Client Resources: Articles

The Dishrag and the Nail

When you push the start button on our dishwasher there is a delay, then in a minute you hear the pump start, the upper and lower whirligigs spin, and the water splash around inside. This time there was the usual click when I pushed the button, but after that, nothing. No sounds of any type. I opened the door and pulled the racks out. Everything seemed OK. I pushed the racks back, and tried again. All quiet. I figured that this had to be an electronics problem, and knew it was over my head. I unloaded the dishwasher and called the appliance repair service.

The next morning Stan showed up with his tool box. I told him the story and how I had concluded that it must be the electronics. “Maybe,” said Stan, then after a long pause, “but maybe not.” He pulled the dishwasher door down, slid out the racks, and pushed on the bottom spray arm. It wouldn’t turn. Stan turned to look at me and smiled. He unscrewed a plastic nut from the top of the sprayer and lifted the arm off its small upright pipe. A shredded dishrag was wrapped tightly around the base. It was keeping the arm from spinning. He explained that dishwasher’s computer sensed the problem, and as a protection, wouldn’t allow the machine to start.

“How did you know?” I asked. “Seen it before”, he replied, and picked up his unused tool box. “That’ll be $65 for the house call.” I paid Stan and foolish that I hadn’t looked a little deeper into the problem.

Clients, thinking they know nothing about colic or lameness or whatever, will call our office in what might turn into a dishrag trip. Here’s an example that I’ve experienced more than once. Joan calls and says, “I have a lame horse. It’s so bad he won’t put his foot down.” Her vet picks up the foot, and there, sticking out of the sole, is a roofing nail. The doctor pulls out the nail, noting the direction that it went in and takes appropriate further action. I am not saying that this scenario doesn’t need veterinary attention, but I am saying that a little investigation on the part of Joan would have been wise. Sometimes, as you may have experienced, your vet can’t get to you right away. In this case Joan’s horse will avoid stepping down on his foot for hours or maybe the next day. He’d like to, but each time he does the nail point causes pain. Years ago I learned that when I get a phone call about a horse not weight bearing on one foot, I should always ask two questions:

  1. Have you picked up the foot?
  2. Did you check for a nail?

Those would be good questions to ask yourself if your horse suddenly goes lame. It’s smart to ask yourself questions every time you have any horse emergency. In the case of a horse showing signs of belly pain some pertinent questions would be:

1. How long since the horse has made manure?

2. Running a fever?

3. Heart rate / minute?

4. Color of the gums? Odor from mouth?

5. Gut sounds on both sides behind the rib cage?

If you don’t know how to check for these things, talk to your vet who will show you the next time he or she is at your place. There are a series of unique questions for every emergency that comes up.

Some ten years ago a veterinarian showed me his new cell phone. He told me that besides being a phone, he could take pictures with it. I was amazed at the technology and even more amazed that he would pay good money for a silly feature like that. Now, of course, I have one, and use it daily for taking pictures of all kinds of horse situations for my records or for sending to another vet for an opinion. I often ask clients who call with a cut horse to take pictures and text them to me so that I can decide if the horse needs sutures. Texting your vet with photos of your problem is helpful to vets in dealing with anything that visual. I have received pictures of knocked out teeth, bite marks, porcupine quills, crooked legs, injured eyes, and all kinds of skin problems.

Don’t take the position that because you don’t have a degree in veterinary medicine that you are helpless. Don’t be like I was and assume that the problem is way above your skill level. Do all the personal investigating that you can, and then call your vet with the information you have gathered. In the process of calmly assessing the horse you may even find that a vet call might not be necessary. It won’t be a dish rag that is causing the problem, but it may turn out to be something equally simple that you can deal with.

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