When I got to the barn, Cha Ching's mom had just haltered Amari. I offered to do a quick metabolic check. Amari had gut sounds (whew), but her pulse was too high at 60 beats per minute. Her rate of respiration was also high, seen by counting each rise of the flank. Without my stethoscope and thermometer I couldn't do much more.
Amari was uncomfortable. She wasn't interested in her food, and she didn't want to stand around. She wanted to lie down, but voluntarily followed Cha Ching's mom and I as we slowly began walking her. There was a fresh pile of poop though which was a good sign. An impaction colic seemed unlikely.
Fortunately the phone finally rang, and Dr. Tolley was consulted. Yes, a barn call was a good idea. He arrived a few minutes later and did a more thorough check of Amari's vitals. Her pulse had dropped to 40, still too high, and her temperature was normal at 100.8. Dr. Tolley listened to her gut sounds for quite some time trying to determine if her tummy ache was from sand, heard by placing the stethoscope at the lowest point of the belly. That didn't seem to be the cause. She was certainly colicky, but the reason was unclear.
Dr. Tolley gave meds for the pain, although he opted for a rather light dose. Since Amari is quite a fine mare and has an owner who was actively involved in her treatment, Dr. Tolley didn't want to give a larger dose that might actually mask worsening pain. If a drive to Alamo Pintado (the nearest surgical hospital) was warranted, he didn't want Amari's pain to be hidden until it was too late to see.
He also decided to tube her.
In all of my years of owning horses, I've only had one colic episode of my own (which I wasn't there to see). The others with which I've been involved weren't my own horses so I was more of a background observer. Since Cha Ching's mom is a good friend, I felt comfortable being part of Amari's treatment process. I also know Dr. Tolley and know that he appreciates thoughtful questions about his treatment. He's a good teacher. So when the tube went in through Amari's nose and Dr. Tolley sucked on it, the flood gate of questions was opened.
Both Cha Ching's mom and I gave an ewwww, at the same time. Here, he said, and put the tube up to my nose. Clearly I was supposed to smell. Both Cha Ching's mom and I gave a sniff and wrinkled our noses in reply. It was stinky, but not in a rotten way. It had more of a medicinal smell. Dr. Tolley explained that a rotten smell would mean that digested material was not leaving the stomach because of an impaction farther down the GI tract. The odor we were smelling was actually a good one, digesting plant material, more specifically, alfalfa. Seasoned vets can tell from the stomach's odor what exactly is in the stomach. They may not be 100% accurate as to the contents, but the "sniff test" is one tool in their box that helps determine what the next course of treatment should be.
The important thing about the mineral oil is that it is non-digestible. When people "oil" their own horses with vegetable oil, they aren't accomplishing anything at all except possibly fattening up their horses. Vegetable oil is readily digested and never makes it through the GI tract. The oil's purpose is to serve as a laxative. The non-digestible white mineral oil moves through the entire digestive tract, without being absorbed, and can help remove an impaction.
The nasal tube treatment, combined with the earlier pain medication, seemed to relieve Amari's discomfort. Dr. Tolley left us with instructions to call if she worsened and to call in the morning with an update. While Amari was comfortable through the night, by morning she was still not eating. Cha Ching's mom put in the call to Tolley and it was decided to bring her to Bakersfield Vet Hospital where they could continue to observe her and treat her as necessary. Once at the hospital, Amari's vitals were taken again, this time her temperature was 104. Dr. Tolley now thought she had the flu as well.
An over-night stay at BVH combined with a few days rest have left Amari right as rain. Maybe she knew about our approaching mid-week storm and needed some reassurance. Whatever the cause, she's ready to go. Here she is at yesteray's lesson. Today she's at a hunter/jumper show. Good luck, Amari!