Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Women Veterinarians

This article comes as little surprise to those of us in the field, but it provides an interesting perspective: (I threw in a couple of pictures of my classmates in surgery lab)

Women dominate admissions in veterinary schools -- MercuryNews.com

"Odd hours, physical labor, blood, dirt and the occasional bite or kick. For generations, women were told veterinary medicine was too tough for them.

But now, that longtime bastion of machismo is overwhelmingly female. Changes in culture, pharmacology and even pet preferences have led to one of the most dramatic gender shifts in the workforce.

Eighty percent of the applicants accepted this month by the University of California-Davis' prestigious veterinary school are women. Similar numbers are reported by other vet schools around the country.

Plenty of other once male-dominated fields, such as law and medicine, are experiencing a surge in female students. But nowhere has the gender shift been as dramatic as in vet medicine.

In the past four decades, the number of women enrolled in colleges of veterinary medicine has skyrocketed from about 140 to 8,000. Women's increasing confidence in math and science is giving them a new edge in the fiercely competitive admissions process, experts say. In the mid-1970s, three-quarters of all students were male. Now the numbers are reversed.

"It's unbelievable to watch how it's changed," said Rance LeFebvre, UC-Davis' associate dean of student affairs. "Women are 100 percent capable of doing anything that's out there."

When UC-Davis Professor Carol Cardona graduated from vet school in 1990, she drove eight hours to apply for a job at a dairy farm. "I didn't even get to be interviewed by the vet," she

said. "I was interviewed by his wife. The big question was: 'Why do I want to work with cows?'

"At the time, everyone said that a woman isn't strong enough to handle a cow. Well, a man isn't either," Cardona said. "A cow is 100 times stronger than a man and 100.5 times stronger than me. That's not a real argument."

Education equity laws and a changing perception of women in the workforce are among the significant developments that helped set the stage for veterinary medicine's transformation. Another key change: better drugs.

"We call the tranquilizer Dormosedan 'the great equalizer,' " joked Belmont equine vet Kristin Dietrich.

While farm-based practices still require fitness, improved drugs and handling techniques mean that brute strength is less important, said UC-Davis veterinary Professor John Madigan. "The older practitioners used more muscle. Now vets work smarter."

Physical danger was a greater threat in America's more rural past. Back then, most work dealt with horses and cows - creatures whose medical emergencies often occur in remote pastures, sometimes in the cold, the dark and the rain. To pull a trapped calf from a laboring cow, for instance, a vet must reach shoulder-deep into a bloody birth canal.

As farms give way to subdivisions, vets are increasingly treating a different kind of patient: the family pet. These small-animal clinics allow more time to raise a family, with flexible hours, part-time work and job sharing, said UC-Davis equine vet Professor W. David Wilson.

Women students say they are attracted to newly emerging high-end specialty care, such as kidney transplants, cancer chemotherapy, back surgery, MRI and titanium hip-joint replacements. Many enjoy treating the increasingly popular "pocket pets," like rodents, as well as exotic birds and reptiles.

Modern vet practices also rely more on building strong relationships with people, something many women said they enjoy. There are no insurance companies telling them what to do.

"What we do is motivational speaking. You can't convince a dog or cat to take their medicine - you have to influence the owner," Cardona said. "I think that's something that many women excel at."

The young men at UC-Davis' veterinary school say many of their classmates in calculus and organic chemistry pursued fields that pay more. The average salary of a vet is about $75,000; the average internist makes $175,000.

"My family said: 'You've gone through all that work - why not be a doctor?' " said Andrew Ichord of Hickman, a town in the Central Valley. "Vets aren't as glamorous. People think you've gone through a two-year trade school or something."

Noted UC-Davis' Madigan: "Some men say: 'I could spend eight years in school - and get paid less than the Sears repairman?' Women see that they're paid less and say: 'What else is new?' "

Elena Shirley admits she initially hesitated when, at age 37, she decided to switch from a career in international development to vet medicine. "I asked people: 'Am I crazy?' But I love it. It's great to be part of a solution."

"For me, it's a big deal to see so many young women here doing top-level work," Shirley said. "But for them, it feels completely normal."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tragedy in Kentucky

The Rolex 3-Day eventing competition is going on right now in Rolex, Kentucky. This is the biggest and most prestigious horse show for 3-day eventers in North America and is a major international competition as well. Three-day eventing is one of the most demanding horse-related disciplines, physically and mentally. It involves dressage, cross-country jumping and stadium jumping events over the course of 3 days.

I read today about a tragedy that occurred yesterday on the event course. A horse by the name of "Frodo Baggins" was euthanized after sustaining a skull fracture and a "major lung injury" when he flipped over a jump on the cross-country course. Frodo's rider, Laine Ashker, was hospitalized, but consious and able to move all of her extremities. Frodo and Laine were ranked third in the nation in the eventing world, and were on the short-list for representing the US at the Olympics later this year.

A strange twist to this story that I found out is that Frodo, a 12-year old Thoroughbred from New Zealand, was actually a star of the "Lord of the Rings" movies. He was one of the horses ridden by the Nazgul. I was unable to locate specific information about which horse he was or corroborate that claim, but it is certainly of some interest. Definitely a tragedy for everyone involved. Sources: TheHorse.com, Laine Ashker Eventing, Crow's Ear Farm, Rolex official site (scroll down to press releases).

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Article Dump

I have a lot of articles that I have saved lately that I have meant to post about. Time to get rid of them!

1. Here is an article regarding the genetic modification of farm animals for improved production, feed efficiency and the like. (Should Genetic Modification and RNA Interference be used on Farm Animals? -- ScienceDaily.com) Certainly a touchy subject on many levels. On one side, it is a quick way to improve production, make more meat with less crop input, and have healthier livestock. People have been tampering with the genetics of their livestock ever since they were domesticated, after all. On the other side, there is a great potential for mistakes and misuse of such technology that may put consumers at risk of disease or worse.

2. Scientists have found that birds in groups will have different individuals act as sentries to alert the rest in the area if there are any predators or other dangers around. (Birds Announce Their Sentry Duty to Help Comrades Get a Good Meal-- ScienceDaily.com) This news shouldn't come as a big surprise to anyone who has feeders and enjoys watching the birds that come to it. However, it is certainly an interesting example of cooperation in the animal world.

3. It also shouldn't be very surprising that people who arrive in an emergency room after hours or on weekends receive less care. (Patients Arriving At Hospitals in Off Hours Get Slower, Less Care -- ScienceDaily.com) Just another reason why you shouldn't let things wait until the weekend! This certainly goes for your pets as well. While some things typically do come up in off-hours, it is surprising the number of "emergencies" I see are actually issues that have been going on for several days or more. There are few things more frustrating than trying to work up a chronically sick patient at 2:00 am because the owner insists that it be seen then.

4. An adorable Somali Wild Ass was born in St. Louis on April 10. (St. Louis Zoo Welcomes Birth of Endangered Species - KSDK.com) This subspecies of the African Wild Ass is critically endangered, though their descendants (the domestic and wild donkeys/burros we are familiar with) are quite numerous.

5. The European Commission has set aside a large chunk of land for conservation purposes. (More Space of Species in Europe -- WWF.com) The area is some 19,000 square kilometers of land across nearly a dozen countries. Definitely good news for the critters in that area!

6. The entrants for this year's Kentucky Derby are making their final preparations for the race which will take place May 3. (Daily Derby Notes:April 26) The most exciting 3 minutes in sports is only a week away! I'll need to post more specifically about the entrants soon.

That's it for now! Stay tuned for more critter related caperings!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tiger Conserveration

I have posted before (here and here) regarding conservation in tigers. This article from ScienceDaily.com talks about the potential genetic value of many captive tigers.

Conservation value is typically defined as the "closeness" an animal's background is to wild "founder" animals. There are many tigers in captivity, most of them probably in private hands. Surprisingly, in some areas it is cheaper to get a tiger cub than a purebred dog. If some of these animals (most of whom have an unknown genetic heritage) prove genetically valuable, that could greatly help the overall health of all tigers, and may bring some of the most threatened subspecies some much-needed genetic diversity.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Falcons on the Roof

This link has some pretty neat pictures of a peregrine falcon in San Jose and a little chick. Peregrines have been released into urban environments in several areas of the country, and are thriving in high-rises. The main reason is likely fairly simple: plentiful pigeons!

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Last summer and fall, my horse Yoshi had a rough time. After moving from Ames, he dropped a lot of weight, had a nasty hoof abscess, and ripped up his left shoulder. Fortunately, he had a great winter and is now fully recovered (more or less). The place where his hoof abscess was has grown out, and is now at his hoof margin. Fortunately, it appears that he won't have any permanent changes related to that. Here are some pictures and video I took of him today.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Extinct Javan Elephant Returned?

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has reported that the Javan Elephant, thought extinct since the 1800s due to hunting, is actually alive and comparatively well...in the form of the Pygmy Elephant of Borneo. Recent DNA evidence suggests that the elephants on Borneo are actually direct descendants of those elephants rather than of the more common Asian Elephants as has been thought. The current idea is that the Sultan of Sulu, who was known for shipping the elephants around as gifts for various other rulers, sent some to Borneo where they escaped and and have become their own subspecies. Here is a link to the WWF article.

According to the WWF: "Borneo pygmy elephants are smaller than other Asian elephants. The males may only grow to less than 2.5 meters, while other Asian elephants grow up to 3 meters. They also have babyish faces, larger ears, longer tails that reach almost to the ground and are more rotund. These elephants are also less aggressive than other Asian elephants." Sadly, they do remain highly endangered with an estimated wild population around 1,000.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Laika the Space Dog

Laika, the first dog to orbit the planet, has an adorable new monument.


And here is a picture of our own Laika.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Just a Cute Dog

This is an adorable dog that was in the other day. He was actually from the local humane society. Yeah....he wasn't there for long!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hamster Trouble

My brother forwarded on this scary story about PetSmart being sued due to the possibility that a diseased hamster with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (also known as LCMV which was, incidentally, misspelled in the article :p ) caused the death of her husband. Here is the blog with a link to the article:

Above the Law

Now, a little about LCMV: It is a viral infection of mice (primarily) that is considered "zoonotic" or transmissible between animals and humans. It is transmitted primarily through oral or respiratory contact with infected rodent feces or urine. There have been cases of death reported from a "hemorrhagic fever-like disease," but the more common signs in people include mild flu-like symptoms (and that means the "actual" flu, not the fabled "stomach flu" that so many people seem to get. Sorry....random rant on a pet peeve of mine.) Even in cases that develop a coma with a meningoencephalitis, the prognosis is considered good as long as there are no other complications. Mice are typically asymptomatic carriers, meaning they typically don't show signs of disease if they have it.

--source: Heymann, D.L. , et al. Control of Communicable Diseases Manual. 18th edition, 2004. An Official Report of the American Public Health Association. pgs 320-322.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bald Eagle removed from Florida "Imperiled Species" List

"Florida wildlife officials have removed the bald eagle from the state's imperiled species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the bird from its endangered list last summer.

Robin Boughton is the bald eagle management plan leader for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Boughton says the comeback of the bird has been impressive across the United States, but even more so in Florida.

More than 1,100 active eagle nests were counted last year in Florida, compared with just 88 in 1973. And the state continues with its land and habitat plans designed to protect the bald eagle."

From the Sun Sentinel

That is definitely good news, and shows that the eagle has made a real comeback all over the country. Interestingly, many seem to think that this is a step closer to lessening penalties for killing bald eagles. What this means is that less wildlife department resources will be directed specifically towards this bird, and more can be funneled to programs to protect other endangered species. The bald eagle will likely always remain a protected species.

In many respects, the bald eagle can be considered a "flagship species" meaning that they are (1) an easily recognizable national symbol, and (2) the healthier their species, the healthier are other species that live in their habitat.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Death By Prickle

My brother brought my attention to this article where this adorable little hedgehog becomes a dangerous weapon.

I especially like this line: " The police spokesman said the suspect was arrested "for assault with a weapon, namely the hedgehog."

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Painting Elephant

Many thanks to my sister for sending this fantastic video. How utterly amazing!!