I am excited to announce that I am joining the staff of Caring Hands Animal Hospital–Ashburn starting April 25th. Caring Hands has a reputation for compassion and excellent care and I am so happy to be able to contribute to their patient care by offering avian and exotic medicine and surgery services. www.caringhandsvet.com
Archive for the 'March 2011' Category
An interesting case was the large snake that came in on emergency and was transferred to my department that next morning. He was a beautiful python that not only gulped down two rabbits for his meal the night before, but also the electric cord of an appliance that was near his meal. Radiographs revealed the skeletons of his prey as well as the metallic parts and wire of the severed cord that was tangled with the food. The plan was to sedate the snake, intubate him (place an endotracheal tube to hook to a ventillator) and perform an enterotomy–surgically open the stomach to remove the contents. Since he was such a big snake, we needed to lay out addtional tables to support his full size and it took multiple staff to restrain during the initial part of the surgery. But it went well and once he was fully anesthetized I was able to prepare for my first incision. Fortunately, I was able to use not just the radiographs with markers placed to identify where to make the incision, but his meal also made a nice lump along his body that identified where the best place to start. Incisions were made through the skin, muscle and stomach wall until the foreign bodies were reached. The prey was removed along with the cord that was hopelessly tangled with them and I was able to finish up the closure and prepare the pet for recovery. Most vets have a story that consists of random items eaten by pets. Other items removed from a variety of pets (from myself and colleagues) include coins, pieces of rubber and foam, hairballs, a beer bottle (another vet and another snake), staples, and cloth to name a few. Birds tend to ingest items like bread twisty ties and jewlery or cloth and string. Rabbits like to go for carpeting and bedding. Ferrets love rubber and chewy items (sneakers, erasers, etc) and reptiles eat a variety of substrate including rocks and sand. No matter what type of pet or what the ingested item is, these cases tend to be medically and surgically challenging.
Sometimes housecalls are not actually houses. A few years back I received a call regarding a sick swan. Two swans lived on a lake in the backyard of a client and one of them was not acting right; it seemed lethargic. So the day of the visit, I pulled a technician and we packed the car with items we might need including a scale to weigh the bird, a stethascope, needles and syringes in case we needed to draw blood, some common medications that we may need, and of course my exotic formulary that would help me to figure out a dosage for any medications I may need to dispense. Along the way, I got lost –which is a very common theme for me anywhere I go for the first time–but we were able to quickly get back on track and make it to the house. Once we arrived, we were shown to the back of the house and told we will go to the birds. Then he pulled out the boat. It was a little flat boat with a motor. Apparently the birds were on the water and we needed to find them. I could have sworn I mentioned on the phone that we needed the bird penned in but apparently they had not been able to capture it. So we took a ride around the lake for a half hour. It was a beautiful autumn day so it was fairly pleasant. We finally found the swan and it’s mate in the middle of the lake. The owner suggested we lure the bird onto the boat with the food…this did not work. I was only able to get a foot away from the bird. The swan seemed a bit lethargic, but really I could not physically touch the bird to assess. After about fifteen minutes, even the owner realized it was futile. So we headed back to the house. All I could offer was an antibiotic dosed on the average swan weight and recommend they try to give this in food. Amazingly, a week later, I received a call that the swan was recovering and doing much better. I am not sure if it was the meds or tincture of time, but I was glad we did not need to make a recheck visit.
During my time as a poultry resident in Columbus, OH, I received a call regarding some sick chickens. Location: southeast edge of Ohio. The other resident and I packed up for a two hour trip and prepared for a pleasant ride. What we could not prepare for was the fact that we were driving into the Appalachian mountains. As we got closer to the location, we startede to realize that we are not in “Ohio” any more. It was an amazing ride through the mountains. In some areas there was no phone signal and no place to stop. In some areas, there were isolated homes. It almost reminded me of upstate New York but bath tubs and satelite dishes on front lawns were not something I had ever seen in my home of NY. Needless to say, we got lost somewhere along the way and were at least 45 minutes late. We finally stopped at a general store that could have been out of Little House on the Prairie to get directions and to call the client. Fortunately, we weren’t far and the owner came to meet us and lead to the house.
A very memorable case from years ago was that of a hamster that presented for just not doing right. In vet lingo we use the acronym ADR (ain’t doing right) and upon exam the hamster was a little thin but distended in the belly, not as active and energetic. We initally tried some medications but this didn’t help and at the recheck visit, the hamster was much thinner and it’s belly was bigger. Radiographs (X-rays) revealed a mass affect in the abdomen that appeared to be the reproductive tract. Based on the rest of exam and diagnostics it appeared to be a possible pyometra and the recommendation had to be a spay surgery which is risky enough in a larger pet, but in a hamster it has the additional challenges of being such a small pet. The owners opted to go forward and we scheduled surgery for the next day. The next morning, prior to surgery, I called the owner to give an update on the pet’s status and the plan and the owner revealed to me the importanced of this hamster. It belonged to their daughter who was diagnosed with epilepsy and this hamster was given to her at the time of diagnosis. It was a source of emotional support for the daugher and family. After this, I felt more pressure than normal to do my best for this family. We proceeded with the surgery and the hamster remained stable under anesthesia. The uterus took up most of the abdomen and was filled with white fluid. I was relieved to remove the entire uterus without it opening up and potentially releasing bacteria throughout the abdomen. Once the ovaries and uterus were out, I flushed the area liberally, sutured her closed and we woke her up. The hamster was a trooper and did amazingly well. Two days later it was able to go home and continued to thrive. The recheck visit was such a great visit in that the hamster was doing so well at home and had recovered. It is amazing to think how much impact this tiny little critter had on so many people. These are the cases that make it all worthwhile.