Like many horse owners, I have used large truck tires as hay feeders for years. I recently inspected my tire feeders to be certain they were in good condition, but what I didn’t realize is that invisible wires are embedded inside the rubber as part of the tire. These dangerous wires can become exposed as the tire ages and the horse nibbles around the edge of the feeder. The typical horse eventually pulls out a piece of the wire; it falls into the hay, and the horse ends up swallowing it!
I have now discarded all tire feeders, and here’s why:
One month ago I found my 22-year-old paint gelding, Oakie, drooling, hanging his head, lethargic and refusing to eat or drink. His tongue was so swollen it was partially hanging outside of his mouth.
The symptoms made the veterinarians speculate he had vesicular stomatitis (VS), so they took samples and quarantined the property. However one vet had seen these symptoms in a different context and took an X-ray of Oakie’s tongue. There it was — a thin wire, about 3 1/2 inches long embedded in his tongue.
The veterinarian gave Oakie a local anesthetic, cut into his tongue from the side and was able to extract the wire. The wire was out, but that was only the beginning. Both sides of Oakie’s swollen tongue were deeply bruised and lacerated from rubbing against his teeth. Because he could not eat or drink, he was dehydrated, and I worried about colic. The ambulatory vets from Colorado State University gave him pain killers, antibiotics, and fed him water and a slurry of Purina Equine Senior through a tube inserted into his nose and into his stomach for several days. But his tongue was still hugely swollen, and he needed more help.
After two weeks, the VS test came back negative, so I was finally allowed to take Oakie to the Colorado State University Veterinary Hospital. Another X-ray showed no other foreign bodies, but the ultrasound revealed a large pocket of infection far back in his tongue. In order to drain the infection, a surgeon cut an opening on the underside of Oakie’s jaw extending up into the tongue. The infection discharged, but my poor horse stayed two nights and three days in the hospital, receiving fluids, pain killers, antibiotics and sustenance.
Finally, home once again, Oakie began eating and drinking on his own, but his tongue was still not back to completely normal function. He received oral pain killers for the first two weeks, and I continued treatment by shooting a salt water solution twice a day into the surgical site to keep it open and draining. It had to heal from the inside out.
Please learn from Oakie and my horrible (and expensive) experience. Throw out your tire feeders immediately!