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Pets Large & Small

Hunting Season

Dr. Kim Brokaw DVM
Walkersville Veterinary Clinic

(Oct, 2011) Itís that time of year again when the weather gets colder, the leaves change color, and I find myself digging through the closet to find my blaze orange vest as well as the blaze orange accessories I adorn the horse in for trail rides. While my rides have thus far been uneventful with no close calls with hunters, I have certainly heard many stories from clients that were not so pleasant. One of the barn managers at a facility I provide care for complains that every year he gets new bullet holes in the side of his barn. He says it is nothing malicious, just stray bullets coming off the mountain. Luckily he has never had a horse or person get hit.

Weather changes also trigger colic in some horses. I was recently called out to treat a colicing horse late one evening. Franziskaner is a middle aged event horse. (Eventing is an Equestrian sport which the Editor of this paper and I are passionate about.) As he is getting older, his owner has been doing fewer competitions and more fox hunting with him. She has owned him for years and laughed as she told me that Franz has been in her life longer than her husband. The husband even commented that the not only had she and Franz been together longer, the horse was probably loved more too.

The couple continued their playful teasing with the husband adding how Franz was always groomed, and fed before his wife started preparing his dinner, and that Franz had never had to miss a meal. The horse had been fine earlier in the day but was currently extremely uncomfortable and trying to roll. The owner was doing a good job keeping him up and walking. After a physical exam I determined that he had an impaction colic. I gave him some Banamine pain medication. I then passed a naso-gastric tube and pumped electrolyte solution and water into his stomach. Franz seemed much more comfortable so I instructed the owner to monitor him throughout the night and call me back if she had concerns.

The next morning the owner called back. Franziskaner had seemed normal all night long but was now painful again. I drove back to the farm. As I pulled into the driveway, I was greeted by two guinea hens. I parked as the husband started trying to shoo the guineas away from my car. They were happily tapping their beaks on my bumper. I told him that I love guineas and not to worry that they wouldnít hurt anything. He laughed and said "Iím glad someone knows what type of bird they are." This seemed like a curious comment.

As I worked on the horse, the husband explained that last year, two turkey hunters were hunting on his property. The hunters excitedly came up to him telling him they had a very successful hunt and shot several turkeys. Unfortunately what the hunters thought were turkeys, were actually the husbandís flock of guineas. Enough time had passed since the birds had been shot that the husband was able to joke about it. He even commented that his guineas were far too ugly of birds to have been mistaken for turkeys. While he admitted that turkeys arenít the most attractive of birds, not much is uglier than a guinea (although I have to admit that I love my guineas and find them so ugly that they are adorable). The husband explained that the hunters lost their privilege to hunt on his property.

Unfortunately this story was not the first time I had heard of pets being mistaken for game. Recently I performed a necropsy on a family alpaca that was found dead in the field. While the cause of death was determined to be a gunshot wound, it was unclear if the animalís death was simply a tragic hunting accident or something malicious. In the case of the guineas, it was obviously a case of mistaken identity. After all, no hunter would excitedly come up to the land owner, offering to share some of the product of his great day of hunting if he was aware that he had just shot the farm owner's flock of pet birds.

As the husband continued talking about the hunters, I re-examined the horse. Franz was still not comfortable after the second set of treatments. I told the owner I thought it would be best to take the horse to the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg. While I didnít think that he needed surgery, I wanted him to receive IV fluids, as well as be somewhere where surgery could be performed immediately if needed. The owner agreed and immediately hooked up her trailer.

Due to his extensive eventing and fox hunting career, Franz was a pro at trailering and calmly walked right on the trailer despite being in significant pain. I gave Franz some sedative medication so he would be comfortable for the ride, and then wished them well as they went to Leesburg. The horse spent a couple days at Leesburg, receiving fluids and pain medications, before his impaction resolved. Franz was then able to return home fully recovered from his colic episode. Surgery had not been needed.

It has been a while since I was at the farm taking care of Franz. Iím hopeful that the remaining guinea fowl are still healthy and doing well. This story does make me wonder if perhaps my horses shouldnít be the only pets clad in blaze orange. Maybe I should get little orange vests for my guineas too.

Read other articles by Dr. Kim Brokaw