Saturday, May 2, 2015

Knowledge Gained: CHECK

Name: Nicole Enochs
Class Year: 2016
Hometown: Kimbolton, OH
Internship: Ohio Wildlife Center, Hospital Intern
Location: Columbus, OH

Hey everyone! 

Sorry about the post so recently after my last one, but I thought I'd share some of the most important information I learned at my Internship this past semester. Since I'm a Pre-Veterinary student, any of the veterinary-specific experience I can gain is invaluable. Veterinarians may have to handle difficult animals, prescribe medication, and recommend a euthanasia for an animal. In this blog, I will give you examples where my involvement at the Ohio Wildlife Center has allowed me to experience the previously mentioned veterinary jobs.

First, animal handling happens every day for veterinarians. For some vets, the animals are docile pets. But what if that animal has a habit of biting? It may not be practical or safe for the animal to administer anesthetic for slight amounts of handling. So new handling methods may need to be used for individual animals. For example, there is a woodchuck at the hospital who has been nicknamed "Chompers" because of his unfortunate high frequency of biting. And so, we attempt to minimize direct handling by scooting him out of his enclosure with a tote lid and into a waiting tote covering the front of the enclosure. This is generally done so his enclosure can be cleaned, but in the event he needed to be seen by a veterinarian, the design and smaller size of the tote would make the woodchuck more accessible. Sometimes animal handling isn't about directly handling the animal, but finding new ways to gain access to the animal without physically handling it.

Further, prescribing medications is a vital part of being a veterinarian, and so knowing which medications to prescribe and why is necessary expertise. While at the hospital, I frequently saw the medications Baytril, Metacam, and Capstar administered to the animals. Baytril, or enrofloxacin, is an antibiotic used to treat difficult infections in animals. Part of the reason it has such a high administer rate is because it's non-steroidal. Steroids can have terrible effects on captive wildlife and they're avoided at all costs. A non-steroidal antibiotic is valuable. It can also be used in many different types of animals, from raptors to mammals to reptiles. Another medication that can be administered to all of the above animals is Metacam, or Meloxicam. It is a non-steroidal, NSAID pain reliever and anti-inflammatory drug. Since Metacam and Baytril often complement each other, they are generally given together. To illustrate, young squirrels will sometimes nurse on the genitalia of their male enclosure-mates. This leads to their genitalia becoming swollen and painful. In these instances, the squirrels are given Baytril and sometimes Metacam. Finally, Capstar is a flea medicine that can be given to the mammals. It is frequently given because the pill can simply be crushed and mixed with water to produce a solution and a few drops can be given to the animal orally. The ease and fast working time of this medicine is important especially for young animals. Fleas can be deadly by consuming blood, blood the young animals don't really have to spare. Ultimately, the medicines I choose to use in a veterinary clinic will have their positives and negatives, and it is important to understand those before I prescribe any medication.

Finally, a third veterinary experience, and one of the worst, is recommending euthanasia for an animal. Though those decisions can be more complicated in a vets office with owners for the animals weighing in, the decision is still hard at the OWC Hospital. While watching the veterinary technicians working through a euthanasia choice, I almost always ask about their logic so I can understand their choice. Sometimes the choice is made by Federal and Ohio law; sometimes the choice is obvious; sometimes the choice is completely ambiguous. Some choices required by Federal and/or Ohio Laws are those related to invasive species (ex: Mute Swans) and species that cannot be rehabilitated. If a Mute Swan is brought into the hospital, it must be euthanized according to law because it is invasive. Further, species such as the Whitetail Deer and Coyote cannot be rehabilitated and must be euthanized by law. Times when euthanasia is expected include when the animal is seriously injured without possibility of recovery or diseased animals. For example, bone breaks at a joint cannot be healed and it's in the animal's best interest to be put out of its pain. As for diseases, raccoons admitted with Canine Distemper cannot be treated in any way and have to be euthanized. Ambiguous times can be when animals come in with neurological injury signs. Sometimes they can be brought out of the lesser stereotypical signs, but only sometimes. So the animal must be assessed for survival rate. 

Though many veterinary experiences will be gained in any veterinary office, the places to learn the most about the crazier and sometimes more heart wrenching parts of the job are in trauma centers like the Ohio Wildlife Center. The animals brought to us are generally already sick or injured, so we're fighting an uphill battle from the very beginning. In comparison with volunteering I have accomplished in a domestic pet veterinary office, the higher sheer volume of animal knowledge came from the OWC hospital for other reasons too. In a privately owned veterinary office, volunteers will get put on duties that the regular staff don't have time for, like cleaning. But every hand is needed at the OWC hospital: if you're qualified to do it, you're going to be doing it, no questions asked. And so ultimately, this internship has been one of the most valuable experiences to date in my life. If you're considering working as a veterinarian or with wildlife in almost any capacity, I would greatly recommend considering this location for an internship. 

Have a great day ya'll!

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