We all know better. We all do it anyway. Why is that when the slightest malady shows up in our kids – equine or human – the first thing we do is grab our smartphones to Google the symptoms right there in the barn aisle way?
Let me save you some time; I’ll tell you exactly what Google is going to say:
- Horse has a weird fungus on his coronary band? He’s dying.
- Horse got kicked in the knee? He’s dying.
- Horse has hives? He’s dying.
- Horse cut his leg? He’s dying.
- Horse has a mysterious lameness? He’s dying.
This goes for Googling about your human children too:
- Baby has a reddened belly button? He’s dying.
- Should I feed baby rice cereal? No, he’ll die.
- Should I give my baby vaccines? No, he’ll die.
Ok, so maybe that is a little bit extreme, but you get the point. We all try to self-diagnose with the internet as one of our primary resources. And the problem is twofold: every case is unique and the internet is full of a bunch of alarmists.
That list of five items for horses? Totally all things I have Googled (yeah, yeah, the baby ones too). Here’s what really happened.
Last fall, Ace developed a fungus on all four feet just above his coronary band growing mostly under the dark hairs (he has two white and two black pasterns, with a few dark spots in the white areas). He was sound and was completely unbothered by it. So, I scrubbed his legs down with some iodine shampoo, rinsed and dried well, and treated with an OTC anti-fungal. Later that night I went home and Googled this weird fungus. It was either scratches (not so much because it was only around the fronts of his hooves), or some rare disease in which his hooves were going to fall off and he was going to die. I decided not to freak out, kept up the iodine and anti-fungal routine, and in a week it was gone.
The kick to the knee left a minor cut and a giant swollen area. Cold compresses and a few days of stall rest and Ace was back to normal.
The hives were from some kind of bug. Nice cold showers, a few days inside away from the bugs and they went away with no lingering affects. They have not returned with the introduction of a simple fly sheet for the buggy seasons.
Ace kicked himself in his own leg and sliced the skin inside and below his knee. It wasn’t bad enough for stitches, but he did crack himself hard enough that he was a bit lame on that leg for three weeks. Stall rest, cleaning, treating, and wrapping … good as new. He does still have a bit of a knot in that spot. (The vet did see this injury; nothing was damaged beyond a little bruising and the laceration).
Horse has a mysterious lameness? Two abscesses and one frog infection. Abscesses blew out on their own, the frog infection was diagnosed and treated by the vet.
In the end there is no teacher like experience and no diagnosis like your veterinarian’s. Sorry Google.
I’m not one to panic and call the vet over every little misstep, personally, although I know plenty who do – and both are totally fine. If it’s not something life threatening, I will generally give it a day or two to improve before calling the vet. If it gets better, we’re headed in the right direction. If it gets worse, call the vet for a consultation and have her come out if she believes it’s warranted.
Bumps, scrapes, skin issues, and the occasional minor lameness I can typically handle on my own. Some things, however, I never mess around with. Colic symptoms top that list. They always warrant a call to the vet. Swelling that gets worse instead of better. Moderate to severe lameness – putting little to no weight on the limb. Obviously any cuts deep enough to require stitches (thank the Lord Ace hasn’t done that to me!).
Your turn to weigh in: what are some of the funnier (or alarming) Google diagnoses you’ve found? And what is your policy for when to call the vet?