Thursday, September 4, 2008

Emergency vet visit! Harv hurts his head

Harv stitched up with a smear of SWAT.
Well, it happened. The dreaded early morning phone call from the barn manager.

I was standing in the bathroom and had just turned on the shower. My cellphone was lying on the sink, and when it rang I lunged to pick it up before it woke Bob. It was Maureen, the barn manager. "Harvey has a pretty big gash on his forehead," she said. "It looks like there is exposed bone." Whether it was the heat from the shower or the news, I felt dizzy. We quickly determined that it could not wait until 8am -- an emergency call should be placed. Maureen offered to call the vet, since she could describe the injury. "Is he shaking his head? Is there blood in his nostrils? Is he walking normally? How do his eyes look?" I asked all of theses things right away. But aside from the deep scrape, he was behaving normally -- eating hay, bright, alert, responsive.

Duty calls
No chance of taking the day off work for a non-life-threatening issue -- I had phone interviews with job applicants scheduled all day. Maureen handled everything, and she called me at least eight times that morning with updates (God bless her). The vet knew the drill for head bumps. Harv got stitches, SMZs, and bute. I went out that evening and spent a few hours fussing over him. Later, he was turned out as usual.

How did it happen?
Harv whacked his head while being led in from the fields through a low barn door. It doesn't look particularly unsafe, and for over a year Harv has walked under it with no problem. This morning he must have thrown his head up at just the wrong moment. The owner stopped by to tell me that low entrance will be covered with foam to prevent another occurrence. I wondered if we should just cut to the chase and surround Harv with foam.

For those of you who can look at a cringe-worthy but mild injury (all stitched up), here is the video. If you're squeamish, consider yourself warned. Please note that right after shooting this footage I applied SWAT -- damned flies!

Harvey's head bump

A side note...
Here's an interesting thing. Harvey never has swelling in his hocks, even with arthritis. They're typically "dry" -- just bone and tendons and veins -- whenever I feel them. Today I looked and felt him over. He had a TON of swelling in his hocks and knees. I have to think that his body is reacting systemically to trauma? Just a thought.

Bob told me that when he got bumps on his head growing up, his mom told him he was "growing a pig's foot." I'll be going out to the barn for the next few days to check on Harv's pig's foot :-), but alls well that ends well.


  1. Poor Harvey! I hope you gave him lots of extra TLC and love. At least this cut should heal well since it is in a stationary area (join cuts are the worst).

  2. Hope he heals soon and doesn't grow a "pig's foot"! Glad it wasn't too serious.

  3. Oh, poor Harvey! I'm glad he's ok. :) Hope the foot is ok.

  4. poor boy! My mare did the same thing only to her eyelid - talk about not pretty - but alas my vet has surgeon's hands and stitched her up beautifully. A tip as it is fly season - the stitches tend to get caught in the fly mask so a stitched a small square of soft cotton fabric to the underside while she was healing.

  5. For where Harv hit his head, instead of nailing up foam or rigging something, just cut one of the pool "noodles" and stick it up there. it's a lot less hassle.

  6. Thank goodness for good barn managers! I found my gelding with blood dripping down his face and a HUGE gash (diagonally 2 inches from his eye to 2 inches from the opposite ear) across his forehead and NO ONE had noticed even though he had been fed twice since it happened.

    Never could figure out how he did it. Vet said whatever he hit, he hit hard enough that he scored the bone.

  7. Glad to hear that Harvey is on the mend! I noticed that you had the Complete Equine Veterinary Manual in your photo of first aid supplies. I'm looking for a first rate veterinary manual - so I'm curious about your opinion of this book. I'm a fellow librarian (in an elementary school) so of course, the conversation turns to books immediately! :)

  8. To be honest, I don't own one other than a circa 1900 vet manual. I end up finding resources on the Internet, and when something gets complex I go to Google books. For example, Riley was lame on the lunge line for a few weeks -- clearly his left hind, but only going clockwise, which doesn't make sense. I googled lameness exam and exactly ONE BOOK said that in this situation the likely diagnosis is pin in the "medial aspect of hoof or fetlock". Riley had a hoof abscess in just that area -- a bad one -- but it had been several weeks since it "blew," I'd figured he was all better. That book made me wait on calling in the vet. In 3 weeks all was better. Saved me a vet call.


Hi Guys, Your comments are valued and appreciated -- until recently I never rejected a post. Please note that I reserve the right to reject an anonymous post.