This vet student’s wild dream….

Starting my journey to Barcelona

Whilst TV can numb the mind, sometimes it inspires dreams, and for me it planted the seed that I did not want to work with just cats and dogs. I want the great variety that being a vet offers me, from the very small frogs to the very big elephants. What a dream that is ay?

Well something I truly believe is that if you really want something you can make it happen, so now with 2 years study left I am looking to kick start my dream. I am heading to Barcelona (I’ve never been to Spain before), to attend the European Association of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians conference. Hopefully I will leave this conference with the lessons of the people that have done it already to help me avoid making the same mistakes. There is a strict social media ban on the content of the conference, however it includes the latest techniques and knowledge in this unique area of veterinary medicine. I am especially looking forward to the surgery sessions as this is where my great passion really is.

So is it worth going? I believe so as it is a small community, and getting to meet people will help me. However I am doing it for the least cost possible… Tonight I will be spending the night in Budapest airport to save on costs as my flight is early in the morning with the only train connection the one I am on as I write this. This saves me maybe 50 euros so yay… Then on the way back I am making the same connection by train which gives me a 6 hour wait in Budapest for the train connection…. Then public transport in Barcelona to the apartments (even though I have no clue where I am going) will help me keep costs lower… Still it is an expensive conference (the most expensive I have ever been) however I hope that it is an investment in my future and a few long journeys are a very small in relation….

Now I still have another couple of hours to spend on this train, and there are no power sockets so I am going leave today’s diary entry here. I will update you all as I get time!

When marine mammals need fresh water too…

Medical training of dolphins for temperature measurement

So today was all about nutrition, animal training and communication. When they say Wednesday is hump day this is exactly what they mean, I am sad the week is halfway over, yet I am exhausted as I struggled to sleep last night.

Anyways onto nutrition this morning we looked at the comparative anatomy between different marine species to start which was pretty amazing. I thought the differences between ruminants, equine and carnivores was crazy however the differences between seal species makes it seem like it was easy! We then moved onto nutrition with a very fast but comprehensive review of the different sources of nutrients and how preparation is also important before moving onto clinical nutrition. This was especially interesting as marine mammals suffer pretty similar diseases to terrestrial mammals in cases of low and insufficient minerals or vitamins, however too much can also be fatal through toxicity so it really is a balancing act.

What I think surprised me most was that marine mammals can suffer dehydration from not drinking enough! I guess I always thought as they live in water they are ok, however with dolphins for example their kidneys cannot desalinate (remove the salt from salt water) so without fresh water they suffer dehydration and the consequences of this. Now you may ask where they get fresh water from if they live in the sea, the majority of this actually comes from their food that is metabolised and broken down.

Something else that I also thought was very cool was that some seal and sealion species do not chew, when they are fed fish they swallow it headfirst. They even use their tongue to turn it around in their mouths if it is in the wrong direction! It has been suggested that in the wild dolphins will “chew” on a puffer fish to release the toxins which appear to be pleasurable for them.

Moving onto the afternoon session we started looking at training, now a lot of people still mistaking believe this is just for “circus tricks” when in reality it is so much more. In the zoo veterinary world medical training is used as an alternative to sedation, anaesthesia and immobilisation – it allows safe and stress free veterinary care of potentially deadly animals. For example have a look at this photo…

 Medical training of dolphins for temperature measurement

Here is a dolphin, the body is mainly muscle so it’s very strong, yet it is laying there on its back in the water to allow for the temperature to be checked. I believe this is pretty amazing, medical training is something that can be used anywhere but seems to mainly be used in zoos. Just imagine if all the dogs and cats that vets see could do this, just stand whilst the temperature was checked, many pets visiting the vets are so stressed and petrified just being in the building before anything is even started!

So going on from this we did a practical session of training each other, it was really interesting as without language it is very difficult to communicate exactly what you want an animal (or someone else) to do!

Talking about the brown bear… (Day 525)

Slovakia Brown Bear in Conservation

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

So today started with a pathophysiology lecture on myopathies which are diseases and disorders of the muscles. Now when thinking about muscles the last thing that pops into most people’s brain is the heart, the intestines, the esophagus or the other systems which rely on muscle to make them work. Whilst very interesting it’s too bigger a field to try to explain in a single post so I will break it down later.

Now onto my next class today it is back to Falconry and Wildlife Rehabilitation, today we spoke a little about the UNESCO application to protect Falconry, looked at the special anatomy of bird wings and the complications this caused with repairing fractures before we got to the wildlife rehabilitation section of the class.

Today was an amazing (at least for me) topic. Brown bears. Now I am coming to realise that my real passion lies with exotics and wildlife as there is just so much that we do not know. Anyways back to the brown bears, now here in Slovakia we are lucky to have some in the wild, and recently a lot of work is being done in conservation of these animals.

Slovakia Brown Bear in Conservation

Now like most wild animals bears have a bad name as being scary and dangerous, personally my opinion is that we the humans are the scary ones that are gradually taking over all the space in the world in our greed. Anyways, in Slovakia there is a not a direct motorway between the two big cities Kosice in the west and Bratislava in the east as between here is bear country. So the zoologists are currently doing research into the paths that animals use for migration, and part of this involves monitoring the bears movements by satellite using gps transmitters.

Sounds simple right? Well first off all you have to capture the bears… Sneaking up on a bear is pretty dangerous, using snare traps is dangerous for random hikers/hunters that come across a caught (and very angry) bear, and so it was decided to use massive iron box traps. Once in the traps the bears are anesthetized with material collected for DNA analysis of the population and fitting of radio tracking collars. Now these collars are pretty special because as well as having GPS devices they have a autodropoff mechanism to break and fall off in 2 years (or on demand).

Lastly today we had our general surgery practical where we were basically shown round the surgical building, told it looks like crap but they are building a new one to open after we leave. And then two people in the group were shown how to gown up for surgery.