A pretty weird day at vet school

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The best way I think to describe today is weird, it’s given me a lot of food for thought and some positives and negatives. Some things here I am deliberately vague on to protect patient confidentially however I am trying to share as much as I can.

So it all started early this morning with the start of my stomatology (aka diseases of the mouth) training. We started in with lecture shortly after 7am which was pretty interesting, started with diagnosis, then onto treatment and instruments with a little bit on how type of food can also affect dental disease. From this we then went straight into practical prepping and carrying out dentals under supervision.

Somehow here I ended up alone with a large breed dog being told that a tooth needed extraction and asked if I wanted to do it. Off course it was an instant yes (I’ve only ever read about extractions before) however there was periodontitis present with the gap between the roots showing  The biggest challenge here for me was working out just how much force I should use, I ended getting the doctor to demonstrate one whilst I did the second tooth alone. This was complicated by the fact that during this time I was also responsible for the anaesthetic and had to monitor the dog whilst doing the extraction as I was alone in the room.

I then jumped into surgery to observe the plating of a tibia fracture in a cat, this went without any problems and the cat recovered nicely with the ability to bear weight on the leg.

Coming out of this surgery it was lunchtime and I walked into a resus of a cat that had stopped breathing which was where my day really got very interesting. The cat was being manually ventilated and had a strong heart rate (mainly due to drugs), I like basics so asked what the temperature was and it hadn’t been checked as there were not enough people. Trying to check this with my thermometer I just got a “Lo” reading so assumed my battery was flat, however grabbing the thermometer from the consult room I got exactly the same thing and realised that there really was a problem.

Now I faintly remember reading somewhere my thermometer reads between 28 – 50 degrees, so for the temperature to register as “Lo” it would have to be below this with severe hypothermia. This started us warming both with peritoneal fluids, IV fluids and external heat sources to start the raise the temperature. This was actually very interesting to be a part of as temperature change did occur very slowly and being the only student in the building I ended up bagging (breathing for) the cat for the next 3 hours until we could get a ventilator working. Now during this time I was also monitoring the cat, and trying to get spontaneous respiration.

I started to do neurological exams as the temperature started to rise as I really wanted something positive to show me the cat would be ok. I got a strong retraction reflex on both the hindlimb to squeezing the toes and reflex when checking the temperature anally. However there were no other reflexes on front limbs, over thorax, or corneal. The weirdest moment for me came when I checked the pupil light reflex for the first time and got nothing.

Often times on TV medical drama’s you get the line “Pupils fixed and dilated”, this was what came out of my mouth here. I had never before today considered that it’d be something I would say, I had never actually considered the possibility that animals could enter a coma like state (we do not have the machine to test for brain activity so I am not comfortable just calling it a coma). The cat was on life support, if we switched of the ventilator the cat’s heart would stop, and the cat would die.

Ethically how far should we as vets go? It would have been possible (with manpower) to keep the cat on the ventilator indefinitely… Yet even with humans coma’s are not well understood. Personally for me, without having the equipment to monitor brain activity, or the knowledge here I feel that keeping any animal in a coma state is crossing a line. However if the equipment is there, then maybe it is only right we do as much as we can?

I’d welcome your comments and thoughts on this…

Starting the new semester

Today’s Diary is sponsored by Pet Webinars

So today I started classes, this year is going be a little weird to me since I failed parasites last year – I’m basically repeating the 2 semesters of parasitology and taking a few of the 5th year modules at the same time. To be honest its nice to have a chance to breathe, however most of my free time this year will go towards my thesis and research papers in addition to extra time to review everything I have learnt over the past 2 years!

It does however also mean that I have time to keep my diary daily and to look for some additional funding (I need things like dentist, opticians, vaccinations etc) to cover things that I keep putting off. I’d also really like to get started with a video diary this year as well so looking for a decent camera!

Anyways onto today, first class of the new semester is Inspection and Control of Food Production. The lecturer is actually trying to make it fun and interesting (this is really appreciated and slightly unusual here!) however its all about the legislation and legal stuff in food production. Today was a general overview of the subject and the start of looking at the laws and legal framework. It is slightly interesting as we are looking at the EU regulations which for me is weird that the UK no longer has control over its own food production as it is done on a European level.

I guess this is going be a class that is a wait and see, tommorow is however going be a long day with a 7:15am start right through to 4:15pm with no proper breaks so I am going try and grab an early night! Upside is 3 hours of tommorow is all pathological anatomy practical so in the necropsy rooms!

The end of my marine mammal summer school

Well I am currently writing this as I sit on the train on my way to Munich to then keep going back towards Slovakia. There is a little stress as my train was delayed by 30 minutes which meant I would miss my connection to Budapest, however the previously delayed train arrived as the station staff were debating what to do with me. So at present I am on an delayed earlier train which is pretty much running at the same time as the train I am scheduled to be on.

So anyways, sadly my week long marine mammal summer school is over, I’m exhausted now (if I make my Munich connection I got a 9 hour journey to sleep!) however my brain is still buzzing with all the information that has been packed into it. Today was more about the studbook and population management programs. This is where the zoo environment can play a role In bringing species back into the wild. For example one of the first programs was for the black footed ferret which went extinct in the wild towards the end of the 1970’s. In 1985 a captive breeding program using 18 captive animals allowed the species to be reintroduced which I think is pretty cool. Obviously this was only possible as the environment for these animals was still there (unlike the environments now wiped out because of palm oil or deforestation).

The next talk was one I was pretty excited about, we had international marine mammal veterinary consultant Geraldine Lacave to teach us as much as she could about reproduction. Now this is an interesting topic, and one that uses a lot of specialised techniques. Salt water is actually lethal for sperm, and so dolphins for example have evolved a cervix which prevents the contamination of sperm with water. A lot of reproduction is monitoring and this is usually done with ultrasound – because of the size of muscles and blubber layers there are very specific acoustic windows that must be used for this on each species.

We then finished up with a look at the zoo’s and the public which was very interesting to get an inside perspective on. Whilst people have a right to protest, the question here was when it came to people protesting animal welfare, where did the staff welfare stand?