Saturday, June 4, 2011

Shelter medicine externship

I recently spent two weeks of elective time at a shelter medicine externship at a different vet school. Half the time was spent in academic pursuits on campus — going to journal club, going to talks and lectures about shelter medicine, etc. The other half was at the shelter, doing high volume spay/neuter, temperament tests, treating sick animals.

Highlights:
  • Pulling worms out of a kitten’s butt (“Wow, can I?”)
  • STRAY GOLDFISH. It is more amusing not to explain, but I will say that it was found in a ditch in a grocery store parking lot.
  • Ratlings! Five week old foster rats came in for a visit. They had been well socialized and were extremely friendly. I badly wanted to adopt one, but suspected it would not get along with my cat.
  • Seeing exactly how fast 8 week old kittens recover from spay/neuter surgery. Spay surgery is no small deal, but those girl kittens were literally climbing the walls of their cage 30 minutes later. I am sold on pediatric spay/neuter.
  • Helping to set up play groups of shelter dogs and getting to watch them play together. It was lovely.
Shelter medicine is in large part population medicine, or herd health. Of course you do need to pull the occasional worm out of the rectum of a kitten, but you also need to think about how to keep animals out of the shelter in the first place, and how to keep them from getting sick once they are there. Daily rounds in my vet school’s small animal hospital are about the specifics of what diagnostics were done on an animal yesterday and what needs to be done today; daily rounds in the shelter were about why an animal hadn’t been moved to the adoption floor yet or how to deal with the placement of a feral cat. I knew that shelter medicine had a large preventative component to it but was not prepared for quite how large the component actually was. I was enthusiastic; I really like this kind of medicine.

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