Neon Hickory, a 17-year-old chestnut quarter horse mare whose stable name is Nicky, was referred to the Equine Medical Center by veterinarian Tyler Burdick, of Burdick Equine in Flint Hill, Virginia, for an emergency colic evaluation. 

Nicky, a competitive cutting horse, is very special to her owner Don York, who learned to ride on her as a more mature rider. Don has since ridden Nicky to rope and to work and sort cattle. And, as it turns out, Nicky is also a great barrel-racing horse! 

When Nicky arrived at the center, she was clearly uncomfortable, with a distended abdomen and no gut sounds. After completing an ultrasound and abdominocentesis, Jennifer Barrett, Theodora Ayer Randolph Professor of Equine Surgery, concluded that a strangulated small intestinal lesion was likely and recommended exploratory laparotomy (colic surgery).

Led by head surgery resident Javier Martinez, the surgical team located a dilated small intestine and a big lipoma at the base of the ileum, which was causing a strangulating lesion. The lipoma was resected, and the strangulation resolved. Fortunately, the affected portion of the intestine was thickened, but still viable.

Nicky recovered well after surgery, was slowly weaned off her medications, and was reintroduced to feed before being sent home.

Just one day after taking Nicky home, Don had to return to the center with his 30-year-old Shetland pony, Pillsbury, for emergency choke treatment! Referred by veterinarian Todd Burdick, of Burdick Equine, Pillsbury arrived at the hospital with bilateral nasal discharge and an inability to eat, along with the added complications of Cushing’s Disease (PPID), insulin resistance, and laminitis.

Pillsbury the Shetland pony
Pillsbury at home

Under the care of the center’s medicine team, led by Elizabeth MacDonald, clinical instructor of equine medicine, Pillsbury underwent a lavage of his esophagus to clear the obstruction, which was confirmed by endoscopy.

Following several days of 24/7 monitoring, fluid therapy, treatment for aspiration pneumonia, Pillsbury was gradually introduced to suitable low-starch feeds (due to his laminitis) to encourage him to eat.

Now back home, Pillsbury will need continued monitoring and care as befits his seniority!

Written by Sharon Peart for the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.