 80 x 100' for his third month of recovery. I was told I could start riding him after three months of recuperation.

                      Right now, he is allowed to eat grass for 2 minutes once a day -- I was told to increase his grass intake in small amounts.

                      All in all, everything has been going better than I had anticipated. Other than a short bout of hives, there haven't been any major problems. The vets have all stated that I should call them if I have questions, and I've been taking them up on that offer.

                      I hope the next couple of months pass quickly and uneventfully for you and your mare! Best of luck.


                      • #12
                        My biggest suggestion is to cut out most if not all of that grain and give as much hay as possible. That will help with boredom on stall rest and keep your horse from climbing the walls with too much energy.
                        \"I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with someone who is unarmed.\"--Pogo


                        • #13
                          They do make a hernia belt, but it's expensive and unnecessary most of the time. If her incision is looking bad enough to warrant a belly band, they'll probably be keeping her longer.



                          • #14
                            Jingles for your horse! When one of mine had colic surgery, his diet was largely beet pulp, orchard grass and dengi hay during recovery. He was a good patient though, didn't need any tranqs for him. He got handwalked at least twice daily (this was in the middle of a brutal winter, so mostly consisted of doing laps up and down the barn aisle ) I believe he was sent with some sort of belly band that he wore for a few days. The recovery was smooth, horses recover much faster than I would after a similar surgery!! Good luck!


                            • #15
                              We've actually done the opposite of what Foxyrab describes: we moved our post surgical pony to the stall overlooking the paddocks, and took down the top half of the wall so she could look out and see the others but not interact nose-to-nose. She LOVED her stall rest because she had lots of visitors, it was cool and shady there, and she could hang her head out. She gets all her hay soaked, to this day, and gets to have grass with a grazing muzzle to keep food going into her gut slowly all day. Others I've known that have had colic surgery have been treated the same way: senior feed (even if they're not seniors), soaked hay, grass with a muzzle when available.


                              • Original Poster

                                Update - need poop!

                                I've been visiting Pearl in the ICU twice a day, on my way into work and on my way home. Yesterday I spent about an hour and a half there after work and spent time hanging out, brushing, massaging & trying to see how she felt. She was really quiet at first but then gradually she woke up a little more and was trying to "guide" me to her itchy spots to brush on. Her most itchy spot seems to be the IV, clever girl, I think she was pleading to take it out!

                                She does look pretty good considering all she's been through but is losing weight. I got to feed her a handful of hay and a little senior mash while I was there, and let me tell you her eyes lit up like it was christmas! Poor girl thinks we're starving her. Then afterwards she searched the floor desperately for anything she might have dropped. I got to take her out for a 5 minute walk while I was there also, and she did really well. She was excited and walking fast at first but then calmed down and settled into a nice walk.

                                All her vitals are normal so far, but this morning the vet was worried that she hasn't pooped in 24 hours. She pooped a little bit the first day after surgery but hasn't since. We're now on day 3 post op. But they did clean out her entire intestines so she didn't have anything in there to pass until they started feeding her. They tried to tube her last night but she slammed the vet and the 2 assistants into the wall rather than be tubed so they ended up leaving her alone. She was twitched too, but they still couldn't get her. They are trying to see if walking her more frequently helps her pass some manure but if that doesn't work they're going to put her into the stocks and then tube her. Ah, my obnoxious girl!

                                So does anyone out there have a poop dance? (kinda like a rain dance only for poo!)


                                • #17
                                  I will happily do a poop dance for Pearl.

                                  <Dancing in California> Go Pearl!!
                                  Proud owner of a Slaughter-Bound TB from a feedlot, and her surprise baby...!


                                  • #18
                                    Oh yes, you do want to keep up the visits to your mare at the hospital. My friend took a book and read, and slept (during the day) in her eventer's stall at the hospital.
                                    This will let your mare know that you haven't abandonned her and she will look forward to your visits.
                                    Very important when they are post surgery and in a foreign environment.
                                    With no resectioning she shouldn't have adhesions, which everyone worries about, so hopefully she'll pass manure soon. The alfalfa tea helps with that. And that IV line. Just don't let her eat her shavings as my friend's horse tried to do since his feed was limited.
                                    And can you load her in a trailer at the hospital? Driving around a bumpy dirt road will help with passing manure. Of course most horses pass manure as soon as they get on a trailer.


                                    • #19
                                      I've had two horses go thru colic surgery and have done all the after care at home. Two good tips are to strip her stall completely prior to her coming home, so there is no feed mixed in with shavings to tempt her (she will be hungry as you are feeding very small meals often) and put fresh bedding in, and have a muzzle on hand in case you need to restrict her need to "browse" in the stall. This was an issue with both my horses, and I had to construct a muzzle from a bucket at 3am with the first one.

                                      The sleep/fall thing is a sign that she's REM sleep deprived. She needs 30 minutes daily of laying down, eyes closed, flat out sleep. This will hopefully improve once she's back in her own home.

                                      Best of luck to you! It's very stressful, the first days at home. Have a good support network and keep your life simple while you get through the first 14 days post op at home.

                                      Both my horses recovered fully and lived for years after with no issue.


                                      • #20
                                        Big poop jingles coming your way!! My guy had a similar surgery four months after I got him. Lovely huh? Anyway, just wanted to add that I did put him on SmartCalm because I did not know how he was going to act being stall bound except for his daily hand grazing and I did not want to take any chances. He was a perfect gentleman for the entire 60 days and perfect when he went back under saddle. This was in April of '07 and he has never had any problems from the surgery. Good luck in the recovery process.