This May, I’ had the wonderful opportunity to work at an equine hospital with a great team of doctors and support staff. They have given me so many wonderful opportunities to learn and gain hands-on experience.
One thing I’ve learned is to never give up on a patient. A mare was presented for colic on a Saturday afternoon with a history of foaling 36 hours prior to her arrival. Her heart rate was over 80 beats per minute, she was very dehydrated, and her gums were toxic. In short, she was in really, really bad shape. We presented options to the owner, and he wanted to save her so we moved forward with surgery. Well to make a long story short, the mare had a hole in her uterus where the foal’s foot had torn through during birth. This had resulted in the contents of the uterus spilling into the abdominal cavity and causing peritonitis. The owner elected to continue with treatment.
We started the foal on milk replacer since the mare was too sick to nurse it, and we gave her all the supportive care we could. Two days after surgery, her heart rate was still hovering between 80 and 100 beats per minute, and she was refluxing 10-15 liters every two hours form her stomach. Both very bad signs.
The owners didn’t quit though, and even though we were all skeptical about the mare’s chance of survival, we fought on. We fought to keep going, treating her every two hours around the clock. A week later, the mare went home and her owner hugged us all, thanking us for saving her. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a point in some cases when euthanasia is warranted, but it reminded me that if the animal has the will to live and the owner wants to fight, it is our job to have patience and not give up hope. Sometimes it may look grim, but we can win on even tough cases.