When time really does fly as a vet student… (Day 438)

Second year passes by with study, sleep and surgery

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Pet Bureau ID Tags and Finding Service

Where has the time gone! I keep meaning to update my diary yet time just seems to vanish so quickly – tomorrow starts week 11 of my semester (just 3 weeks of teaching left) and 4 Sundays until Christmas. This semester has been a big change for me from last year, I’ve been working on an amazing project part time to help cover my tuition and it seems that I just cannot afford to put my books back and stop studying. At times I thought it was tough last year, yet this year has just made it look like childs play with bigger tests, and the quantity of information that I have to find space for in my brain is just staggering.

This week I have a radiology exam, its just 30 questions yet covers everything from the spine, the thorax (chest cavity) and the abdomen. This may not seem like a lot however each area has different techniques, different anatomy, and different radiological signs of disease associated with it. Then there are all the different things to learn about how to position an animal to get the best image based on the presenting symptoms, and in fact lists of how not to position an animal with different suspected diseases. For example in the UK its against regulations to be in the same room when an xray is being taken so to combat this a lot of times general anaesthesia is used. Yet this has many side effects including muscle relaxation – fine when looking at legs and so forth yet very deadly when dealing with a suspected spinal trauma where the muscles help prevent further movement.

This is then followed by an anatomy test Thursday on the different nerves in the forelimb – where they are, what they do and where they go. So again another busy class, when I saw my timetable I believed that it was truly going be easy, yet the reading required just to keep up removes all free time from the schedule. With that said though, I am going try to work backwards a bit to cover some of the highlights that have happened done over the past month or so!

Second year passes by with study, sleep and surgery

REVIEW: Pocket Handbook of Small Animal Medicine (Kit Sturgess)

Pocket handbook of Small Animal Medicine (Kit Sturgess)

As a vet student this lab-coat pocket sized book is perfect as a quick reference to clinical exams with flow charts covering many of the common presenting complaints organised by organ system and with a section on emergency procedures is very good. When combined with a copy of the BSAVA Procedures Guide – this book does not describe how to do the procedures listed – it is absolutely unbeatable.

The book itself is split into 5 separate sections – Basic Approaches, Clinical Presentation, Body System and Multisystemic Disease, Anaesthesia Analgesia and Surgery, and Critical Care. Each section tries to cover the most common presentations, though sometimes such as with the section on dental disease it feels like it has been simplified too much to be useful.

Other sections are absolutely spot-on with clear, concise summaries, diseases listed by area and lists of useful drugs, routes and dosages. The flow charts within the book form quick and easy to follow protocols from common presentations such as Jaundice, Anaemia, Pyrexia through to the critical care sections which includes protocols for collapse, seizures and urinary obstruction. I especially find useful the section on Anaesthesia and Analgesia as these are two areas any vet student will struggle with and this section is especially well written with easy drug references.

Other than the misplaced chapter on dental disease the biggest problem that I have had with this book so far is that it does not contain anything on euthanasia which I feel is something that should have been included. In fact I only noticed this during a euthanasia when I wanted to check if there was any difference in dosage (studying abroad included instructions are written in Slovak) for a giant breed dog.

There have been a few pocket reference books for vets published recently, however from all the books I have had the pleasure of looking at this one would be my choice even though it is slightly larger at DL size.

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Rat surgery and some toxicology… (Day 436)

Rat tumour removal surgery before and after

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Vet School Success

Its now the end of week 10 of my second semester of vet school and until now I’ve done some surgery, seen more surgery and memorised more tables than any sane person ever should. This morning started with Toxicology, this week we were looking at medication overdoses… and the practical focused on one of the most common causes of poisoning in cats – that of paracetamol. So as with all poisons there are several steps to working out what it is under laboratory conditions, first there is collection the sample, purification of the toxic substance, and then the identification of the substance. This is where it is crucial to memorize lists of symptoms so that you can guess what to test for before you test as a lot of tests are very specific to one toxin.

Following this we had our diseases of small mammals practical which was rescheduled from Wednesday, today we had two patients, both rats with large skin tumours (a very common rat problem). Now the problem with skin tumours is that once they are treated they are likely to re-occur which for an animal that “costs” so little can result in high vet bills. The doctor asked me to assist on the first surgery which needed to be completed efficiently as the owner was collecting the patient shortly. This was a single tumour by the front leg which we removed successfully.

The second surgery was more interesting as there  were originally two tumours, however during the prep for the patient I discovered another smaller tumour on the opposite side to the front one bringing the total up to three. This patient was one that the owner wanted to euthanize as they could not afford the cost of surgery, however the doctor offered to do it  at a much lower cost because of our class. Now during this surgery we removed both the tumours around the front legs through a single incision, before we started the massive tumour around the back leg. This rat started surgery weighing 334g and finished surgery around the 270g weight, the massive tumour around the back leg weighed a whooping 56g! Check out the before and after picture…

Rat tumour removal surgery before and after

After class as I was leaving an emergency patient arrived so I stayed to help with this as well, I was very lucky to see this as the doctor had never seen it before either. A rat with dystocia (problems giving birth) – so on examining the patient the back legs were out but the rest of the body wasn’t so the doctor assisted with the removal. This baby was dead as the mom had tried to assist with the birth and eaten most of the soft tissue from the back legs and intestines. The pathology was pretty interesting as I have never seen a rat placenta (or baby rat) before so did a quick necropsy and found congestion in both the liver and atriums of the heart.

The ethics of science and animals (Day 425)

Is the rororoach ethically wrong?

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Pet Webinars

So at the end of last week I came across the RoboRoach, an “educational” kit that is to be used to teach children about neuroscience. Now this was welcomed by TEDGlobal a few months ago at the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh, however since then more details have come to light and I got a rather negative reaction from twitter when I posted about it.

Now as a vet student I have a need to understand the science of the body, how things work and what happens when things go wrong. This kit however instructs children to sandpaper a cockroach, stick needles into the thorax and cut of the antenna of a cockroach. They use the word “anesthetize” to describe placing the live insect into freezing cold water, just imagine how painful it is when you dip a hand into something cold, and then imagine that happening to your entire body. There recently has been discoveries that another animal that was common dropped in boiling water can feel pain (read about lobsters and pain here) so assuming something just because a animal is smaller then us is wrong.

Previously in veterinary medicine a lot of stuff was taught, things like the stannius ligature where thread is place around the heart of a live frog to demonstrate different electrical impulses, or the effect of different poisons for example. Both of these are no longer done, instead these are replaced, and indeed you can learn as much from watching this done on video (even if its black and white and tens of years old).

By mass producing this as commercial toy there is a value placed on the life of cockroaches as expendable. I know that within universities within the UK to even start to use live animals in any experiment you require ethical approval. I doubt drowning an animal in freezing water to “anesthetize” it would be acceptable, in fact the other day I stuck needles into the thorax of a horse under aseptic conditions, and using a rather generous dose of local anaesthetic (lidocaine) that is proven to remove pain perception.

I will come back and add to this later, however for now, I’d love to hear your opinions, you can watch a video of the “surgery” and find written instructions to torture a cockroach here.

End of week 8, a little surgery and a lot of exams (Day 422)

Today’s Diary Entry is Sponsored by Spikes World Wildlife Foods

It’s nearly Christmas (or at least that is what the shops would have you think), for me however Christmas means exams and with the end of week 8 I am getting ever closer – just 5 weeks of the semester to go now. So this week has been a tough one, we had a rectors day off on Monday which I spent most of in surgery with a horse doing a thoracocentesis (I am writing this up in a separate post).

Now Tuesday is clinical diagnostics and nutrition, this week was a credit test in nutrition which basically consists of 25 ruminant (cow) based multiple choice questions on the proportions of different feedstuffs, the ages at which different feeds are needed and so forth. Basically after I finish here I will know more about farm animals than anyone ever should, and surprisingly little about cats, dogs and other companion animals…. Oooops! I also managed to fit a second thoracocentesis in this morning as well which was pretty cool.

So moving onto Wednesday, my only day without any exams this week, as Monday was off I kept getting confused and thinking it was only Tuesday today. We started with Radiology lecture, followed by Parasitology lecture and then by an afternoon where I started with my first surgical procedure on a live patient (read about my first surgery here).

Thursday was a bit of a disaster with Anatomy as I managed to get things backwards with the a. femoris and a. femoris profundus and so failed. Next week is the brain, and today it just looked like grey blobs that had no meaning whatsoever.

Today was Toxicology with us looking at Organophosphates which are otherwise known as insecticides and appear in many flea, ant trap and spray products. Sadly these products are also responsible for a lot of poisonings worldwide.

My first castration surgery – a massive milestone… (Day 420)

First castration surgery vet student

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Vet School Success

A quick diary entry today as it is a very big milestone in my journey to becoming a veterinary surgeon, I know I need to catch up on my diary however have exams both tommorow and Friday to study for as well.

So today I performed my first castration surgery on a living breathing animal!!! Whoooop!

First castration surgery vet student

Ok, now thats over with here are the details! I’m taking a class on small mammals which is a elective class (aka non-compulsory) as I believe these smaller creatures to be just as important as the larger ones. Today we were given the task of castrating some pet rats, now I know that its a common assumption that these are too small to operate on. However if you have ever had the pleasure of meeting a (uncastrated) male rat, I am sure that you will agree in terms of their body size they have relatively large balls.

So now talking in terms of castration it is a relatively simple and common procedure which is why I believe it is one of the first we learn. From a surgical perspective it is similar to that in cats. So diving off topic for a minute here something I feel important to highlight is that the surgical procedure between dogs and cats (and rats) is different. This is because of the position of the testicles in relation to the penis. In dogs there is space in front of the testicles to make an incision, whilst in cats (and rats) there is not.

The procedure in cats and rats therefore is different in that the incision is made directly into the scrotum over the testicle. Now anatomically there is a septum (or divider) within the scrotum mean each testicle sits in its own compartment which requires a seperate incision for each testicle. Once this cavity is opened and the testicle is exposed the vessels leading to it are ligated and then the vessels are cut. This is basically the ultimate test of the entire surgical procedure as if this is not done correctly then the vessels which are like elastic are pulled up into the abdomen and will bleed inside causing the death of the animal. Now once this is done, as rats are close to the ground the surgical site is closed with sutures to help prevent infection.

Now my procedure went fine, I did not have any additional bleeding and the closure was neat, with that I now need to study anatomy for tommorows test.