Dr. Django, Purple Rain, Sacagawea and Squatting Dog

Today was my second day on the prison rotation. Our school is privileged to be able to use the prison animals as a teaching opportunity for the vet students. The prison has dogs, horses, pigs, chickens, and cattle that are worked year-round by the prison rotation, field services and equine theriogenology.

For the next two weeks all I will be working on is prison animals, which is fantastic at this point in the year, because we have a lot of freedom on this rotation. Since all of the animals are owned by the state, instead of individual clients, the students are allowed to make almost all major decisions for them (unless your decision will directly harm an animal). It’s nice because it’s like practice for when we get out in the real world in a month :)

One of the running jokes amongst the prison crowd is the use of “prison names.” A lot of my classmates have wound up with pretty funny prison names, so over the next two weeks I will do my best to refer to us by our prison names for your enjoyment.

Yesterday our group divided up and went to two different prison units. Dr. DUH-jango (the D is NOT silent), Purple Rain and I went out to the swine operation to draw blood on 48 sows for disease surveillance. We wound up being really good at sticking pigs (who knew?) and were able to rock and roll through all 48 in under an hour. The blood we drew is going back to the lab for routine testing for Brucellosis and Pseudorabies, both of which are currently not found in these herds. We routinely monitor the pigs to ensure that they don’t have either of these diseases due to the prevalence of these illnesses in the feral swine population in this state.

Hater pig

From there we headed to another swine barn across the road to castrate two pigs. One of the pigs had kind of odd-feeling testicles, and I was confused as to what was going on with them. I cut into the pre-scrotal area and searched and searched for a testicle, and all I could find was a tiny pocket of pus. We decided that the pig had most likely been neutered already, and now had a condition called scirrhous cord. This is an enlargement of the cut end of the spermatic cord post-castration caused by a bacterial infection. We quit operating on that pig since there wasn’t anything for us to do other than let him heal. Then we finished castrating the second pig, who was normal thank goodness.

After castrating the two pigs, we went over to another swine unit with a sick “purple” pig. When we arrived, the pig was lying on her side and was unresponsive during our physical examination. Her breathing was extremely labored and her entire body was purplish colored, especially her extremities. This is the third purple pig that the prison has had, and the previous two had died.

We talked things over with Dr. Django, and decided that the pig was likely septic and going to be difficult to treat. Also, since this is the third pig with this problem, we decided it was in the best interest of the herd that we euthanize the sow and do a necropsy to try to determine what was going on (and hopefully prevent it in the future).

Purple Rain hasn’t had the Clinical Diagnostics rotation yet, which is where you learn how to perform a necropsy, so I got to do the honors.

Necropsies are surprisingly not as difficult emotionally as I would have thought, because most of the time you find a lesion or lesions that make it clear why the animal was suffering and needed humane euthanasia. They are also helpful in cases where animals have died and you’re looking for answers. They provide closure, which is especially important in this emotionally-charged profession.

Our pig happened to be extremely pregnant, along with having some other odd lesions. She had small dark nodules in her lungs, fibrinous strands adhered to her heart, congestion in her liver, petechiation in her kidneys and congestion in her spleen. We were 99% sure she was in septic shock, but we didn’t know what was causing it. We took tissue samples from all of her organs and submitted them to histopathology once we got back to school. The results should be back in a week or so.

We left the swine facility and headed out to the main horse breeding unit. This is the same unit I visited for mare palpations when I was on equine therio. We were called out because a couple of foals had issues, including angular limb deformities, extensor tendon laxity and a corneal ulcer. This turned into kind of an odd situation for me, because Dr. Django asked my opinion on each foal (completely ignoring Purple Rain) and then asked the workers to treat the foals exactly as I had recommended. I was not sure whether this was because the prison rotation just works this way, as in the students are supposed to be THE DOCTORS, or if it was because he really wanted my opinion… ?

After the foals, we headed home for the day.

Today was completely different. We all headed out in one big group and visited two different prison units than before. At each unit we tube dewormed the horses and floated a couple horses’ teeth. The horses weren’t extremely well behaved but we got along alright after we sedated the worst troublemakers. We also christened two more of our classmates today, Sacagawea and Squatting Dog. We packed up fairly early and then headed home.

That’s all for today! Hopefully I will earn myself a good prison name soon :)

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