Small Animal Clinical Placement

Technically I haven’t started my 4th year of vet, but we are allowed to do a few weeks of placement this summer break so that we could have more flexibility or time off next year.

I shadowed several vets at Brandon Park Veterinary Hospital for two weeks. It is a small animal clinic.

One of my favourite things we did was an endoscopy on a dog who had a couple episodes of epistaxis. This means we put a very tiny (and expensive!) camera up his nostrils to check if we could see anything abnormal. Unfortunately there was nothing too obvious so we moved on to try and take some biopsies. Biopsies are little pieces of tissue that we send to a lab for further analysis– sometimes they can tell us if there is a microscopic problem.

This clinic did not do as many spays and neuters as I am used to in a general practice. However, one of the surgeries I observed was a mammary strip removal. Mammary tumors are common in female dogs who have not been de-sexed. The best way to help is to surgically remove the entire mammary gland and lymphatics on that side of the abdomen.

We did do a couple of de-sexing surgeries. I got to scrub in and do most of a canine castration one day.   The next day I did a cat castration! Right now, getting hands-on surgical experience is my favourite thing! I like it because it’s new, and a bit scary, but I learn new tricks or tips every time. During this surgery the surgeon showed me a specific way to place my suture material over my instruments to make the procedure flow more smoothly.

Small animal clinics do a lot of dental surgeries, and this clinic is no different. I was lucky enough to assist and do a few dental’s myself. Actually cleaning and probing the teeth is much more interesting than monitoring anesthetic during the dental surgery (at least for me). I have yet to do any extractions.

This clinic seems to always have students around; and for good reason! It is a great learning environment. There was a different year 10 (grade 10) student doing work experience there each week. I actually really enjoyed teaching them about the basic and common procedures we were doing. It was nice to be able to actually voice my knowledge in a summarized manner and explain WHY and HOW we do certain procedures. I think the students appreciated it too.

I was also able to run a couple consults myself. This included taking the history and doing the physical exam and vaccines on my own. The vet supervised and then covered up on the things I missed. This particular vet also taught me a lot about behavior cues we can pick up from the animals.

Actually, every doctor that I followed around had a bit of a ‘specialty’. One vet taught me a lot about behavior, another was very good at surgery, and another focused on internal medicine and ultrasound. I actually really like ultrasound. After 6 or so years of watching ultrasounds the black and white blobs are starting to look like actual organs.

When it was slower, one of the vets gave me some cytology slides to look at, or a case to work through and then go to the drug room and pick out some prescriptions for managing the pet. I quickly learned that I had to read the label of every product. Most things we learned about in class were single drugs, but I found that a lot of the drugs on the shelf were combinations. This was really good practice for me to start making connections in my brain.

Another doctor would find cool cases with blood work or test results to go through with me. We would sit down and he would tell me the clinical signs that the animal had and then I would tell him my differentials based on what I saw on the blood work.

This was really a lovely but relaxed placement! Sorry, no pictures this time!

I’m back home in Canada for my ‘summer vacation’.


Merry Christmas & Happy New Year…. see you in 2018!

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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