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“The Boar Has What? WHERE?!”

Ol’ Spotty Wattles the Kune Kune boar was starting to move a bit stiff.  He didn’t want to move around much, and when he did, he did this funny little dance with his back legs.  I thought at first maybe he strained a muscle in a back leg somehow.  A week passed and he didn’t seem to be improving.  He ate and drank well enough, but something was off about him.
One day we’re feeding the pigs and we take a closer look at him.  His back end looked all wrong.  His testicles were bulging out unusually far.  Curious, we went in for a closer look.  To our horror we discovered that this massive bulge was not actually his testicles, but some other hard mass about the size of a softball.

I dove into hours of research online to try and discover what this could be.  Our first fear was an inguinal hernia, even though from what we read it really only happens to developing piglets.  So we called a small town vet, who doesn’t see pigs, but was happy to give some delicate advise; cut it open.  If it’s a hernia, cut the scrotum open very carefully and try not to cut into the hernia itself.  If it is a hernia, and the hernia is that big, we’ll have put him down anyway, so stand by with a pistol just in case everything goes wrong.  If it’s not a hernia, it’s probably an abscess.  Best case scenario we open up an abscess and drain it.
After much discussion, stress, and preparation for all possible scenarios, we calmly and casually remove the sows from the barn so Spot is alone with us.  Take into consideration this is a 200lb Kune Kune boar that was hand raised on our front porch.  Ol’ Spot didn’t have a mean bone in his body and he loved us dearly.  I can’t say that about any other pig we’ve kept.
So my partner gets into position with a fresh, sharp razor blade on the aft-end of the pig, and I bust out the grain bucket on the mouth-end of the pig to distract him.  Thankfully we had a best-case-scenario.  We opened up a 1″ incision on his scrotum and copious quantities of cheese-puss immediately came bulging out.  Spot didn’t even flinch, he was busy eating grain.  The smell was absolutely nauseating.  We had a tiny window of opportunity with the distracted boar to drain the abscess as quickly as possible, which involved massaging, milking, and squeezing out the rancid mass.
I’m sure initially the draining felt rather relieving to Spot.  His testicles had been strained and squished far lower than normal (which we believe ultimately resulted in infertility, unfortunately), making it painful for him to walk.  He patiently allowed us to work until most of the draining was complete- then his pain receptors kicked in.  Thankfully he was small and gentle enough to hold relatively still so I could dive in with a 20cc plunger of warm antiseptic tea.  I had preemptively brewed a strong usnea and basil tea and added a healthy splash of vinegar to the mix.  I set the nozzle of the plunger in the incision and flushed the full plunger through.  Tea belched back out of the incision mixed with blood and puss.  It was really, really disgusting.  Really.  Really really.  But it had to be done.  I flushed at least 4 full plungers of tea through his wound until it was running out clean and clear.  By this time Spot had also decided he’d had enough of whatever we were doing to his back end and became unmanageable.
For about a week I continued to visit his back side with my plunger and quart jar of antiseptic tea.  I flushed his wound out at least once a day.  Within 2 weeks it was fully healed over with hardly a scar.  Our best guess is that the big dummy was scratching his butt on a sharp stick or stump and poked a small but deep hole into his scrotum.  The subsequent puncture became infected.  It’s possible there was woody debris encased in the puss we drained out, but we didn’t rifle through it to find out.  We didn’t notice he had a problem because pig testicles normally bulge out their back side.  It took the abscess brewing until it was so abnormally large that it became obvious to us.  Poor Spot!
About a month later though, Spot went down again.  This time he seemed like he had a serious issue.  For 2 days he didn’t leave the barn.  1 day we can chalk up to his love of sleep.  2 days without food-lust is a red flag.  And on day 2 the ravens began to gather.  They always know when a critter is down for the count!
We once again shooed the sows out of the barn and locked ourselves in with Spot.  He laid listlessly on his side.  We checked his back end- no new wounds, and the old abscess was totally healed.  So we got him on his feet and I knelt down to inspect his undercarriage.  I found the problem!
Ol’ Spotty had once again been scratching on the wrong forest debris.  This time he had an abscess around his sheath that was about the size of a golf ball.  The abscess was now putting pressure on his urinary tract.  He couldn’t pee.  And he probably hadn’t peed since the day before.  This was urgent.

So we swiftly re-enacted our procedure from a few weeks prior.  A simple cut-and-drain, but this time with even more sensitivity and care due to the location.  I let my partner do this cut as well, since his empathy for the situation was extra acute…   He cut the abscess on the top-most edge, the farthest possible place away from Spot’s delicate anatomy.  And once again Spot was a gentle, patient pig for us.  Once again the relief was probably most welcome for him.

We cut him, drained him, flushed him, and got him up on his feet.  He peed.  And peed and peed and peed.  And peed some more.  And proceeded to wander down to the food trough to join the ladies, like nothing had happened.  I kept an eye on him and flushed him only a few times over the next couple weeks; this was 

a location I couldn’t easily get to.  It’s one thing to sneak up behind him while he’s eating and give him a surprise flush in the scrotum.  It’s another thing entirely to have to lie down on the ground next to him and finagle a sheath flush.  So I watched for signs of re-infection and mostly just hoped his body would be able to heal without too much help from the usnea tea.
He did great and healed from both wounds without recurring infection or complication.
We did eventually have to butcher Spot, unfortunately he had a degenerative bone disease that was destroying his mobility.  Poor boy.  Bad genetics are a tough lot in life.  You are remembered fondly, Spotty Wattles!  Attached is a photo of the big lump snoozing with some chickens.
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“A Hawk Snatched the Puppy”

I was on the phone when I heard our 5 week old puppy, Neoma, start yelping on the hill behind the house. It was the first time she’d ever ventured that far out.  I listened keenly, assuming she was simply distressed upon realizing how far she was from her mother and siblings. I listened to her come down the hill, around the cabin, and toward the front porch, whining, but not in a way that alarmed me. But when she got to the front porch she exploded in hysterical screaming. I quickly hung up my phone call and ran outside.

She sat on the front step, blood coating one side of her face. I rushed her inside.  Blood was soaking her face and my mind was racing; “What happened? WHAT DO I DO?!

 I couldn’t do anything for her, I couldn’t touch her face. She was a mess; a screaming, hysterical, terrified mess of a tiny dog.

I was genuinely worried her heart would give out from the level of her distress. 5 minutes passed, I paced the house with her, trying desperately to console her. 20 minutes had passed, still she screamed relentlessly at the top of her lungs and the bleeding wasn’t letting up. I couldn’t touch her face without cranking her hysteria up to the next level.

 

And then I had a (reluctant) revelation. How have I sedated dogs in the past? I paid a visit to my precious supply of strictly medicinal (seriously) cannabis oil. I factored what kind of a preciously minute amount would be appropriate for such a tiny dog- not that a large dose could hurt her, because it can’t, but I didn’t need her sleeping for 2 days straight. I rubbed a tiny dab into her gums and paced the house with her for another 10 minutes. Her hysteria turned to exhaustion and her piercing screams turned into sleepy crying. I paced for another 10 minutes until she was asleep.

Using cannabis-infused oils for sedation is safe and effective.  For a long time I used it very conservatively, worried what might happen if I dosed a critter too high (no pun intended).  Then, one day, the mastiff puppy Rowan got up on the kitchen counter and stole a plastic measuring spoon filled with pot butter.  The spoon contained about 1 month’s worth of daily doses for Mili the Dog, who was contending  with severe health complications (that’s another story).   So Rowan ate a month’s worth of sedating doses in 1 sitting.  He could have stolen peanut butter, or bread, or any number of things, but no, he stole the spoonful of oil, ate all the oil, and half the spoon.  ROWAN!!!
Through the next day Rowan hunkered down on a dog bed on the porch and slept fitfully for over 12 hours straight.  He barely responded when addressed, his eyes were unfocused, and everything he did was delayed, almost in ‘slow motion’.  If you cooed at him his tail would wag….  wag…. wag…. wag…. wag…. at a hilariously slow rate.  We kept a sharp eye on his well being- he was otherwise fine.  He never threw up, his bowels were unaffected, his vital functions were stable.  I was stressed beyond belief.  Andy laughed and assured me he’d be fine.
After 48 hours Rowan was starting to feel himself again, albeit very hungry.  And by the next day he was totally back to normal.  
This haphazard learning experience taught me not to fear cannabis overdose in animals.

 

 

At this point I was able to set her down on the bed, clean her up, clear my head, and figure out what the heck was going on. After much fussing and many bloody swabs, I revealed a slice across her scalp, a small puncture in her cheek, and a disconcertingly deep puncture inside of her ear. There was a pin-prick sized hole almost and inch down inside of the cartilage folds of her tiny ear.

Apparently a hawk had tried to snag itself a canine luncheon. Raptors strive to pierce their prey through the ear into the brain for an instant kill. But this bird missed; its talon went harmlessly into the cartilage rather than into her skull.

 

My first task was to trim hair away from the wounds with scissors so I could discern how large they were and keep the fur out so they could heal. My second task was to discern whether there was damage to the ear itself and to keep the blood from pooling or caking inside the ear. Allowing the blood to fill and scab over in the ear may lead to long-term damages or scar tissue build up inside the ear, affecting both balance and hearing.

Using cotton swabs I was able to pinpoint where the hole was and was relieved to find it wasn’t piercing anything but flesh. Her ear was not damaged. I cleaned her up and applied an antiseptic, soothing salve to her cheek and scalp wounds. I kept her ear swabbed with alcohol to keep it sterile.

Her cheek and scalp wounds healed up quickly enough, but her ear continued to bleed for almost 4 days. Not a dangerous amount, but I had to sedate her lightly each day to remove the blood up and clean her ear.

 

Within a week or two she was back to her normal self, though she didn’t wander off alone. She had psychological trauma from the incident that took the first few months of her life to overcome; afraid of her ears being touched, afraid of being ‘snatched up’, etc. Thankfully there is no lasting or residual damage from the event.  She had a funny hairdo for quite awhile though!  I often wonder what she thinks when she looks up at the sky and watches the birds.

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“The Goat Ripped Her Teat Open”

I put Ruma on the stanchion one morning, as per usual, and knelt down to milk.
Wait- blood? Fresh blood? Where is it- oh wow… Ew.
She had somehow snagged her teat on something and tore it clean open, nearly 2 inches long. A very unsettling mixture of blood and milk was weeping out of the gash. Gross. Super gross.
So I milked out her good side, trying not to look at the wound too closely for my own stomach’s sake. I went home and pondered what to do. I ended up making a lard salve with usnea, comfrey, and holy basil in it. Every day, and throughout the days, I slathered the torn teat with the salve to help keep debris out of it. The blood and milk wept from it for a few days.
The poor girl was so full on that side of her udder that walking was becoming painful for her. We couldn’t touch the teat without the wound totally opening again. It was healing nicely but the scab wasn’t very strong. So at each milking we gently compressed her udder. Milk would shoot out of her teat (in a normal, natural fashion) and bring her some level of relief. We did not squeeze or compress too much for fear of bruising or injuring her udder.
It took about 7 days for the teat to close up firmly enough to gently milk her. Infection never set in. I kept the teat slathered in salve constantly. Once it was healed enough (gentle trial and error), I milked very carefully with the wound firmly covered by my palm to keep the milk’s pressure from focusing on that point and breaking her scab open. She flinched and kicked now and again, but the relief of being milked out overpowered the discomfort of the wound.
Within 2 weeks we were milking normally again. She had some scar tissue in the teat for awhile that restricted the milk’s flow. I gently massaged it at each milking to help break it up.
Surprisingly she did not reduce her milk production at all from the injury. She made a complete recovery with no lasting damage to her teat.
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“I Put a Bone in My Foot…”

Yep. I was on a steep slope, unfolding a large sheet of greenhouse plastic, and I stepped on what looked like plain dirt only to hear a grotesque juicy crunch and a surge of pain in the arch of my foot. I sat/fell down and proceeded to uproot a small -something- sticking up out of the dirt. It was the tip of a buried jagged, gnarly chunk of dog-chewed deer vertebrae with old black gristle clinging to it still. I threw it as hard as I could out into the forest and turned back to my foot. The pain I felt was a bruise-like pain, maybe I just landed on it really hard… Nope. Blood began seeping out of the new hole in the sole of my shoe (I was actually wearing shoes, would you believe!).
Well then… Buggery dadgum gosh darn it, and goodness good golly gosh.
I hopped uphill to the cabin and commenced steeling myself for what I was about to have to deal with. With some helping hands I got a hot pot of water on the stove for tea. Priority #1 was cleaning the wound out and numbing the maddening pain. I sat down and let it bleed for a few minutes, hoping that the body’s natural response would help to flush any junk out of the puncture. Once satisfied, I lightly covered it in some clean gauze and wrapped it to keep any dust or debris from encroaching.
The tea water was hot by this time. I snipped a dollop of usnea lichen to bits with scissors, added a generous portion of crushed holy basil leaves, and dumped a hefty sum of epsom salt into the large sauce pot filled with piping hot water. Then I busied my brain with computer nonsense, did my best to ignore the pounding pressure, and waited for the water to cool off enough to dip my foot in.
Holy basil is my best friend when it comes to punctures. It’s nervine properties are truly miraculous. I have used culinary basil in a pinch with good result, too. But I prefer my friend Rama Tulsi. The leaves are not only numbing to nerve pain, but are antiseptic as well. A few years prior I put a nail through my foot and the procedure I did then was the same. As long as I keep the holy basil in contact with the wound, it’s virtually pain free.
Usnea is my go-to choice for anything I want to keep from getting infected. It is high in usnic acid, which is an antibiotic. It grows abundantly here and is simple to use. Nothing I’ve used usnea on (so far) has become infected.
And of course the epsom salt is just my choice form of personal torture for the sake of ensuring a clean wound.
After a good long initial soak, I felt I had the constitution to inspect my foot for the first time. I patted it dry with clean gauze and took a look. Tiny beads of… something… were poking out of the wound. Slightly horrified I pointed it out to Andy, who immediately picked up a pair of tweezers and loomed with morbid curiosity towards my upheld foot.
Me: “What are you doing?! Don’t grab it with tweezers! What if it’s attached to me!?
Him: “Just hold still, I’m gonna find out if those are tiny rocks, you might have a bunch of junk in there. We need to get it out.”
Me: “PUT THE TWEEZERS DOWN! Don’t just pull at whatever’s sticking out of my foot!
Him: “Just hold still, Jen…
He’s laughing at this point. I retracted my foot and coddled it in terror, keeping an eye on his eager tweezers. I poked at the little pink and white bubble-like chunks protruding from the wound.
Me: “Okay, okay, okay, I touched it, it’s definitely a part of me. That’s a piece of my foot, don’t pull it out!
Him: “Are you sure? It totally looks like burger meat. Let me take a look.
Me (becoming increasingly distraught): “NO! PUT THE TWEEZERS DOWN! YOU’RE NOT PULLING THE BURGER MEAT OUT OF MY FOOT! IT’S MY FOOT MEAT! LEAVE IT ALONE!
This went on until I was almost in tears of despair before he gave up. He really wanted to try and pull it out.
So I went into this wound vaguely terrified. I’d dealt with punctures, but this was a 1/2″ long, jagged, Y-shaped, deep punch into my foot with a nasty piece of old dirty bone. And my foot meat was sticking out of the wound. Did I finally get an injury so bad it would beyond me to fix? One of our neighbors is a medical doctor, he offered to come take a gander at it if I felt I needed help. I told him hopefully I wouldn’t, but I’d let him know if I did.
I spent the first day soaking my foot in antiseptic salt water, loathing the incident. It was our last beautiful, warm week of fall before the plunge into snowy winter. And I was now bunged up and out of commission.
Him: “You’re not gonna be walking on that for awhile, Jen.
Me: “Give me 4 days.
I mapped out my plan of action for healing my foot as quickly as possible. After and in between my foot baths I dressed the wound with an activated charcoal drawing salve and wrapped it in clean gauze again. I had to keep it moist; never let a puncture seal over on top before the inside is healed.
Day 2 was much the same. Curse-hopping around the house, each hop pumping more blood pressure into my bloated foot. Trips to the toilet were dreadful. I spent most of the day soaking my foot and intermittently laying down to read. A neighbor had given me the book “A Long Trek Home”. Ironically, this is when I picked it up to read about walking thousands of miles on foot, and my foot pointedly throbbed with displeasure at the thought. That night I again applied the drawing salve to help ensure any foreign material would leave the wound.
Day 3 was the day I felt confident that my wound was sterile from the antiseptic/antibiotic salt baths, so I added horsetail to the mix to gently stimulate tissue healing. Hopping around the house was less bothersome, but sitting inside watching the last beautiful 70ยบ days of fall slip by was torture. Also my hopping thigh was killing me. I soaked my foot all day long- at least 8 hours in the horsetail-loaded tea. At night I applied the drawing salve one more time to keep it moist and encourage cleansing of the wound.
Horsetail is a gentle stimulator of tissue repair. It’s mild and fairly soothing and will not rush the wound to seal shut before it’s ready to do so. I favor horsetail for punctures.
Day 4 was the test of will and skill. I had slept much more comfortably than the previous nights with almost no pain. I sat on the edge of the bed and braced myself for the test; could I put pressure on it?
I triumphantly hobbled into the kitchen to say “Hey look! You said I wouldn’t be walking for a good long while. I said give me 4 days.” I was quite pleased with myself. That day I repeated the same protocol from the day before; heaps of horsetail in the antiseptic, soothing salt bath. All day long I sat and read and soaked. That night though I switched to a gentle comfrey salve to keep the wound moist and encourage more tissue repair. Little pink and white beads of meat were still protruding from the wound, but it was otherwise looking fantastic.
Comfrey and should not be used on a puncture until it’s in its final stages of healing. It will stimulate such rapid tissue repair that you may risk sealing over the top of your puncture and leaving an unhealed pocket within, which may lend to a deep infection that has no way out if there is any debris or bacteria in the wound.
On day 5 I was hobbling with more confidence. My herbal regiment remained unchanged. I managed to hobble down to my car, drive over to the barn, and milk the goat myself. A satisfying accomplishment, as normally that is my own chore.
On Day 6 was walking gingerly, wouldja believe! Day 7 though 9 brought steady mobility improvement and an unchanged treatment routine. All-day horsetail soaks, with fresh comfrey salve and clean bandages before bed.
I was up and walking with a mildly uncomfortable limp by day 10. I switched to twice daily foot bathes loaded with comfrey or hound’s tongue to seal the deal on my wound. I kept clean dressings over the wound and wore shoes to get around and do my farm chores.
By day 14 the foot-burger-meat had retracted into the wound and for the first time I stopped applying salve before bed. The wound sealed shut over night for the first time. For the next week I did evening foot soaks, still with my staple mix of usnea, holy basil, and epsom salt to ensure no infection could set in. During the day I kept clean bandages over it to prevent debris from finding the wound. It would split open as I went about my day and bleed a little bit. This, as far as I’m concerned, was excellent, helping to ensure that it healed from the inside out, as punctures should, as well as ensure that any new debris was likely being pushed out of the body by the blood.
At the time of writing this, it’s been 25 days. The wound is completely healed over. A bit of a hard knot remains in the arch of my foot; that will dissipate with time. The body’s ability to heal is truly amazing.
*And an added update 3 months after the incident, my foot has remained healed and without complication.