The classics.

General practice is where a large portion of vets will work after graduation. GP vets are capable of many things, but some of the most common appointments include health exams, vaccines, ear infections, skin problems, etc. We had 1 week of general practice rotation at the beginning of our 4th year and just finished a second week now, at the end of our year.

We spent one day each week at the university hospital with a specialist dermatologist who only saw skin patients. Skin issues can be so complicated! I am glad we got to spend 2 full days with the dermatologist only looking at this one body system (yes, the skin is a whole body system!). Skin issues can be complex and involve infections and allergies or other diseases. Often it can take lots of time and searching to find an answer to your pet’s problem! Most of the skin patients we saw ended up having allergies to things in the environment (like grasses, dust mites, etc) or food.

One patient we saw was presented to us because his toenails kept falling off. The dog was diagnosed with symmetric lupus onchodystrophy, which is a disease I have read about in my notes many times… however, the dermatologist said this is quite rare and he has only seen one case in his whole career!

We had quite a few vaccine appointments where we got to practice our physical exams, vaccine injections, history taking, and medical note writing.

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Not a picture from rotation. But I did just get to meet my friend’s new puppy on the weekend and gave him quick little exam! 

In my second week of GP I happened to be rostered on with the exotics vet for a couple days! This was pretty cool because instead of cats and dogs I saw lots of different kinds of patients like: rabbits, chickens, blue tongued skinks, bearded dragons, turtles, eclectus parrots, and cockatoos!  These are all animals that may need a vet at some point in their lives but we don’t get to see them very commonly.  We have some lectures on exotic animals but often, most of our learning is done day to day when the problems arise!

Some highlights included doing first health exams for nine (NINE) baby bunnies! They were all very cute… I mean, healthy. And fluffy… I mean, eating well…

I also enjoyed an appointment with a blue tongued skink with who had a suspected broken back! After a full exam I got to take x-rays of him to look at his spine. In the end, he was diagnosed with metabolic bone disease. We talked about changes his owner could make in his tank, diet, and gave him some pain medication!

Another very cool thing was having a patient (cockatoo) who was older than me! That hasn’t happened since I first started working in veterinary clinics when I was 17.

One day of the week we are rostered on to help with minor procedures. I helped monitor the anesthetic for Jess to do a cat castration. Then we had an aural hematoma repair (one of my favorite small animal appointments to do!). This is a condition in dogs where the skin of the ear fills up with blood. It can be very uncomfortable and swollen. At previous clinics I have worked at you can release the pressure and then suture something on to the ear so the area cannot fill up with blood again. I think it looks cutest when you suture buttons onto the ear. At uni however, I got to suture on little pieces of tubing.

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Buttons on the ear of a dog who has had an aural hematoma repair. https://www.belfastlive.co.uk/news/belfast-news/pet-dog-buttons-sewn-onto-14030456

General practice rotation flew by. Next up is our second week of desexing rotation at an animal shelter in the city.

 

 

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Push up Girls! Push up!

No, not a push up bra. Just a really common saying as we get cows lined up in a race before their examinations. “Push-up girls!” We want them to push up into a nice tight, straight line so both the cows and us will be safe.

Jess and I flew down to Tasmania for 2 weeks to complete our Dairy Rotation. Obviously, the days were filled with cows… and cow poop! But we kept the weekends open and ready for lots of exploring.

Something new that I did in Tasmania was induce cows to calve. This is not commonly done in the rest of Australia. Farmers in Tassie use induction to help maintain tight calving intervals of their herd (having all their cows calve at the same time) so that it matches up nicely with the pasture growth (so there is food for the hungry momma cow’s to eat!). It is a simple procedure–just an injection! But the methodology and the conversations behind it were what I found most interesting.

Another new thing I did on this rotation was something called “visvaging”.  Yes, as in “visualizing the vagina”. This is done with a speculum and a light. Every cow in the milking herd needs to be examined in order to identify the presence of infection coming from the uterus. The sick cows need to be treated so that they can heal and become pregnant again. This is an older technique, as many veterinarians use a ‘Metricheck’ now. The older technique is still preferred on some farms and I think it is important to know how to do it.

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The only cow I was allowed to take pictures of on this rotation. Also, who wants to see pictures of visvaging anyways?!

Although this was our dairy rotation we spent some time semen testing bulls; which is more common in beef bulls. Semen testing is done to make sure that a bull is healthy and fertile before the breeding season. It is important that they can do their job (which is getting cows pregnant!). One afternoon, Jess and I both drove out to one of the vet’s house to semen test his bulls. Firstly, he had an absolutely fantastic property on top of a hill with almost 360 degree ocean views! Secondly, I found it hilarious that I tested one bull and came out relatively unscathed (ie: clean) and Jessica tested the next bull and came out absolutely covered in “dirt”…. don’t ask me how she did that!

I went to a lot of preg-checking calls. For many of them, the farm set up was not conducive to having a student manually palpate cows after the vet so I ended up watching the ultrasound screen a lot. This was okay because it gave me a decent amount of practice ageing pregnancies based on their size. At one of the first preg-checking calls (at a dairy) the vet told me she’d let me guess the breed when we arrived. Thinking that I had a decent handle on dairy breeds (there is not a lot of common ones), I thought this wouldn’t be that bad…. when we drove up I saw a bunch of red cows (some with blue eyes!) staring back at me. I responded with “not dairy cows”. Fun fact! Apparently Australia has their own breed called: Aussie Reds. For the super hardcore; here is the breed website. For everyone else, here’s a great picture!

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Please enjoy this Google image of an Aussie red cow. 

Another one of my favourite calls was to a Wagyu beef farm. They were one of the only farms in the area doing embryo transfer. The recipient cows were black Angus which were these huge beautiful CRAZY cows that were such a pain to get through the race and into the crush. Looking to the paddock beside us were all the relatively small wimpy (comparatively) looking Wagyu animals that are just so expensive and produce the most amazing steak! As well, this farm is located close by to an island and they do a yearly run of their cattle across at low tide. We went in for a cuppa after the job was done and had a nice chat and watched some amazing drone footage of the crossing!

Some of my favorite calls are for calvings. This whole year I have been hoping to get more experience with them. Luckily I got to go to 3 calving calls on this rotation. The first was a cow that had gone down (like literally laid down and couldn’t stand back up) because she was exhausted from trying to calve.  We met the farmer at their house and hopped on a “bike” (actually a quad…) and drove up and down some whopping hills and  through a creek before we found the cow at the bottom of a steep embankment. She had gone down in some thick mud beside a stream. Besides getting my boots stuck in the mud and flailing around wildly to try and stay on my feet, I managed to get the calving chains on the calf’s already exposed feet & pull him free! The benefit of being right beside the stream was being able to walk 2 feet and stand in the fresh water and wash all of our gear (and our arms!).

The second cow was WILD. By that, I mean a beef cow that was NOT happy to see us. Luckily she was already in the crush when we arrived, but that did not stop her from trying to kill us as we walked by. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty proud of myself for getting her epidural in (on the first try!) and not getting kicked! What ensued was an amazing rodeo of calf manipulation, attachment of calving chains, having the cow go down in the crush (and then up again…. x3), putting on a halter and then letting her out of the crush to go down. Folks, this is when the real fun started; we had the halter wrapped around a metal pole and being held by the farmer. In about 2 mins I would be silently praying that this was the strongest rope halter created by mankind… The vet snuck up and got the calving jack into position. For those of you who do not know what a calving jack is, here is a picture:

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The calving jack is the metal piece of equipment. It is placed under the cow’s tail. Chains are safely wrapped around the calf’s feet & attached to the handle on the long pole. You can then pump the handle up the pole which will pull the calf out of the birthing canal. https://www.pbsanimalhealth.com/products/vink-calf-puller

At this point the cow decided to get up again and start swinging back and forth at the end of her rope. Which meant we had an angry cow with a 10ft metal weapon swinging around in front of us. I attempted not to get knocked out cold while marveling at the determination and calm mindset of the vet who continued to dodge the jack, replace the chains, and eventually pull the calf out!

The third calving call was a lovely calm cow who’s calf was breech. This was fun for me because the vet let me do a lot of the call. He helped move one of the calf’s legs into position and I moved the second leg into position, I need a few hints and tips on where to pull and in what direction. Side note: apparently some vets think its cheating if you can fit both your arm’s inside the birth canal to manipulate the calf 😛 (sorry non-vet people for that mental image!) Then we attached the calving jack and I pulled the calf out!

Okay, okay, enough cow stories! On our weekends we tried to squeeze in as much exploring as we could. Neither Jess or I had been to Tassie before and we doubted we would be back again. On our first weekend we drove down to Cradle Mountain and did a few awesome walks around there. This drive was when we realized how beautiful Tassie really is! The wattle trees were in bloom–brilliant yellow everywhere!

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We had everything from horizontal rain, snow, and sun during our few hours of hiking in the Cradle Valley! One minute we would have great visibility, and the next we could barely see a few meters ahead.

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Jess, just reaching the top of Marion’s Lookout in Cradle Valley. Luckily the snow had cleared! 

The next weekend we had big plans! We drove from Smithon down to Hobart, over to Wineglass Bay, Launceston, and then back to Smithon! The best part was probably the hike we did at Wineglass Bay. It involved a short hike up to the lookout and then about 1000 steps down onto the beach—which was gorgeous! And when ocean is that beautiful, how can you resist jumping in it?!

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It was as beautiful as it looks 🙂

So the classic Canadian in me… I changed in the bushes and then ran straight into that water. It was….fresh! Even with all my experience swimming in glacial lakes growing up, I still got the wind knocked out of me when I hit the water. haha!

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The view from the top of Wineglass Bay

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Proof that I actually did go in the water. This is me probably struggling to breathe. 

We stopped a bunch of times along the way and ate some nice food, did a few short walks, and had a lot of fun urging our tiny rental car up and over the hills!

It was a short flight back to Melbourne and a day of rest before starting our second week of General Practice rotation at the University Hospital.

“We are One Sweat”

A little bit of team bonding, some long work days, a lot of humidity, and a touch of heat stroke & dehyrdation led to that gem of a quote (perfect for a blog title!).

I have loved traveling for a long time and I have grown to love traveling with a purpose. That is why I am so appreciative of the travel opportunities for university students. Last year, while organizing our final year schedules we had the option to apply for 4 weeks of ‘selectives’ in areas of veterinary medicine we were interested in. My last selective was the 2 weeks I spent in the Northern Territory working with community dogs & cats.  I sent in an application and went to an interview and was picked as one of four students to attend a veterinary international development trip in Myanmar.

The 11 day whirlwind trip was fantastic! I loved the country, the people, and especially the work we completed! There really is so much to say about this adventure that I’ll try and keep it summarized for you…

We were part of a pilot project for a bigger research organization that has been established in Myanmar for many years. We worked with a team of veterinarians from the University of Veterinary Science, Myanmar. Rural village visits were arranged ahead of time. We set out in our two vans and traveled to these villages where a Unimelb student + Myanmar veterinarian would interview sheep and goat farmers. The questions were asked in Myanmar language and written down in English. We asked questions about the herd structure (how many males/females, young/old), how many were bought or sold or died? We also asked questions about who took care of the animals (gender of the person, age, etc) and which duties were performed. Then we asked the farmers about which health conditions were most important in their herd and if they performed any treatments on their animals.

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One of the Myanmar vets writing down interview answers

After the interview with the farmer we would go out to the sheep or goat pen and observe the herd for any obvious signs of illness. The most common things we saw were: itchy animals, lots of coughing/sneezing, old diarrhea, and a few lame animals.

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Gathering outside a typical sheep pen preparing to start our observation of the herd

Lastly, we took blood samples from two animals from each herd.

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Collecting a jugular blood sample from a sheep. It was rewarding to teach & assist the Myanmar vets in performing venepuncture. 

Every night we came back to the hotel lobby and set up a mini laboratory with a centrifuge and our samples. We ran a few tests and transcribed our data into computers.

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Preparing blood smears during some free time at the village

We did a quick look through of our data and made some brief presentations so that we could give a summary to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) office in Bagan. Even though this was just a pilot survey and we barely skimmed the surface of research and agriculture in Myanmar I thought our results were extremely interesting! I loved experiencing and adapting to the challenges that presented themselves to us; I feel like it made us stronger as a team. I saw the importance of working in international development. The health problems that these animals are experiencing could be cured with some involvement, education, a few diagnoses and some medicine –easier said than done!

And of course, aside from the university side of the trip we tried to squeeze in some sightseeing. I haven’t spent a ton of time traveling in Asia before, but every time I’ve been I’ve loved it! The food is all different and exciting; we ate a lot of soups and curries and I quite enjoy eating goat meat! There is fresh fruit juices at every meal. Myanmar tea made of condensed milk and red brew demands at least 2 cups during every tea shop brekky.

The roads are a crazy mixture of on-foot traffic, motor bikes, cyclists, cars, and bullock carts. Honking is common!  Our last 2 days were in Bagan, a city packed with thousands and thousands of temples, pagodas, and stupas.  There was a lot more tourists here and the traffic a bit calmer; which meant it was the perfect place to rent E-bikes and drive around for hours in the hot sun visiting ancient buildings!

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This is just one of the many many ancient temples we visited. They are just as amazing on the inside as they look on the outside! 

Something I was particularly struck by was an appreciation for human generosity. We did not speak Myanmar language and many of the people I met did not speak English. Yet, we managed to communicate through a few key words, charades, and overwhelming kindness. Any time someone anticipated that we might need or want something they would jump up to do it! I hadn’t brought a hat with me and ladies kept offering me their woven straw hats to keep the sun or rain off. Traditional sunscreen was applied to my face several times. The heat was sweltering (!!!), and at every house we were offered water, tea, or paper fans! At one point, someone even stood up to fan us while we conducted our interview. Amongst our own team generosity was overflowing as well–everyone was willing to share water, gastro-drugs, itch cream or lend a helping hand if someone was feeling off.

 

 

I can’t thank my fantastic team from Unimelb and UVS enough for being such good travel companions and research colleagues!

After such a whirlwind of traveling over the last few months I’m appreciating a week at home to sleep and work on my research project! Next up is my dairy rotation…

Adventures of a Mixed Practice Vet (Student)

I’ve just completed my very last placement of final year! I still have rotations to do (they are organized by the university not myself) before I’m totally finished. I booked my placement at this mixed animal vet clinic to be 1 month long. I wanted more time to get to know the vets, the area, and follow up on patients—which are features that you do not get when your placements are shorter.

I started at 9am on Monday, by 9:30am the first patient was in the hydraulic squeeze in the bovine exam room and I was in charge of replacing his rectal prolapse. Luckily the prolapse was quite small and I really only needed to put in a couple stitches.  As for other cattle work —I tried to jump on all these calls because this was the hands on experience that I wanted.  I went to a lot of herd health appointments– usually the first appointments of the day.  This is usually an appointment that occurs every 2 weeks at a dairy farm to assess the health & pregnancy status of the herd.  I preferred to get my practice with rectal palpation and trying to diagnose cows as ‘pregnant’ or ‘open’.  Some cool things other than pregnancies that I felt included cystic ovaries and a mummified fetus from an aborted pregnancy. Sometimes I watched the ultrasound screen while the vet checked the cows. You can tell how far along the pregnancy is by looking at the size of the embryo on the screen.

One particularly memorable call was helping out a heifer who having difficulty calving. She had already been going several hours and the farmer said her calf was dead. By the time we got out to the farm the rain was bucketing down from the dark clouds. We pulled up to an uncovered head gate with the heifer waiting for us.  With thunder and lightening rolling in we got to work. Calving calls usually requires a lot of lube…. and I mean a lot. I dumped a 1L bucket of lube into a pail and used a stomach pump and a hose to pump all the lube into the birthing canal (sorry for that mental image all you non-vet people). We also slathered both our arms in lube and got to work.  The dead calf came out piece by piece. I felt like we really helped that heifer; and bonus: we didn’t get struck by lightening!

We did a left displaced abomasum (LDA) surgery in clinic. I explained what this was in one of my previous blog posts about a cattle placement. Working on our large animal calls in clinic is often much nicer than on farm because all of our equipment is right there, we are in a controlled (& heated!) environment and we can often be a lot cleaner/more sterile than in the field. The LDA surgery was performed similar to others I have seen except this time we were able to wear gowns, gloves, and perform a proper scrub in the sink before starting.

We saw quite a few cattle with joint infections. Often all this takes is a small cut or wound over the incision that allows bacteria to come in and colonize. Sometimes these patients can be treated and sometimes they cannot. Close to the end of my placement a calf with a very badly infected joint came in. The situation looked grim but the farmer was game to try and save the calf.  We sedated the calf until it was laying on the ground. I was in charge of clipping the hair and scrubbing the foot (imagine how long it takes to clean a cow’s leg that has never been bathed ever in its life!) before we tapped the joint (stuck a needle into the joint space). We ended up draining a lot of the STINKY infected joint fluid before we flushed out the joint space and injected some antibiotics directly into the space. I applied a big bandage to the cows leg and was chatting to the farmer—it was almost 10 minutes later I realized I had chunks of joint material & dirt hanging off my face. #classy.

We drove out one day to an extremely nice property to see 3 highlander calves ((the fluffy ones!) who are apparently famous on instagram?!) that were coughing.  We suspect that they had lungworm because they seemed healthy otherwise and started coughing whenever they had to run around. On our way back to the clinic one of the tires on the truck blew off… so that was quite the adventure!

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I went for a sunset swim in the river with friends after work

Seeing ‘bull with broken penis’ on the appointment scheduler is always interesting. I think we saw about 3 of these cases while I was at this practice. One of them just had a bad infection and the other bull had a massive abscess all surrounding his sheath. I drained out & cleaned the abscess. Both the bulls went on antibiotics and they will be out for the rest of the breeding season this year.

Someone brought in a much older cow and an unrelated calf who both had walking issues. On rectal exam of the older cow you could feel spondylosis (extra bone growth) between all her vertebrae.  This is an age related change and was probably the bone just trying to stabilize itself. We didn’t think she could be safely bred any longer.

We also saw lots of sick cows which allowed me to practice my physical exams. We even had a few conversations about dart guns, treating wild cattle, and which drugs were the best to use because of amount, effectiveness, and depth of penetration of the dart (subcutaneous administration vs intramuscular). And yes, then I went and checked out a dart gun & some of the 10ml darts that are being used.

There was always something going on with the cats and dogs in the clinic. I placed drains in a couple of different patients with wounds. The drains go into ‘dead space’ beneath the skin of the animal and assist in draining out fluid that would delay or prevent healing. The first drain I placed was in a dog who had a lumpectomy surgery and his incision had dehisced. He came back in a week or so later for a suture check and then for his sutures to be removed; the wound had healed up great! On my last day of placement a large breed dog who had been attacked by another had a head & neck FULL of wounds. I placed 2 drains in his neck. A few days after I finished my placement one of the vets texted me pictures of his healing wounds!

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I had only been at the practice 4 days… and I already had clients leaving messages for me 🙂 

Speaking of wounds, because of the rural area there was a lot more appointments of pets that had been fighting, were attacked, etc. I looked at many wound patients, or hit-by-car patients, watched enucleation surgeries, and pulled porcupine quills out of dogs (one of my favorite appointment types)! I even saw my first cat with quills stuck in her face — cats usually run away so this was interesting.

During my first week there was a young puppy who refused to walk. The x-rays showed a broken leg. I got to see this puppy several times over the next 4 weeks as he came back in for bandage changes.

There was one dog who was diagnosed with bladder cancer, this is typically a fast moving and impossible to cure cancer. We were trying to manage this patient to be as comfortable as possible. She was having issues urinating so I helped to pass an indwelling urinary catheter that would sit in her bladder and allow her to pee. I also helped pass a urinary catheter in a male cat who was blocked (usually a stone stuck in his urethra preventing him from urinating).

One day a dog came in for ‘excessive slobbering’. This problem actually turned out to be a lot more interesting when we discovered the dog was unable to close his mouth and likely had a nerve paralysis!

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We had to do an emergency surgery on a dog who we thought swallowed a sock or a rope. It turned out that this dog was just obsessively eating grass until he packed his stomach solid with it. 

I was able to perform castration and spay surgeries by myself. As well, I taught the veterinarians & techs about a new surgical technique we learned (the Millers knot) that is really good for crushing tissue. The vets loved it and are going to use it themselves now! I scrubbed in and helped in a very large breed dog spay & a pregnant spay and even a c-section on a Frenchie! The vet let me deliver the last puppy myself— slipperier than expected!  I had a super interesting conversation with a vet one day because we had several puppy vasectomies and hysterectomies booked in. These are not common de-sexing procedures because they leave the testicles & ovaries behind in the patient which can continue to produce hormones. There are some breeders in the area that were requesting these surgeries. Speaking of puppies & breeders…. we did several first puppy exams. This means that I stood in a room of 5-10 puppies and got to cuddle them all!… I mean… examine… and then give them needles (vaccines). I’m talking white Labs, chocolate Labs, Beagle crosses, German shepherds….

We saw a young mastiff dog was was limping heavily, after some x-rays we discovered a severly diseased elbow with a condition called Ununited Anconeal Process (UAP) which requires a specialist surgery.

We did a couple of post mortems on rabbits! Not your typical case….

I started all of the small animal consults by myself, did my own exam, took samples, etc. before chatting to the vet about my suspected diagnosis. Then we went back in and finished the appointments together. I saw a puppy who was only a few weeks old that was dripping fluid from his nose & sneezing everywhere. We suspected pneumonia, although neither me or the vet had ever seen this condition in an animal so young.  We saw an old Caviler King Charles Spaniel with an extremely impressive display of decompensated heart disease with a murmur that likely could have been heard in the next room. We sedated a dog who’s owner thought he had porcupine quills stuck in his ears. Once I examined his ear canals I found a grass awn and managed to pull it out for him! Imagine just how irritating that would be?!

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Feelin’ good! 

THEN, there was all the horse calls! We did a couple of pregnancy checks on mares which was good to do in a different environment because I did a lot of this at my last placement. One of the vets at this practice had also done another course on chiropractic & acupuncture treatment for animals so she had several appointments (horses & dogs) come in for this.

I got to try my hand at floating teeth with a power float… harder than it looks… and I still haven’t mastered the ability to see all the teeth at the back of the horse’s mouth without climbing inside…

On another day we were on our way to see a horse that was acting neurological, by the time we arrived the horse had died. We spoke with some people on the farm and then took a blood sample for testing; we suspected West Nile Virus. When the results came back a week or so later that was not the case but a different disease that could have been prevented by vaccination was found instead!

We went to another farm to euthanize a very old horse. And another farm to check on a couple of horses with wounds. One horse had a wound high up in his armpit, another had a wound on the back of his leg with his tendons exposed! Back at the clinic we saw some miniature horses that had been attacked by dogs and had significant wounds. It was an after-hours call that took us almost 2 hours to clean up & stitch back together. I heard that they are doing well.

The smoke had been so bad in the area (from forest fires in the next province) for almost 2 weeks that I wasn’t surprised when we went and did an exam on 2 horses with respiratory issues from the terrible air quality.

There was a horse with a really bad case of mastitis. Usually this is a problem that we see more commonly in cattle & if you see it in a horse it is easily treated. That was not the case for this horse. When we saw her her udder was very swollen, firm, and quite painful. We checked on her almost daily & prescribed her a whole slew of medications.  I also put in a couple of intra-mammary antibiotic treatments & an IV jugular catheter. Treating her with intra-mammaries reminded me that a horse udder has a different anatomy than a cow’s udder. One day we got a call that now her udder was looking better but she was 3-legged lame & couldn’t walk! Confused, we drove out to the farm again. The horse was hungry but didn’t want to move to the grass. Her legs and tendon sheaths were all swollen. We suspected she may have had a drug reaction & pulled her off all her medication. The next day she seemed to be on the up & up!

So that’s a lot of fun stories! And I didn’t even mention all the fun I got to have in the evenings & weekends being home with my friends/fam…. coffee dates, farm visits & parties, dinner with my grandmas, learning to ride a motorbike & pull a trailer, markets & fairs, swimming, campfires, drinks….

I really enjoyed myself at this practice. The vets treated me like a doctor, like a colleague, and I felt my opinion was valued and appreciated. Thanks a million to BarrNorth Veterinary Services and I wish you a fantastic fall and winter season ahead!

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The clinic had a taco-in-a-bag customer appreciation day so my mom and a family friend came for a tour of the practice!