So last week I posted a picture of Gen’s mouth. It was bleeding and had open sores all over it. The thing is, Gen mysteriously started having mouth problems mid-December. I noticed a slightly…off…odor coming from his mouth. The first week it happened I made everyone at the barn sniff Gen’s mouth. They assured me they didn’t smell anything, but by Christmas time when I hired Gen a nanny to dote on him while I was away (Gen needs extra attention everyday) for Christmas they confirmed that while it wasn’t that noticeable, something just wasn’t right. I called the vet from my place in Arizona and had him take a look at Gen.
At that time his gums were a little pinker than normal and he had bad breath. After poking around and finding nothing obvious the vet thought it might be some sort of infection, maybe an open sore in the way back. We thought about tranquilizing him to get a better look at the mouth to be sure, but I decided against it. Gen hates having his mouth touched and thus it requires more tranquilizer than I wanted to give him just to see if there was a small sore somewhere. Gen got antibiotics, had to tolerate getting his mouth rinsed out twice a day, I learned that I can buy specialty syringes on Amazon and overnight them to my horse, and by the time I got back home he was already doing better. That should be where the story ends. I mean, my horse getting packages directly to him at his barn is an impressive enough story right?
Well, by mid-January his mouth was starting to get worse again. Minus the fact that hay was getting stuck up above his gums, I couldn’t find anything else different. I kept rinsing out his mouth, but after the initial swipe to clean out his mouth (minus the now swollen gums) his gums would not look any different than the day before. It was beyond frustrating. My Gen was getting his gums irritated by something, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. It had been a month since I first noticed a smell and I was starting to go crazy. I had the vet out again. He told me to give it time (something I am not good at doing) since it wasn’t getting any worse. I even had the dentist out for Gen to take a look and he gave us a blue solution to use as a rinse and mentioned 3 possible things it could be, but summarily dismissed them all since there was no evidence for any of them to be what was causing the problem.
The first real clue in to what was going on was the last week in January. For the first time, when I was cleaning out this mouth I noticed that there were a few little seed pods and at one place it almost look like a bit of fringe coming out the top of a tooth. I would diligently clean out his mouth every day and that was something new. I took it all out and then the next day I noticed it again. The fact that other horses in the barn started having problems was a big clue. The answer to what was wrong with Gen came that first weekend in February when I finally sat down to google the three potential things that Gen’s dentist had mentioned.
This winter, Gen, and hundreds (literally) of other horses in our area were suffering from a problem that we had never experienced in our area. Foxtail. For those of you from the southern US you already know all about this. My area has never had a problem with it before, so with Gen not having clear cut symptoms right off the bat it was not that easy to figure out what was going on. I will write about Foxtail itself in another post, for now I want to focus on my Gen. So now we knew what the problem was, at least we could fix it.
It has been getting leaps and bounds better each and every day. It still is not all the way better and there is now some permanent gum recession L, but it is looking like Gen will make an excellent recovery. Thankfully, even if I did nothing further to help him, the vet and dentist say that the pricker things would go away in a month on their own as Gen and his barn mates continued to eat the new foxtail free hay. He still has stuff stuck up in there though. I try and take out as many as I can with my hand (well, fingers really) every day, but it is slow going. Have I mentioned Gen is 16.33hh? Willing to rear? Hates his mouth touched? I can do about 3 minutes a day before he turns angry. The sores are closing up though and while his gums are still swollen, they are no longer bleeding. It will take time before his mouth is back to as close to normal as it can get, but I am at least happy he is consistently getting better!
So the moral of the story? I don’t know if there really is one. Because I caught the issue you quickly and started treating it, it took much longer for us to realize what the actual problem was. I also board at a barn with other attentive boarders so as soon as their horses started having issues they also started treating it and rinsing out their horses mouths as well, getting rid of telltale evidence without knowing it. Had I ignored it and not cleaned out his mouth we probably would have noticed the seed pods and hairy looking things earlier because they would have been better able to take hold in his mouth. In December no one in my area knew much about Foxtail. In the past month though it has become very prevalent. Just one more thing to keep an eye out for right?? Because we don’t have enough to worry about with horses 😛 Gen always finds a way doesn’t he 😉