Kingsnorth Vets – 11th February 2015: Pericardial Effusion

Although this evening was quite quiet at Kingsnorth Vets, I one particularly interesting case.

In the kennels, preparing to go home was a black Labrador. The previous week she had been spayed but been brought back in after she had suddenly become lethargic and was struggling to breath. The vets found that she had a muffled heartbeat so performed an echocardiogram. Using this, they diagnosed her with pericardial effusion.

Pericardial effusion is a condition where excess fluid builds up in the pericardium. The vet explained to me that the pericardium is a smooth membrane which surrounds the heart. Although its function is not known for certain, it is generally acknowledged that it has a lubricating purpose, ensuring that the contractions of the heart are not hindered by the lungs. However, if fluid (either blood or lymph) leaks into the pericardium, it can compress the heart making contractions difficult. In dogs, the right atrium is the first to be affected so appears squashed on the echo. The fluid often comes from a bleeding tumour on the heart so the prognosis for this poor dog wasn’t great.

Luckily there were no signs of a tumour on the echo, but nevertheless, they immediately withdrew as much of the fluid as possible to alleviate the pressure on the heart. Very often this will solve the problem, at least in the short term. However, now she had developed arrhythmia – her heart was beating irregularly. The vet had never come across this as a result of pericardial effusion but was more concerned that it had caused tachycardia – her heart rate had accelerated rapidly. She had been placed on two intravenous drips, both giving her doses of medication to reduce her heart rate. The nurse showed me that one of catheters had been placed in the left celaphic vein – the front leg normally used for IV, whilst the other had been placed in left saphenous vein – the back leg. This was because the original drip had been unsuccessfully placed in the right celaphic vein, bruising it.

The saphenous vein is not normally used for intravenous injections because it’s quite wobbly. So although it is easy to find and raise, it can be hard to steadily put a needle in. However, on some occasions it might it be the best option. If a dog is agitated or aggressive, the saphenous vein is useful as it is further away from the dog’s teeth. It can also be useful because there is more to hold onto, so the leg can be held steady for quick needle insertion in a restless animal. One of the vets mentioned that he found it easier to take blood from this vein on puppies whose celaphic veins were just too small, whilst someone else said that they had previously used it for euthanasia, giving the dog more space around it head so it remained calm, or so that its owners could be nearer. Another consideration is that bandaging is harder around the hock than the around the wrist, but a bandage is more likely to stay in place.

The Labrador was going to go home for the evening, with the decision made that she was in a stable condition and would be more comfortable at home. The nurse removed the drips, but left the catheters in place under bandages in case the dog was rushed in that night. The owners were sent home with medication to reduce the heart rate, and an appointment was made for tomorrow. If all was well the catheters would be removed and a course of action would be decided.

The final question left hanging, was whether this pericardial effusion could have anything to do with anaesthetic the dog had been under last week for her spay. This made me recognise how everything interlinks and no piece of information can be discarded when evaluating a case. This is just one of the things which makes veterinary medicine such a challenging career. It’s a good thing that I like challenges!

Kingnorth Vets – 26th November 2014

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.

Folkestone Owl Rescue Sanctuary

Since July 2013, I have been volunteering at Folkestone Owl Rescue Sanctuary. Folkestone Owls is a rescue sanctuary which has been running for over 30 years, IMG_2233 (600x800)rescuing owls. These owls have been injured in the wild or come from other sanctuaries or zoos which have closed down or been unable to look after injured birds. Unfortunately, many of the owls also come to the Rescue Sanctuary because people have bought them as pets then realise that they are unable to look after them. All these owls are homed in the back garden of the one man who set up and committed his life to rescuing owls. His garden is filled with aviaries which can house up to 50 birds at one time of 8 different species. They require cleaning and feeding daily, with all the money needed to keep them dependent on public donations. Therefore, every Thursday and Saturday, the team take up to seven owls to Folkestone Town Centre where we let the public stroke them and ask questions about them, putting lose change into collection pots. This is a great way to educate the public about these IMG_2240amazing birds whilst fundraising sufficient money to keep the sanctuary operating. Once a month during the summer months, the sanctuary also has open days where the public are invited to come to the sanctuary and hold an owl, finding out more about how the sanctuary runs. On these days, we run a tombola and raffle and sell owl pictures, models and posters which have been donated to us.


I love interacting with the public and have become much more confident. Some of the standard questions we get include:

How many owls are there at the sanctuary? – at the moment we have 31 owls but we can house up to 50 at one time.

Why are they at the sanctuary? – we are a rescue sanctuary so our primary aim is rescuing owls. This may be if they are found injured in the wild and cannot be returned, but most of our owls actually come to us if other sanctuaries or zoos can no longer look after them. For example, Jazz the snowy owl was blinded in one eye when it was caught on a talon in the nest. The zoo did not want an injured owl so we took him in. Many of our owls also come to us if they have been kept as pets. Owls do not make good pets and many people do not realise this after watching Harry Potter and dreaming of their own ‘Hedwig’. Finally, several of our owls have been born at the sanctuary and hand-reared. This is important because these are the owls who are most amenable to being handled, so can be taken to the town centre or to schools, earning the money needed to feed all the birds we rescue. It also creates a gene pool, supporting the wild owl population.DSCN3459

What do the owls eat? – in the wild, owls eat a variety of prey ranging from rabbits, voles and song birds to frogs, insects and sometimes even slugs. However, at the sanctuary we feed them day old chicks which come in frozen.

Is it a girl or a boy? – in the owl family, the females are always bigger than the males, so this is the main way we can tell. With some species it is possible to tell by their marking, for example, female snowy owls normally have lots of black spots whilst males are almost entirely white. Very often it can be impossible to know until they lay an egg, in which case they must be a female. Most of the owls we bring to the town centre are males because generally they are calmer and less aggressive.

Why can I not stroke its back? – although it won’t hurt the owls to stroke their back and wings, we generally advice that it is best to stroke them on their bellies only. This is because they produce waterproofing oils on their flight feathers which can be wiped off by our hands, potentially reducing their water-resistance and damaging their feathers. It is also safer if they can see your hand and you don’t make them jump by suddenly touching their back.

How long do they live? – in captivity, barn owls may live up to 20 years whilst eagle owls may live up to 50 years. However, in the wild this is reduced to about 6 years for barn owls and 10 years for eagle owls because the numerous risk factors they are exposed to on a daily basis.

Do they not want to fly away? – the owls we take to the town centre are attached to our gauntlets (gloves) by their jesses. Although some of the owls may love to fly away, this is just like many dogs wishing to run away when let off the lead. The owls do not know how to hunt and therefore would not survive in the wild. Most of the owls seem to be very happy at the sanctuary where they have food, shelter and company.

Can they turn their heads all the way round? – owls can turn their heads about 270 degrees of a circle. This is because their eyes are fixed in their sockets, so unlike us they cannot move their eyes to look around so need to have the ability to turn their heads to see as much of their surroundings as possible.

I have learnt so much from volunteering with Folkestone Owl Sanctuary. Not only is it amazing to be able to handle these awesome birds which I have loved my entire life, but I have been able to realise the importance of developing good public relations and adapting to whoever you are talking to, giving them the best opportunity to be educated.

Temperature-Sensitive Genes

After reading ‘Cat Sense’ by John Bradshaw, I wanted to find out more about interactions between genes and the environment. Bradshaw mentioned that the darker patches of fur on the face, paws, ears and tail of Siamese cats are caused by a temperature sensitive mutation which causes the hairs to be darker the colder the temperature. This means that when Siamese kittens are first born they are white all over because their mother’s womb is uniformly warm. However, as they grow, the coolest parts of their bodies – the extremities including face, paws, ears and tail – become darker in colour. Furthermore, cats living near the equator or in very warm houses tend to be lighter than those living in cooler climates.

The colour of a Siamese cat has been compared to oculocutaneous albinism in humans which causes white skin, very pale hair and light-coloured irises. In humans, oculocutaneous albinism is the result of a genetic change producing a
temperature-sensitive tyrosinase polypeptide. This protein’s enzymatic activity is reduced even at 31°C and is almost abolished at 37°C. Tyrosinase is the enzyme that catalyzes the production of melanin. Therefore, the higher the temperature, the less enzyme activity and the less melanin produced, resulting in albinism. It is thought that a very similar phenomenon is happening in cats, where enzymes are directly affected by their surrounding temperature are controlling the fur colour.



Mathematics of Life

by ian stewart

published by profile books in 2011

What is this book about?

‘Mathematics of Life’ by Ian Stewart was a book that inspired to relate what I love about maths to what I love about biology. It studies the links between maths and biology which form the emerging discipline of mathematical biology, concluding that mathematics is the sixth revolution of life, following the microscope, classification, evolution, genetics and the structure of DNA. This was a grand proclamation to make, but Stewart justified it in his thorough exploration of the application of maths to biology. From the golden ratio to the human genome project, mathematics underlies the processes used in biology and the phenomenon of the natural world. By using probability, topology and mathematical models, biologists are now able to simplify real life problems to open a door to enlightenment.

Area of Interest for Further Research

  • Using multiple dimensions to unravel viruses

In mathematics, a dimension can be defined as the number of independent coordinates needed to specify the things that belong to it. Therefore, we are able to look not only at space with three dimensions, but at space with four dimensions or maybe even more. In this way, familiar objects can be considered in space of multiple dimensions, and as a result are often made simpler to understand. Viruses are very little understood, and part of this is their complex shape. The majority of viruses are icosahedral (20 sided shape) or helical, with the main form observed being the incredible icosahedron. An icosahedron is one of the platonic solids, constructed of regular equilateral triangles, consequently it has 120 symmetries. This is very hard for us to imagine, but by applying mathematical rules we are able to consider the icosahedron in multiple dimensions. By taking the points in space which form an icosahedron, it becomes clearer how it is constructed. In this way, we can understand how viruses are constructed: the first step in learning how to destroy them.

This is something that amazes me. Even abstract maths can be combined with abstract biology to create an idea which can realistically revolutionise health care.

How good was this book?

I thought this book was wonderful. Stewart uses approachable language to bring across fantastic ideas. His clever structure enables the reader to pick through the areas of most interest, and he ha covered a vast array of topics, giving a taste of the mathematics of life. He even covered controversial topics, including the question of ‘what is life?’ and whether aliens may exist. At points, biology and mathematics seemed to diverge and it was possible to question how relevant the subjects were to each other within a particular topic, however, this was always reconciled at the end of the chapter when Stewart concluded by drawing together the different points he had made. The radical assertion of mathematics’ importance in biology is something that many mathematicians and biologists would disagree on. However, it is an idea that I fully agree with.

Who would I advise this book to?

This book would be brilliant for anybody studying both maths and biology at A level, and wondering how these two subjects impact each other. The initial chapters of this book unintentionally cover much of the AS level biology specification with fantastic clarity, whilst providing additional and fascinating background knowledge.

Kingsnorth Vets – 17th September 2014

After a long break during the summer holidays I have returned to continue with my fortnightly work experience are Kingsnorth Vets. On asking the vet if I had missed anything exciting whilst I was away, she told me about an operation they had done to remove a lung lobe in a young dog. One part of the lung was infected and damaged beyond repair so to prevent the infection spreading to across the lungs, threatening the dog’s life, they removed the lobe of lung which was infected. Incredibly everything had gone smoothly and the dog had made an excellent recovery!

The first consult of the evening was a group of seven springer spaniel puppies. They were seven weeks old and ready for their first vaccines. In need of some extra hands, I cuddled one of the puppies whilst the vet checked each puppy before vaccinating it. He looked particularly at their skin as they had previously been infected with Sarcoptes, a genus of mite causing mange. After being treated with advocate they were all rapidly improving.

A Staffordshire Bull terrier was brought in having been newly rehomed that day. Its new owner had made the decision to start her vaccination course from the beginning as her history was unknown. However, it was suspected that she had been used for breeding and she also had an unregistered microchip. The vet advised waiting until after her first season before considering spaying. She was very pretty and extremely friendly and I found it hard to imagine how someone could abandon any dog, let alone one like her. I’ve also recently noticed that the overwhelming majority of abandoned dogs are staffies. In the kennels today was a stray staffie waiting to be collected by the dog warden.

A cat was brought in which had on-going loss of appetite leading to lots of weight being lost. The vets had taken bloods but these hadn’t shown any conclusive results. However, today the problem was more superficial. Having had an antibiotic injection during her last consult, the cat had suffered with a vaccine reaction. The owner described how a bald patch had appeared and soon the cat was scratching it. Despite the owner’s best efforts, the skin on the back of its neck was red and sore and hadn’t shown signs of healing. The vet gave a steroid injection to calm down the inflammation and itchiness. This should result in a noticeable improvement within two days.

Next was a mongrel limping on its front left foot. Unfortunately, it was very nervous so after having muzzle put on, the vet examined its leg and foot, finally located that the outside left claw was resulting in the most whimpers. The vet could feel and very slight crunch when moving this nail and suspected a broken toe. She gave the dog an analgesic injection and gave them tablets to take away. Unless there was a rapid improvement with the pain relief on board, she advised booking an appointment for an x-ray. If necessary, the bone could then be manipulated into place whilst the dog was under anaesthetic and it could be bandaged firmly. However, if the joint was too damaged there could be the possibility of surgery to scrape away the cartilage, allowing the joint to fuse, although to amputate the toe would be the simpler and much cheaper option.

Finally, a very old cat was brought in. The owners were very concerned that her condition was becoming progressively worse from day to day as she struggled to move and suffered with diarrhoea. The cat’s abdomen was hugely distended. The vet explained how she could feel a fluid thrill; when she tapped one side of the abdomen she could feel the impulse bounce into her hand on the other side – evidence that the abdomen was full of fluid. This meant the distension was not a result of swollen organs or bloating but gave a reason behind why the cat was so dehydrated despite drinking lots. The vet suggested possibilities for immediate action to put her on a drip then investigating the situation by taking blood or possibly doing some imaging. However, this was unlikely to extend the length of the cat’s life significantly and would put her through a lot. The owners decided to have her put down.

Cat Sense

the feline enigma revealed

by john bradshaw

published by allen lane in 2013

What is this book about?

‘Cat Sense – the feline enigma revealed’ by John Bradshaw explores how cats have changed and developed throughout time to become the modern cat we know and love. It begins by considering when and where the domestication of the cat begun. Unlike dogs, there is very little evidence to support how this process took place but archaeology and other historic accounts, including artwork give us some clues. Furthermore, we can use genetics to investigate which wild cats were the ancestors of our domestic Felis catus. The book then goes on to explore the building relationship of cats with humans. Initially, it is likely that cats were attracted to human civilisations as they began to store food, creating intense populations of rodents. Therefore, humans appreciated the work cats were doing for them in catching mice and rats. This is why cats are so different from dogs in their affection for humans: for the domestication of dogs was based on companionship whilst the domestication of cats was based on hunting. After covering this basic history, Bradshaw goes on to explain how cats think and feel according to research, a lot of which Bradshaw has carried out himself. This follows into the relationships cats have with each other, humans and wildlife. Finally, this is used to question how we keep our cats and consider how we should act to maintain a positive relationship with the domestic cat as we step into the future. In doing this, Bradshaw touches upon the controversial topics of selective breeding and neutering. Generally, neutering of cats is actively encouraged (see poster on right) to prevent the possibly millions of unwanted kittens. However, Bradshaw suggests that perhaps we shouldn’t be advocating neutering to such a degree. If all owners have their cats neutered, soon the only fertile cats will be strays – those cats who cannot be caught and detest the sight of humans. These will be the cats breeding our pet kittens, forcing the genetic line of the domestic cat away from an affectionate bond with humans. I was almost shocked at this opinion, but realised how true it is and that in the coming future, this is something we need to consider if we want to continue owning and loving cats.

Areas of Interest for Further Research

  • An Interaction Between Genes and the Environment

I learnt many extremely interesting things from ‘Cat Sense’, which enlightened my biological and historical view of cats and questioned the anthropological relationships we form with them in our society. However, one of the most fascinating discoveries I made was about the Siamese cats’ coat colour. The darker areas on a Siamese cat’s face, paws and ears result from a temperature-sensitive mutation. At body temperature, the hairs will be white, therefore when Siamese kitten are first born they are white all over because their mother’s womb is uniformly warm. However, as they grow, the coolest parts of their bodies – the extremities including face, paws, ears and tail – become darker in colour. Furthermore, cats living near the equator or in very warm houses tend to be lighter than those living in cooler climates. I have never considered temperature sensitive genetics and this is definitely something I would like to look into further.

See my post about Temperature-Sensitive Genes for more information.

How good was this book?

I really enjoyed reading this book, although it took a while to get into. This is because I am less interested in the history of cat domestication and found it hard to follow the exact dates and geographical settings of each area Bradshaw explored. However, it was easy to become engaged by the fantastic experiments which Bradshaw directly referred to. Despite not owning my own pet cats, I was immediately able to appreciate the significance of many of the findings on society’s view of domestic cats.

Who would I advise this book to?

I think this book would contribute greatly to the knowledge of anyone working alongside cats. Whether this be in a cattery, veterinary practice or at home. It would be extremely useful for anyone considering getting more than one cat or anybody interested in finding out more about the mysterious life lead by our feline friends.

RSPCA Ashford Garden Cattery

For the past year, I have been volunteering regularly at my local RSPCA Cattery in Ashford. Having had very limited experience handling and working with cats previously, I was keen to get involved. The RSPCA is a fantastic charity and the work they do invaluable. From the very first day I volunteered – 20th August 2013 – I have been amazed at the overwhelming number of cats cared for and rehomed through the cattery. There have been court cases and strays, as well as dearly loved pets who cannot be looked after any longer because of changing circumstances or owners’ ill health. They really need and appreciate their volunteers and as a result, we all love what we do for them.

Every morning at the cattery, volunteers come in at 8.30 to clean all the pens. This involves scooping out litter trays, brushing hair out of blankets and wiping down surfaces before sweeping then mopping the floor of each pen. With a small team of volunteers working alongside the staff, all the pens are clean by 10.30, ready for the cattery to open to the public at 11.00. During the day, other volunteers come in to help in the garden or socialise the cats. Socialising is great fun and involves letting the cats out to play with each other and get used to human company, ready for when they are rehomed. However, in everything we do, we have to be very careful. Every cat must be regarded as an individual. Some cats are not allowed to interact with other cats because of suspected illness so it is important that we do act as carriers of potential disease. Therefore, we always have to wash our hands regularly. Furthermore, it is our responsibility to respond to the cats’ behaviour. If they hiss or refuse to move, it would be wrong to try and force them to come out and socialise, for it could result in scratches or bites.

On a Wednesday, the cattery is shut to the public and the vet comes in to check up on the cats. I have been around to observe this several times. Very often the problem is fleas, in which case the cat(s) are put in quarantine to prevent the fleas invading the entire cattery. However, I have also seen several cases of feline herpes virus. One in particular was very interesting because to test for the virus, the vet used fluorescein in its eye. This highlighted an amazing ulcer which looked like a river with tributaries spreading out from it. Luckily, herpes is not a huge problem for the cattery because although it affects the individual cat, all the other cats are routinely vaccinated against it.

During the past year, I have been regularly going to the cattery for 1 1/2 hours every other Wednesday afternoon. My main job is to rinse all the scoops and brushes which have been left to soak for their weekly disinfect. I then put all the scoops and brushes back into the pens, giving me the chance to see and interact with the cats. Very often there are kittens which I play with, observing how they develop hunting techniques through this playing. Recently, I spent a lot of time with several very shy cats. They had been confiscated from their owners by the RSPCA due to neglect, leading to a court case. Their ears were very tatty and initially I thought it was because they had been in fights resulting in the rips and tears – one of the cat’s barely had any outer ear remaining. However, after asking one of the staff, I was told that this damage was all due to ear mites. Therefore, each one of the six cats in the household had suffered with it. This made it clear why the RSPCA had taken action.

In total I have now spent about 40 hours at the garden cattery, which consists of cleaning, socialising cats and generally helping out, it even includes an early morning clean on Boxing Day when they were short of volunteers. Over the coming year, I am going to be spending several hours cleaning every other Wednesday morning. Despite having a few scratches, I love working at the cattery and have learnt so much about cats and the people who choose to abuse them or love them.

Montgomery Vets – 17th April 2014

As it is Good Friday tomorrow, today was my last day at Montgomery Veterinary Clinic. Over the weekend, they are going to be moving to a bigger, purpose-built surgery on the other side of the car park so lots of time today was spent packing up and moving boxes. However, action on the veterinary side of business continued as normal and I began the day in consults. The first was a dog in for a booster. The vet discussed trying a halter for him because the owner mentioned his continual pulling when on the lead. Another point of discussion was the dog’s weight. After being castrated, he had put on weight leading to a body condition score of 5.5 out of 9. With 4.5 being optimum, it wasn’t a serious cause for concern but just something the owner needed to be aware of. The vet suggested reducing meal portions and coming in to be regularly weighed.

The cats I saw being spayed and neutered on Monday were brought in for their post-op check. They were both doing well, but the female would need to come in again next week to have a final check and have her stitches taken out.

One of the most interesting investigations of the week took place when a vet specialising in ultrasound echocardiograms came in to do a heart scan on a Patterdale terrier. The dog had lost almost all her fur after her last season and was coughing badly. They had tried steroids as a treatment for bronchitis but there had been no improvement. The use of steroids could even have worsened the situation as the hair loss could be caused by Cushing’s disease – excessive production of corticosteroids due to a tumour affecting the adrenal or pituitary gland. Cushing’s disease is very hard to diagnose, having to rely on blood tests and clinical signs. However, this scan was not related to Cushing’s but instead the coughing, for they wanted to find out if it was cardiac related. The vet was looking particularly for changes in size and pressure, which may be causing changes in the thorax to result in a cough. Luckily, after trying a couple of different probes and using the ultrasound machine in amazing ways, the vet concluded that there were no significant changes to the heart so the cough was probably a lung problem. Currently, the dog was on medication used for pulmonary fibrosis which was helping slightly. The drug reduces fluid in the lungs and dilates bronchi so the dog was now finding it easier to breathe. This meant that the owner was taking it on longer walks. After discussing several diseases and further investigations which could be done – the owner was keen to reach a true diagnosis – the vets decided to continue with this medication and test for Cushing’s disease. If there was no radical improvement, they could try bronchoscopy and take a sample from the lungs to test. I had a brilliant opportunity to talk to this referral vet after the procedure, so we discussed whether these problems were likely to be caused by one problem or whether there were multiple diseases at play. He showed me his fantastic ultrasound machine and told me about how he travelled the country, offering second opinions to many small veterinary practices.

As well as this, I had a very exciting consult today when 9 French Bulldog puppies were brought in for their first vaccines. They were 8 weeks old and adorable! Every single one of them needed hepatitis, parvovirus, distemper, parainfluenza and leptospirosis as well as health and weight checks. Roland showed me how to draw up the vaccinations into needles so that I could do this whilst he did the checks. There were two bottles, used as a combination to deliver all the vaccines needed. One was a solvent and the other a solution. After drawing up 9 vaccinations, I had got the hang of it and really enjoyed doing some hands-on experience! Whilst I stuck vaccine stickers into the puppies’ brand new record books, I listened to the breeder and vet discussing one puppy in particular with pinched nostrils. This was a common problem with bulldogs and could make breathing difficult. This puppy had already got a new owner lined up, so Roland suggested that the new owner should be told and he would advise an operation when the dog was about one year old to cut open and correct the nostrils. The breeder agreed, and decided to offer to pay for the operation if the new owner wanted to go ahead with it to prevent any disagreements.

A border collie was brought in with a cyst on its ear which had become infected and swollen. The vet drained it and prescribed some antibiotics, giving the owner instructions to keep an eye on it and bring it in if it worsened.

A spaniel was brought in with the owners wanting a second opinion. The dog had been in a fight and had an open, bleeding cut on its ear. They had taken it to their normal vets who had tried to cauterise the cut. But as it had not stopped bleeding, they had sutured it with dissolvable stitches instead. It had now become infected so the owners had come to Montgomery’s, not satisfied with the other vets. After taking off the bandages, the vet looked at it and suggested trying antibiotics and metacam to reduce the infection. He also thought that leaving it open with the dog wearing a buster collar would give it the best conditions for healing. The owners agreed, and they decided that it would be bandaged only if it was a problem left open. The vet then explained that it would need stitches, but only once the infection had gone completely.

A cat was brought in because it was ‘under the weather’. It was normally a lively cat but had suddenly become very quiet and lethargic. There were no other symptoms, with no raised temperature. In cases like these it is very hard for the vet to know what to do, but important for the owner to be aware of the possible risks. The vet decided to prescribe a laxative in case the problem was furballs and instructed the owners to keep an eye on urine and stools, which were normal at present but could be a good indicator of a developing problem. He also suggested that in a week’s time the cat should be treated with milbemax and advocate in case it had worms and because of the mild signs of dermatitis from fleas.

A cat was brought in for a vaccine, but during the routine check-up, the vet noticed it had enlarged thyroid glands. On further examination, he found that the gut was also enlarged and was amazed to find he could grab hold of the intestine from the outside. This was not a good sign as normally the intestine should slide away, being almost impossible to grasp during an external examination. Holding onto the intestine, he was able to accurately take a fine needle biopsy, collecting cells to send off for testing. The vet left it open with the owner as to what it could be, but when the owner left and I asked, he told me that he almost certain this cat had cancer in its gut.

On Tuesday evening, after I had left, a dog had been rushed in after a road traffic accident. On examination, they had found almost no injury but immediately gave anti-inflammatories and painkillers to avoid shock. Today, the dog had come in for a recheck. The vet found a very slight swelling to the paw, but otherwise all was fine and the owners were happy to be discharged.

When I began my week at Montgomery Vets, I was looking forward to seeing lots of exotic animals and my very last consult lived up to expectation. A Royal Python was brought in after having shedding troubles. The owners had moved it to a new, bigger vivarium but this had induced stress, causing the bad shed. As a result, the python had defecated into the shedding skin causing the new skin to become infected. The vet began explaining lots of health care tips to ensure easy sheds, for prevention is the best cure. Now it was important that the remaining old skin was shed successfully, giving the infection a chance to heal. To do this, the snake must be kept between 28-30°C and given a bath twice daily. The vet advised placing the water in the viv to warm up and letting the snake move in to the water when feeling comfortable to do so. It should then be patted dry with paper towel and have iodine solution placed on the damaged area to act as disinfectant. Finally, the owners should try to give an antibiotic injection every third day. The vet explained that if they were not happy to do it themselves, they could bring the snake in but the owners wanted to give it a try. Therefore, Clive gave the first first injection to show us how it was done. The needle had to be slid underneath the skin on one side of the spine. It should then drawn back to make sure there is no blood before slowly compressing the plunger.

I have had a brilliant week at Montgomery Vets and feel I have learnt so much, seeing so many fascinating cases. It has been a joy working alongside such loving and devoted vet and nurses. They have involved in everything so that I have matured, being able to ask questions and set fire to my passion to become a vet. Thank you so much to everyone at Montgomery Veterinary Clinic!

Montgomery Vets – 16th April 2014

Today the first operation of the day was a cat for a mid-line spay. However, as I have seen quite a lot of spays I did not watch this but instead observed a dog having its blood pressure taken and an ultrasound done as part of a kidney investigation. However, there were no obvious indicators so a discussion needed to be had with the owner regarding what to do next.

A basset hound was brought in limping. After an examination, the vet found that touching the muscle was painful whilst the joints were all fine. Limping can take a long time to subside on a basset hound because it is so hard for them to walk on three legs. Therefore, the vet prescribed anti-inflammatories and lots of rest. He suggested that the dog was separated from the Jack Russell terrier it lived with and given at the most 4 very short walks a day. If they maintained this for two weeks before building up exercise again, recovery would be a much quicker process.

A family with two dogs and a cat were brought in for their booster vaccinations, but they also had a host of other issues to discuss with the vet. One of the dogs had bad hind legs with muscle wastage and arthritis. The vet talked to the owner about trying Nutraquin, the product the drug rep had come in about on Monday, as the vet was very keen to see how effective the nutraceuticals could be. The cat had a small which the vet thought was probably from a tick. He explained that the cat’s immune system should deal with the tick’s snout if it was still under the skin whilst the best tick treatment is prevention, for many owners do not realise that advocate does not affect ticks so different treatments are needed.

When a greyhound came in for his booster, Roland did the general check-up, exclaiming about its very loud heart beat. He started telling me about the strong heart of a greyhound and the fantastic electrocardiograms they create. This was what he did his dissertation on, and it was brilliant to listen to his enthusiasm over it. This particular greyhound had a very sensitive stomach so the owners had to be very careful to constantly monitor the food it was eating.

An adorable German Shepherd puppy was brought in for its second booster. The vet discussed some training techniques which would be important to put in place. These could include using a whistle or taking him to puppy training classes. We also looked at the hip and elbow scores the breeder had carried out under the Kennel Club. The elbow score is on a scale of 0 to 3, with 0 being the best and 3 being the most severe, an indicator of elbow dysplasia. This puppy had an elbow score of 0, despite German Shepherds having a higher incidence of elbow dysplasia. The hip score is on a scale of 0 to 106 (53 for each hip), with the lowest scores indicating the least degree of hip dysplasia present. Luckily, this puppy had a relatively low score of 11/12.

A miniature poodle was brought in for a pre-castrate check up but it also suffered with many different problems. This included sciatica, a curved spine and a slipped disk for which it was having hydro and physiotherapy. However, it also had a urine infection, shown by the increased red and white blood cells as well as minerals in the urine. The particular mineral was struvite, the build up of which can lead to urinary tract stones. The vet suggested they should not go ahead with the castrate but prescribed a course of antibiotics then a re-check with the hope of going ahead with it in 10 days time.

Next, a female ferret (jill) on heat was brought in. Roland showed me the swollen vulva and the owner explained she’d seen a small, but luckily not excessive, amount of blood. However, seasons can be very dangerous for a jill if not mated. They can cause fur to fall out along their sides and possible anaemia, even death, if the season is prolonged. Therefore, every three months, this ferret was given a hormone injection to stop the season.

A cat was brought in with TB. When I was told it had TB, I began to worry because of the scare in March when two pet owners caught TB from their infected cats. However, the vet assured me that this was caused Mycobacterium microti. Tuberculosis is most regularly caused by M. tuberculosis, M. bovis, or M. microti. M. tuberculosis causes more than 90% of tuberculosis in humans whilst very rarely causes infection in cats, probably because they are naturally resistant to it. Mycobacterium bovis infects cows, badgers, deer, dogs, cats and humans as well as many other animals. Although all members of the tuberculosis complex pose potential zoonotic risk, it was this zoonose which  was transferred from the cats to their owners. It is as a result of the number of species it affects as to why it has caused so much trouble on farms. However, M.microti is only known to cause infection in voles and cats. The cat brought in was a keen hunter and it was likely it had caught TB from a vole. This cat had lesions on its paws, probably from where the vole had bitten it, transferring the bacteria. But more severely, I was shown an x-ray of its chest and saw the damaged lungs, covered in scar tissue. Treatment involved 6 months of antibiotic medication to ensure all the bacteria were destroyed. However, this particular cat refused to take medication. As a result they had inserted a feeding tube directly into through the neck and into the oesophagus. This meant that the medication could be syringed using a needle into the tube. But, two weeks into treatment, the tube become blocked causing the cat to gag and wretch whilst the owner could not inject the medication. An x-ray was taken, showing that the tube had folded over. Immediately they put the at under anaesthetic and reinserted the tube before taking another x-ray, confirming that the tube was back in place ready for the next six months.

Next, a 14-year old border collie was brought in for a blood test to review medication. It had previously had a lump removed from its liver and although it had very bad arthritis in its back legs, the current liver medication was maintaining the dog in good health. However, now the dog was steady, it was a good opportunity to consider changing the liver medication to a cheaper alternative to be administered less frequently.

A cat was brought in for a booster vaccination. Whilst doing the general check-up, the vet noted the fantastic weight of 4.45kg, reduced from 6.20kg, resulting in a much improved body condition score. He also pointed out the tartar on the cat’s teeth and showed them how it could be picked off with your nail. However, there were also signs of gingivitis which could only be improved if they chose to have the teeth scaled in a dental.

A very cute pygmy hedgehog was brought in with a lump on its tummy. Once the hedgehog was uncurled, we got a moment to have a look and Roland though it was either an abscess which had formed as a result of infection, or a growth. They discussed the option of anaesthetizing and taking a sample for further investigation, but the owners to start with antibiotics and then review progress. This hedgehog was now five years old and kept as a pet, being fed dry cat food and fruit. It is something I have never seen before and I’m not sure whether make particularly good pets, as they are not sociable with humans.

Finally, a dog was brought in with a limp it had suffered with for some time. It was the result of a lump near the nail of the toe. It had not responded to metacam so they decided to try antibiotic in case it was an infection. They could also consider taking a sample or doing an x-ray to explore some further options of the cause.