Barrow Hill Vets – 22nd February 2013

Today was my last day in the surgery and I felt completely happy with the routine of how everything worked. Every 30 minutes or so I checked the washing – taking clean and dry blankets out of the tumble dryer, moving clean and wet washing from the washing machine into the tumble dryer and putting any dirty towels into the washing machine. I knew how to mop the kennels to the expected standard and knew who to ask if I had nothing to do.

This morning, I dressed in scrubs for the final time to watch a dog castrate. This is a very simple and quick procedure which does not even require any stitches. Simultaneously, in the theatre next door a cat castrate was happening which was equally successful. After this, I had the chance to watch another laparoscopic bitch spay. It was good to be able to remember what I saw on Wednesday and helped to ensure that I understood exactly what was happening.

Also in the morning, I went into watch some consults. A couple of clients came in with dogs in need of vaccinations for leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is needed every year whilst hepatitis, parvovirus and distemper virus only need to have boosters every three years. Another dog was brought into the consult to be examined because it was lame. After a number of investigative tests, including bending the leg at the ankle and the knee and noticing for any signs of pain. However, there was no obvious damage so the owners were instructed to let their dog rest and if there was no improvement within a week or so, or any worsening effects, they should bring the dog back in.

After this, a cat which had previously fractured its pelvis, came in for a check up. It had been having cage rest which was the only practical treatment because of the difficulties of the position of the pelvis. Although it seemed to be healing well, it was important to keep an eye on it because of the risk of the canal fusing too small and causing constipation. The cat had not had any bowel movement recently and although this was probably because of the pain caused by the fracture, the cat was given an enema to ease the process. An enema is the procedure of introducing liquid into the rectum and canal through the anus. This means that there is an increased volume so the lower intestinal tract rapidly expands, creating the need for bowel movement. This is much quicker and therefore more effective than a laxative in situations such as these when the vet wanted the cat to keep moving faeces out of its body to help maintain movement and prevent constipation whilst causing as little pain as possible.

On Monday, I saw a fox terrier with a dislocated foot and today I was lucky enough to be able to watch the complex procedure of a tarsal arthrodesis in order to fuse the joints in order to enable it to heal. However, before the process began, an unexpected hazard arose. The dog was given an antibiotic as part of the routine procedure before the risk-filled operation but appeared to be allergic to penicillin. Within minutes of being placed under anaesthetic, the dog’s body was covered in hives. Luckily, this did not effect the surgery or the dog’s health, and a note was made on the dog’s record of the allergy so the same mistake would not be made twice. Although I had to stand outside the theatre, I could observe some of what was happening and I tried to carefully follow the steps in the procedure and the reason for this being done. The vet doing it was a orthopaedic specialist, with extra qualifications in this complex surgery, however it still took a long time. After placing radiographs of the foot on a screen in the theatre, the vet proceeded. The cartilage from the joint was taken out and replaced with bone graft, taken from the elbow. This would then create a length of bone rather than a joint. Screws were then used to hold a plate to secure the tarsal bones in place. This was important to allow the bone graft to be accepted in this position and grow, resulting in healing and fusion. Because of the plate, the foot would remain out the optimum angle for ease of movement when the dog walks. Immediately after surgery, an x-ray was taken to make sure everything was in the right place. Although the vet was unhappy with the positioning of one screw he decided it would be best to leave and allow the dog to wake up as he would have preferred it to be 2mm further from the edge of the bone and this would not be possible because of the existing hole. After this decision was made, the dog’s leg was bandaged using a Robert Jones and the dog was left to recover after a successful operation allowing it continue a happy life on four legs.

Also in the kennels today was a lurcher in for chemotherapy and a jack russel which required a hormone stimulation test because the dog was producing too much adrenaline. In this procedure, bloods were taken then a hormone which should have reduced the amount of adrenaline was injected into the dog. A little while after this, another blood test was taken. The two blood samples could then be compared to establish the effect of the hormone on the levels of adrenaline in the dog’s blood and a suitable treatment could be developed using this information.

Furthermore, there was an investigation into a case of FIP (feline infectious peritonitis) in a cat. This is very hard to diagnose because no specific test has been developed. However, an x-ray was taken and an ultrasound was used to confirm the presence of fluid in the chest and abdomen, indicating the presence of the mutated coronavirus which causes this fatal disease. Unfortunately for this cat, there is very little that can be done to cure FIP and generally a palliative approach is used.

I have loved my week at Barrow Hill Vets and I want to thank everyone there for helping to make my experience as rewarding as it was with lessons being continually learnt which I will take with me in my future explorations in the world of veterinary medicine.

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