veterinary medicine

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She won’t forget that in a hurry: Elephant rubs her eye in disbelief after cataract op to restore her sight

It was a truly mammoth undertaking, but Duchess the blind elephant will finally be able to see again after receiving what was quite possibly the world’s largest ever cataract operation.
The first ever elephant cataract operation in the UK: Duchess was treated for her for a cataract, in the hopes of regaining sight in one eye

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Vet-Trek: The Fauna Frontier

Things that should not need to be said in a veterinary clinic, but actually are.

“One tablet twice a day is not the same as giving two tablets once a day.”

“Feed your dog cooked chicken and cooked rice. The chicken should have no skin, no fat, no butter, no seasoning and should not be K.F.C.”

“I do not believe you have no room in your car to take this A5 sheet of specific home care instructions with you.”

“It is not recommended to breed these cats together because they are brother and sister.”

“Even if your dog looks fine, if it just ate rat poison it needs to come to the clinic right now.”

“No, you probably can’t throw the tablets into your cat’s bowl of food and expect her to just eat it.”

“Given that you’ve just said the bone of his tail is broken and sticking out through the skin, I think you will find that your dog is, actually, in pain.”

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You know how much I love interesting pathologies… so naturally I had to share these photos with you guys!

This is a conjoined bat that was either stillborn or died at birth (as evidenced by the attached placenta)! They were discovered in southeastern Brazil in 2001 and researchers believe the twins are Neotropical fruit bats (Artibeus).

These photos were taken by Nadja L. Pinheiro, from Área de Embriologia, Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro.

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Since there was apparently a need, I made a couple of images to explain why asking for veterinary advice online will often be met with silence, and why you just shouldn’t do it. Get a vet on the phone and they will tell you if you need to bring the animal in. I have tried to keep civil, but I do have very strong opinions on the topic.

I’ve heard all the excuses. I don’t care, you call your local clinic.

@why-animals-do-the-thing and anyone else who feels the need to use these images, you are most welcome to reblog, repost, reply with or otherwise use these images anywhere they will be helpful.

NEW CONSERVATION STRATEGY!!

Ever wonder how poachers make a living? Fielding questions from patrons at the Canadian National Exhibition answered that quite clearly for me.

Without exaggeration, we were seriously asked somewhere around 100 times for tiger claws, rhino horns and elephant tusks. Almost the entirety (if not the entirety) of requests were from Asian and Southeast Asian individuals, including a uniformed police officer! Every time we asked why, we’d be greeted with sheepish smiles and replies such as “luck” or “energy”.

For the first half of the show I’d try to rationally explain why these shouldn’t be purchased based on the principles of conservation. Every time their eyes would glaze over and they’d either walk away mid-explanation or wait for me to shut up before saying “so, how much money would it take to get one?”

Needless to say, I got fed up and it was time for a NEW STRATEGY!

Whenever people asked for one, I’d get all wide-eyed and exclaim, “OH NO!! BAD ENERGY!! You don’t want to bring that danger into your life and around your family!!”

Every time it caught the person completely by surprise and they’d beg for more information.

“They used to be considered lucky but the energy has now shifted! Too much **insert endangered animal** blood has been spilled into the Earth and it has angered the spirit world! THEY ARE NOW CURSED!”

When they asked what brings good luck, I told them Inuit and First Nation products when collected with permits.

“If you want your claws and tusks to have balance and good energy, you must only buy from those who live in harmony and balance with nature”.

You’d be damn surprised how often that worked. I hate providing unscientific information but sometimes you have to fight superstitious bullsh*t with superstitious bullsh*t!

Can't afford the vet, can't afford the pet.

When we in the veterinary industry defiantly cry “If you can’t afford the vet then you can’t afford the pet,” please try to understand what we’re talking about.

We’re not talking about people that have a pet for years, fall on hard times and can’t find the $3000 it needs for surgery or intensive care. Life happens. Goodness knows most of us don’t have that kind of money lying around either.

We’re talking about people who spend $1000’s on a new puppy… But can’t afford vaccines, desexing or heartworm preventative.

We’re talking about people who ‘rescue’ an animal but fail to provide it with basic care.

Or 'rescues’ that aren’t treating the issues of animals they acquire, especially if they delay treatment to beg for donations online.

And the people that haven’t wanted to spend money on preventative care for their senior pet for the last three years because “she’s old and will die soon.”

Or the ones that spend hundreds of dollars on doggy fashion accessories but accuse you of price gouging on antibiotics.

Who can’t borrow $50 from all the people they know, but want a payment plan from you. And a discount because they 'rescued’ it as a puppy.

For whom $20 of take home pain relief is 'just too much’.

Who keep acquiring more and more animals with problems that need extensive treatment that they can’t pay for.

Look, we don’t want to see anything suffer and will help out when we can, and try to tailor things to your budget…

But if you can’t afford BASIC veterinary care, then you cannot afford the pet. Don’t get it.

Several weeks ago a pet skunk came in to see me because it just wasn’t acting right. The skunk had been purchased from a breeder and had lived with the owner for five years. Although normally an indoor pet the owner had built an enclosed area in the back yard so that the skunk could be safely outdoors. When the owner first purchased the skunk it had gotten a rabies vaccine and a clean bill of health from a veterinarian but had not been in to see a vet since then.

I walked into the room and saw the owner with several blood soaked paper towels wrapped around his hand. The skunk was in a carrier on the table growling and biting at the bars. I asked him if he was ok and he said yes, the bite was very minor and it happened all the time. Slowly I approached the carrier and the skunk began screaming and biting the sides of the cage.

“Has anyone else been bitten?” I asked.

“Oh, probably my whole family. He’s never been very nice.”

Slowly I bent down to look into the carrier again and the skunk rammed the front snarling and snapping. I felt drops of saliva hitting me in the face. Gently I explained to the owner that I was extremely concerned this skunk was rabid and his entire family and anyone else that had been in contact with the skunk needed to get to a hospital immediately and get rabies post-exposure treatment. The owner was understandably upset and asked me to please look at the skunk close. Politely I refused and told him there was no way I was going to open that carrier nor expose my staff to a possibly rabid animal. After several more minutes of discussion he agreed to allow me to euthanize the skunk and have it tested for rabies but he wasn’t going to go to the hospital.

“What could happen if it is rabies?” the owner asked.

Very sternly I told him, “You’ll die. There is absolutely no treatment for rabies and the only possible outcome is death. You will die. Your family will die. Anyone who has been bitten or exposed to the saliva will die.”

“Is it expensive?”

“If you have insurance it should cover it. If you don’t, yes it can be expensive. But this is literally a matter of life or death. I understand being concerned about medical bills but the alternative is death.”

The owner said he would think about it. I sent the head off for testing and didn’t think anything more about it.

A few days later I got a phone call from the health department telling me that the skunk was positive for rabies. The phone numbers and information the client had given me, which I included on the submission form to the lab, were wrong and the department could not get in touch with the family to tell them they absolutely needed to get to the hospital. I got a little sick to my stomach thinking about the saliva that had gotten on my face and likely into my eyes as well. Luckily I had already had the pre-exposure vaccinations so would just need to get two booster vaccines and would be fine. If the family did not get medical help soon they would die of rabies. I gave the health department all of the information we had on the clients.

A few days later I got word that a man had gone to the hospital saying he had been exposed to a friend’s skunk that was diagnosed with rabies. Luckily that man was able to give the correct information to the hospital and the health department was able to get in touch with the family and they came in and were all treated for rabies exposure. I don’t think they ever really realized how close they came to dying.

There are a few lessons to take home here:

Skunks don’t make good pets. Leave them in the wild where they belong.

Rabies is not an old timey disease that people used to die from. It’s still here and vaccinating against it is still very important.

Give the proper information when you go to the vet! These people probably gave false information because owning a skunk is illegal where they live but vets aren’t interested in turning people in. We desperately needed to contact them to save their lives.

Finally, rabies is nothing to mess with. There is no treatment; there is nothing that can be done when symptoms begin. It is far better to pay for vaccines than it is a funeral.

Old cattle vets

One of my favourite lecturers at vet school was an old cattle vet. Retired from practice long ago, his demeanour was best described as “jolly but practical” and he had seen many years of students pass before him.

Many years. It used to be he would be teaching bovine obstetrics to a room full of strapping Aussie blokes, each more than capable of lugging a 40kg jersey calf around on their shoulders. Nowadays most of our class were women, and a fair chunk of those were petite international students, barely bigger than the aforementioned 40kg jersey calf themselves.

He knew very well that most of these smaller women were likely to end up in small animal practice, but that wasn’t going to stop him from trying to convert them to the joys of cattle medicine.

I remember him very clearly in the bovine obstetrics lectures,pulling a calf is a seriously physical task. Cattle are BIG and they are all muscle. When a cow decides she is going to push a 40kg calf at you the simple fact is that you cannot push against her. That uterus of hers is stronger than your forearms, and she’s prepared to push all day. Fortunately, there are drugs for that.

Our lecturer would merrily tell us some very colourful stories about pulling calves and the sorts of farmers he had encountered, including their unfortunate tendency to try to pull a calf first, using a tractor if need be.

Attaching a calf to a tractor and then driving away from the cow does not, in fact, make it any easier for her to give birth. If it’s stuck, it’s stuck, and no tractor is substitute for a lot of lube and some intra-uterine calf leg Tetris.

So what do you do, he specifically asked the international girls huddled down the front, when you show up at a farm, and the farmer, built like a brick house, and his son, also built like a brick house, have already tried and failed to pull this calf?

You walk up there, and you show them how it’s done.

You have a veterinary a science education and ten litres of lube. You can get the calf out. Use your brain, then give them the ropes to pull and use their muscles. Take control. Tell them what to do. Climb onto a box if you have to. If you’re particularly little, you can get both hands up there. You CAN pull that calf.

Up until that point, I don’t think those students actually expected to be able to really do it. But he expected them to.

And if all else fails, he continued, do a Caesarian. They won’t be judgemental if you didn’t pull a calf if they’re already tried anyway.

And you know, I personally know at least one of those petite little students ended up in cattle practice.

You can do it.

Since it’s almost “new puppy” season, I thought I’d pass this along.  For those of us in “Heartworm Central“ where moxidectin (and not the dirt-cheap ivermectin) is the prevention of choice, the difference is more like four years’ worth of prevention.

Immiticide (heartworm treatment) can cost anywhere from $500 to $1000, not including other drugs used in the protocol, like doxycycline, prednisone, heartworm prevention, and pain relief.

In the U.S., only Diroban and Immiticide are approved for use in canine heartworm treatment.