Hey, all -- maybe someone here can help us figure it out because we are at a complete loss...
We lost Jet, our almost-6 year old mule today. When I fed around 5:30 yesterday morning, I noticed that he had a raw spot on the inside of his right leg, about the size of my fist, just above the chestnut area. There had been some bleeding but from what I could see in the dim light of the stall, it didn't look that bad. My husband got home from work before I did and brought the mule up to our 'big' barn yesterday afternoon. When I got home, I was surprised to see that there was a raw bleeding area at least twice the size of what I had noticed that morning above the original raw spot. The mule had obviously been nosing at it as he had some blood on his muzzle. I hosed the area, checked for irritants or deeper cuts, and then coated the whole thing in Blue-Cote. Jet didn't seemed bothered by any of it and spent the whole time being a brat and chewing on the lead rope. The only thing we could think was that he had stuck his leg through the high tensile fence; it looked a lot like the kind of damage I've seen that kind of fence do before (not necessarily here).
Late last night, I really got to thinking about it all and could not figure out how I could have missed the larger area that morning. Yes, it was dark and the light was dim but not that much. I began to suspect that the mule had scraped the second area raw with his teeth -- which would explain the blood that had been on his muzzle. And the mouthiness was more than normal as well.
I didn't feed this morning because I had to get labs drawn before going to work. I suggested to my husband that he should check the mule before he headed off fishing but his buddy showed up and they left early. My daughter went out a bit later to feed and ended up calling me at school in a panic. Jet's leg was much worse and she said she could see bone. I got my classes covered and headed home to find that he had chewed away most of the upper portion of the inside of his leg exposing at least six inches of bone -- yet still ate all his breakfast.
I got him up to the big barn and called the vet. Jet was very agitated, snorting and dancing around, and kept grabbing the lead rope, biting down on it, chewing it, and pulling on it. He went down twice while tied -- it was hard to get near him but I managed to put a grazing muzzle on him thinking that would keeping him from chewing on himself, and put him in a stall. He was still restless but actually seemed to settle down for a bit. The vet was delayed on another call but at that point, it seemed we could wait. After a bit, though, Jet began to get more agitated and started chewing at himself again, this time going for the front and outside of his upper leg, even through the grazing muzzle. I tried tying him in the stall to keep him from getting to his leg and he really began to flail around and go down, get up, go down, and started groaning. I had him untied when he went down and stayed down, flailing, groaning, thrashing -- I couldn't get near him -- and then he died. All of this happened -- from increased agitation to end -- in about 15 to 20 minutes.
I called to cancel the vet's trip. We probably should have done a necropsy but in truth, I didn't even think of it until much later. I'm still somewhat in shock at how fast it went down. And what in the world would cause an animal to eat away his own leg like that?! It was horrific.