Animals In Appalachia Appalachia Pap

Doctoring Animals


Ruby Sue

We’ve often talked about folks taking care of their own medical needs here on the Blind Pig, but lately I’ve been thinking about the way folks take care of their animals’ medical needs. I’ve known many a mountain man who doctored his dogs, horses, and cattle when they needed it. We try to doctor Ruby if she needs it and the chickens as well so I guess we’re continuing the tradition of doctoring our animals even though we don’t have many.

One of The Deer Hunter’s friends is known for taking care of animals. He’s sewed up bear dogs and even been called on to doctor pet rabbits.

Pap told me a story about his grandfather Benjamin doctoring a horse when he was a boy.

It was during the fall of the year and folks had gathered together to bring in the corn from the fields where it had been drying. Pap said he loved the camaraderie of corn gathering time. The men and boys worked and the women prepared a feast for everyone to eat.

After a day spent in the field the men were sitting down to eat. A team of horses with a wagon load of corn was standing by a couple of sheds up above the house. There was also a team of steer hitched to a wagon full of corn. The steer had real long curved horns. Pap said something spooked the steer and they took off on their own, running into the horses. One of the horses was cut by a steer horn. The horn sliced the horse’s stomach open and part of it’s insides came out. Pap said he’d never forget his Grandpa washed the horse’s guts off with soapy water and tucked them back inside it’s stomach and sewed the wound up with a piece of sea grass string. The horse not only lived, it fully recovered and was still used to pull wagons and sleds.


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  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    August 28, 2019 at 9:34 pm

    Gentian Violet was always kept in our medicine kit, it is a great topical antiseptic we used for many maladies, if you get t on yourself be prepared to wear it off since it wouldn’t wash off we also kept syringes, suture needles and cat gut for suturing.. When castrating pigs we had a black tar like substance we would pack the incision with after rubbing down the ducts and cutting them. We had a couple of good friends who owned a Drug Store that kept us supplied with penicillin (for humans) and animals plus pert near any other meds we needed, I guess record keeping wasn’t as strict then as it is now. I always gave my dogs their Rabies and distemper shots,I once had a 3/4 German Shepherd 1/4 Wolf who weighed a hundred lbs. I once was going to give him his distemper shot, I pulled up the scruff of his neck and just as I started to insert the needle he wheeled around an the needle entered the heel of my hand just below my thumb, it must have worked since this was around 45 years ago and I have never had distemper.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 8, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    I don’t have animals in my home but there is one beagle that wanders the neighborhood who thinks he owns me. I feed him scraps. I don’t know his name so I call him Poop Doggy Dogg (Poopie for short). He has a cough that sounds like a cat with a hairball, he drags his butt on the ground and rubs his nose on the grass. I think he has worms.
    A while back I decided to get some medicine to worm him when I went to the store. No grocery store had anything like worm medicine so I figured I would pick some up at CVS the next time I was in there. I didn’t find it there so I asked the young man at the pharmacy counter. He didn’t know but he would get the pharmacist for me. The pharmacist looks at me like I am crazy and says “We don’t sell anything like that. You’ll have to go to a veterinarian for something like that.”
    My daughter in law is a dog groomer and works with a vet. I asked her if she could get me some worm medicine. “No, you’ll have to bring him in and let the vet look at him!”
    I can’t afford to take a stray to a vet! I am not attached to him although he is to me. And he is someone else’s property. I would risk deworming him but I couldn’t risk facing a lawsuit if something happened to him.
    What has this world come to when you can’t buy medicine to help out a stray dog?

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    November 8, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    Makes me think of ringing pig noses and castrating baby boy pigs. Someone would hold the pig between his legs and grasp the ears while someone else inserted and closed the ring. The noise of this was awful. The poor boy babies had their scrotum cut open with a razor blade, the testes cut away and discarded. This was pretty awful, too. Sometimes pretty bad bleeding would result and my grandparents would read the Bible verse to stop bleeding.

    We were treated mostly with epson salts in a clean rag–wet and tied onto the wound. I do remember having fat back meat attached to a “risin” on my chin. Mama used to tell us about the day her mother died–sounds like a stroke but her mother asked for turpentine.

  • Reply
    November 8, 2018 at 9:57 am

    My grandparents and parents were quite resourceful and seemed to know roots, herbs, trees, and what barks of trees could be used for. My father had hunting dogs and gave them their shots and took care of them. Now my husband and I don’t know diddly about healing up an animal and we love animals. But, we are becoming, in this day and age, better educated about diagnosing and the care for some health problems of animals. We have watched a lot of the Dr. Pole vet in Michigan and Dr. Jeff, vet in Colorado. When I read Bill’s comment about cow’s bloat I knew immediately what he was talking about because I think I’ve seen that remedy about 50 times with Dr. Pole and now they actually put a round piece of plastic with a hole in the middle, in the area they cut. It stays there for a while letting out all the gas and later the farmer removes it and the skin heals right back up. And the prolapsed uterus that Sharon mentioned, goodness that is a sad sight, but if taken care of right away, it can be washed off and pushed back into the animal and they will be just fine. I didn’t realize all the health problems cows, horses, sheep, pigs and whatever, could have happen to them until I watched all these vet series. Thank goodness our ancestors did know how to take care of their animals.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    November 8, 2018 at 9:02 am

    I used to think turpentine and Raleigh Salve could cure anything. I also remember my Mother putting a bucket of water on the stove to boil and then holding by baby brother over the steam to clear his chest congestion. I also remember the smell of camphor but don’t
    recall why. I do know that anything we used for people could also be used for our cats and dogs.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    November 8, 2018 at 8:49 am

    In the days before having a Vet. in Swain County my maternal Grandpa and my Dad would often be contacted to help with sick or injured animals. I would often help by holding dogs while Dad would sew up injured dogs,we would put a burlap sack over their head and my job was to hold them down and keep the sack in place to prevent them from biting. Hollow tail was caused by a larva growing in the cow’s tail usually near the bone. We would split the tail, remove the larva and pack the wound with salt before suturing it. We also saved cows with bloat which was usually caused by them eating frost bitten wild cherry leaves or frost bitten cane. We would insert a knife below the hip bone into the intestine and rapidly move out of the way as a putrid green spray would come out the incision. I can’t remember us ever losing a patient.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 8, 2018 at 8:21 am

    My Dad would say, “You can do what you have to.” And doctoring themselves and their animals was such a case for our ancestors. I expect many of us now wonder just what we could do in a have-to case. As Sam Elliott says in the movie “Connagher”, “Anybody needs help shouldn’t start out.” We all have to cope with our times and our conditions.

    By the way, what was that blue stuff people used to use? I had not thought of that in probably fifty years.

    • Reply
      November 8, 2018 at 10:37 am

      I expect the medication you remember was a purplish/blue and mainly used during the fall months? If it is the same one I remember, everyone said it was for “fall sores.” I remember some of the children having the same sores covered with this medication every fall. We never used the medication because for some unknown reason we never had the sores, but I do remember Mom boiling some kind of bark and we drank the liquid to “prevent” fall sores. Maybe the bark really was what prevented the sores.
      I remember one time the itch broke out at our school and of course being seven of us children, we carried it home. Dad bought some kind of medication that had a terrible sulfur odor and I expect, thinking back on that odor, that it was sulfuric acid that made the odor. Smelled somewhat like rotten eggs. Anyway, we were itch free in no time. Dad said it wasn’t a shame to catch the itch but would be a shameful thing to keep it.

  • Reply
    Sharon Schuster
    November 8, 2018 at 7:55 am

    I love animals, however, it’s too expensive to call a vet for every medical emergency or routine treatment when you live on a farm and have livestock. After watching vets tend to dogs, cats, cattle and sheep from early on, I now do my own doctoring. I rely on peroxide, Lysol, the silver spray, Blue Cote, silver antibiotic gel, and mostly the yellow antibiotic puffer. That stuff is good for everything from infections to pinkeye. I once saw a shearer sew up a ewe with dental floss. She was fine. One of the first shots I gave went wrong when I stuck the needle into my finger instead of into the flesh of the sheep that I had pinched up. Luckily it was an antibiotic and a clean needle. The hardest thing I did was re-insert a proplapsed uterus. I ended up using both hands my feet and my teeth to hold, tie, push, insert, etc. Two people would definitely be better for that job. Millie the sheep lived on to be 15. You learn as you go.

  • Reply
    Colleen Holmes
    November 8, 2018 at 7:26 am

    Awesome post. Enjoy your blog every morning. Always learn something new.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    November 8, 2018 at 7:10 am

    I remember our neighbor, Ren Twiggs was the local “Cow Doctor”. My grandpa, Nick Byers would summon Ren when any of his livestock got sick. Sometimes, it was said, cows suffered from a strange disease,”holler tail”. Ren was grandfather to racing legend Randall Twiggs, and Johnny, Frank and Lloyd(known as “Jim”, who died from injuries from a car wreck). Ren passed away when I was just a kid and is buried at New Hope Cemetery just off 129n, Ivy Log Community. I didn’t learn anything about cows from Ren, but Lloyd(“Jim”) taught me how to repair a GM starter solenoid without spending any money. Oh, and how to do a “bootlegger turn”. My mother didn’t know about the latter.,

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      November 8, 2018 at 9:12 am

      Never saw it done but seems like the remedy for “holler tail” was to split old Bossie’s tail open and pack it full of salt.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 8, 2018 at 7:03 am

    There used to be medicines that anyone could buy that are no longer available without a prescription. I remember argyrol was one of them. There is something like it available but without the strength it used to have. There was another one that was a deep staining purple/red color. It was used for cuts on people and animals.
    I guess modern medicine is a good thing but it has also taken way our ability to access medicines that we used to use to cure ourselves and our animals.
    My mother used to always keep turpentine from the drugstore to treat cuts and scrapes. We used it all my life then one day I went to buy it and the pharmacist said it was no longer available . It had been government regulated!
    Back in the old days people did what they had to to keep their animals alive!

  • Reply
    November 8, 2018 at 5:30 am

    Back when we had huntn dogs I always gave them their shots if they needed them, except the rabies shot for some reason not allowed to get that one, always kept tape and gauze and a bottle of blue medicine for wounds, even seen one of the neighbor buddies come to school all blued up from a fall, his mother got their dogs med. and swabbed it on his cut, healed right up just like an Ole Coon dog would.

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