One of the things I have taken great pains to learn in my quest for self-reliance is simple vetting. Not only does this save me a lot of money, but it also can save an animal from a great deal of pain and even its life. While everyone has their own philosophy on how much an animal is worth, those of us who keep livestock for production tend to have a different set of considerations than pet owners. We often must look at the financial cost versus gain of treating an animal and sometimes sale or a humane end is the only practical option.
The most important element of doing my own vet work is a daily observation of my animals. I know how they behave when they are healthy and happy, so it’s much more likely I will notice a problem when it’s still small. This isn’t to say I never lose an animal unexpectedly. The lower level prey animals, such as my rabbits and chickens, seldom show much sign of illness until they are very sick indeed. But by monitoring their eating habits, body condition, and general appearance, I have a good idea of their state of health.
My skills were put into practice last night when, during his daily hoof clean out, I discovered Boris has a burst abscess on his ankle. He had a fairly fresh cut on it when we picked him up at the auction, so I imagine this is a result of that injury. Perhaps something became lodged in the cut and has now begun to work its way out. It is small, there isn’t any heat in the ankle, and he shows no signs of lameness or discomfort. I probably wouldn’t have noticed it, but it was draining clear fluid which got on my hand when I picked up his foot for cleaning. I cleaned the wound and decided a plantain poultice would be a good way to draw out any infection and aid in healing.
Plantain, which is probably growing in your lawn at this very moment, is an excellent dressing for wounds. It’s highly astringent, thus drawing out any infection. It has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties as well. While plantain is green most of the year hear in Missouri, I harvest and dry plantain throughout the summer so I have a supply of it for those few months when everything has frozen down. I also use a few drops of Lavender/Tea Tree oil for additional anti-microbial properties.
The poultice is very simple to prepare and apply:
1. Gather your plantain leaves and rinse them – pat them dry.
2. Chop the leaves like you would spinach or lettuce – this releases the beneficial compounds helps with the bruising process.
4. Add 3-4 drops of Lavender/Tea Tree oil and pound chopped leaves in a mortar and pestle until well bruised – you can use a meat mallet for this as well.
5. Place poultice on gauze pad with adhesive tape already attached.
6. Wash wound with soapy water – I avoid harsh chemical treatments unless there is already a serious infection.
7. Place poultice directly on wound and attach with tape. Make it only as tight as needed to keep the poultice on.
I will leave the poultice on until this evening and then will remove it and leave it to air out overnight. Then I will repeat with another poultice in the morning. If the abscess looks good by the next evening, I will leave it to heal on its own, keeping a careful watch on it. Doing your own vet work takes courage and common sense.
It’s also important to know when to stop.