Merry Christmas with another summer Christmas Eve….

Santa is on his rounds (his chief Vet has given the reindeer the all clear), and I have just treated myself to my Christmas bacon sarnies as I managed to find some English bacon this year. I’m writing this as I watch my favourite Christmas films the Santa Clause 1 + 2 + 3. However I am also aware that it is my second to last Christmas here – for me this is a little bit sad.

What makes me really sad though is that my first winter here is that it snowed from October until March, it looked something like this everyday for the entire 5 months…

Snowy slovak vet school

I was really excited for my second Christmas… But there was no snow…

My third Christmas? Maybe the second was a fluke? Nope. Still no snow….

My fourth Christmas this year, I’ve not even need a scarf yet.  Today I went out wearing my sunglasses without even my beanie.

As with Santa they say seeing is not always believing, but believing is seeing. Sometimes I think there can be coincidences – however a complete change over multiple years? Enough said?

For me however it is a chance to sleep tonight, as for tomorrow morning like many other vets around the world I will be one of those working to help those animals that are unfortunate enough to need our help on this Christmas Day.

Here is hoping you, your family and pets have a safe and Merry Christmas.

Passing Veterinary Forensics – giving voice to those without one

Forensics is the used of science for legal means, in the case of veterinary forensics it is the use of veterinary knowledge to help in legal cases. Whether that case is animal abuse, a dog attack on a person, or even civil compensation claims between owners and breeders about sperm.

My question in the exam today was about behaviour forensics – so what causes animals to have behaviour problems… I was slightly cheeky with my answer here and put the number one cause as “Humans”… It’s true sadly that 99% of behaviour problems in animals are influenced or directly caused by humans and personally I doubt that there is any without a human influence. However I did manage to pass the exam with discussion of problems in dogs, cats, chickens, pigs, cows, horses and sheep.

However behaviour forensics is just a little part of the whole field of veterinary forensics. Personally I believe the point here to be about giving voice to animals without one. We are in the unique position of having an understanding of the common types of injuries seen in animals, and it is possible to tell when the injury does not match the story. It is also possible to tell the age of injury and even time of death by changes in the body.

This is an extremely interesting field, and one which I am sure I will write more on later.

Passing general reproduction talking fetotomy…

The tools for fetotomy

There are times when as a vet student I am pretty horrified, and one of the things that has never sat quite right with me is fetotomy (the cutting up of a dead fetus to remove it from mom). So in today’s exam for general reproduction and obstetrics I managed to get this as a question (and I also managed to pass the exam).

For me I am in veterinary school to learn how to save animals, as I believe I can make a difference. So learning how to cut them up is a bit of a bummer as far as I am concerned – though it often does server the useful purpose of saving moms life.

Now the basic rule with a fetotomy is that it is done only if the fetus is dead – if the fetus is alive then it is indication for a caesarean section instead. This is more my style personally as it is surgical and it means that we have the chance of having two living animals at the end.

However when the fetus is dead it has to come out, its generally dead because it couldn’t come out naturally (dystocia) so now its dead there are three possibilities. The first is that the animals owner didn’t call the vet soon enough so it died from something correctable by manual manipulation and then comes out easily. The second is that it was not possible to deliver naturally even with manual manipulation (it was deformed, too big etc). And the third is that it was a death in the uterus (like a miscarriage) and the owner didn’t notice until there were clinical signs from where it is decomposing.

The first case is self explanatory – a lot of problems with bad positioning can be fixed with some manual manipulation – or worst case a caesarean section by a vet.

The second case is the fetotomy to remove the fetus from the uterus – this is done using a fetotome like in the picture which is basically a metal tube that has a loop of cutting wire saw passed through so that it can be placed exactly where you want to cut. Now this in itself is a artform as there are different techniques for cutting the fetus depending on the problem with the position. For my exam I was talking about head problems, and so the cut made here would go across the neck and behind the opposite shoulder to hopefully allow the fetus to be removed in 2 parts.

The third case is called a sub-cutaneous fetotomy = this is often because the decomposition of the fetus allows you to easily remove the bones from within the fetus so it just becomes a sack of tissue. Apparently this also smells really bad and is pretty much the stuff of nightmare.

Seems fifth year is the really gruesome one….

A stab in the dark…

Fluid therapy by cannula

One of the most common procedures in veterinary medicine is placing an IV cannula – a little plastic tube with a needle in the middle that can be removed after it is placed that goes into a vein to allow us to give drugs straight into the blood.  It is something that looks so easy, yet can be the most frustrating thing in the world when it just doesn’t seem to want to go where it should.

Now I’ve been given a chance to try a few times, and sometimes it has worked first time, sometimes the second time, however I believe in the 3 strike rule so if I cannot get it on my third attempt it is time for someone else to step in. It’s not just the physical act, but the frustration that comes from something so simple being such a pain – and I am not alone – from what I’ve seen everyone that does it struggles at some point.

Sometimes patients can be extremely difficult if they won’t stop moving… Or if they are sick (duh!) and the blood pressure is low because of things like dehydration. In humans in this case they have intraosseous needle drills where they can drill a cannula straight into the bone – the blood vessels in the bone are good as the bone gives them structure. However here it is rarely used, and especially not for routine patients that are not in life threatening situations.

Today however I did something different, to this point I’ve made sure that all my attempts have been where I can physically see the vein I want to get into. However after shaving the patients leg today I realised that I could not see the vein – and there was only 1 doctor working busy with another patient. I know the anatomy so knew where it should, and I thought I could feel the bounce of the vein in relation to the firmness of the muscle. So I tried, and I got nothing. Pulling back on the cannula slightly I redirected the needle a fraction of a mm and saw a flash of blood in the hub – I pulled the stylet (middle needle that is used to place the cannula) back and slide the cannula all the way in. I then flushed it to make sure it really was in the vein and not just under the skin and that being good fixed it into place.

It would never be that simple however as the next patient up was a cat that had trauma. Though I could see a massive big vein it took me 3 attempts to get the cannula into place…