When I arrived this morning, the first patient I saw was a golden Labrador in the kennels for a liver function test. It was suffering with frequent seizures so a variety of investigations were being done. This test involved taking blood then giving the dog some food to eat. Two hours later, more blood could be taken and the two samples would be compared. They were looking specifically for bile acid production. If the liver was functioning normally, the levels of bile acid should be very similar as the liver should have removed excess bile acid, produced as a result of the food, from the bloodstream. It does not specifically matter what food is used, however, fattier foods are ideal.
Also in the kennels was a spaniel for chemotherapy. I was strictly told not to touch the dog, its kennel, or anywhere it had been, for any fluid that comes out of the dog’s body must be treated as contaminated. I hadn’t realised previously, but this meant that the owners were at as much risk as the dog. The strong chemicals used are designed to kill cells and therefore damage the immune system, making both the dog and owners susceptible to many potentially life threatening diseases. At home, it is important that the owners take lots of precautions, handling waste carefully and keeping the dog in the house to prevent others being at risk. The owners had chosen a very expensive drug containing platinum because it was considered one of the safest options. The spaniel was put on an intravenous drip and the drug was injected in using this. Currently, the sessions were given every three weeks with continual monitoring. This involves taking blood samples to check white blood cell count and adjusting the chemotherapy drugs accordingly. I asked about what determined whether radiotherapy or chemotherapy was used and the vet told me that it was entirely dependent on the type of cancer: primarily the position and size of the tumour.
The only procedure under anaesthetic today was a three-year old Yorkshire Terrier having a dental. The vet estimates the number of extractions needed before the procedure begins and then phones the owner to ensure they are happy for it to be carried out. In total, 10 teeth were extracted, most of which were very loose and came out easily due to plaque damage. Roland showed me how he identified the teeth to be extracted according to gum swelling indicating gingivitis as well as cavities and chips in the teeth. He told me that a black line visible on the tooth shows that the inner tooth is decaying. Poor teeth are very common in small breeds such as Yorkshire Terriers as they are often only fed wet food or small pieces of dry food which can be swallowed whole. This means that they do chew enough and their teeth cannot remain clean. This is also often seen in greyhounds because the long shape of their mouths similarly prevents chewing. Whilst the lack of chewing accounts for plaque build up, chips in teeth are often caused by chewing the wrong things such as stones or tennis balls. Teethbrushing is a good option to help maintain good teeth, but Roland expressed an interesting opinion that it the lack of bones for dogs to chew on which has resulted in the increase of poor dental health. He believes that the best option for dogs’ teeth is chewing on large, raw bones.
In the consults today, a sneezing conure was brought in. This was important to treat immediately as birds rarely show symptoms. However, they had already tried antibiotics with no success. Therefore, the vet suggested it was likely to be chemical in the home environment, this could be as random as their new washing machine. He advised giving it a steam bath as inhaling the tiny droplets of water would wash through and clean the mucus, making breathing easier.
A golden retriever was brought in because of facial nerve damage. The muscles on the right side of its face were not working resulting in a lopsided face, most visible when the dog was panting. He also had limited sensation suggesting that some trigeminal nerves were responding. The dog had always had ear problems so this problem was likely to be due to to inflammation of the ear, squashing the nerves. However, it a large area to be affected just by the ear so there could be another underlying cause. Therefore, the vet chose to treat symptomatically, using anti-inflammatories and antibiotics to reduce the ear infection. However, the vet had no way of knowing the situation of the nerves, for if they have been cut through, rather than just squashed/blocked, they cannot be repaired.
A guinea pig was rushed in as an emergency. The owners had noticed it suddenly become very cold and the vet immediately realised it was in shock with an extremely low temperature. It had not been eating for almost three days, despite trying critical care food. We wrapped it in a towel and surrounded it with hot water bottles. Once it had warmed up slightly, it was given injections of a painkiller, gut stimulant and antibiotic. After this, all we could do was leave it tucked up in a warm kennel. Unfortunately, later in the day, the guinea pig went into cardiac arrest and died.
A leopard tortoise was brought in with a lump on its nose. The lump had been bleeding and there had been discharge from the eyes and nose. The vet thought it was either an infection or mass cell tumour. Therefore, he took a cell sample. After showing me how to stain the slides, he had a look under the microscope. I have previously stained at Kingsnorth where I dipped the slides into the stain. But Clive preferred to pipette the stain on as dipping can cause cells to fall off, contaminating other samples. Unfortunately, the samples he looked at were inconclusive so he prescribed anti-inflammatories and antibiotics, treating as if it were an infection. If this did not work they would do further investigations. This was the first time I had seen a tortoise at the vets and as Clive advised the owners on caring for their pet, I picked up some points I hadn’t previously known. Tortoises should be kept at over 20°C for at least 12 hours a day and bathed twice as they do not drink but absorb water through their tail. A ridged shell on a tortoise indicates protein deficiencies whilst tortoise species must not be mixed as some species are carriers of viruses which only affect some species.
Finally, a golden Labrador was brought in due to vomiting. It was a very docile dog so they decided to take an x-ray of her as no sedation would be needed. An x-ray of the abdomen showed gas in the upper small intestine, where it shouldn’t be, but moreover, the stomach was sitting at the wrong angle with the colon too low and the small intestine too high. It was possible that gas could have made the small intestine elevate slightly but the vet thought there was not enough gas to cause this much change. Therefore he thought there was an obstruction in the abdomen which the organs were adhering to. This was bad news as it would most probably be a cancerous lump. The owner understandably became upset so Roland talked to him gently. They decided to do an ultrasound scan to confirm the diagnosis. Miraculously, the ultrasound was entirely normal with no lump visible. It was a joy to see the owner’s relief despite the vet’s confusion. Roland decided to treat symptomatically, monitoring food carefully in an attempt to stop the vomiting. If there was no improvement they could try further investigations, but for now the owner was overjoyed that he would not be carrying the burden of cancer.