First, the subject of strict isolation has to be considered. At the commencement of an attack of illness it is impossible to determine, in many instances, whether or not the disease is infectious; in fact, it is even at present, notwithstanding our great advance in the knowledge of pathology, doubtful in respect of many diseases, whether they are infectious or non-infectious, and at any rate, at the outset, separation of the sick animal from the healthy is a simple precaution which should never be neglected, if it is possible to enforce it.
Food is the next subject, and it is rather remarkable that in regard to sick animals, as well as to sick persons, a question which is most anxiously asked is. what is the patient likely to fancy to cat. It was remarked by a celebrated physician that his great difficulty in serious cases was to induce the friends of his patients to refrain from supplying them with anything in the form of food until he gave instructions to that effect; and it is well known to physicians in fever - hospitals what disastrous results have happened from the friends of patients recovering from typhoid fever surreptitiously bringing in a currant-bun, under the impression that it would tempt the patient's appetite and be a pleasant change from the slops on which he had been kept. Should the patient attempt to consume the delicacy, the result to be apprehended, and one which has happened, as proved by post-mortem examination, is the lodging of some of the currants in healing ulcers in the intestines, and the setting up of a new ulcerating process.
Some horses are certainly exempt, as a rule, from this special risk, but so extremely anxious are the attendants to support a sick animal's strength, as they say, that they not only tempt the appetite of the subject of inflammation of the lungs, or other acute disease, with carrots, green food, or some other delicacies, but, if they are refused, as most probably they would be, they insist on forcibly administering food in the form of gruel or thick linseed tea, quite forgetting that the mere act of exciting the patient, by the force which is necessarily employed, will do far more harm than the food could do good, even if it were willingly taken.
Attendants on sick horses have yet to learn that the want of appetite is Nature's unmistakable way of hinting that the animal is much better without food during the immediately acute stage of a fever attack. It is only during the stage of convalescence that food is absolutely necessary, and the ingenuity of the attendant may be wisely exercised in selecting articles of diet which he thinks the horse would be likely to take, always on the understanding that the food selected must be easy of digestion, and concentrated in its character. All kinds of bulky food are out of the question. A complete change of food has been recommended even in the case of animals that have no particular disease, but suffer from want of condition, and this change is far more necessary with animals which are suffering from acute disease. The most perfect change which can be devised is the substitution of animal for vegetable diet. Good meat-soup mixed with bran, and placed in small portions in the animal's mouth, as previously directed, will often excite the animal's appetite, and when he once becomes accustomed to the flavour of the new diet he will take it with avidity.
In extreme cases the fibrine of the blood, separated and dried, and mixed in the form of powder with bran mashes, has been found very effective as a restorative. Milk mixed with eggs forms an acceptable diet for sick horses, and is frequently taken by them without any difficulty, and it may be allowed at any time after the first acute stage of the disease has begun to decline.
One error which is commonly committed in feeding sick horses is that of leaving the food which the animal has refused in the manger, with the idea that he may take it later on. Certainly nothing could be more disgusting to a sick person than to have the plate of food which he has declined kept close to him for some hours; and sick horses may be credited with a certain amount of taste in the same direction. When the food has been refused, it should be entirely removed from the manger, after the animal has been allowed a reasonable time to consume it, if he wished to do so. And no more should be offered until the horse indicates by his movements and looks, which an experienced stableman perfectly understands, that he is anxious for another opportunity of taking nutriment. Water should be kept always within the animal's reach, and should be frequently changed, so as to be always cool and fresh. The plan that is frequently - and in former times much more frequently than it is now - adopted of adding hot water to take the chill off, the compound so formed being called oddly enough chilled water, instead of what it really was, warmed water, is an act of unnecessary cruelty. Nothing can be more grateful to a man or horse suffering from feverish thirst than a draught of clear, cold water, and probably nothing more sickening than a draught of warm water.
Air, fresh and cool, is of equal importance with fresh and cool water, and with animals suffering from congestion or inflammation of the lungs it is often necessary to fix them in such a position that the cool air will reach them, as it is sometimes the case that sick animals will seek the most distant corner of the box, and get as far away from air and light as they possibly can - frequently standing with their heads close to the ground, a position in which they necessarily breathe the same air over and over again.