Sugar is Evil!

Leeloo decided Juniper was getting too much attention

Sugar is evil, truly evil. No matter what type of health issue you are dealing with, mental health, physical health, chronic, acute, whatever, sugar makes it worse. I’m not talking carbs, I’m not talking fruit, I’m talking sugar. If you are dealing with any health anything, but particularly any mental health things, I would really encourage you to consider giving up sugar for two or three weeks and see if you notice a difference. Of course, you will need to be very careful to read EVERY label of EVERY food or drink you put in your mouth because they put sugar in EVERYTHING!

In 2011 Nate and I totally changed the way we eat and now follow the paleo diet, or at least we usually do, and one of the biggest things about that is cutting out sugar. Again, I’m not saying no carbs, we get plenty of carbs (probably too many), but we are pretty careful about actual sugar intake. Anytime we are not careful about our sugar intake many things go wrong. We’re both more physically tired, mentally tired, unfocused, cranky, short-tempered, and headachy. Even worse for me, is that sugar makes my depression and anxiety so much worse. SO MUCH WORSE. You would think knowing all that, we would be good about not eating sugar. But sugar is evil – EVIL! – and so tasty, so very, very tasty, and is so very, very, addicting. And the reality is “willpower” (which some argue isn’t even a thing the way many people define it) is severely hampered when you are stressed and tired and we’ve been working so hard on getting this hay shelter built and giving Juniper two different meds that both have to be given six times a day, but not at the same time, we are exhausted. All of that combined to work against us and we broke Saturday and got some desserts. That meant Sunday morning I was suffering from a major sugar hangover and my mental health, which has already been under pressure for the above-mentioned reasons, was just not up to what I found in the pasture.

Nate has been helping me with chores on Sunday mornings, mostly so that when I am gone and he has to do them himself he feels more comfortable, but also because things are always better with a buddy. I was dealing with Juniper and her five million different medications and not really paying attention to Leeloo, other than thinking it was odd she wasn’t coming over for her breakfast like normal. Nate asked if he should go get her and I said yes and went on to step one thousand of Juniper’s morning routine. It took them forever to get over to us and then I handed Nate Leeloo’s feed to give her. As she’s eating I finally LOOK at her and realize her back left leg is really swollen from about halfway down the cannon bone to her hoof. I palpate it, and it is very tender and warm, but there is no obvious injury. Then I realize her front left leg is also really swollen from about halfway down the cannon bone to her hoof and she also doesn’t want me touching that leg. And so is her front right leg, though to a lesser extent. Then I touch her chest and she is hot, which considering she was just standing in the shelter doing nothing and it was relatively cool outside made no sense (I didn’t take her actual temperature because I couldn’t find my horse specific thermometer and I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice our human one yet; once a thermometer is used on a horse, it can never go back). She also had discharge from both nostrils and I remembered that I had found two coughed up mucus things in the pasture the last two days. Great.

I decide to give her some bute and call the vet on Monday (because of course it was Sunday so any vet call will be an emergency call which costs significantly more money – sometimes I think Leeloo has a calendar and specifically waits for the weekend to have health emergencies). Unfortunately, my bute was just a bit expired (2016) but I did have some powdered aspirin and decided to try that. She ate about two bites and stopped, so she didn’t get much aspirin. As I walked away with the uneaten aspirin, I actually saw Leeloo move for the first time that morning and I immediately got teary eyed and went to call the vet. For those of you new to Leeloo, Leeloo has been lame a lot. A LOT. It would fill a LOTR length book to talk about the many different ways Leeloo has been lame and the number of different vets and farriers and equine health specialists we have seen. I used to call the vet out pretty frequently, but at this point I’m pretty good at recognizing most things and I’ve also learned that many things just need to heal on their own (hoof abscesses – I know people have very different opinions than me on dealing with hoof abscesses, but after dealing with an untold number of them I have found that most of Leeloo’s didn’t heal any faster or better when we messed with them than when we didn’t mess with them, so unless the pain is unmanageable I let them work themselves out) or can’t be fixed, only managed (arthritis). This was none of those things, Leeloo looked like she was drunk and in pain, her limbs didn’t seem to be moving in a coordinated fashion and every step seemed to hurt. My brain instantly went into this super helpful train of thought “of f*ing course, you finally, FINALLY, get Leeloo home and you manage to kill her in less than a month – way to go!”

I call the vet and get the weekend emergency receptionist who says “How can I help you today?” at which point my teary-eyed went into full on crying and I’m trying to talk through the crying, which never goes well, and explain what is wrong with Leeloo. We agree the vet should come out and look at her and I go back outside to finish morning chores, which is 90% picking up poop.

As I’m picking up poop and trying not to cry, Nate is raking up the various hay piles from this past week so I can scoop them together to create Leeloo’s rolling pile of hay. Leeloo prefers rolling, and sleeping, in hay, which is annoying because I would like her to eat said hay. I’ve been trying to compromise by collecting the older hay into a suitable rolling/sleeping pile and hoping she’ll leave the new, for eating hay, alone (this is reason number one I need hay boxes). It is sort of working, sometimes. However, after a week as a rolling/sleeping pile I like to take that hay out to use as mulch for our trees. So, I’m picking up poop, and Nate is raking up hay and dumping out the two hay boxes to get all the little hay crumbs out and to move the boxes to a different position so we’re not making any one spot too muddy/dead. As he’s doing that, I see Leeloo very slowly follow behind, picking over every newly raked up hay pile and newly exposed tasty hay crumb from the hay boxes. I also watch her drink some water, and pee, and realize that maybe I overreacted just a tiny bit. She’s still not sound, she’s still very clearly in pain, and there is still the fact that three of her four limbs are stocked up and sore to the touch which is not normal, but she’s not dying. The call to the vet could maybe have waited until Monday but it wasn’t unreasonable to have called today, however the crying was unnecessary as was the super fun mental diatribe of “this is why we don’t ever try anything and just sit around and read books because you finally bring your horse home and manage to kill her” both of which were absolutely the fault of that sugar from the previous day. SUGAR IS EVIL!

The vet calls, we talk about what I’m seeing, and she agrees Leeloo should probably be looked at today. Of course by the time the vet gets to us Leeloo is doing better, still swollen in three of the four legs, still clearly uncomfortable and not as coordinated as normal when moving, but definitely better, and had I found Leeloo in the condition she was in when the vet arrived I would have waited to call said vet on Monday. We talk through possible causes: could be an allergic reaction to something she ate or experienced in her environment, could be an infectious disease, could be a tick-born illness (great). There is an in-the-field blood test they can do for infections, if the result is over 50 it means that there is some sort of infection present and antibiotics should be started. Leeloo scored a 48. We opted to do more blood work and give her some banamine for the day, and I’m going to continue to give her banamine for the next few days. Neither of us thought it was enough of an emergency to pay the through-the-nose cost of having the blood analyzed on a weekend so we’ll get the results late Monday or early Tuesday.

As we were doing that last blood draw and administering the banamine I noticed a bee flying around Leeloo’s chest. We have had a ton of bees and wasps around our house the last few weeks. I asked if it was possible that this could be a reaction from a bee or wasp sting and the vet said it could be, she could have gotten stung on her left side which is why that side is having more of a reaction, and had she just gotten stung that morning it would be why she was so bad then and why it was already getting better.

By the end of the day Leeloo was looking much better and moving more comfortably. I saw her trotting around a bit as well, mostly to herd Juniper to wherever Leeloo wanted them to be. We’ll get the results of the bloodwork soon but my current working theory is that Leeloo heard me tell Nate this morning that at least we didn’t have to pay board this month so that saved us some money and she decided to fix that for us.


Photo of Leeloo taken at Elysium Farm, in Maple Plain MN
I didn’t think of taking any photos of Leeloo this morning (sugar makes you mentally foggy too – nothing good comes from sugar!) so enjoy this photo of her taken at one of our previous boarding facilities. 

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