The water is frozen and I’m thirsty!

The coming of winter brings special concerns for horse owners. Access to fresh water can be difficult when the temperature begins to drop.

With the exception of oxygen, a deficiency of water produces death more rapidly than a deficiency of any other substance.

The average-sized horse needs about ten gallons of water per day. Horses at work need even more. According to Dr. Lon Lewis’ “Care and Feeding of the Horse,”  when water is readily available, increased water consumption occurs as a result of increased drinking frequency. There is a direct correlation between drinking frequency and ambient temperature, with a large increase in frequency at temperatures above 85 degrees. When water is readily available, most horses drink once for only about 30 seconds or less every few hours. If water is not readily available, more and longer drinks may be taken during a drinking bout.

Where we live, beginning around the end of October, it is necessary to keep a close eye on the water tank. We begin to heat the water about that time  so the water does not freeze. A careful eye must be kept on the water supply daily. We do not have automatic waterers, where the horse drinks and the water is refilled. We fill the tank using a garden hose.

Frozen hoses must be avoided so that access to water supply is not compromised. We do this by detaching the hose and leaving it in the sun, wound up to prevent any water remaining in the hose to freeze. If exceptionally cold, we put the hose in the house.

When the tank heater is defective,  a short in the system can occur that leads to the horse avoiding the water supply. We had this problem recently.  The electrician came out to replace the wiring so if there is change in the current such as a surge, the power shuts off. With this upgrade, the horses were still a little leery of the tank. We figured out that the heating element in the tank was defective. Since it was still under warranty, it was replaced, and the horses are drinking well. Horses can drink out of buckets, but unless they are kept filled all day long, the volume is not enough to satisfy the daily intake of water.




The other day my neighbor called to say that a pack of dogs was chasing the horses (hers and ours.)  I went outside to see. The dogs were on the run between our fence and my neighbor’s fence. The horses were madly running around.

I saw the black and white dog Border Collie enter our corral. She immediately began trying to herd Scooter and Hannah, as is the nature of her breed. She dreadfully underestimated her intended livestock. Scooter whirled around and chased the dog. When he got close to her, he reversed, and tried to kick her brains out.

Animal Control was called from my cell and I was able to apprehend the wayward dog, Jenn. Her buddies ran off. Fortunately she had a tag. The number on the tag was a Denver number, so I had to make a long distance call to someone who actually lives down the street. I left a message about her dog and said Animal Control was going to take her away.

The officer was a very nice man. By the time he arrived, the owner of the dog was on the phone crying hysterically. The dogs had escaped while she was caring for a sick dog. The officer returned Jenn to her owner, and I assume all was well.

This incident could have had disastrous consequences. My classmate, Marybeth, lives in rural Wyoming near Jackson Hole. She has a Border collie, Lacey, who goes everywhere with Marybeth. Lacey was not as fortunate as Jenn. A horse kicked Lacey in the head resulting in loss of part of her upper jaw and several teeth.

Loose dogs also kill livestock. One dog in the ‘hood was a marauding wolf hybrid who had an irresponsible owner. He and his housemate got out and had a killing spree of goats, chickens and rabbits from the north side of town to the south.

In our college neighborhood, I dread walking my dog thinking that loose dogs might harm us. I carry my phone, and special spray just in case. I have called Animal Control on the trail before, to the nasty language of the dog owner. I never knew the request, “Please leash your dog,” could lead to such foul language.

Folks, “voice command” does not exist. When your well-mannered dog escapes your control, it reverts to the wild side, and does not obey your voice command. Please keep your dogs leashed, or within the yard of your home behind a fence, as is the city ordinance here.

We were impressed with Scooter after the herding incident. He really went after that dog. I always felt Scooter would protect me when I was riding him alone. Once before, a loose dog came running toward us while riding in an open space. I turned Scooter around to face the dog, a Husky. The owner was running fast to get his dog. Actually, Scooter caught it, and detained it until the owner could catch up.

Dogs and livestock can co-exist. It isn’t the fault of the dog when it chases other animals. It is incumbent on the owner of the dog to keep it from doing harm, and to keep it safe from cars and bullets.



Today, in Ask Frank, Franklin offers advice on how to keep your cats safe for the holidays. I would like to augment Frank’s comments by telling you a true story.

One Christmas season, a colleague of mine had to care for his seriously ill dog. Lexy was an adorable miniature Schnauzer, which served many years as his clinic dog. Many veterinarians have animals that roam their clinics as good will ambassadors or demonstration pets. Some are animals that need a home and live in a clinic.

My colleague, Dr. Robin Downing of Windsor Veterinary Clinic and the Downing Center for Pain Management, cracked me up one evening when she came to visit my cat practice. She took my big orange boy, Fletcher, the most laid back and funny clinic cat and personal pet I had, grabbed his back feet, and held him upside down. Fletch relaxed and acquiesced to the position. Robin said, “Dead rabbit in a meat locker.” I nearly fell on the floor laughing. She told me many years later that this was her test to see how a cat would act in a clinic situation. I never let her forget poor Fletcher hanging from her hand like a bat sleeping in a cave.

Back to Lexy. At home, she got into a giant size Hershey Bar® and ate the whole thing. Her human brought her to the clinic as usual, where she spent her time in his office chair covered with an afghan, looking like a poster child for animal poison control. Everything turned out just fine for Lexy, but that was her last exposure to chocolate.

Chocolate contains theobromine, a compound similar to caffeine. It is a long-lasting toxin that can lead to convulsions and death.

ASPCA Poison Control offers advice on how to diagnose and treat your dog. My main point is that you should get your dog to its veterinarian ASAP. Talk to the is another good resource.

To avoid problems with toxicity, please send all chocolate  to me.

In my trough today-snow and horseshoes.

What’s all that white stuff on the ground? Snow. I almost forgot, because this is the latest first snow I can remember here. It’s steadily snowing, and we are expecting friends from Laramie tonight to go to the theater. I doubt they will be able to make the trip.

When there is snow on the ground and your horse is shod, be sure to knock off those ice balls that can form under the hoof. It can be uncomfortable for your horse, and could possibly cause lameness. We pull shoes about this time of the year, but we check anyway.

Good farriers are so hard to find these days! We are fortunate to have a DVM who stayed after vet. school to shoe horses. He has turned out to be an invaluable part of the CSU Equine team, as he does special shoeing for patients at the vet. hospital. Big ups to Dr. Shawn Olson.

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to Drinking Out of the Trough! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, and will learn about animals and how they enrich our lives.

I think of John Lennon’s song line: “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” I also think of how I used to teach genetics to my ninth graders. I called it the Forrest Gump method of Genetics. “Genetics is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Whew! Life sure can reach up and surprise you despite your best-made plans.

Last year at this time, I was with my best buddy from veterinary school, Dr. Jean Arnold, as she started her final journey with gastro-esophageal cancer. I was running back and forth to Denver in horrible weather to be with her as friend, medical power of attorney and now personal representative. I myself was recovering from surgery where I experienced an allergic reaction to suture material, I had a triad of new disorders: mercury toxicity, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and severe allergies, and I was trying to study for the LSAT. The experience of helping my best friend was stressful, but there was an incredible dignity and beauty to it.

Jean was a marvelous veterinarian who took to the world of alternative treatments head on, and went out equipped with the finest resources to treat her patients.

Jean had such a graceful approach to her fatal diagnosis from the beginning to the end. She faced chemotherapy with a positive attitude, and would wear the t-shirt I gave her that said “Chemo-sabe” to every treatment. In her last hospitalization at Christmastime, I would bring her strips of mango from the hospital cafeteria. Although she could barely eat, she would say that it was the best she’d ever tasted,. Every gift given to her was a treasure. If ever there was a more beautiful way of facing death, I would like to hear it.

Drinking Out of the Trough is a blog about how we love and interact with our animal friends. How can we take care of them so they will be as healthy and happy as possible?

There will be stories about animals, questions and answers, and tidbits about life in general. I hope there will be an exchange of ideas.

You will see me asking, “What’s in your trough?” Tell me what is on your mind. It can be just about anything related to animals, kids or life in general. I am a veterinarian, a retired schoolteacher, and a community volunteer. I’ll try to keep things within the bounds of my knowledge and experience.

Again, welcome to Drinking Out of the Trough.