Road Trips and Lameness Exams on my Racetrack Veterinary Placement

My second week of my Easter break was another clinical placement. This week I worked with a racetrack vet.  Horse racing is something I have never been involved with so a lot of the cases we saw this week were new for me. Almost every horse we saw was to investigate a gait issue, do a lameness exam, inject joints with medications, change a bandage, etc. These are a few of the calls that stood out to me…

Each day started with trot up exams at the Flemington Racecourse (the same place they hold the Melbourne Cup!) We also did trot ups at other stables around the area. A trot up exam is where someone ‘trots’ with the horse up and back a path while the vet examines the horse’s gait and how they are moving. They are looking for abnormalities, swelling, pain– anything indicating lameness.

The first farm call we drove to was a horse who had chronic swelling over his fetlock. We had to do an x-ray to try and figure out what was causing the swelling. This was one of the first times I had assisted with a portable x-ray machine (as opposed to large ones that are permanent installments in hospitals).

We investigated another horse with an interesting skin issue and discussed different possibilities–infection, allergy, multiple conditions, atypical presentation of a sarcoid tumor.

During the week we also did a few nasal scope exams. Scoping is where a special camera is inserted into the nose of the horse to check for any abnormalities of the respiratory tract if trainers or owners or potential buyers would like to investigate the larynx and pharynx. Some of the horses we scoped were done before they were sent to the yearling sale and a few we scoped because there was some concern for disease.

Each evening I was reviewing lectures for an upcoming midterm. A lot of the lectures were on eye conditions. So it was particularly interesting for me when we drove out to see a horse that had a healing corneal ulcer. The horse had a lavage system sutured into its eye—to make it easy for his owner to give him his eye drugs

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This tube sits just inside the eyelid of this horse so that the owner can stand back and  put medications into the other end of the tube. The meds will then drain onto the eyeball.  

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My favorite call during the week was to a lovely farm with a colt who was suspected of being a cryptorchid. The vet I was working with was unable to palpate both testicles while the horse was standing. Apparently it is sometimes easier to find the other testicle (that has not descended) when the horse is sedated and rolled onto his back. After sedating horses in class a few weeks ago I was excited to see this in practice again. We  safely ‘dropped the horse’ and rolled him over. The vet immediately found the missing testicle so then we quickly gathered his instruments and he performed the castration surgery. This was also great because it allowed a discussion of open vs closed castration (different surgical methods that we have been learning about in class lately).

On Friday I had planned to wake up early and go observe a dynamic scope. Unfortunately it was cancelled and instead I spent a day at the Oaklands Junction Sale Yards with an internal medicine specialist. We were at the sales in case any of the clients wanted pre-sale scopes, microchipping, or any other assistance.

I appreciated listening in on a lot of the client interactions and observing how to generate important relationships with clients. The vet would call and talk to another vet or a specialist if there was something he was unsure about. I enjoyed my week learning about racehorse medicine and driving around the Yarra Valley, Cranbourne, Pakenham, Mornington Peninsula and other places. I’m already thinking about future equine placements I could organize.

20170421_103847 Special thank you to Flemington Equine Clinic who had me tag along for the week!

Cats and Dogs at My First Clinical Placement!

First week of clinical placement done and dusted! The small animal clinic was a bit smaller and slower than the places I’ve worked in; but you can always learn no matter where you are. This pace of appointments was perfect for asking lots of questions. I took the time to try and have some interesting discussions with the vets including their rationale behind drug protocols, unusual points they’ve learned from specialists or conferences, and how to deal with colorful clients as a new grad.

The clinic had 2 senior vets and 1 new grad vet. I loved this because the new grad vet chatted to me about lots of practical advice on how to navigate (instead of struggle) through my first year in practice. Speaking to the senior vets was fantastic for further expertise on cases and discussion of more complicated surgeries and techniques. This was helpful because after discussing multiple techniques on how to repair ruptured cranial cruciate ligaments we saw a couple of patients with the disease —one dog with a suspected tear, and another dog for a post-op assessment.

One of my favorite parts of this placement was the opportunity to see a flank spay. We’ve been taught that they are generally an older surgery and it is more typical to do abdominal spays now. However, this particular patient was contraindicated for an abdominal incision. I also enjoyed one morning when I spent some time monitoring a critically ill patient who had been brought into the clinic with an acute onset of heart disease and pulmonary edema (fluid in her lungs).

We also performed an enema and an ear clean under general anesthetic and admitted a patient with a fractured pelvis. I enjoyed listening in on consults regarding a seizing patient and a patient with behavioral issues.

Once the vets learned that I knew how to put in intravenous catheters I was allowed to put them in on all the patients that needed one. Practicing my hands on skills was the best part of this week.

A huge thank you goes out to the vets and staff at Greenvale Animal Hospital who are now part of my journey to becoming a veterinarian!

 

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My Placement at an Alpaca Farm

Over the course of my 3 month summer vacation I worked on an alpaca farm. I went to the alpaca farm on my days off from my job and other placements. There was just over 100 alpacas and crias—they are extremely friendly and curious creatures! Previously I had not completed a lot of work with this species so I found my time there quite informative.

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Some of the older boys patiently waiting for me to finish cleaning their pen.

We spent a lot of time trimming nails. This is done a couple of times a year. Alpacas are not necessarily prone to foot problems but depending on the type of ground they are living/walking on their nails can get quite long. After catching an alpaca (By hugging it around the neck) we would halter it and tie it to a fence. Once tied, one person would continue to hug the alpaca around the neck while the other person used shears to trim off the excess and uneven areas of the foot.

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Some of the older boys patiently waiting for me to finish cleaning their pen.

All of the alpacas received intramuscular vitamin D injections. There is not a lot of research backing up the use of this vitamin in alpacas. But due to the shortage of sunlight in Alberta throughout the winter the farmer was hoping that the injection would allow the alpacas to gain better condition and higher quality fleece.

Diatomaceous earth was used on this farm (and many other placement farms) as a means of parasite control.

We also gave many of the alpacas microchips. These were inserted into a pocketed area just below the ear. The microchips are required in any alpaca that the farmer wants to register. Register alpacas are also required to have a DNA test completed. We collected blood from the ear by sticking a needle into a vein until it spotted blood. The blood was then collected onto a card. Both breeding males and females are produced on this farm and they need to be registered for sale and competition/show.

We would trim hair out of their eyes so they could see better—it doesn’t matter how much fleece/hair you trim around their eyes as this is part of ‘seconds’ (lesser quality sections of fleece) during shearing.

I also learned a lot about grading of fleece. You grade alpaca fleece on a scale of carpet-1-2-3-4 based on fineness. Ideally you would like a ‘blanket’ (fleece from the neck and torso of the animal) to be dense and fine. Unfortunately these phenotypic traits are not directly correlated. Hence, breeding plans are extremely important in the alpaca world. Black is a recessive color in alpacas and is hard to obtain. Even if you breed 2 of the same colored alpaca together you might not get the same colored baby—quite the guessing game!

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This is one of the livestock dogs teaching me about grading fleece. Assessing and cleaning all of the fleece is done by hand. It looks like a ton of work! 

The farmer would either knit/spin her own fleece products and sell them at local markets or have the mill that does the processing create products for her. I now own my own pair of alpaca socks and mittens; they are very warm and soft!

I believe that this is the last placement I needed to complete for my pre-clinical requirements. I received previous credit for time I spent working at a zoo and a wildlife rehabilitation facility (possibly some throwback blog posts are in order?) before my acceptance to vet school.

One last thank you to all the amazing people I have met during this experience, and the people I was able to reconnect with. It really is a small world out there!

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I loved working outside on this farm and gained a ton of knowledge about alpaca husbandry and production. 

My Placement at a Riding Facility and Petting Zoo

This placement was super close to my parents house so it was very nice to be in town every day after working on the farm. This farm owned quite a few horses that were leased out or used for riding lessons. They also have tons of different animals that are part of a petting zoo….ferrets, chinchillas, guinea pigs, parrots, cows, pigs, chickens, peacocks, goats, emus, alpacas, llamas, hedgehogs, cats, dogs! I was also lucky enough to do this placement with my best friend/roommate (its about time we did a placement together!).

Each morning started with chores. Animals inside were taken care of first and stalls or pens mucked out. Then we grabbed the water truck and headed outside to all the outdoor animals. One of the problems with keeping animals outside in the winter is that you either have to have heated water containers (so no ice can form) or you have to go around and break all the ice out of the containers before filling them up! We brought a hammer to break up ice.

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At this point, I became pretty good friends with one of the parrots who rode around in my hood to stay warm.

All the animals outside received extra bedding or grain to help them keep warm when it snowed. Many of the horses wore thick blankets as well. Some animals require more specialized feed. For example, the guinea pigs received extra vitamin C and D in their water because they are prone to deficiencies.

There were 3 older horses who had a hard time eating hay and getting enough energy so we brought them inside every day and gave them a mixture of grain and beet pulp.

 

Horses were ‘worked’ or ‘broken’ later in the afternoon. Often they spent a long time running around in a circle on the end of a lunge line. During one session the vet came out from a nearby equine clinic to look at an older horse that had tripped hard earlier in the week. I took a couple of minutes to chat to the vet about Metacam and how it is metabolized differently in the horse than other animals.

My friend and I spent some time working with a pony. He will eventually be pulling carts and working with young kids so he needs to be quite comfortable with unknown sights and sounds. We ran him around in circles and over jumps. We also rolled barrels and a large exercise ball close to and over him. The pony was very uncomfortable with us touching his back and hind end. With some more work this pony will be well on his way to cart pulling!

Another day we assisted with breaking a horse to a wagon. Last time this horse was hooked up to the wagon she freaked out and sat on the bar (a very dangerous situation)! We made sure to move slowly and calmly. First we pulled the cart around the horse so she could get use to how it looked and moved. Then we walked the horse around the cart. Lastly, we slowly hooked the horse to the cart and then walked beside her in the arena. The session went very well.

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We spent a lot of time grooming horses, sweeping the barn, organizing the tack room, watering down the arena (to keep the dust down), blanketing and moving horses, and oiling tack. Tack is oiled to ensure the leather stays supple, smooth, and in good condition so that it can be used for many years.

 

On our last day of placement we worked on some worksheets about horse health, anatomy, and care. However, the highlight of this day was learning to ride English.  Previously, all my riding experience has been in Western saddles so this was quite fun for me. A couple of staff members were working with a young horse–getting him used to being ridden and the commands he needs to follow. My friend and I were riding older horses in the arena so the young horse would feel less nervous.

I had a lot of fun being around (and learning about) the huge assortment of animals at this farm. Thank you for the opportunity!