Wrestling cows and a popping eye…

Vet Student Ruminants practical on the farm

Waking up this morning it was white out with thick fog, however I had a coach to catch to the farm at 8am for a practical class in ruminants. Making it to the bus on time we were told that the heaters were not working. Basically it was warmer outside than in.

Practical class today was scheduled to be on hoof correction as part of our training in cow orthopaedics, however after the first 2 patients this was interrupted with a request for us to go to a downed cow. Now a downed cow just means that the cow cannot stand up – whether it is because of broken bones, nerve damage, neurological problems or electrolyte problems within the body.

The first step therefore was for diagnosis of the problem, the cow had given birth the day before and apparently had been down around 18 hours before we were called. Because of the length of time spent laying there is the potential for major nerve damage and muscle problems. These then compound what could have been a simple problem. As a group we managed to turn the cow to the other side to examine both sides and the neurological responses.

The problem with cows is that they are very big, messy and heavy. I struggled to restrain the head whilst we tried to give the fluids, a man vs a 500Kg animal generally indicates that the animal will win unless specific techniques are used. So to nurse a cow that is down it needs to be turned every 3-4 hours, and requires special equipment for lifting and also for milking. This is something that just doesn’t exist on most farms – and then the manpower doesn’t exist either.

Unfortunately this cow had a very bad prognosis however we tried to give intravenous fluids with glucose and then some calcium. After this the cow managed to stand on her own for a few minutes before collapsing again. We gave it more fluids, and left instructions with the farm workers to watch her for the next few hours before if necessary going for emergency slaughter.

Coming back to the university around lunchtime I somehow ended up getting called to surgery to run anaesthesia on a dog that had prolapsed its eye. This was a high risk patient as it was a brachycephalic breed where the face is squashed flat like with pugs and was also a small dog with a low bodyweight. This causes compromise in the respiratory system so I wanted to run this anaesthesia using a ventilator in case there was problems with the breathing.

This was a very interesting patient as the globe part of the eye was outside of the socket with all the muscles that normally hold it in place torn from it. The eye was so far forward that we also suspected that the optic nerve had been torn as well. The only treatment in this case as the eye is dead is for enucleation. This is where the eye globe is removed from the socket and then the skin closed over the socket.

The patient here recovered from the anaesthesia well, and I was very happy with how it went.

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