Whilst eagerly anticipating the first pre-booked appointment of the day, a farmer casually brought a pig in the back of his Land rover to the surgery – an eventful way to start my week of seeing large animal practice.
The piglet had neither eaten nor defecated for several days.
After the vet and I scrambled into the boot of the car, door held shut to prevent an escapee, I got stuck in straight away by putting my goat handling skills to use. After all, pigs are certainly not the easiest of animals to restrain, especially when the initial examination requires her temperature to be taken. I cornered the squirming swine, holding her still whilst she struggled, to enable the vet to continue with the health assessment.
The normal temperature range for a pig is 38.6 – 39.5 degrees Celsius. Here is an interesting fact, pigs cannot sweat so prefer the cold. Hence being pictured rolling around in mud, they are cooling off. Pyrexia may be a symptom of the immune response to an underlying condition such as an infection. The core body temperature increases in an attempt to fight the infection. The prognosis was that antibiotics, Metacam (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug often described as a pain-killer although technically not a pain killer), fluids, and worming the pig would aid her recovery back to health.
Lots of injections meant a lot of pig wrestling… and a lot of noise!
Assessing dehydration through skin elasticity is a quick and simple test.
Alamycin LA was opted over Pen + Strep due to the 3 day duration, making it a long-acting antimicrobial injection.
Metacam is an NSAID. It works my inhibiting the enzymes (cyclooxygenase enzymes) that produce prostaglandins. This is the same reason there can be high risks if a person is not careful with drug combinations since prostaglandins protect the stomach and aid blood clotting. A combination of an NSAID and a steroid can have fatal results, including organ failure and internal bleeding.
The second appointment of the morning was surgery on a dairy cow who recently calved. During our journey to the farm, I was quizzed. “Do you know what a twisted gut is?”.
Cue the most ridiculous response “A stomach that is… twisted?”.
Left displaced abomasum is the correct answer, and I was on my way to assist a right flank pyloric omentopexy.
A vaginal examination confirmed that the cow had metritis from the discharge. Metritis is one of the risk factors for LDA as atony of the abomasum can result in the build up of gas. Therefore, the vet injected Pen + Strep. Also, the uterus displaces the abomasum during calving so failure to return to the correct place can result in an LDA.
I used a stethoscope to identify the ”ping” on the left side which locates the accumulation of gas in the abomasum which has caused it to displace. Interesting to hear something other than heart beats!
Preparing such a large surgical site was a new experience, especially with a cow under local anaesthetic kicking.
The vet made an incision into the cow’s right flank before locating the abomasum and inserting a needle to deflate! The abomasum is attached to the omentum so this is sutured to the peritoneal to hold the abomasum in the correct position. However, if the omentum tears, the abomasum has a risk of displacing once again.
It was a success.
A faecal egg count was waiting for me once I returned to the practice. I correctly identified that there were no worms on the slides! Great practice at the stud farm where I did regular faecal egg counts.
Soon after, another animal was brought to the surgery. This time it was a beloved pet hen with an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. The vet used a needle and syringe to determine what the fluid was. Unfortunately, it was clear and the diagnosis was ascites caused by liver disease as a result of portal hypertension creating a pressure gradient. The clinical symptom which brought the hen to the practice was the accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity. Increased pressure in the portal blood vessels may cause protein-containing (ascitic) fluid to accumulate into the low pressure space which is the abdomen.
Sadly, the hen was put to sleep at the vets. However, I believe that this is the most humane way to euthanise a hen.
I then accompanied the vet to a livery yard, where I completed the paperwork for a two stage (preliminary examination and walk and trot in hand) pre-purchase vetting. During my time seeing practice at my local equine practice, I had witnessed a five stage pre-purchase vetting! The vet also took a blood sample to be sent off and stored. In stage 1, I used the ophthalmoscope to look at the lense of the eyes to see signs of cataracts forming.