Thursday, September 8, 2011

Being a food animal veterinarian, day 1

The first day of my ambulatory (food animal medicine) rotation, I got horribly lost on the way to the clinic, which is about an hour from my home. I came in late and missed half of the orientation. Ambulatory is so called because its vets go to the clients rather than vice versa. There are eight students on the rotation right now, but we break up into groups of one to three and ride along with individual vets.

Day one, three students, Dr. Mulain.

Farm one: herd check! Lots of rectal palpations to discover the pregnancy status of cows. If not pregnant, they would get an injection of a medication to reboot their reproductive cycle, so that their owner would know when they were going to come back into heat and therefore when to breed them. Dr. Mulain palpated first and we followed after, one student per cow. Mostly I put my arm in and waved it around aimlessly, hoping to randomly encounter a uterus.

We also dehorned some baby calves at this farm, and checked up on a lame cow who had had a claw (half her foot) removed a few weeks ago. Her bandage was removed and the clients were told to clean her foot regularly. We checked another lame cow, trimmed back her foot, and cleaned out a sore on it.

Farm two: a steer had been hit by a car! The barn had been broken into by thieves the night before and the inhabitants had escaped. The steer was covered in road rash, which we cleaned. His tail was mangled, and we amputated it. His biggest problem was a dislocated hip. We provided anti-inflammatories and advice that he was unlikely to be able to live with a dislocated hip, but that there was a small chance it would heal.

This farm also produced a calf who had injured her eye a few days before. The eye was not salvageable. We put the calf under general anesthesia with an injection and laid her down on the barn floor, then removed the eye. It was an odd experience for me, as I had just finished my small animal surgery rotation. The levels of cleanliness vary tremendously between the two rotations, to say the least.

Farm three: a house with two elderly horses in a tiny barn out back. One had been suffering from neurologic disease for years and was now increasingly lame. We cleaned out an abscess on his hoof and put on medication and a bandage. The horse looked like he was minutes from expiring, but the vet told us that he always looked like that and always pulls through.

So ended my first day of ambulatory, cold and wet. I trust that the weather will improve, though. September in New England is always lovely.


  1. This overview reminds me of the James Harriot books of being a vet.

  2. It is somewhat like that, but of course for the most part the farms are not that picturesque. We mostly see the modern system of cows in barns eating formulated feed instead of cows outside on pasture eating grass. It's been a fun rotation so far, even so.

  3. @K-Koira - I was gonna say exactly that.

    @The Dog Zombie - I hope you will continue with these diary entries. They are a lot of fun to read.

  4. Thanks, karthik! I'm intending to do one every day. I have to keep a log of the cases I see as part of my grade anyways. We'll see if I can keep it up or if I burn out on blogging daily...