Sunday, September 28, 2014

Case Study #1 - Jasper Junior

I finally got around to talking to my neighbor about using one of her mules for a case study and she agreed! Yay!  First off, it turns out the mule is a "he" not a "she" so I'll correct those pronouns right away.  I had to tell her up front, and I will say this here too - I am not in any way saying I can do anything for sure to really change whatever is going on with Jasper Junior that has caused his issues on his right hind end.  Since the vet doesn't have a definitive diagnosis I can only go in and see what I can feel in the soft tissue and see if I can change anything to make him more comfortable.  But I'm not expecting to work miracles and I don't want anyone to think I'm rushing in saying I can fix what a veterinarian can't because that is not the case at all. 

This is Jasper Junior - or JJ as he is often called.   He is twenty-two years old, a gelded male or John mule and he's been retired for seven years after coming up lame after a hunting trip.

His owner, Dick had him out on a hunting trip about seven years ago along with several of his other mules and they were packing an elk off the mountain.  Dick's nephew was riding JJ and when they were passing over a cut JJ decided he was going to jump the cut, and Dick believes that may be when he did something to injure himself.  He said he was a little off the next day, then seemed to be ok again, but then was off again after going up the mountain.  The vet never found out exactly where the lameness was coming from, so they retired him and he's currently got a very pampered life in the pasture with the rest of the mules, well fed and good shelter and they give him a mild pain medication from their vet so he is comfortable.

Let me preface this by saying it is not unusual for a veterinarian to not be able to identify exactly where a lameness is coming from.  This is not because of lack of education by any means, but because lameness is different for every single horse and the causes could be a large number of things that need to be ruled out, and often are only ruled out after extensive, incredibly expensive tests.  I've seen some of these tests and they are fascinating and sometimes extremely informative, but the average horse owner is not going to spend thousands of dollars on ultrasounds, CT scans, X-rays or surgery to pinpoint the cause of lameness in a family horse.  It's just not feasible.  So, I don't by any means think it is odd that there is no definitive veterinary diagnosis in this case.

What I first noticed with JJ is that his right hind end is severely atrophied and his left looks fairly normal.  My first thought is to check his back and his illopsoas area for stress points and scar tissue.  My concern is that if he had some sort of disk injury that compressed some nerves there is nothing I can do to really fix that, but even if that is the case, massage can help the atrophied tissue with increased circulation and if nothing else improve his comfort level.

Here is a photo of JJ from behind.  That isn't shadows or light making it look like his right side dips down dramatically, it really does.  I wanted to take a "before" picture so that I have something to compare to as I work on him.

I didn't do a lot of palpation to start, mostly I just gathered some history on JJ from his owners, Dick and Beth, but I did feel along his back and palpate some of his neck and body, just to say "hi" and get acquainted.  The right side of his neck is very tense and the atrophy seemed to spread almost all the way up to his shoulder.  I didn't have the time to get video of him walking, but I hope to do that before I work on him the first time.  He does have a lot of stiffness in the stifle and hock with that right leg and drags it a little when he walks.   Beth is still waiting to get the refill on his meds from the vet after about a week of not being on them, so I got to see him "at his worst", which really wasn't too bad, but I definitely want to see if I can get him to an even better place with some ideas of what to first try to work on.

I hope to head back over on Tuesday and this is my plan for our first day:  Try to get some video of him walking, take some notes on where I'm seeing the most tension and where he seems the most stuck, and do a full palpation so I can note what I feel.  Then I will make a plan for treatment - either once or twice a week depending on what I find that I can work on.

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