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A sweet success: Healing with honey

It took four litres of honey, 120 days of TLC and 92 bandage
changes, but this little filly is back on track

Our tragic story started on May 19, 2012 when a miniature horse named Eastside Acres Unicorn, raised by Don and Barb Glover of Boissevain had an unfortunate accident.

The three-year-old filly was sent to Barb Mennie of Kemnay for some driving lessons. A few days into the training the filly had the accident which tore a huge chunk out of her right jowl. The wound was deep in her cheek and jawbone. The throat was still intact and the teeth and jawbone were visible. It was a heart-wrenching mess.

Grand Valley Vet Clinic was called and Dr. Allister Gray surveyed the situation. “You have a big challenge here — she might not make it,” he said. “The Glovers said you may as well put her down — she’ll never heal.”

But Barb Mennie saw a will to live in the little filly’s eyes and she knew she had to try. Barb is no stranger to horse and dog injuries and had a wealth of experience in saving animals with lots of TLC and tons of patience. Some of this patience and understanding came from a lifetime of being a psychiatric nursing assistant at Brandon Hospital from which she had just recently retired.

Dr. Gray cleaned up the wound, tied off some arteries and applied a pressure bandage. And he suggested using a “natural raw honey” therapy. Processed honey usually found in the stores is not to be used for wound healing. It doesn’t have the same healing qualities. Getting raw honey “directly from the bees” was not a problem as Don Glover is a Boissevain beekeeper.

Mennie chose honey to keep the bone moist and infection out. She also decided to also put her favourite product “Cut Heal” around the edges to hopefully prevent proud flesh, an excessive growth of granular tissue, from forming.

“Uni” was given pain killers and antibiotics for one week and oral antibiotics for two weeks.

Every day Mennie cleaned the wound area using a large syringe to get into all the areas. She had to pick bits of food out of the wound as it was open to the inside of Uni’s mouth for about a month. She used a 4×8-inch gauze as well as a 4×4-inch gauze to cover the wound area. Then it took two rolls of gauze and two rolls of vet wrap to keep everything in place. It was such a hard place to dress.

She had to be quite inventive about criss-crossing it over her ears. It had to stay in place but not cause any sores around her ears. And it was very hard to work with the honey as everything ended up very sticky.

“One night in bed I thought of cutting the round container off of the honey and keeping it in the fridge, then just slicing off what I needed (one-eighth inch or so) and placing it on the gauze, ready to put on the wound. This worked very well as I could get her wrapped before the honey started melting in. The whole process took me about two hours from start to finish,” Mennie says.

As the weeks went by the job got a little easier as the honey started to do its healing. The wound slowly got smaller and smaller. By mid-June it just needed a 4×8-inch gauze and there was no more food coming through the hole.

“It was too good to be true!” Mennie said. “By mid-July we only needed about three-quarters of a 4×4-inch gauze. And by the first of August, I only wrapped her during the day because of the flies and left it open at night to the air. By the end of August there was no more bandaging.”

By Sept 9, Barb resumed the driving training. She amazingly had no trouble with the bit in her mouth. The “miracle of honey” had really done its job. The hair all grew back in too, which was equally incredible.

“From the beginning Unicorn never gave up the ‘will’ and never stopped eating,” Mennie said. “I fed her seniors’ pellets and beet pulp which was easy to chew and some hay. There were a couple of days of not drinking well, but we overcame that little glitch and she hasn’t looked back since. I must admit she is a little spoiled but she deserves to be!”

She said she was grateful for the veterinary advice and support she received throughout the treatment and the assistance from her “barn crew.” Eastside Acres Unicorn now permanently resides at Barb and Lloyd Mennie’s Clearview Acres hackney pony farm at Kemnay.

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