tldr; Does anyone have any experience with torn meniscus/meniscal ligament injuries? What was the treatment? How long was recovery? How difficult on the horse? Approximate cost?
I italicized the super relevant paragraphs to this issue.
My problem child of a heart horse has once again thrust himself into the lime light. I swear, as soon as he’s over one issue he finds something else. Unfortunately, he is now 15 with a bad suspensory (no tears/holes and the pain is minimal) and I am afraid I’m starting to keep him alive for selfish reasons…
On to his latest escapade.
In Sept-Oct 2015 he abscessed horribly on both front feet. Put shoes on and he was fine. No x-rays because he had abscesses around his entire sole which drained beautifully and have not returned. However, around that time (maybe a little after, but it all blends so I’m including this), he started acting very lame in his hind left.
Now, we ultrasounded hind left suspensory before finding the abscesses and it was thickened slightly more than normal (he gets ultrasounds ~12 months for the past five years) but nothing acute.
In April the vet came out for shots/coggins (a different vet than the ultrasound/abscess but from the same practice and they work together). She suggested trailering in for a comprehensive ultrasound of the stifle. For reasons, that was not possible. We opted for her second choice which was to inject (no HA, it was his first injection ever). He had a LOT of fluid in the joint but the brief images she took did not show any other issues in either stifle or the hock. That was done in May 2016.
Still lame after injection, possibly a minor improvement but it was bad. I shipped him to my parent’s for the summer where he did very well but got a little fat. I visited every weekend and he’s have great ones and terrible ones but he always has a hard summer. We eventually moved him back at the end of October 16 and the fact that his stifle was still so bad worried me (though he’s never been off his feed or even slowed down - he is more comfortable cantering than trotting).
Vet came out for shots late November (same vet who did ultrasound/abscess diagnosis). She took one look at him at the walk and told me I was crazy because he looked great. Maybe a tiny hitch on the hind left but nothing serious. Because she trusts me, I asked her to watch him jog. He was so lame we all winced with every step. She watched in both directions and then excused herself to go back to the van to read his file (leaving me horrified and near tears).
She believes he has a torn meniscus and possibly meniscal ligaments but he has to go in for a definitive ultrasound. She offered to do it in field but said that she wasn’t trained for it and the best vet in the area (who literally wrote a chapter of a book on stifle and SI ultrasounds) could do it if he trailered in. So his appointment is on December 20 to give me time to save as much money as possible.
I’m at my wits end. He is my heart horse and he’s been in my life for 10 years (to the day on the date of the November vet visit) and I honestly can’t bear the thought of losing him. But I know he’s been in pain for most of the last six years (starting with a popped splint, through suspensory issues, etc) and I’m starting to have a difficult time justifying keeping him alive just for my sake.
He’s still alert and happy to see me. He loves his food and his hay and his pasture and his best friend. But some times when he walks off I can see the pain in his eyes. Or he’ll take a nap in the sun (which he’s done since he was 4) and he’ll triple check that I really NEED him to get up or could he have just five more minutes? He’s also gotten a little snippy with other horses. He’s very friendly (he doesn’t understand personal space at all), but sometimes he’ll reach out and bite or snap at a horse that is in his way or just annoying him.
I go out every day that I can (which is only 3 days a week most weeks) and groom him and feed him cookies and give him (and his friend) surprise hay. He is the light of my life and my best friend, even if I haven’t been able to ride him in six years.
I would give up anything for him, but I’m afraid that I’ve lost track of what is best for him. That’s not to say I won’t give him a fighting chance if it’s possible, but I don’t want to get into a long, painful recovery if his quality of life isn’t guaranteed. He deserves to be free from pain and it’s my job to do everything I can to help with that. Thus far I feel like I’ve made okay decisions, but there are a few times where I feel like taking the vet’s suggestion to end his pain would have been equally right.
So…Does anyone have any experience with torn meniscus/meniscal ligament injuries? What was the treatment? How long was recovery? How difficult on the horse? Approximate cost?