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Front hoof lameness, back end tension. General body soreness. Thoughts?

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  • Front hoof lameness, back end tension. General body soreness. Thoughts?

    Short version:

    18 year old mule, retired from riding two years ago due to hock issues (thoroughpins, inflexibility, no findings on X-rays).

    He got a lot grumpier in the last two months, like something's not quite right. He doesn't want to be touched, which makes me think he's feeling like crap and has some body soreness. I had shoes put on—his first ever—before Thanksgiving, thinking he was footsore. It seemed to help.

    Now, as of yesterday, he's acutely lame on left fore. Barely bearing weight. The vet was out this morning and thinks the issue is in the hoof. There are signs of white line disease, but no sole sensitivity or obvious abscess location. Soaking and poulticing was recommended and I'm now giving bute. She also recommended importing pea gravel for my shed, which currently has a dry, hard, compacted dirt floor (bacteria heaven).

    He's been stiff in his hind end for a few weeks, and today he was extremely tense and hunched when asked to pick up his hind feet. It may just be an attempt to protect his sore front hoof, but I think there's some pain up high (hips?). He's just not himself. The vet saw it too, but didn't really know what to make of it. She feels like we need to adress this abscess (?) first.

    He's getting grass hay, SafeChoice, and MSM/glucosamine and is turned out 24/7 in a large paddock with a buddy. Footing is half compacted gravel (too hard) and half regular soil (too soft, but not too muddy this year). He could probably use more hand-walking exercise, that's something I need to make time for. I have not tried chiropractics or massage. Sadly, my budget is small.

    My ears hear a symphony of two mules, trains, and rain. The best is always yet to come, that's what they explained to me. —Bob Dylan

    Fenway Bartholomule ♥ Arrietty G. Teaspoon Brays Of Our Lives

  • #2
    The acute lameness sounds like an abscess and it will be pretty hard to assess anything else with that going on. Or whatever else is going on to cause the acute lameness. Once you resolve that a trial of a couple of days of bute to see if he gets better might work as a cheap diagnostic for pain somewhere. I suppose it's also possible that the irritability might be caused by ulcers. Do mules get these? You could try 3-4 weeks of Ranitidine. You have to give it three times a day, but it's way cheaper than Gastrogard and/or a gastroscope. Good luck!
    The Evil Chem Prof


    • #3
      Sounds like you might need to find a different vet. Vets get very little training on the horse's foot in vet school and likely not any training at all on mule feet. Some vets go out of their way to study the foot on their own, some don't.


      • #4
        Have you done X-rays of the foot, to rule out ringbone or something else?
        When a horse is lame in the front, he will often be tight in the opposite rear, as well as have sore muscles all around. In order to keep as much weight as possible off the sore foot, the others are going to be working harder.
        I've used Platinum Gentle (which is basically magnesium) to help with muscle tightness. It definitely helps, the same goes for humans. I believe it acts as a coating for the nerve receptors, allowing contracted muscles to relax, or so a PT told me.


        • #5
          I think you have two issues, maybe related and maybe not. The sudden onset front lameness. That could be anything from a fracture, to degenerative issue, to soft tissue injury, to abscess, etc. If you don't have a lot of money (I hear you!) I would at least try a nerve block to isolate the area and then x-rays to rule out fracture/bony condition. And then at that point if an abscess doesn't present itself more obviously I think you could treat it like a soft tissue injury and see if it improves.

          As for the allover body soreness, Robaxin is fairly innocous, very effective, and good for allover muscle soreness if that's the issue. If it's more arthritis, you might see better results from something like bute/previcoxx or even Pentosan/Adequan. It can't hurt to try a little trial of meds and see if you see an improvement, which might help you narrow down what the issue is (muscle or bony).

          Poor dude!

          Are you in a place where lyme is a possibility? I know it's winter, but if the ground didn't freeze 100% and this could have been going on a few months... what about ulcers? That seems unlikely but it could be possible.
          "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"


          • #6
            No idea, but jingling for my favourite mule! He is so smart, I thought he would be able to tell you what's wrong... Come Bartholomule... tell your mom! She is worried and so are we!


            • Original Poster

              Thanks, everyone, for the ideas. The vet really wanted to try treating for an abscess before taking x-rays, probably because she knows I'm on a tight budget, but if Fenway isn't significantly improved by Tuesday then she'll be back out to block the foot and take x-rays.
              As for Lyme, I doubt it. I've heard of people finding ticks in Western Washington but I've never actually seen one here myself! If this were California, I would be all over that idea.
              I'll keep you guys updated!
              My ears hear a symphony of two mules, trains, and rain. The best is always yet to come, that's what they explained to me. —Bob Dylan

              Fenway Bartholomule ♥ Arrietty G. Teaspoon Brays Of Our Lives


              • Original Poster

                Just a quick update—Fenway is improving every day. There's been no abscess blowout that I can see but he is 85% better. I think that I need a professional trimmer to help me take it from here and get his hooves healthier, then see if his whole body feels better. Suggestions on Pacific Northwest barefoot trimmers in Whatcom or Skagit counties are welcome.
                My ears hear a symphony of two mules, trains, and rain. The best is always yet to come, that's what they explained to me. —Bob Dylan

                Fenway Bartholomule ♥ Arrietty G. Teaspoon Brays Of Our Lives


                • #9
                  JINGLES & AO ~ Hoping Fenway continues to improve ~

                  Jingles & AO Fenway continues to improve ~

                  ((hugs)) for his owner ~

                  So stressful when our 'favorites' are NQR ~
                  Zu Zu Bailey " IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ! "