Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Big Dog Little Dog

Usually when we talk about Big Dog Little Dog (BDLD) in veterinary medicine, it is in relation to the injuries that result when a big dog attacks a little dog. In this case, it is just a cute puppy trying to be a big dog (though he does get bored with it after a short time)

Monday, December 17, 2007


This video was forwarded on by one of my brothers, and if it doesn't make you saw "awwww" then your heart is colder than the windchill here. ... Or, you may be a diehard reptile and amphibian conservationist. When talking about pandas one day, one such acquaintance of mine was heard to utter "those over-stuffed, fancy racoons." They may be that, but they are still awfully cute.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Baby Anteater

Strangely cute...in an ugly sort of way.
Story at this link.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Spider Attacks Space Shuttle

I'm not the biggest fan of anything arachnoid, but I thought this was entertaining:

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Dilly of a Pickle

Once again, I have been terrible about updating this site. I have been plenty busy, which is the only lame excuse I can offer.

At any rate, we have a new addition to the pack that needs introducing. A little, sickly dachshund puppy had been coming into the clinic almost since the day he was born. He had a chronic respiratory issue that was difficult to diagnose and unresponsive to treatment. A runty little thing compared to his litter mates, it was feared that he may also have a liver condition. Since they wouldn't be able to sell him in such a condition, and they didn't have room for another pet at their place, euthanasia seemed to be the final option.

Long story short, he was not euthanized....he now lives with us! He had several very close calls early on and was on oxygen and a myriad of other treatments for awhile, but he is now doing very well. Originally named Pickles, his name has gradually changed to "Waldi," a traditional German dachshund name. Though he still may have some medical concerns that might show up in the future, for now, he is a happy puppy and an absolute joy! (These pics are a little old, and it shows! He has changed quite a bit already. I'll need to get some new ones of him)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Kid Jumping on Bed

No, not that kind of kid!

(thanks to my sister for the adorable forward)

(and, yes, I know I've been woefully tardy in posting things, but, I'll post something of more substance soon!)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cat Cartoon

This is very true-to-life, I think.

Cat Cartoon

It applies to the behavior of a certain Yorkie I know as well.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The 5:45 pm special

The clinic I work at closes at 6:00 pm, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the doors get locked and the receptionists clock out at that time (or even close to that time, some nights). There is always work to get caught up on, and some of it is just easier when there aren't half a dozen clients requesting two dozen different things. That goes for the vets as well. It can take a long time to write up charts, return phone calls, etc, and often these tasks will start piling up when there is a more immediate need to see clients in the exam rooms. Most days we can get things done in a fairly timely matter. But some days, it certainly is harder.

Enter the "5:45 special" (as I like to call this). This is the animal that has been sick for several weeks and suddenly urgently needs to be seen fifteen minutes before closing. Now the dilemma -- the client comes in with the ailing pet, and something that would have been relatively straight forward to work-up just a few hours earlier when there was plenty of help around suddenly becomes needlessly complicated. Bloodwork that we would normally like to send out to another laboratory because they can give us more values now needs to be run in-house. There are fewer people around to help hold the animal for radiographs, ultrasound or IV catheter placement. Typically, we finally figure out that the animal may need all of these things as soon as everyone else has left for the day. And, I'm sorry to say it, but I have had a few cases already where I have learned that it is beyond useful to ask a client to help restrain their pet for anything. At this point, I'd rather try to radiograph a dog all alone than have owner assistance!

So, just a quick tip: if you have a pet that (1) is sick +/- has been sick for awhile, or (2) has vomiting +/- diarrhea, please schedule an appointment for earlier in the day. Even if you cannot be there for an appointment, make arrangements to have your pet dropped off so a work-up can be done. Answers are a lot easier to come by when there are more people around!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hunting Season in Iowa

I saw my first dog with a hunting-related injury this weekend. A black lab (naturally) came in Saturday night after running through a barbed wire fence. Fortunately, it wasn't nearly as bad as it sounded on the phone ("He skinned his leg like you'd skin a chicken!"), and two big, burly hunter-types accompanied the dog to help hold him. He did have a few muscle-deep lacerations and skin flaps on his front right leg that we cleaned and bandaged. Due to the location of the wounds and the fact that they were filthy, closing them with suture and drains was not really an option. The dog will heal fairly quickly, I think, which is a good thing because the owner was very worried about how long this injury will keep him out of the field.

In other hunting-related news, why you should always put the safety on: Tama, IA: Dog Shoots Hunter.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Brief Note

Just to let all interested parties know that the dachshund that had the c-section is doing great, and so are all the puppies!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dancing Bird

OK, this is absolutely adorable!

click here ----->Dancing Cockatoo


It had been a busy week, and I definitely need to give you all an update!

First of all, I have gotten several questions regarding Nina and how she is doing (she is the poodle with the dislocated hip) I wrote about here. She came in last Monday for a re-check. The owner reported she had been doing really well! I took of the Ehmer sling and she started walking around, using the leg. She still has a bit of a limp and a slightly abnormal placement of the foot, but much of that may be due to having that leg up in a tight sling for 10 days, unable to use it. She'll be coming in next week for another re-check just to make sure everything is on the up-and-up. Hopefully she doesn't injure that hip again.

And the other big news of this week was that I had my first emergency C-section! This little dachshund had been in labor for 24 hours and had produced one puppy...almost 12 hours before the owners called me. Very long story short, we ended up doing a late night C-section on her Thursday night. All told, she had 7 puppies (5 males, 2 females) all of whom were alive and doing well by the time they left. The owners weren't quite sure what the father was (either a Peke or a Chihuahua....probably a Peke by how the pups looked), but I'm sure they'll be pretty cute when they grow up. Mom had been hit by a car when she was a puppy and had a pelvic fracture, which -- combined with the fact that the largest pup in the litter was blocking up the works -- explains why they had problems. I certainly hope they do well! Here is a pic of the new mom and her litter while she was waking up from surgery.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Week of Oddities

I saw a variety of "non-traditional" species this past week. Here is a sampling!There was also a variety of birds, but I neglected to get any pictures of them.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Orca and Dog

Another great animal video from my sister. I'm just surprised the orca didn't eat the dog!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Sperm Whale at 900 meters (2952.755 ft) :p

And here is a cool video from my brother!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Elephant Calf at San Diego

My sister sent me this video, and it is just too adorable for words!

Friday, October 5, 2007

And that is why I became a vet!

Yesterday (the Feast Day of St. Francis), I walked up to a room and checked the file. It was a new client with an animal that had never been seen at the clinic before...and it was here for a euthanasia.

This scenario happens with some regularity. Old, sick and/or injured animals from other practices come to us to be euthanized. The reasons are as varied as the animals themselves. We are the only practice in town with a crematorium, so that sways some people. Often, people feel embarrassed to take their long-ill pet to their regular vet for this final service on some mistaken notion that the vet may be "disappointed" in them for "giving up."

I typically don't ask why a new animal that arrives is being euthanized. I trust that the owner has thought long and hard about this decision and the last thing they need is a nosey, unfamiliar vet questioning this hardest decision of any pet owner. Especially if the animal is old, thin, and lethargic, there seems little need to ask why they are euthanizing. However, in the case I saw yesterday, I just had to ask the question.

The dog was a 7 year old, spayed female poodle by the name of "Nina." (random poodle picture at right) When I entered the room, she was the first thing I saw. She was sitting alert on the table, looking at me with clear eyes and a smiling face. Her docked tail was wagging vigorously...and her back right leg was sticking out at an unnatural angle. Her owners, a younger couple with two kids aged ~4 yr and ~2 yr, were all crying, and clearly had been for a while. The receptionist had informed me that the owners didn't want to be present when I euthanized Nina, but they wanted to talk to me before I did so. I certainly thank St. Francis that they wanted to.

Looking at the dog, it was fairly obvious what the problem was...that leg. As the owners asked if Nina would feel any pain when she was euthanized, I was struck by those happy eyes. This was a young dog, a happy dog, an otherwise-appearing healthy dog with a loving family. I couldn't just euthanize her without finding something out about her.

Asking the owner for her history, they said this injury had occurred some time on Sunday. They had taken her elsewhere where a knee problem had been diagnosed. An estimate was given for repair which was up in the 4-digits and full payment was needed, no down payment or billing allowed. That was why Nina was here...because they couldn't pay that sum so suddenly, she was in pain, and they didn't want her to be in any pain anymore.

She was clearly painful. Though obviously a sweet dog, when she was touched anywhere near that back leg, she would try to bite. I just couldn't think that this was a knee injury. No matter how damaged, I had never seen a dog with an injured knee in this much pain. And the angle of that leg.....it just had to be a problem in the hip. And my money was on a hip subluxation (displacement).

I said as much to the owner after looking at Nina. I told them that this was a fixable problem...if that is what it was the problem. I wouldn't know for sure without examination under sedation and radiographs. I told the owners we would be able to work out a payment plan for them, if they could put half of the estimate down as a down payment. They were ecstatic with that idea and, after seeing the estimate (which was a little more than half of the first estimate), they agreed. Nina went home on pain medication with plans to return in the morning for sedation, radiographs, and surgical repair.

After they left, I had a small crisis of conscience. From the outside, this situation had all of the trappings of a set-up "bad account." I started to question my standards. Were crying children and an adorable dog the things that pushed me towards being overly helpful? Is that my "sucker" price? I decided that I had to trust my instincts and look forward to the next day.

Today rolled around and Nina arrived for surgery. It was a busy surgery schedule today, so we got some of the more routine stuff out of the way before starting on Nina. Bloodwork came back showing normal parameters, so a catheter was placed and Nina was anesthetized.

Under anesthesia, it is much easier to assess orthopedic conditions; the muscles are relaxed, and the animal is no longer in pain. Palpating Nina's hip, I was convinced that that was where the problem was. It just didn't move correctly. Next step: radiographs.

The first radiographs I wanted was the straight leg ventrodorsal view. Essentially, this is where the dog is lying on its back and we stretch the back legs out as straight as we can so that the knees are level. While positioning Nina, there was a sudden audible and "feel-able" pop....and, suddenly, the hip was back in place. Excited, we took the radiographs and, lo, her hips looked great! Everything was lined up and in the proper place! Feeling the hip and moving it, everything felt like it was supposed to! Nina was "fixed" at a fraction of the cost and her life has been saved!

Hip luxations are notoriously troublesome to deal with. When a hip has been displaced, all of the ligaments that normally hold it in place are torn. Depending on several factors, the femur can pop right back out of where it should be. Therefore, I put an Ehmer sling (pictured at left) on Nina which will stay on for several weeks. The idea is that it holds and rotates the head of the femur so that it stays firmly in place which the surrounding tissues heal. As long as she doesn't have any problems between now and then, we won't see her again until then.

When she woke up, she was clearly more comfortable. Though the sling is awkward and it will take her some time to learn how to move around with it, now you can hold her and touch her hip without pain.

I'll certainly post any updates about her. For now, Nina's story will keep my spirits up for a long time!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Unexpected Critters

After going to the barn today, an adventuresome feeling urged me to explore down a road into a wooded valley I had never been to before. It wasn't long until I was tooling down a very steep gravel round, surrounded by a lovely tunnel of trees. Just as I was imagining the horror of trying to drive down the hill a few short months from now, the treeline to my right ended and, lo, I had found Bison Valley. Yup....those are American Bison, easily 100 of them. I didn't realize there was a bison ranch so near to where I live, but now that I know they are there, I'll certainly visit again.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Low Calcium = Bad News

I have been on call a dozen times, and it wasn't until this past weekend that I got an early morning call that I actually had to go into the clinic for. I certainly can't complain with a history such as that. My phone has stayed mercifully silent in the wee morning hours. So, when my phone did start ringing at 3 am Monday morning, I figured my good fortune had changed even before I answered it.

The lady at the answering service cheerily informed me that there was a client, Mr. Earlyriser, who had woken up to get ready to go the work and had found his Yorkie, Mama, unable to stand, twitching, and panting. And, by the way, Mama had four 3-week old pups. As preeclampsia immediately jumped to the top of my differential list, it didn't take me long to convince Mr. Earlyriser that I should take a look at Mama pronto and not wait until 7 am when the office would open, and he could avoid the emergency fee.

I met owner and pup at the clinic, and one look at the dog confirmed my suspicions. Mama's legs were rigid, her muscles tense. She was panting and clearly in distress. Her temp was 103.1 and her heart was racing. I let Mr. Earlyriser know that Mama most likely had a calcium deficiency secondary to her quickly growing puppies. We would need to give her IV calcium and hope that would be enough to help her. Otherwise, we would need to hospitalize her and put her on IV fluids and a CRI (continuous rate infusion) of calcium.

There are a lot of the tricks-of-the-trade I am still learning. Hitting veins to collect blood or inject something is still something I'm working on. Due to the plethora of helpful students at school, we learn who to do so with the benefit of people who know how to hold an animal and know how to hold off a vein. Now in the real world, all I have is a well-meaning but ignorant owner, a nervous not-very-well restrained toy breed dog and a tourniquet.

Fortunately, all went well. The calcium got in (nice and slowly, avoiding dangerously low heart rates if it goes too fast) and, within 10 minutes, Mama was up and walking, albeit somewhat stiffly. After warnings that this is likely to happen again if it happens once, and it is a deadly, life-threatening condition that demands immediate attention, Mr. Earlyriser and Mama went home.

I didn't really get much in the way of productive sleep after that. After I wrote up the record, checked on the other critters in the clinic, locked up and arrived home, it was only an hour or so before I normally get up. But that is fine. Mama did well, and is feeling much better. Preeclampsia is one of the very few conditions in which one injection can produce a miraculous cure within minutes. That's a situation that makes everyone feel good. If only there were more conditions like that.....

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Yoshi's Gang

If you know me, you likely know Yoshi. He's running with a new (colorful!) gang these days. He's the only chestnut in a herd with one gorgeous dapple gray, two flea bitten grays, a black bay, and a mahogany bay. He and the black bay are best pals.


I've been doing a lot of traveling lately. Last week, I spent two days back in Ames, attending a training session for the Iowa Veterinary Rapid Response Team (IVRRT) and one day of the Iowz Veterinary Medicine Association (IVMA) annual conference. The IVRRT meeting was filled with government-speech, which was not altogether unexpected. The IVMA meetings were interesting, though. I spent to morning in the equine sessions in which Dr. Wendy Vaala was speaking about foals. The afternoon I spent in the small ruminant sessions, listening to the clearly brilliant and highly intelligent Dr. David Pugh.

This last weekend, I went up to Minneapolis, MN, to a feline conference. Feline-expert Dr. Gary Norsworthy from San Antonio, TX, gave a talk on many topics from diabetes to renal insufficiency to heart problems. It was a great conference, and one that I would highly recommend to any vets/techs who have not been to one of his talks. It was highly informative and useful!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Busy Birds

Here are some pictures from the feeders. The first is of a male cardinal feeding his fledgling (quite adorable). Following that are some close-ups of the youngster. Also pictured are a black-capped chickadee and a female ruby-throated hummingbird.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Orphaned Hedgehogs

This is perhaps one of the cutest pictures in quite a while. These hedgies have adopted this brush as their mom! Click here for the whole story.

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Every field has its acronyms, and veterinary medicine is no different. TPR = temperature, pulse, respiration; DIC = disseminated intravascular coagulation (or "death is coming," as is so often the case with an animal in DIC); HBC = hit by car (a sadly commonly seen one). Another one that we see too much of is "BDLD" or "big dog little dog." We had a particularly nasty BDLD that came in late on Friday. A chihuahua had been attacked by two chow chows, and the poor little creature was really hurting. She had an open wound right into her abdomen that required an emergency exploratory surgery to be certain she didn't have more massive internal injuries. Fortunately, apart from some severe bruising, a large hematoma, and a few partial tears in her intestine (fortunately nothing full thickness) she didn't have anything too severe. Her pelvis was also broken (though in a manner that should not need repair) and she had multiple other bit wounds that required drains. As the owner of a small dog, BDLDs certainly hit very close to home.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

First Weekend On-call

Last weekend was my first weekend on-call. Since my normal on-call night is Thursday, when it is my weekend, I'm essentially on from Thursday night to Monday morning. As you would expect, I was a bit nervous. Strange things tend to happen on weekends, and this one was no exception.

It started with a late night call from a woman with a vomiting puppy. She had purchased the puppy earlier in the day, and -- typically -- had spent all of her money on the dog and would not be able to pay anything, even the emergency call fee. She wasn't sure if the puppy was sick before she picked her up, because the breeder had just set it on her lap and said it was "tired." After telling her I had to at least have the emergency fee before I could see the puppy, she said she'd see if she could find the money and call me back, which she never did. I certainly feel bad about the situation. I'm sure she wanted the puppy to be seen and treated. However, I can't do much without payment. Every vet I know of has been burned on cases just like this. Unfortunately, many people don't realize that veterinary medicine is a business just like any other, and we can't give out free services and products and expect to stay open. It's a bit of an ethical issue as well. I am supposed to relieve animal pain and suffering, and promote animal health. But how can I do that if I can't keep the lights on?

The next big case was a seizuring dog that, unfortunately, went badly. She came in twitching and covered in foamy saliva. A lot of valium later, the seizures were largely controlled, but she was never very coherent. She continued to have focal seizures and exhibit signs of abnormal mentation for the next 24 hours despite additional anti-seizure therapy. By the next morning, she was dead. What caused the seizures, we will likely never know in this case, but I certainly feel bad for the family.

The rest of the weekend was full of questions from the understandable to the inane. I'm just glad I have another month until the next one.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Old Remedies Die Hard

It is not surprising that you come across people trying to medicate themselves and their pets with old remedies. Case in point: I went in on a new puppy exam with a pit bull x pup. The owner was nice enough, but a little clueless. I spent a good amount of the time trying to convince them that they needed to neuter this dog. He is going to be huge, dominant and they have small kids in the house. That, of course, is ignoring the fact that this is precisely the kind of dog these people should not have. And I'll be honest...I was actually pleading with these people to neuter this dog.

But that's not the main reason I'm telling you about this dog. While I was looking over his patchy vaccination history, I noticed that he had never been dewormed, and the owner had not brought in a fecal sample to check for parasites. Since intestinal parasites are so common in puppies and there were small children in the household, I told the owners that we should probably go ahead and deworm him anyway.

"Oh, no, he doesn't have worms," the owner informed me.

"Really?" I asked. "Did he have a fecal sample checked for them?"

"Oh, no," the owner repeated. "We offering him some chew and, since he didn't want any, that means he doesn't have worms."

Now for a history lesson: back in the day, some people used chewing tobacco to deworm dogs. The idea is that the nicotine in the tobacco paralyzes the worms so they let go of the GI tract to be defecated out. Where I had heard this, I have no idea, but I'm glad I had that random piece of trivia in my mind so I didn't freeze and give the owner a completely blank look. I had to then convince them that screening with chewing tobacco is not a very accurate way of looking for internal parasites.

So they left a half hour later after appropriate vaccinations and deworming medication had been given, and with at least the thought they they may neuter this dog. I'm not sure if I did the world any good in this case, but at least they won't be trying to feed the dog chewing tobacco. I hope.....

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Groupie? No, thanks!

I learned today, in some cases, it is a good thing if certain people don't like you. Today's example: Lisa Elp. Ms. Elp brought her new Scottie in today to have an exam. She was concerned because the dog hadn't eaten in the last 3 days, and had only urinated three times in the last 48 hours. She had gotten the dog about a week ago, and was clearly upset and looking for a fight. My attitude regarding her was immediately settled when I stepped in the room and she declared, "Don't you think this dog was abused?!"

Looking at the dog, I was a little puzzled by this statement. The terrier was looking at me with what I can only describe as the infinitely patient look of a quiet person with an overbearing spouse. He looked in perfect health, and as I examined him to the constant mutterings and complaints of Ms. Elp ("He never had his dewclaws removed! Have you ever heard of such a thing?" ; "Don't his teeth look yellow?" ; "What a sad look he has! He is sad!"), I felt nothing if not sympathy for this Scottie. Still, I had to address Ms. Elp's concerns.

So, first of all: not eating and weight loss. As it happened, we had the past record of this dog and, when comparing weights, he was a few pounds down from his most recent weight from about 4 months ago when he had last visited a veterinarian. After explaining to Ms. Elp that the difference may not be significant given the inherent differences in scales and the effects of natural doggie squirming that can throw the weight one way or another, I showed her how we body condition score dogs and that this Scottie was as near to a perfect 3/5 as we can expect to see. Additionally, his defecation had been normal and regular and -- after further investigation -- it was revealed that he had a large bowl out with free-choice food, it was likely that he was actually eating, even if Ms. Elp hadn't seen him do so. As another test, I offered him peanut butter and some canned food in the exam room, which he happily ate.

"But look at him!" Ms. Elp nearly shouted in astonishment. "He's starving!"

In all actuality, he was eating the food as happily as I would expect any terrier to do.

The next issue was housebreaking. "He is an older dog! He's already a year and a half! Is it too late to housebreak him?" While it is true that it can be more difficult to housebreak an older dog that is set in his ways, to assume him untrainable was a bit unfair. We talked through crate-training (which she first declared as "Cruelty! I'd never pen up my dog like that!") and the theory behind that. We talked ad nauseum about routine and schedule and consistency. By the time she left, I had gotten her to agree that crate-training would be a good idea for this dog, but it was an uphill battle.

Where our conversation went from there, I'm not entirely certain. It traveled a meandering path that covered everything from heartworms to fleas to diet to exercise to grooming to car rides to..... you get the idea. All I know is that a good 50 minutes later (after what had been scheduled to be a 10 minute appointment for a nail trim), she finally walked out the door, but not without grabbing one of my cards and informing me "I'll make sure to call you if I ever have any problems!"

As a vet, you certainly want to do your best with every client. No matter how nutty the owner, the pet needs to receive the best attention and care that can be provided. That said, I could certainly do without worrying about the next phone call from Ms. Elp.

Monday, August 13, 2007

First Call

I had my first night on call last week, and my first emergency case was certainly a doozy! A man called at about 7:30 pm and informed me, in an understandably frantic voice, that his terrier had just been kicked in the head by his horse. A horrific series of images flashed through my head as I visualized the scene. The dog had been knocked unconscious and hadn't been breathing when the owner got to him. After mouth-to-nose resuscitation, he had been able to get the dog breathing, but the dog had not regained consciousness. I told him I would meet him at the clinic, and I raced out the door.

I arrived at the clinic about 10 minutes before they arrived. I pulled out an anesthetic machine to provide oxygen, the crash box full of our emergency drugs, and some other odds and ends. Quite honestly, I didn't think there would be anything I could do for this dog when it arrived. I had visions of violent seizuring, blood pouring out of nostrils, eyeballs hanging out of the skull...all manner of horrendous injuries that a ~1000 lbs horse can inflict on a 10 lbs dog.

By the time they arrived, the terrier was conscious. He was understandably woobly, but able to stand. His pupils reacted normally to light, there was only a trickle of blood from his nose and he had full range of motion in his neck and back. After some oxygen, steroids (to hopefully limit swelling), furosemide (to hopefully limit fluid build-up in the skull), and warnings that he could deteriorate quickly if he did have brain damage, they took him home!

I called them the next morning, curious for an update. Apart for staggering a bit, he was doing fine. He was eating and drinking a lot (no surprising given the steroids and furosemide), but mostly normal. The owners started him on some aspirin for pain, and he seemed to be doing all right.

So, that was my very first call. I am on call tomorrow again, and I certainly hope I don't see anything as exciting as my terrier vrs. equine case!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Yorkie Family

With the visit over the weekend of Bucky, we had the whole nuclear family represented. From left is pictured father Teddy, mother Bibi, son Bucky, and daughter Shiba. (It is amazingly hard to get 4 Yorkies to pose for a family photo!)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Birds....not in the nest!

So, I have been keeping an eye on the bird nest on a daily basis since I found it and, suddenly, there are no birds! They were nowhere near fledging, as you can see from the picture at left that I took a few days ago. Today's picture at right is sadly empty. They must of been found by a predator, likely a racoon or a cat in this area.

As to what species they were, I'm not sure. They were fairly large chicks for how immature they were, yet the nest construction seems more consistent with some sort of small finch. Only once did I see an adult bird fly out of the tree, and I did not get a clear view of it. By size and color, it could potentially of been a Swainson's Thrush which are do inhabit this area, but in not particularly large or visible numbers. It could also have been a female cowbird which certainly rank right up there among my most hated of bird species. However, as I saw the bird fly off, its flight pattern seemed like that of a thrush of some sort. Also, as far as I know, cowbirds never take care of their own young, so it would be inconsistent for them to be feeding nestlings.

Whatever they were, we'll never know. But I'll certainly keep my eyes peeled for more easily accessible nests. We have quite a few nests in birdhouses in the garden, but it is much harder to get pictures without disturbed the birds a lot in those.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Birds in the Nest!

Yesterday I found a nest of baby birds in the backyard! I'm not sure what species they are as of yet. I have yet to see the parents. Hopefully I'll be able to post fairly regular pictures showing their progress!

There are two chicks in the nest, which is well-made and nestled nicely in the branches of a small tree right next to the house. I only found it because I had the dogs outside and heard a chirping sound. Even then, I had to search for it even though it is a fairly small tree. They are fairly small, but they do have their pinfeathers.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Beagle Brigade

What beagles were bred to do!

UK Beagle Pack

Walkback Friday

At the clinic, "walkbacks" are patients that were scheduled for an out-patient appointment and end up an in-patient. These critters can be something as routine as a dog that needs a urinalysis (a procedure that takes all of 2 minutes if the patient is cooperative) to a complete work-up with bloodwork, radiographs, ultrasound, intravenous fluids, etc. The techs always know something is up when one of the vets comes out of an exam room with an animal in their arms and a record in their hands. We joke at work that each vet is allowed one major walkback a day. Well, I've been out-doing my limit of late.

Today was a great example. It was already a somewhat different Friday. Typical Fridays are "all girl days." The schedule works out so just female vets and techs are in on Fridays. However, there were several last minute surgery add-ons on Thursday that necessitated the fourth vet to come in as well. And the surgeries were certainly not run-of-the-mill! There was a hit-by-car (HBC) dog that needed a fracture repair, the type of my boss hadn't done in 2 years. A local human dentist came in and did a root canal on his own dog. A "blocked" male cat (a stone gets lodged in the urethra, preventing urination; an emergency situation) needed a perineal urethrostomy (a procedure that essentially changes his anatomy to that of a female cat!). Another HBC dog came in that had broken its back up by her shoulder blades (she was eventually euthanized). This afternoon, a poodle came in that had eaten a stuffed toy (she ended up going to surgery to remove the mass of stuffing that had clogged her stomach and the beginning of her intestine). A very anemic dog came in that needed a blood transfusion. On top of this were the usual influx of vomiting dogs, sneezing cats and all the rest.

Enter my patients: I spent most of the morning helping with surgeries. I saw a few critters for vaccinations, anal glad expression, itchy ears, the usual things. Then I saw a dog with what we are treating as a "hot spot," a very severe, very sudden, very painful bacterial infection of the skin that needs a fair bit of work to get under control. While that was being dealt with, the rooms were getting full again so I went up front to take another patient. My next critter was a new kitten exam. Simple enough, right? Well, this kitten had not one but two cuterebra (fly larvae) living in it's neck. These disgusting creatures burrow holes into the skin of kittens, and you can see their breathing tubes as they stick them in and out of the cat's skin. Of course, we had to get those out. And, while he was under, the owner wanted him to get neutered, front declawed, vaccinated, tested for FeLV/FIV, a CBC (complete blood count) ran, a pain patch applied, and treated for ear mites and intestinal parasites.

Yeah, that was quite a walkback!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Three Little Pigs

It is strange the power of one meeting. Several weeks ago, a new client came into the clinic with her three guinea pigs. She wanted to get their nails trimmed, certainly a routine procedure. So, I pulled out a towel to put on the table and encouraged the owner to hold them on the towel while I trimmed their claws. One...two...three; we finished with the last one without any problem. There was a little bit of squeaking as one would expect, but not anything out of the common way. We put the last pig back into the box and the owner thanked me, voicing her surprise at how easy and stress-free it was. Apparently, she had gone elsewhere before and it had always been an ordeal that she had dreaded. This time, it had been nothing but pleasant.

I didn't think much about it until she returned today for another nail trim on the pigs. Again, it went very smoothly without any struggling or undue squealing. Again, she thanked me, saying that she will never take her pigs anywhere else, and she asked me questions about some of her other pets, specifically her chincilla.

Who knew that the simple act of trimming nails could gain a client? Or lose one, for that matter...?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

County Fair

On Monday I certainly got a unique experience: I was invited to participate in the vet checks at the county fair! I helped checking in the dairy cattle. The basic idea is that each animal needs to be checked and certified free of signs of infectious disease. Things that we look for in cattle include pinkeye, footrot, ringworm, warts and respiratory disease. Sounds easy, huh? You just need to pull the cattle that have lesions on their skin or a cough, right?

Well, it isn't quite that easy, as I found out. Sure, there may be some lesions on the skin of a calf, but what is the cause? Is it a patch of hair that was rubbed off in the trailer? Is it a scar from dehorning? Or is it a wart that was cut off? It can be very hard to tell! And the exhibitors certainly aren't helpful. They are there to show and to win. They are not there to be honest with the vet who has the power to summarily toss their cattle back into the trailer and order them out of the fairgrounds.

Case in point: I started to look over a Holstein calf and knew there was going to be some problems. The calf came off of the trailer with long tendrils of white mucous hanging from her nose and a distinct, hacking cough. Knowing as I looked over her that I was going to dismiss her, I stalled for time. I called over the other, much more experienced vet to take a look at the calf, telling her my opinion. She agreed. The owner was certainly not amused. A younger guy, but much taller than me, he approached so he was towering over me.

"What, you are sending me home because of a snotty nose?"

"Yup," was my very articulate reply.

He was flaming mad, and that much was obvious. However, I had the last say and was not going to back down. It certainly helped to have the other vet there backing me up as well. There were several other cattle that were dismissed, including two for warts that tried to come back through after spending some time in the parking lot frantically cutting the warts off. Yes, they were sent right back out.

Now, I don't want to leave the impression that everyone was sneaky and conniving, trying to get diseased cattle by us. The contrary was true. The vast majority of the animals looked fantastic, the sleek Holsteins, Jerseys, Ayrshires, Guernseys and Brown Swiss heifers and cows models of health. And most of the handlers were helpful and skilled, answering questions if not with complete openness, at least with civility. There were certainly a fair few of clearly nervous folks, scared that I would find something on their cattle. But about 95% of them had nothing to fear, from me at least. If they got something passed me, I don't know about it. I certainly did my best to catch the most obvious problems, but I know I likely missed something.

It was certainly a great experience, and I look forward to doing it again next year, if they need me. On Friday I will be going back to do the vet checks on the "pet show" animals. I will be looking for much of the same problems in them as in the cattle, so it should be interesting!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

First Thank You!

Related to the previous post on parvo virus, I have received my first official "thank you" as a veterinarian! The owners of one of the puppies I treated for parvo my first week out in practice sent me a surprise gift and card last week, thanking me for saving their dog. I was both shocked and humbled to receive such a gift." While it is certainly nice to get such a nice bouquet, the old "I'm just doing my job" line comes into my head. Yes, it may sound a bit silly, but it is true! I'm pretty certain I didn't do much more or less than any other vet would do. Still, the flowers are beautiful and the card sits within easy reach on my desk so that I can see it and realize that every time I look at it, it gives me a nice "warm fuzzy feeling" that only the grateful thanks of a client can give. What a great profession!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Two weeks in...

...and I've been woefully tardy in updating you all on my adventures in veterinary medicine. The short, quick story is that I've seen a lot, and learned a lot. Too vague? Perhaps, but so much happens in a day that it gets difficult to get it into some concise, understandable statement. So, I'll just focus on a few cases with big lessons that we all can learn.

Lesson: Vaccinations are a good thing
For most of my first week on the job, I didn't have my official license. This limited a lot of what I could do. I couldn't officially diagnose, treat, or prescribe any medications. I couldn't even vaccinate anything. Therefore, when we had two puppies come in on the same day that tested positive for parvovirus, I volunteered to take care of them.

For those of you unfamiliar with this disease, here is a brief overview. Parvo is caused by a nasty virus that primarily affects puppies. It's main target is rapidly dividing cells in the body, specifically the cells that line the intestinal tract, and bone marrow cells which produce red and white blood cells. As one may expect, the primary signs of this disease are vomiting and diarrhea. These are very sick puppies! The most optimistic survival rates are no better than 50/50. Puppies quickly become depressed and dehydrated, and they simply due not have the body stores necessary to survive for long with the combined anorexia and fluid loss. Due to the bone marrow effects, these puppies have a profound "neutropenia" (low numbers of neutrophils, the "front-line" of the white blood cell defenders). This makes these puppies extremely susceptible to secondary infections on top of the terrible toll the virus itself causes. The virus is very hardy and extremely contagious. It should be considered present in most environments, particularly those in which a puppy with parvo has lived before. Even a puppy that is not yet clinically ill with the virus can shed large amounts in their feces, contaminating even clean areas with large loads of virus. The virus can live for years in soil, not overtly affected by many disinfectants or weather changes.

There are only two good things about parvovirus: (1) it is easy to test for, and (2) it is easy to prevent. If a puppy is suspected of having the disease, all that is needed is a rectal swab and a handy SNAP test. A typical SNAP test is pictured at left (I won't talk more specifically about how those work unless someone asks!)

As for prevention, the current vaccinations -- if used appropriately -- are highly effective in inducing protective immunity in puppies. There are some tricks to it, though. When puppies are nursing, they typically receive a high level of protective antibodies from their mothers. These antibodies do a pretty good job of protecting the puppy. However, they also interfere with vaccines, and will actually prevent the puppy from being able to mount their own, protective immune response to the virus. The end result is that puppies are typically recommended to receive three vaccines one month apart starting at about 8 weeks of age. The idea is that puppies of this age have typically been weaned for about two weeks, and the antibodies they received from their mom are waning. As those antibodies decrease, the puppy will be able to respond to the vaccines and produce their own antibodies.

That is the idea, anyway. So how did my two patients catch parvovirus? Well, one hadn't received their last booster on schedule, and there was some question as to when she had last nursed from her mom and received her first shot. The other puppy had never been vaccinated. He actually came in because he "wasn't feeling good, and, oh, by-the-way, can we go ahead and vaccinate him while he is here?"

Well, long and messy story short, both puppies received treatment and both went home! However, the owners of both puppies certainly received a hit to the wallet as well. Due to the intensive care, fluids, etc, required for treatment, beginning estimates on treating a dog with parvovirus hover around $500. The final bills on both of these puppies were above that. And remember: you can expect to pay all of that and still end up with a dead puppy. These cases are typically very "up-and-down." A puppy that looks like it is doing well one moment will be crashing the next.

So, the lesson here is to make sure you vaccinate your puppy! Vaccines are a lot cheaper than the disease. Even though no vaccine is guaranteed to provide protection 100% of the time, the vaccines to protect against parvovirus are generally thought to be very effective. And your puppy (and your checkbook!) will thank you!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Mutt Dog Derby

The Mutt Dog Derby is an annual fundraiser for the local humane society in which anyone can bring their dog down to the local greyhound park and let them race on the track! We haven't done it for several years for whatever reason, but we decided to go this year. We took 5 of our 6 dogs and ran 4 of them. Bibi, a winner in her division about 5 years ago, stayed home because it was very hot, and we didn't want to stress her with her heart condition and all. Laika has had some dog aggression issues in the past, so we took her to expose her to a bunch of other dogs on neutral territory. She did fantastic, and we will likely run her next year.

The event is organized in a fun manner. The dogs are divided by size (small = <25 medium =" 25" large =" ">40 lbs) and run in several preliminary heats. The dogs start in the actual starting boxes that the greyhounds use and run down the homestretch to the wildly calling and cheering owners. The winner of each heat will return in the evening and run against the other winners in their size class. These races are run as something of a "half-time show" between actual greyhound races. The first, second and third place winners in each division get a trophy and $75, $50, and $25, respectively.

Anyway, our dogs had a pretty pathetic showing. Teddy (Yorkie) and Schatzi (long-haired dachshund) ran in the fourth small dog race of the morning. Teddy was in the number 7 position and Schatzi was in the number 8. In all the dogs' defense, sound doesn't carry very well down to them and the addition of the cheering and yelling of the spectators further confuses them. Additionally, there are "helpers" all over the track to keep an eye on the dogs and help them along, which is also disorienting.

Our newest addition, Cozi (Pomeranian), and Shiba (long-tailed Yorkie) ran in the fifth small dog race. Cozi was in the number 1 position, and Shiba in the number 2. Entertainingly enough, Cozi - the dog we figured was the least likely to go anywhere - was the only one of our dogs who actually finished the race!

All in all, a fun event! We will try to train with a loud whistle or something and have a better showing next year!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Red-ruffed Lemurs born

Six red-ruffed lemurs were born at a Florida conservation center. Considered very endangered like most of Madagascar's species, the birth of these lemurs will hopefully help keep the captive populations healthy and genetically diverse, particularly since the mothers are the daughters of a wild-caught female.

Wild caught animals that are part of conservation programs are termed "foundation stock" since their genetics are considered distinctly unique from captive stock which tends to get inbred and similar across different groups of animals fairly quickly. The goal of any conservation program is to preserve as many "foundation" genetics as possible, meaning that all founders are equally represented in the captive population in the comparison of numbers of descendants. This will maintain a genetically diverse population, which is a much healthier population, overall. For this reason, even within a highly endangered species, animals that are descendant from a founder with fewer offspring are considered more valuable, genetically, since their genetics are not as widespread throughout a population.

Almost there!

Nearly a month since I last posted! I've officially graduated from vet school now, and finally have my diploma to make it official. Irritatingly enough, now I have to wait for my license so I can't do things like give rabies vaccinations yet. I had to wait until I received my diploma to apply for that. And I can't get federally accredited until I get my license, so I cannot fill out health papers. And I can't use or prescribe controlled drugs until I get my pharmacy license....which I can't apply for until I have my license! It is very irritating, especially since I went to school for eight years and still can do little more than trim nails and look in ears for the time being. Ah, well, this too shall pass!

So, my official start day is on Monday! I will try to post interesting experiences and stories as I come across them. Judging from talking to other vets, it doesn't take long to accumulate a fairly large and varied number of those. I will certainly change names and, where appropriate, breeds, specifics or even species in these stories to make sure that patient privacy is protected. Still, it should be fun!

I'll end this post with the oath that we all swore at our graduation:

The Veterinarian's Oath

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of livestock resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge. I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Graduation and Derby fast approaching!

So, I haven't posted since I finished at Badger! The last day was spent in the truck, going to various and sundry equine calls. The highlights included a mare with choke (fortunately, she resolved on her own before we got there), a castration (people look at me very strangely when I say that equine castrations are a lot of fun...but there it is!), and a new foal exam (she was born in the mud at around 3:00 pm that afternoon...very strange time to have a foal, which is why the mare was outside!). So it was a fantastic last day with more exposure to procedures I hope to be doing myself soon!

Speaking of which, graduation is on Saturday! It is very hard to believe that this 8+ year trek is almost over. Looking back, I can honestly say it has gone amazingly quickly. Don't get me wrong: there were days (hours, even) that crawled at a snail's pace. But time is a funny thing. How can months seem to slip by in the blink of an eye while hours plod along with excruciating slowness? At any rate, I'll post more about graduation after it has happened!

So now I really need to post something about the Derby! Besides graduation, that will be the other highlight of my Saturday! The field is now set, the horses have been assigned their post positions and even the Queen is in-country for the event! All of the contenders I mentioned previously will be racing, and it certainly looks like it will be quite some race! They have a very nice website that covers all of the contenders complete with pictures, stats, race history, and links to charts (written order of events as to how the various races went) and video, where available. You can get to all of this information through this link. Following are pictures of all of the horses running in their post-position order. The pictures are all from the above link. Also included is a brief comment from this horseracing novice about their chances.

Post #1: Sedgefield: This colt could do well. His morning line odds are fairly long, but I wouldn't be surprised if he finished in the money.
Post #2: Curlin: He is undefeated and the morning line favorite. That said, he has only had 3 starts and has never had to fight much for what he got. He is an impressive runner with a very good chance to win, if he can navigate the large field.
Post # 3: Zanjero: Like Sedgefield, this colt has a good chance of finishing in the top ranks. He has run some impressive races even if he didn't win them all, and his workouts are consistently decent.

Post #4: Storm in May: Unfortunately, this colt is something of a filler. It will be amazing if he can finish out of the bottom five.

Post #5: Imawildandcrazyguy: Another filler. Nice colt, but he hasn't run against much in the way of actual competition and, even so, he hasn't been very impressive.
Post #6: Cowtown Cat: Though many people are downplaying this colt, I think he has a real chance to be a top contender. Definitely keep an eye on him! Post #7: Street Sense: This colt is fantastic. He will likely be the favorite at post time, given his record. He is experienced against great horses and, barring a disaster, he should finish in the top three if not with the roses around his neck.
Post #8: Hard Spun: Another big contender, though he lacks Street Sense's experience against top horses. He has been working out very impressively, though, so watch for him. I figure he'll stalk Street Sense most of the race.
Post #9: Liquidity: This colt may be a factor apart from his apparent inability to run well outside of California. I don't really expect much from him.
Post #10: Teuflesberg: I really like this colt, if only because of his name. He is a gamey runner and while he probably won't finish in the top four, he'll be close to them.
Post #11: Bwana Bull: Another gamey colt, but he will likely finish in the middle of the pack unless he has an amazingly good (or bad) day.
Post #12: Nobiz Like Shobiz: I really like this colt. He has talent (his performance in the Wood Memorial was great) and, wow, is he a gorgeous horse! I'm putting him in my top picks.
Post #13: Sam P.: I do like the look of this colt. He is another gamey runner, and I think I'm going to put him in my top 5. There's nothing overly special about him, but I think he has the heart of a great racer and, if things work out on Saturday, he could have a great run.
Post #14: Scat Daddy: Another runner with a big heart. He seems to lack the extra umph to run well at distance greater than 1 mile, but he still does well. Not a bad choice for the lead pack.
Post #15: Tiago: Despite a very impressive run in the Santa Anita this year, I'm going to have to put Tiago as a middle-of-the-pack horse. He hasn't really been tested, and I can't tell if that amazing Santa Anita was a fluke or the start of the real deal for him.
Post #16: Circular Quay: Another very nice colt with a real shot at winning this race. if anyone can topple Street Sense and Curlin, this may be the colt to do it.
Post #17: Stormello: Though somewhat inconsistent, this colt wouldn't be a bad choice.
Post #18: Any Given Saturday: I really like this colt. Despite his showing the the Wood Memorial, I'm thinking he's a MAJOR contender. The outside post position may be an issue, though.
Post #19: Dominican: This long-strided gleding has a chance at surprising everyone, I think. His run in the Blue Grass was very good.
Post #20: Great Hunter: This colt is iffy. May be surprising, may not. As for my pick, I usually don't make my official pick until I see the horses on race day. I'll be honest...a lot of my horse-picking strategy comes down to who looks the most ready-to-win in the paddock area. Yeah, I look at record, but I also look at conformation and, yes, color. :) In the game of horseracing, of I've learned anything it is that it can surprise you and one method of picking the winner is probably just as good as any other.
The thing about this field is that it is a well-matched bunch. There will be a few favorite, but it is really any horse's race. Whoever does win this one will have a hard time taking the Preakness and the Belmont since you can expect to see many of these same excellent horses there.
All things considered, though (and since I don't know if I will have time to post other picks before the race) here is my current top 5:
1. Any Given Saturday
2. Street Sense
3. NoBiz Like ShowBiz
4. Circular Quay
5. Sam P.
--others I like and am still looking at: Curlin, Zanjero, Sedgefield, Cowtown Cat, Dominican, Teuflesberg
I'm sure these picks will change. One thing is for sure: it will be a great race!