Cats are not small dogs – Vet Festival 2017

Noel Fitzpatrick at Vet Festival 2017

Sometimes I take for granted how much we now know, and this morning when someone said that when they were learning they were told that if you get cat bones in the same room then fractures will heal I was surprised. This was even more shocking as these words came from Prof Noel Fitzpatrick.

The dog has always been the top priority when it comes to vets, then cats became more popular as more has become known, and now the same thing is happening with the development of rabbit medicine. However this is about cats so back on track…

So Noel gave a tour through the cat skeleton looking at different problems and the solutions including some new ideas of own creation. Also here there was indication that a discussion is needed about the problems involved about getting new ideas out to share them with the world.

Either fortunately or unfortunately depending on the way you look at it there are well established rules within medicine and surgery. A lot of them help keep patients safe, and help prevent surgeons getting into trouble however sometimes they may be relied on too much without an understanding of why they exist – on in fact questioning their very existence. What resonated with me here was Noel saying that rules are there for a reason; however you need to understand when to break them.

This is in reference to a specific rule when it comes to using external fixation (rods and pins outside the body) to put fractures back together again. There is a rule that you can only use safe corridors which avoid muscles and other tissues when placing your pins. This rule means that ideally there are limited places where you can use external fixation as these safe corridors not exist in other places. Noel has tried to publish without success a series of 250+ successful cases where he has used external fixation on the cats pelvis without any complications which breaks the safe corridor rule but shows when done correctly it is successful.

A more light hearted moment was when Noel was told that he could not use the acronym SPIDER for a technique he developed for fixing toe fractures if he wanted to be published. Sometimes the best part of inventing something new is being able to give it a name and so the challenge has now been set for the first person to publish something with a SPIDER acronym…

My first castration surgery – a massive milestone… (Day 420)

First castration surgery vet student

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Vet School Success

A quick diary entry today as it is a very big milestone in my journey to becoming a veterinary surgeon, I know I need to catch up on my diary however have exams both tommorow and Friday to study for as well.

So today I performed my first castration surgery on a living breathing animal!!! Whoooop!

First castration surgery vet student

Ok, now thats over with here are the details! I’m taking a class on small mammals which is a elective class (aka non-compulsory) as I believe these smaller creatures to be just as important as the larger ones. Today we were given the task of castrating some pet rats, now I know that its a common assumption that these are too small to operate on. However if you have ever had the pleasure of meeting a (uncastrated) male rat, I am sure that you will agree in terms of their body size they have relatively large balls.

So now talking in terms of castration it is a relatively simple and common procedure which is why I believe it is one of the first we learn. From a surgical perspective it is similar to that in cats. So diving off topic for a minute here something I feel important to highlight is that the surgical procedure between dogs and cats (and rats) is different. This is because of the position of the testicles in relation to the penis. In dogs there is space in front of the testicles to make an incision, whilst in cats (and rats) there is not.

The procedure in cats and rats therefore is different in that the incision is made directly into the scrotum over the testicle. Now anatomically there is a septum (or divider) within the scrotum mean each testicle sits in its own compartment which requires a seperate incision for each testicle. Once this cavity is opened and the testicle is exposed the vessels leading to it are ligated and then the vessels are cut. This is basically the ultimate test of the entire surgical procedure as if this is not done correctly then the vessels which are like elastic are pulled up into the abdomen and will bleed inside causing the death of the animal. Now once this is done, as rats are close to the ground the surgical site is closed with sutures to help prevent infection.

Now my procedure went fine, I did not have any additional bleeding and the closure was neat, with that I now need to study anatomy for tommorows test.

A vet students (non)summer – Part 1

My first day in the Small Animal Clinic

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Spikes World Wildlife Foods

Now this really is a post that I don’t know where exactly to start, I’ll apologise in advance if some details are vague however I do have to protect client confidentially for some patients. So over here in Slovakia, when it comes to summer exams you can schedule your own timetable within 2 periods (15th May-15th July and 15th August-31st August) and its your responsibility to ensure that you pass everything to be allowed to progress to the next year of study. With the fundraising I have been doing for tuition last year I’d let some of my revision slip, and did very few exams at Christmas so was left with nearly a years worth of exams to do within this period.

Now at the same time I also wanted to get as much practical experience as possible, so I decided to attempt to do an exam a week along with as many clinics as I could get into. Knowing nothing about equine I decided this would be a good start if I was ever to get over my fear of horses (they have a reputation of dying very easily) so started with equine. I was told to get some dark scrubs and then come – apparently white coats freak the poor animals out – this wasn’t easy though as nowhere in Kosice sells scrubs (I even tried the hospital) and I had to order from the UK in the end. It is about working your way up here, and for the first couple of weeks I was solely watching and handing things over. This suited me fine as I was trying to pass Anatomy at the time so gave me time to study as well.

So fast forward a couple of weeks, we had a horse arrive for some dental treatment. Basically within the horses mouth you have a large gap between the front teeth (incisors) and the (pre)molars at the side which are used for chewing. Sometimes a horse may have a small tooth in front of the molars in the top row known as the wolf tooth. Now this extra tooth which does not really have a purpose now can get in the way of the bit when riding so is usually removed. To be honest I was pretty surprised that the roots of these teeth were so small as I know the other teeth have very large roots (the entire tooth was around the size of a 5p!). The next stage of a equine dental is to make sure all the surfaces used for chewing and grinding line up properly, and that there are no sharp edges which can cause damage to the tongue and cheek – this is where the rasp comes into play! It’s really important to remember that horse teeth keep growing, and that if the surfaces wear down unevenly then the tooth will also grow unevenly. And finally once finished with the molars(cheek) teeth it is time to look at the incisors which are the teeth at the front.

Incisor overbite in equine dental examAs you can see with this horse the upper teeth protrude in front of the lower teeth which is known as a overbite which is where the incisive bone is slightly longer than the mandible (jaw bone). This causes uneven wear on the upper teeth which increases the bite and so these have to be ground down by a equine dentist or vet on average every year. The opposite which is a underbite is where the mandible is in front of the incisive bone and is most common in brachycephalic dog breeds! I was lucky to see a few dental cases over the summer, including one which had a retained part of the root after a previous fracture which made its way to surface a few months later.

During this time I was also popping in and out of small animal clinic as equine only operates during the morning unless it’s a emergency. I got thrown in the deep end here as well with a crash course in the common procedures over the first few weeks such as managing IV’s, canula’s, giving meds, doing clinical exams and more. This was where I learnt one of my three biggest lessons from the summer, never make any assumptions. Just because a patient has a history or is being treated for one problem does not mean that there is not a more immediate life threatening problem that is still undiagnosed. Definitely is a lesson that I will remember for ever, and I am taking every chance I get to examine every animal as thoroughly as I know how. Animals cannot tell us what the problem is, or where the pain is, so even when presented with a case that I have seen already I will do a complete clinical exam.

My first day in the Small Animal ClinicNow that I’ve covered my first major lesson this summer I think I will leave this diary entry here for now. Obviously trying to write about everything at once is difficult and is enough to fill a book, however in my next post I will introduce you to my first experience with a foal, some experience with artificial insemination, and some of my surgical patients!