VET’S DIARY: Life as a country vet is never dull

Saturday was an interesting day, mainly for the variety of cases I encountered.

Just as the day was dawning I received a call to assist a heifer calving. With autumn calving well under way, this is not unusual.

After a quick assessment on the size of the calf, a caesarean was preferred. Within an hour, a healthy calf was delivered and the mother was licking her newborn as it made the fist attempts at standing.

Heading home for breakfast, another call came, this time for a cow unable to stand after calving. Again, this is not unusual for this time of year and, as my 11-year-old son James will tell you, the differential diagnoses include milk fever, nerve paralysis and toxic mastitis. It was clear that this cow had a combination of nerve paralysis, due to a large calf pressing on the pelvic nerves, and mastitis, and so was treated for both.

Next up was an urgent call to see two dogs who had managed to get hold of some rat poison. Following direction from me over the phone, Becca, our nurse at Wooler, was already making the dogs sick to purge them of the poison. As I arrived it was evident that only one of the dogs had recently eaten the poison. Both were treated with the antidote and are thankfully making a full recovery.

As I was administering the antidote, another farm call came – a bulling heifer in severe respiratory distress requiring immediate treatment. My colleague Joe was attending a field of coughing cattle. His diagnosis was lungworm so my initial thoughts were that this heifer would also be suffering from this respiratory parasite.

However, on arrival it was clear that she was in a very bad way, breathing with her mouth wide open and neck stretched out. The farmer confirmed that she had been recently moved onto a forage aftermath pasture (fog field), which, along with the clinical signs, led me to believe that she was suffering from ‘fog fever’, a severe reaction to high levels of L-tryptophan in new growth grasses. The heifer responded well to treatment and is breathing much better now.

A relatively uneventful surgery followed, after which I had organised time off for a cross-country race. Still exhausted, I sat down to watch the rugby. Just as the national anthems commenced there was another call, this time to calve a heifer.

Well, at least I can’t say life as a country vet is boring.