Last summer I travelled to Zimbabwe to volunteer at Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage for two weeks. The aim of the orphanage is to capture sick or orphaned animals and re-release them back into the wild when they are fit enough. Some animals however cannot be re-released, for example if they become too habituated like the hand reared big cats. Therefore, there were many permanent residents at the orphanage who needed to be cared for as well as the new orphans that were coming in. The work was different every day and included cleaning enclosures, providing enrichment material, cutting up meat for the carnivores and hand rearing baby animals.
Whilst I was there four baby owls were brought in who had fallen out of their nest and been separated from their mother. Caring for the owls consisted of late night feeds of meat and so work occurred not just every day but through the night too.
I was also fortunate enough to be able to witness a serval being taken to the vets and it was an amazing experience to see how veterinary medicine differs abroad from here in Britain. The serval had suspected dilated cardiomyopathy and so I witnessed a radiograph and abdomen ultrasound which confirmed further my desire to become a vet.
However, the volunteering didn’t just involve work with animals, we also took local school groups on tours around the orphanage. This taught them not only about the importance of preserving the wildlife of today but also simply gave them the opportunity to see the wildlife of their own country as most of them are less fortunate and not able to afford to go on safari. I found this a really rewarding experience as it allowed me to interact with the local children and even though most of them didn’t speak English I was able to interact with and teach them about the animals through non-verbal communication.
Volunteering at Chipangali was an amazing experience to work with the locals and wildlife of Zimbabwe. It was also a great opportunity to spend time with other volunteers of all ages and I hope that one day I can return to Chipangali.
Here is a link to a video I created on youtube of my time in Zimbabwe:
My welsh cob pony Cruze has just come down with laminitis, an illness which he has not previously suffered from. As my Grandad is the owner and trainer of Hogarth Racing, we have both come across laminitis before and could diagnose his symptoms. The symptoms I came across in my pony were a reluctance to move, lameness in all four feet especially when circling or walking on road, excessive lying down and when he walked it looked as if he was putting his heels down first rather than his toes.
Laminitis can be caused by many things but in particular it can be caused by rich summer grass. As he is turned out all year round, I brought him in, put him on soft bedding to support his hooves and fed him only small amounts of hay. He will be brought in for a fortnight and then we will turn him out again but with a grazing muzzle on to prevent him from eating too much rich grass. He has been brought in for a week now and is showing signs of improvement every day. As this is the first time I have experienced laminitis in my own horses, I have researched laminitis further and so here is a bit more background around the condition:
Underneath the wall of the horses hood is a sensitive layer called laminae. When laminitis occurs, the blood flow to the laminae is restricted causing the hoof tissues to swell and inflame causing the horse/pony a great deal of pain. Without the correct blood flow the laminae is starved of oxygen and nutrients and the cells become damaged which can result in the laminae dying if the condition is left untreated. The reason why laminitis causes so much pain to the animal is because the laminae supports the pedal bone which is responsible for supporting the weight of the horse.
There are a variety of causes of laminitis which can affect any horse or pony:
High intake of rich grass
It is hard to tell when laminitis will occur in horses and ponies and it can come on very suddenly. The best way to prevent it is to monitor your horse/ponies diet and exercise regime and try to mimic a horse’s natural feeding pattern depending on their type and workload.
Having come across maggots in my Grandfather’s sheep, I recognised it when my rabbits got fly strike but didn’t know much about it. Earlier this year when I was pet boarding two rabbits for some friends which I had had for around eight months, I noticed that one of the rabbits had maggots and a couple of larvae had spread to the other rabbit as well. I removed all the visible maggots and then the rabbits went straight to the on call vet and had to stay in over night to be treated and observed. The rabbits were then put on a range of medications for the next week including loxicom and baytril which I had to administer orally to them. Having experienced fly strike first hand I decided to research it to find out more behind why it occurs.
Fly strike occurs when the bottle fly lays its eggs on the rabbits usually during the summer months. The flies are attracted to damp and soiled fur and this is why my rabbit was targeted as she was an older rabbit and I sometimes had to help clean around her anus when faeces got stuck. Once the fly lays its eggs, within hours the eggs hatch into larvae and start to eat the rabbits flesh and release dangerous toxins. I also read online that rabbits with teeth problems are particularly at risk as they struggle to clean themselves. The rabbit that was firstly affected had an overgrown tooth which had to be clipped once every month. Fly strike is a potentially fatal condition and has to be caught quickly. Thankfully by checking my rabbits once daily in the summer and cleaning out their hutch regularly I was able to catch the beginning of fly strike.
Thank you for reading, I have attached the link to a picture of maggots and the webpage which helped me to research fly strike further if anyone is interested.
In the second week of my Easter holidays I spent three days at a neighboring dairy farm to my Grandad’s house. The farm was home to around 200 cattle and I joined the farmer to help with the daily milking. Milking was done twice a day, at 5am and 3pm, for all 200 cattle, unless they were in calf, and it took around 2-3 hours to milk them all. The cattle produced milk all the time after their first calf was born and would be allowed a two and a half month dry period before calving. In the first two days after calving, the milk would be fed straight to the calf, as the milk would be full of colostrum, but after the cows went straight back to producing milk for commercial purposes
This was the milking parlour which had 14 milking units:
On my first day we called in all the cattle from various fields and started the milking round. The routine was simple, all the cows knew their job and one by one they came into the milking parlour, 14 at a time, and were milked, producing 10-30 litres each. Firstly, the teats were disinfected and wiped down thoroughly, followed by attaching the milking units and then once the milking was completed, the teats were dipped in a germicide to stop any infection entering the teats at their most vulnerable and then the units were disinfected. The streak canal in the teat stays open for an hour after milking and so if a cow were to come into contact with pathogens that cause mastitis, they may easily enter the teat and cause an infection so this is why they are dipped after milking. After all the cows were milked I then watched two heifers being artificially inseminated. Artificial Insemination (AI) increases the chance of bringing the heifer into calf and also allows the sperm cells to be chosen so that there is an increased chance of the cow producing a heifer which is more beneficial for the business as the females are able to reproduce and produce milk.
Whilst on my placement I also learnt about the importance of pasture rotation in order to maximise the quality of milk produced by the cows. I found it interesting how the grass should not be below 3 inches or even above, as if the grass is too long it is wasted.
The farmer also taught me about the analysis of the milk quality and how the company that bought the milk would test it for certain elements or they would take money off the price of the milk. This meant that cows with mastitis had to be milked into a different canister and that milk would be thrown away. Another interesting fact I learned was that if a cow had mastitis in only one teat then the farmer would allow the cow to go dry on that one teat but continue to be milked in the other three in order to not lose good quality milk. Once the cow had gone dry on one teat, she would only produce milk in three of her teats until her next calve is born and if the mastitis had disappeared, she would then begin being milked on all four teats again.
It was really beneficial work experience seeing animals in a commercial set-up and learning about the situations when the vet would need to be called in. Currently I am sitting my higher SQA examinations and I am looking forward to the many work placements I have lined up in the next few months including a week at an equine referral hospital and two weeks in a wildlife orphanage in Zimbabwe.
Last week I spent three busy days helping out a farmer at lambing time and gaining work experience. On the first day I woke up early to help with the lambing as most ewes lamb through the night and early morning. I helped three ewes give birth; triplets, twins and a single. We also decided to give one of the triplet lambs to the single mother so that she had a double to bring up as the triplets would not receive enough milk each from their mother to make them full enough to survive outside. After the ewes had given birth, the lambs were given two squirts of spectam which is an orally administered antibiotic to prevent the lambs from getting diseases when they are at their most vulnerable. We also dipped the lamb’s navels in Iodine which drys the navel and has an antiseptic effect. Farmers do this as a wet navel provides a direct route for bacteria to travel into the lamb. The navel is dipped in iodine very quickly after birth and then later on in the day for maximum protection.
The rest of the day consisted of more lambing, moving ewes with their three year old lambs to different fields, bottle feeding the pet lambs, feeding the ewes, banding the lambs and marking the ewes and lambs with livestock spray
Here are some photos of the pet ewes that were taken off their mothers for a variety of reasons such as being the weakest triplet, their mother having mastitis or other complications with the lambs. The pet ewes had to be bottle fed and kept warm by an infrared heat lamp.
A common issue with ewes and cattle is mastitis. Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland and can be caused by stress, injury or bacteria such as E.Coli.One of the ewes at the farm that showed signs of mastitis had to be separated from the herd and treated with antibiotics. Her lambs had to be weaned off of her and bottle fed in the pet area.
Also on my first day I accompanied the farmer to the vets with a lamb with a very enlarged navel. The vet was not sure if its guts were coming out or whether the lamb just had a very enlarged navel. The lamb went in to shock shortly after the lump was cut off and stitched up and so was given steroids and pain relief to help it. We were not sure if the lamb was going to make the journey home but thankfully it managed and is now in the pet area.
The next two days were equally as busy as the first and included different experiences such as seeing a calve being born using a ratchet as a calving aid, milking and on the last day I even saw a Cesarean on a cow as her calve was coming out backwards.
Lambing is an essential part of work experience and having spend a day last year at a small farm and three days this year at a larger scale farm I am gaining different experiences in lambing season. It is a very stressful but rewarding time of year and I am going back to the same farm to help out next year. Thank you for reading and feel free to post any of your own experiences/questions regarding lambing or calving.
I spent a 12 week rota from September to December last year volunteering at a small local farm in Edinburgh called Gorgie Farm. The farm is run by volunteers and is a charity set up to educate city people about farming life and provide a fun and educational day out for local families. There was lots to help out with at the farm through looking after the goats, chickens, pigs, cows and sheep. An afternoon’s work from 1-4pm consisted of mucking out stables, exercising the goats, moving animals to different enclosures, collecting eggs and giving all the animals their afternoon feed.
During my time at Gorgie Farm I also helped with a new born lamb and even found its docked tail when mucking out the ewe enclosure. The tail had been castrated by banding which prevents the build up of faeces which could have caused fly strike.
On one occasion I had to help nurse an injured piglet that had escaped its cage during the night and had unfortunately ended up in a enclosure of larger pigs. The little piglet had been caught up in a fight and was found with multiple cuts. Most of the cuts were not very deep and so I just had to rub antiseptic onto the wounds to stop them getting infected and prevent the bleeding.
In the last few weeks, we had to change our routine with the chickens due to the risk of them catching Avian Influenza from wild birds such as pigeons. We had to disinfect our wellie boots going into and out of the covered enclosures and their food and water had to be sheltered, to reduce the risk of infection. Avian Influenza is a naturally occurring virus among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. The risk of this disease to the UK came in December of last year and so poultry farmers have had to alter the way they keep their birds in order to prevent them from catching the disease.
During my time at Gorgie Farm I learnt lots about the care of each farm animal, which added to my knowledge of farming gained through growing up on my Grandad’s farm. The farm brings a little bit of country life to the city and I was very keen to volunteer at Gorgie Farm after spending so many happy days out there as a child.
As you may have seen from my previous post, I own a 2 year old black labrador called Tehya. She is bred as a gundog and although we do not go out shooting with her, you can see her natural strength and agility as she runs for miles and will chase tennis balls forever if she could. However after she was diagnosed with arthritis at the age of 1, we were told to reduce her exercise (which is very frustrating for an athletic black lab). The vet told us that chasing the ball was too tough on her joints but recommended swimming as an alternative.
She now swims regularly and gets her exercise through retrieving the ball from the water and, even though we try to avoid the icy cold water in the winter months, she will take herself off for a swim even when not prompted. Although this is a great alternative, it does mean that she has had limber tail syndrome on multiple occasions caused by her love of swimming.
Limber Tail Syndrome has intrigued me ever since she first got it as it is a very unusual but common problem that affects working/very active dogs.
So what is Limber Tail Syndrome/Acute caudal myopathy?
It is a problem that affects the muscles in a dog’s tail which causes pain near to the base of the tail. It is also commonly called ‘broken tail syndrome’ as the symptoms are very similar to a dog breaking its tail. The tail goes limp and part of the tail often hangs at a 90° to the base. It is a problem that often takes only 24-48 hours to heal and in the mean time only anti-inflammatory painkillers can aid the healing process.
Many vets are aware of the condition but as I researched online there were no clear reasons to why and how it affects a dog’s tail. As a pet owner having experienced the mysterious problem of limber tail, I found that my dog was in discomfort and struggled to sit down for two to three days but there were no long term effects. This disorder is very intriguing and I will continue to research and look into the background behind it.
Thank you for reading, if anyone has any questions or extra information into this condition then that would be greatly appreciated!
Hi everyone and welcome to my new blog all about my experiences in the lead up to applying for veterinary medicine at University. After attending a vet-med link course at Nottingham University I was inspired to write this blog. I will post regularly about my work experience and any areas of veterinary medicine that interests me or is a current issue in the news. There may also be a few posts about veterinary related issues I have encountered through owning a range of pets. Here is a bit about myself:
Having grown up riding on my Grandad’s farm, I have been very interested in the equine side of veterinary medicine. This is my 13.2hh Welsh Cob x called Cruze. He is 11 years old and I have had him for 5 years.
My Grandad is a national hunt owner and trainer and so I am a proud supporter of our family racing stables ‘Hogarth Racing’. I also ride one of my Grandad’s ex-race horses called Finbin.
I also own a 2 y/o black labrador called Tehya who is a very nervous dog and so I have developed an interest in canine behavior. She is also very unlucky to have developed arthritis at a young age and so we have had to alter her diet and exercise regime as a result.
As well as riding and going on long walks with Tehya, I enjoy Hockey, Badminton, Highland Dancing and volunteering at my local Riding for the Disabled charity. I have also been looking after two rabbits for the past half a year for some friends.