Today I was given the choice between going into a consult with a puppy or a chicken. I chose the chicken! I have never seen a chicken in the vets before but wasn’t surprised when the vet told me that they were seen relatively often, for chickens are becoming increasingly popular pets. This chicken had not been laying and the owner was worried it was egg bound due to the large lump he could feel. However, this lump had become so obtrusive that the skin had split open on the chicken’s backside. It was bleeding and the owner knew that if action wasn’t taken the other chickens would peck at their friend to death. After feeling inside the chicken’s vent, the vet concluded that there was definitely not an egg present and was pretty certain that this was a huge cancerous tumour. After a brief discussion, the owner decided to have his chicken euthanized. As we left the room to fetch the consent forms, he muttered that he didn’t mind but it was ‘just what to tell the kids’. It is hard keeping chickens because they can be both pets and farm animals, so how should they be treated? The owner chose to have a group cremation so we took the chicken out back to the kennels and the vet injected the deadly drug. The vet told me how hard it is to euthanize a chicken, and this was proven correct when 40 minutes later, the chicken was still alive – it just didn’t want to die. The textbook advised that the quickest way to kill a chicken was to break its neck and it is possible to inject straight into the heart, but it is also effective to inject into muscle which is what the vet chose to do. Eventually a sufficient concentration of the drug was absorbed from the muscle and the chicken fell asleep. The vet then let me feel the mass on its rear. It was very solid and was almost as big as the chickens entire body. We stuck a needle into it: at the back it was just a mass of cells and nothing came out, but towards the front, it was softer and we managed to drain some pus from it. The chicken’s rear was a bloody mess of feathers and faeces and I knew that this slow but peaceful death was the best choice when faced with an attack from fellow chickens.
In the kennels, was a Bull Terrier which was notorious for eating clothes. He had started retching so his owner had rushed him in. He was clearly uncomfortable and an x-ray clearly showed up two metal eyelets! The vets knew there would be clothes attached and thought they would have to put him through emergency evening surgery, until one of the nurses suggested trying a very strong purgative. Only a very small dose was need before he was retching again, but this time he began to bring up clothes. The nurses held him steady, pulling the clothes out of his mouth before he could choke on them. About an hour later two socks and most of a light hoody had appeared. They x-rayed the clothes which had been brought up, revealing that they contained only one eyelet – the other was still inside the dog. However, they decided to leave him the night to let the purgative continue to take affect before reassessing if there was anything left inside him.
A rescued cat was brought in because it was urinating very often and frequently not in its litter tray. Furthermore, the urine was very smelly. After a check-up the vet concluded that it was probably a urinary tract infection rather than cystitis as the cat did not appear to be in any pain and there was no blood in the urine. Therefore, she prescribed antibiotics, advising the owners to assess stress factors which may also be contributing to excess urination, such as many cats in the household. This cat was also acting as if she was in season; she was holding her tail high and flexing her back when stroked. Although they had been told that she was already spayed, there was no easy way to guarantee this. The vet explained that with rescued cats, they normally clip the cat’s side to look for the distinctive scar from a spay. This is not always reliable for some cats may have similar looking scars resulting from other incidents, and the vet had operated in the past and been unable to find a uterus despite no scar being found. It is possible to do more conclusive hormone tests but these are often very expensive.
Next, an 8 week old kitten was brought in because it had slipped into the small space beside the hinges of the dishwasher door without the owner noticing. On closing the dishwasher, the owner heard a squeal and immediately found the kitten. He didn’t appear to be injured but the owner wanted to confirm that he was ok. After prodding and poking, the vet couldn’t identify any sources of discomfort. She explained that the bladder and diaphragm were typical worries after trauma. But fortunately, she could feel the bladder – suggesting it was still in tact, and the were no signs of breathing difficulties which would normally be apparent from even a small tear in the diaphragm. The kitten did seem slightly shocked but it was decided to not administer any treatment but keep an eye on him over the next few days. I asked the vet how she would confirm her findings, and she explained that the best diagnostic test would be top run a basic blood test checking for red blood cells, glucose, urea and protein in the blood. Generally, this would highlight any immediate concerns. Other options may include doing an ultrasound scan or x-ray.
An interesting case was brought in for meds review. He was a black Labrador with a very unusual heart condition. Several years ago, this dog had suffered sudden episodes of accelerated heart rate (tachycardia) causing spasms and near death experiences. No cause could be found, even after being referred to specialists and diagnosed as paroxysmal arrhythmia – meaning sudden recurrences of irregular heartbeat. Using a cocktail of medications, the condition was being adequately controlled. The dog was strong and had amazed everyone by making it through the last two years despite still occasionally having episodes. Recently he had suddenly collapsed after getting excited, but had immediately recovered as if nothing had happened. The owners knew he was at greater risk when excited and had to be careful, but so far they were making good choices and were eager to buy a cheap stethoscope and try monitoring his heart rate quantitatively. They were also keen to try and reduce the medication he was on because it was very expensive and the vet was happy to try. This would need to be done slowly and it would be important to report any changes which may correlate with changing doses.