Animals… Dead and Alive

It’s been an entire month since my last post, and for that I apologize. This quarter is infamous for being the hardest and most grueling, and it has certainly lived up to its reputation! It’s been an endless barrage of exams, with barely time to eat and sleep. But through all of the shuffling around like a zombie, three pretty awesome things have happened that made me remember why I’m here and reminded me that I actually am excited to be in vet school and that the field of vet med does still excite me. I’m not gonna lie, I’m not perfect and sometimes I need those reminders!

The first two awesome things are because I’m a member of both the Pathology Club and WAAM (Wildlife and Aquatic Animal Medicine) Club. This means I get first dibs on some pretty rad wetlabs. The first one was a cow necropsy. There were some dairy cows from a nearby dairy farm that were culled for various reasons, and we got to perform the necropsies. It was my first time on our path floor, and it was the by far the largest animal I’ve ever necropsied (lots of mice and a few pigs)! It was also the first ruminant I’ve necropsied, so that made it even more interesting. There were about 4 people per cow, and the pathology faculty and residents went around and walked us through the process, with us all taking turns doing part of the necropsy. It was incredible! One of the pathologists also talked to us about some of the reasons the cows were culled, including a respiratory case and a gastrointestinal case. It was really interesting and I learned quite a lot.

The second opportunity was just this past Tuesday night. It was another necropsy wetlab, this time with marine mammals and birds! They were all from the Marine Mammal Center here in California, and they had died from various causes. My group got a stillborn sea lion pup that was almost full term. The necropsy revealed that it had probably died from hypoxia associated with dystocia. It was sad, but I was able to learn so much from that pup and for that I am thankful. Marine mammals have some very obvious differences compared to terrestrial mammals, so it was really interesting. There were some other marine mammals there as well, including an adult elephant seal and a couple of sea otters. Again, after we had been working for a little while, the pathologist led us around and taught us about the different species, their causes of death, and the anatomy and physiology that make them unique. On our table we also had a fawn who had been hit by a car and suffered a cranial injury. She had been at a wildlife rehab center but they could not save her, so we got to perform her necropsy as well. Those were definitely the two best, most educational, and most fun wetlabs to date in veterinary school. I love pathology! It’s so interesting to be able to necropsy an animal and determine the cause of death. Super awesome.

The third awesome thing was this past Wednesday, when my surgery group got our very first live patient. It was for anesthesiology lab, and we just anesthetized the dog and then recovered him. But it was nerve-racking, because for the first time I was partially responsible for a real, live animal. The dogs for this lab come from a local shelter. The second year students get to to this lab, then the third year students use the same dogs for a spay/neuter lab, and then all of the dogs are adopted out (I wanted to get there the animals come from out of the way quickly). So my surgery group was assigned a super adorable and rambunctious cattle dog named Cassidy:
So we met up a 7am to perform a full physical exam on Cassidy. That was not the easiest, haha, because he was super excited to be out and hanging around with so many people and other dogs.  But we got it done. Then we arrived at 1pm to administer drugs for sedation. This was to sedate him a bit to make intravenous catheterization easier. After getting everything all set up, we brought Cassidy into the prep room, inserted a catheter into his cephalic vein, and administered a pre-anesthetic medication. Then he was intubated, fluids were started, and he was connected to all of the monitoring equipment as well as the anesthetic gas machine. The lab then consisted of changing his depth and plane of anesthesia, taking measuremenst of his end tidal CO2, and basic monitoring of anesthesia. All of this, everything from the most basic drug dose calculation, was of course supervised by our wonderful anesthesia faculty. It was scary but really amazing! This is why I’m here, this is what it’s all about! And I’m proud to say that Cassidy did wonderfully and recovered with no complications :D Learning anesthesiology was so much more interesting and valuable this way, hands on, where you can actually see what’s happening and the effects on the patient. It was an exhausting day (7am – 6pm) but so worth it! I look forward to more of these labs next year, when we’ll actually be doing surgery on the shelter dogs. I know I’ll be incredibly nervous, but even more excited! :)

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