Two Surviving Saddlebreds Doing Well

Cats Don't Dance, one of the two surviving American Saddlebreds injected with a caustic substance several weeks ago, was recovering yesterday (June 21) at Hagyard-Davidson-McGee Associates (HDM) in Lexington, Ky. Nathan Slovis, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, is the treating veterinarian of the 6-year-old gelding at the hospital's medicine facility.

The other horse, Sassational, a 3-year-old filly, is recovering well and her injury doesn't require bandaging any more, according to her owner, Dena Lopez, a prominent Saddlebred trainer. Lopez discovered the injuries to five valuable horses at her Double D Ranch in Versailles, Ky., on June 30. The other three horses were euthanized last week after developing complications resulting from their injuries.

Former five-gaited world champion Wild Eyed and Wicked, an 11-year-old gelding owned by Sally Jackson of Overland Park, Kan., was one of the first two horses euthanized. He and Meet Prince Charming, a 2-year-old gelding also owned by Lopez, were put down on July 17 after both deteriorated and began to founder. Kiss Me, a 4-year-old mare owned by Jane Burkhemper, was euthanized on July 18. The mare's remains are being autopsied at the Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center in Lexington.

Cats Don't Dance has been at HDM since late last week. "(The vets have been) very thorough, and we're very impressed with what they're doing," said Jackson. Slovis said, "There has been a group of vets who have worked on this horse, and they did an excellent job. He came here to be stabled in a hospital environment and have around-the-clock treatment, and we have the hyperbaric oxygen chamber available."

The Horse got a step-by-step look at how Slovis and the HDM staff are caring for Cats Don't Dance. Click here to see photos of the wound and its treatment. Slovis said that not only were the blood vessels coagulated in the area where the caustic substance was injected (causing tissue necrosis, or death, and resulting in the hole), but the nerves in the area of the injury also coagulated and were deadened. The good news is the horse largely won't feel the itching that can come from constant bandaging.

"It's actually healing up very well," said Slovis as he removed the old bandage and began to debride the wound. He explained that it is important to have the wound prepared for Wednesday's (July 23) treatment using Lacerum, a growth factor treatment (see article #4539). A liter of blood was drawn from the gelding and sent overnight to BeluMedX to create a specific Lacerum formula for Cats Don't Dance.

Slovis flushed Cats Don't Dance's wound with a Tris-EDTA solution, which he said lyses bacteria (ruptures their cell walls). He said it is often used in joints infected with very resistant bacteria. He scraped the wound lightly as he flushed it because he doesn?t want the area to epithelialize (cover with epithelium or skin) over any of the scab tissue, but instead wants the wound to heal "from the inside out." Slovis said that about 10% of the horse's tendon was affected. "There was some necrotic tendon that we removed," Slovis explained as he shined a penlight into the hole in Cats Don't Dance's pastern.

He pointed out how the granulation tissue was a bright pink, a sign that it's beginning to heal well.He filled the wound with wet gauze and finished with a dry wrap (completing a "wet-to-dry" bandage).

Cats Don't Dance's bandage is changed daily. Currently, special pads (Redden Modifed Ultimates) are being used to help take some of the strain off of the tendon by lifting the heel. If his tendon pain is relieved, the horse won?t favor the injured leg as much, and will distribute his weight more evenly. An uneven distribution of weight can cause laminitis in the foot that is more stressed.

Slovis predicted that the horse should probably wear a bandage for another seven to 10 days, and that the horse will continue to receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments, which force oxygen into the area of injury to promote healing. "My thoughts are, why change the way we?re doing things if it's working?" said Slovis.

Dealing With the Loss

Jackson and her husband, Joe, watched Slovis and the staff work on their gelding, asking questions to better understand the treatments being used. While downcast about the loss of Wild Eyed and Wicked, they remain optimistic about Cats Don't Dance's recovery. "When we heard about what had happened to Wicked, we were on a plane within an hour and a half," said Jackson. She and Joe have been back and forth between their Kansas home and Lexington for the past three weeks. "It's like having a family member in the hospital."

Authorities have not reported whether or not residue in the necrotic tissue was positively identified. "I kept thinking that if they could find out what it was that injected, they could give him (Wild Eyed and Wicked) something that could counteract it," she said. "But he foundered. They'd been afraid all along that?s what would happen, and it did. It's just unbelievable that he's gone."