My first cat cannulation… (Day 531)

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Rabbit Feeds

So today started badly as because of the Norwegian program my Falconry and Wildlife Rehab lecture was cancelled leaving me with just patho physiology and parasitology lectures followed by my general surgery practical. Well so though I have seen plenty placed, I’ve never actually got to place a cannula into a cat before. Something about my first ever attempt being in front of a owner, on a sick (and very stressed) cat, with the associated pressure always kinda gave me pause. Not to mention the claws and teeth that cats possess!

Today’s general surgery class was all about how and where to give different injections using various techniques (on cadavers). A few of the group were then allowed to attempt cannulation – basically inserting a port into the vein which is then kept there as long as needed. Now someone in my group tried the vein lower down and failed, which caused a hematoma (bruise). So my attempt was a little higher than I would normally like – you are supposed to try to avoid joints etc – however as no one else jumped forward I decided to give it a go.

Now I found blood straight away (meaning I found the vein), however trying to get the cannula into place I lost it. Basically this part is really fiddly as a cannula is basically a silicone tube over a metal stylet, once you are in the vein you need to push the tube in further whilst taking out the stylet… This is a lot more difficult then it sounds one handed. So after going a little wonky beside the vein with some fiddling I managed to get it into the vein properly. Now this meant I then had to fix it in, so using the sticky tape I had prepared I attempted to do this, so I found that this is also more difficult than I expected – added to the fact I think I cut the tape strips too long – so it didn’t look as pretty as it could have, however it worked.

Talking about the brown bear… (Day 525)

Slovakia Brown Bear in Conservation

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

So today started with a pathophysiology lecture on myopathies which are diseases and disorders of the muscles. Now when thinking about muscles the last thing that pops into most people’s brain is the heart, the intestines, the esophagus or the other systems which rely on muscle to make them work. Whilst very interesting it’s too bigger a field to try to explain in a single post so I will break it down later.

Now onto my next class today it is back to Falconry and Wildlife Rehabilitation, today we spoke a little about the UNESCO application to protect Falconry, looked at the special anatomy of bird wings and the complications this caused with repairing fractures before we got to the wildlife rehabilitation section of the class.

Today was an amazing (at least for me) topic. Brown bears. Now I am coming to realise that my real passion lies with exotics and wildlife as there is just so much that we do not know. Anyways back to the brown bears, now here in Slovakia we are lucky to have some in the wild, and recently a lot of work is being done in conservation of these animals.

Slovakia Brown Bear in Conservation

Now like most wild animals bears have a bad name as being scary and dangerous, personally my opinion is that we the humans are the scary ones that are gradually taking over all the space in the world in our greed. Anyways, in Slovakia there is a not a direct motorway between the two big cities Kosice in the west and Bratislava in the east as between here is bear country. So the zoologists are currently doing research into the paths that animals use for migration, and part of this involves monitoring the bears movements by satellite using gps transmitters.

Sounds simple right? Well first off all you have to capture the bears… Sneaking up on a bear is pretty dangerous, using snare traps is dangerous for random hikers/hunters that come across a caught (and very angry) bear, and so it was decided to use massive iron box traps. Once in the traps the bears are anesthetized with material collected for DNA analysis of the population and fitting of radio tracking collars. Now these collars are pretty special because as well as having GPS devices they have a autodropoff mechanism to break and fall off in 2 years (or on demand).

Lastly today we had our general surgery practical where we were basically shown round the surgical building, told it looks like crap but they are building a new one to open after we leave. And then two people in the group were shown how to gown up for surgery.

Guinea pig prolapses, and a very pleasant suprise (Day 524)

Guinea pig uterus prolapse

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Pet Webinars

The first chance I got this morning I rushed into clinic to check on yesterdays guinea pig patient. Now when I left after surgery last night the prognosis was pretty poor, this was a patient with a reoccurring prolapse of the uterus. It initially presented and was replaced after the guinea pig gave birth (it was a rescue animal so pregnancy and birth was unexpected). This is what a guinea pig prolapse looks like (and requires immediate veterinary attention)…

Guinea pig uterus prolapse

Unfortunately in guinea pigs (as in many animals) a prolapse once it occurs is likely to occur again. In the case of guinea pigs the recommended solution is to neuter the guinea pig to remove the organs involved and so prevent the prolapse happening again. This is what last nights surgery last night did, in addition the cervix was also fixed to the abdominal wall to help prevent the remaining stump of the uterus prolapsing again. After the surgery I was pretty pessimistic as to the outcome, however arriving today I found the guinea pig alive, and with an appetite which was a much better outcome than I ever imagined so put me in a very good mood for the rest of the day.

After this quick break it was time for pathological anatomy with today being our first lecture after last weeks was cancelled. This is something I enjoy as its very practical and todays lecture was around the post-mortem changes within the body. The practical after was then basically a post-mortem of what I believe was a victim from a RTA (Road Traffic Accident) with severe internal injuries. After last week we were expected to be able to carry out the procedure ourselves with only assistance in identifying the pathology which we did pretty well. To be honest I find this pretty interesting, I am not sure where I heard it but the saying this is where the dead speak is pretty true as if you know what you are looking at you can piece together a story.

After this I had another short break so popped back to check the guinea pig, and also saw another very interesting case of a rat with skin that had a jelly feel. Still not entirely sure what this was but was very interesting to see…

Visiting a poultry slaughter house (Day 523)

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Supreme Pet Foods

It’s amazing how much supermarkets insulate us from the reality of where the food comes from – so much so that some school children even believe that chickens come from Tesco (but that’s another rant). In the matter of an hour or so today I saw thousands of chickens slaughtered, butchered and packaged ready to go out to supermarkets to be selected by people to go onto the dining room table. For some reason even though I knew where chicken came from, and had some theory about the way that slaughter happens, I never actually expected what I saw today.

I think one of the things that made me think the most about it was that we started the process backwards because of hygiene reasons. Basically any slaughter house is split into clean and dirty areas, and you cannot cross between them to avoid contamination. This meant that we started with the packing areas, and then went backwards along the line to the trucks offloading crates of birds.

So after going through hygiene control, we entered the clean area, the first thing noticeable is the noise, and the second the automatic rails (like in a dry cleaners) traversing the massive room with featherless headless chickens hanging from them. Generally I was not expecting so many workers to be here, however there were close to a hundred or so workers in this room.

Going back to the line, there was a lot of automation, the first stage selected whole chickens by their weight automatically to be packed and sold as such. Any that do not make the weight classes will move forward along the line which will then remove the wings for packing, the chest/breasts and then the legs. The breasts will have the skin removed by a machine, however the breast muscles cannot be automatically separated so have a separate line where this is done manually before these are also packed.

Now the most disturbing part of my day, leaving this spotlessly clean area we went through two sets of doors into what could be described as a older area of the plant. Broken tiles on the floor, and a single machine sat in the middle by itself with wheeled bins full of the waste bones that came off the original line. This was the mechanical recovery device, the one that produces the pink slime that the processed food and fast food (McDonalds) industry likes to pretend is chicken. The waste bones were emptied into the top of this bin, and a pipe coming out spewed waste bones from the end whilst the pink slime was squeezed from the side… Pretty much put me of any product with mechanically recovered chicken for life…

After this we worked our way further up the line to the stage before the packing. This was the evisceration (removal of the internal organs) and post mortem section of the line. The evisceration was done automatically, a drill like machine came down and cut the skin around the anus of the bird, and then on the next machine a hook basically slipped in and pulled the internal organs out. I found this interesting as I had always wondered how it was done! The bird carcass and the organs were kept together on separate hooks as the next stage was the post mortem station where a vet does a visual inspection. Personally I am not sure how effective it is when you have 30 or so birds going past every minute (and how the vet is not put into a trance) however it does allow the very obvious diseased meat to be discarded. These then pass along the line to where more manual workers separate the liver, gizzard and heart from the rest of the organs as these are the organs used for human consumption. The final step at this stage was the changing of the position of the chicken so that the feet could be removed automatically.

After we moved to the slaughter area, this has a loading ramp and several workers unload the trucks hanging the birds onto the conveyor system by their feet before then enter the killing room. The killing room was pretty automated, the birds went through a water bath to stun them, before having their necks cut by an automatic blade. A single worker ensures that this is done correctly and manually does this for any birds where the automatic blade is not effective.

The final stage we saw was the removal of the feathers, this is done using high temperature to scald the dead carcass and make the skin looser before the feathers are removed using brushes along the conveyor belt. The feathers are then dried and stored for other products.

After returning I then had pharmacology practical where we looked at sulfonamides (a type of antibiotic) and the plasma concentrations. After this I managed to make it in to watch a surgery for a prolapsed uterus and rectum in a guinea pig.

End of my 4th first week! (Day 520)

Today’s Diary entry is sponsored by Pets Bureau

So today was my first meat hygiene practical, basically vets are involved in the entire food production process from reproduction to growing to slaughter to butcher to plate. This was interesting as I learnt what the star rating on freezers actually means. Basically different types of microorganisms are inhibited at different termperatures. For example yeasts will not grow below -12 whilst moulds will not grow  below -18 which corresponds to the freezer star system.

We then had the lecture for General Surgery, now in my opinion you can tell you have a good teacher when they use the phrase “you will never need this in real life, but you must know it for the exam”. This lecture was extremely interesting and more useful that I imagined it would be!

Last thing today was our patho physiology practical which continued on the weeks theme of cardiac disorders. We started looking at how to interpret an ECG and some of the normal values for dogs. This was interesting as whilst it may be a simple, quick and relatively inexpensive test it really can give a lot of information.

A little bit on foot and mouth disease… (Day 519)

Preserved parasitology specimen fasciola hepatica from 1756

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Vet School Statement Review

 So today we started epizootology which is the science of the spread of diseases between animals. Depending on the way it is taught it could be really interesting or really dull, today we started the lecture watching a rather old video on foot and mouth disease in cattle. This was interesting as it was produced after the 1967 epidemic, and basically predicted another outbreak which happened with the major foot and mouth outbreak in 2001. The rest of the lecture went to going over different terminology.

We have a practical session straight after with the group doubled up so all 23 of us are in a single class. Because of this there is no room in the normal labs so we got moved to the infectious diseases building. This is basically a mini fenced in compound within the university campus where the really dangerous diseases are treated or diagnosed. The practical session was another lecture on health and safety and ways to clean contaminated areas.

After this I then had my parasites practical, we’ve got a different teacher this semester and I found the style of teaching to be a lot better for me to follow along. We’ve now started looking at the worm families with today going to the trematodes which are the flat-worms and includes probably one of the most famous parasites fasciola hepatica which is otherwise known as liver fluke. What I especially find interesting are that many of the sample specimens we have to work with here are amazing preserved, this specimen was prepared in 1756 so is 258 years old!

EDIT: I have been informed that the label on the bottle is in fact referencing the person that first described this parasite. It was described in Systema Naturae by Carl Linnaeus a Swedish scientist responsible for much of the naming methods of living things today.

Preserved parasitology specimen fasciola hepatica from 1756

Starting Falconry and Wildlife Rehabilitation… (Day 518)

Examination of a wild pine martin in wildlife rehabilitation

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Pet Hooligans

So today was another early start with pathophysiology at 7:15 which is one of my favourite subjects as it is so logical and actually answers my “why” questions when it comes to pathological processes within the body. At the moment it is the cardiac system that we are studying. Anyways today I want to talk about something slightly more exciting for me as it is a field I am very interested in entering after I graduate.

I started my Falconry and Wildlife Rehabilitation elective today, I am very lucky as the university has one of the best avian vets in the world as chief of the exotics clinical department and he is the one taking this course. The session today started with some theory around the start of falconry and the legislation and laws when it comes to wild animals here in Slovakia along with the difference between population and individual conservation.

Paraphrasing some of the class here quickly without any references or own research apparently falconry started out of need rather than sport. A long time ago in colder countries when food was very scarce in the winter someone noticed that the path of migratory birds was overhead. They then noticed that falcons killed and fed on the smaller birds so managed to trap a falcon. Keeping this bird hungry when the migratory birds flew overhead they released it and so it brought some of these migratory birds to ground allowing the man to eat. From this time falcons became a sought after bird as they allowed the household to eat through the winter, and so became of great value and the techniques for training were further developed.

After this time of need, it then became a hunting sport much later, with strict rules on training and entry into the “hunters guild” at least in Slovakia. We were then taught the post-mortem technique for these birds, and practiced this on several birds that had been found dead recently to look for a cause of death. We then had a wild pine martin in that had been rescued from a garden for a clinical exam to check the health.

Examination of a wild pine martin in wildlife rehabilitation

After this I had my parasitology lecture, followed by a general surgery practical which we spent watching videos of different ways to restrain animals.

My introduction to dog post mortem (Day 517)

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Pet Hair Remover

Well today has been long, and it is seriously feeling like it is Friday already. I started the day with a clinical diagnostics practical, todays practical was a revision session for what we had done last semester. We were split into small groups and given a set of points to evaluate (clinical exams are kinda like checklists). My group managed pretty well doing a dual exam on two different dogs at the same time.

After this we were supposed to have our first Pathological Anatomy lecture, however as the professor was away at a conference this was cancelled, and so we got a gap before the practical class. Turning up to the practical class I was lucky to be in the group which had the instructor present and so we started the subject.

Something here that is taken very serious is the risk from pathogens, and so the department issues us each a lab coat which remains within the unit, along with gum boots/shoes just for the session. After this was done we got a crash course in health and safety and the different equipment available to use (all hand powered) before being offered the opportunity to order the book for the subject.

After this a colleague and myself were asked to start the post mortem of a dog under instruction as a demonstration of the correct method and technique. Using a post mortem knife was very different from surgery scalpels and indeed the technique was very different using gross dissection rather than the fine surgical technique. I am going outline the protocol followed below briefly so if squeamish now is probably the time to stop reading.

During a post mortem the exterior of the body, eyes and orifices are examined for any abnormalities before the legs are opened out to let the body lay flat. The skin is reflected back from a midline incision the entire length of the body and the underlying muscles examined for any abnormalities. The peritoneum is then incised midline and reflected back with a quick visual inspection of the abdomen for fluid and position of the organs. A window incision is made into the diaphragm to check the thorax for fluid, and then it is completely resected from the arch of the ribs. The ribs and sternum are them removed at the junction costosternal junction exposing the lungs and heart.

The thoracic organs are then removed with an incision beginning with the tongue and going along the trachea and esophagus until the chest where the lungs and heart are removed. The front of the pelvis is then cut to allow access to the pelvic cavity, this then allows an incision around the anus to remove the gastrointestinal tract and associated organs from the abdominal cavity.

The last thing to be removed is the brain, I’ve seen this done either with cutting around and lifting off the top of the skull or like today by cutting down the middle of the skull and removing the brain in two half.

Anyways I am really exhausted so will leave it there for today!

The start of semester 2 of year 2… (day 516)

Todays Diary Entry is sponsored by Spikes World

So today was the start of my second semester of my second year of vet school here in Slovakia. To be honest it was a pretty slow start with a lecture for pharmacology at 7:15 in the morning, a big massive gap until a pharmacology practical at 1pm and then Clinical diagnostics lecture at 3. Luckily I managed to find some stuff to occupy the gap as I am organising a student conference in March for Emergency and Critical Care.

Pharmacology is the study of drug action on the body which is also known as pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics. Today we started looking at antibiotics again, it seems that there is a lot of repetition between subjects which is giving me a lot more confident that by the time I graduate that I will remember stuff.

So this semester is my 4th semester here, and is looking to be the toughest so far. This semester I start several new subjects:

  • Pathological Anatomy – The physical effects of disease, injury, or malfunction of the body. Basically everything needed for post mortem, and for when it comes to surgery to be able to know whats wrong and whats right and why.
  • Epizootology – This is basically infectious diseases mixed in with some epidemiology.
  • Food Hygiene – Basically everything about food, from eggs through to cows this subject basically looks at a lot of meat stuff including slaughter methods and abattoir inspection.
  • General Surgery and Anaesthesia – This is the start of my official surgical training, basically going be covering a lot of theory from what I have heard.
  • Falconry and Wildlife Rehab – Exactly what it says in the name! An extra optional subject I am picking up as I believe it is a very important topic!

So with that the ones I am looking forward to most are Pathological Anatomy and General Surgery! I will report back when it comes to them later in the week!

The different kinds of graphy in radiography… (Day 509)

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

 So I’ve been studying and preparing for my radiology and imaging diagnostics exam on Thursday, for something so simple there are an absolute ton of different procedures and techniques that can be used so I’ve decided to share a few of my favourites here. These are all contrast meaning that a special liquid is used that shows up on radiographs (xrays) better to outline hollow structures.

So if we start with the urinary tract..

Urography – Is used to describe a study when contrast material is injected into the blood which then travels to the kidneys and then to the bladder. This study is broken down further into smaller stages including…

Angiogram is when this contrast material is in the blood vessels and shows these vessels

Nephrogram is when this contrast material is in the kidneys showing the different structures

Pyelogram is when the contrast material starts to be collected in the renal pelvis, ureters and the bladder.

Cystography is an xray of the bladder, which can be done either with contrast material, or with air which is known as a negative contrast material. Sometimes it is even done with both which is a double contrast cystography.

Urethrography is when a x-ray is needed of the urethra, and is done in a retrograde manner filling the urethra with contrast material from the end. In females a vaginourethrography can be done instead.

Arthrography is the injection of contrast material into a joint to get a better look at the surfaces and shape of it.

Portovenography is a procedure that is usually used surgically to investigate shunts (where the blood bypasses certain organs – usually the liver) by injecting contrast material into the vein and taking a radiograph to see where it goes.

Lymphangiography is where the contrast material is used to test the lymphatic system which is responsible for collecting any loose fluid within the body and returning it back to the blood.

Sinography is used to look at the sinuses.

Dacryocystography is a technique that is used to look at the lacrimal canal which is responsible for draining the eye.

Sialography is used for inspecting the salivary glands.

And last but not least, Myelography which is used for inspecting the spinal canal (and spinal cord) by injecting contrast material into the space.