Spoiler alert: As I post this Friday evening at 5 p.m., Hank is doing well.
Remember that as I tell the tale.
It was Thursday around 5 p.m. I walked out to the barn, only to find George chasing the chickens
in the front yard. WTF and how did he get in the front yard? I tried to herd the chickens
out of harm's way and was having no luck, so I ran to the feed room to grab a halter and lead rope
for George. I passed Hank on my way and had another WTF moment.
His muzzle was swollen up like a balloon. I knew in a heartbeat
that he'd most likely been bitten by a snake.
I've probably read every article about snakebites and horses that's ever been written,
recognizing that some day I would have to deal with one of these emergencies,
but all that knowledge didn't matter one bit. When you are staring into your own horse's
swollen snakebit face, you forget everything you've ever learned, and the first thing you do is panic.
The second thing you do is get your vet on the phone. Then the vet talks you back from the ledge
and comes up with a plan. In Hank's case, the plan was: ice if he would tolerate it,
10ccs of banamine, 2 grams of bute, keep him calm and quiet, and above all,
don't let his airways close up if the swelling gets worse. That would mean
having to stick a long hunk of hose up Hank's nostril, and I truly doubted
if I could do that safely by myself.
Once I got all the anti-inflammatories in him, the all-night vigil began, watching and waiting,
hoping and praying that I would not have to stick a hunk of hose up his nose.
I've circled the area of the bite in the picture above - there are two tiny punctures.
I have no idea what kind of snake bit him.
I contained Lucy, George and Alan in the corral so that Hank wouldn't panic in the absence of his herd.
Throughout the night, they never left his side. I was touched by their attentiveness
until I figured out what they really wanted was to slurp up the slobber and whatever else was
coming out of Hank's nose. That's Lucy standing behind Hank, licking slobber off the pipe.
Alan is waiting for the next batch to drip out his mouth. It was all very weird and disgusting,
but it gave me something to focus on besides Hank's swollen face.
I took pictures throughout the night to help me figure out if the swelling
was getting worse or better.
By daybreak, it was definitely worse but had moved toward his jawline;
Hank's left nasal passage was still relatively normal. We both breathed a little better
thinking the hunk of hose would not be needed. I checked in with the vet, who said
I could give him more pain meds and offer him breakfast.
Eating was difficult but Hank being Hank found a way. I felt comfortable enough with his progress
to leave Lucy in charge while I drove to the vet clinic for antibiotics, which would ward off
any infection from the bite. My new concern at this point was that Hank hadn't pooped
since this all started 16 hours ago. Then again, he hadn't eaten, so I figured he would poop eventually.
It was a four-hour round trip to the clinic, and even though I knew Hank would be okay
in my absence, it was still a huge relief to find him bright-eyed and standing when I got home.
But he still hadn't pooped. Ugh. I would worry about that next.
First I had to worry about injecting 30ccs of penicillin in his butt.
I give Hank injections all the time, but in his neck and 10ccs at the most.
This procedure was more involved because of the amount and the risks,
and because I could barely get my hand around the huge syringe.
But being the trouper he is, Hank stood like a statue while I bumbled around his behind
and we got 'r done. He'll get the penicillan shot two more times,
plus he'll also be on oral antibiotics for a week.
So now it's almost 21 hours since he's pooped. He's been eating, albeit slowly,
and what goes in has to come out, and if you're a horse, that usually happens
a dozen times a day. I decided to take him for a short walk. We hadn't gone more than
ten steps into the corral and voila! Why didn't I think of that hours ago?
Apparently Hank's a neat freak and doesn't like to poop in his stall.
He still surprises me after all these years.
It's now 24 hours since this adventure began. I think/hope the worst is behind us.
Snake bites are a fact of life for equines who are turned out on rangeland.
Frankly I'm surprised it's taken 10 years for us to experience our first one.
Maybe those awful grazing muzzles I force the donkeys to wear have helped improve our odds.