VET’S DIARY: Never a dull moment in a busy night at the surgery

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I was on call last night, and part of my responsibility was to oversee the care of our five in-patients at the Alnwick surgery, writes Paul Freeman.

My patients included Ben, a collie that was suffering from chocolate poisoning; Danny, a young dog that had ruptured ligaments in both hind legs; and Charlie, a labrador in the isolation kennel suffering from haemorrhagic gastro-enteritis. A vet’s life is never dull!

Ben had been unable to resist the temptation of a pot of cocoa powder that the owner had left on the kitchen table, ready to make a cake. While the owner was out of the room, he had knocked the pot onto the floor and devoured most of the contents.

Cocoa beans and chocolate contain theobromine, which is particularly toxic to dogs, and cocoa powder contains a particularly high concentration of theobromine.

So when Ben arrived at the surgery yesterday afternoon, he was feeling very sorry for himself, with a racing heartbeat. Prompt treatment to empty his stomach and slow his heart produced the desired effects, and an oral dose of charcoal suspension helped to prevent any further absorption of the poison.

Ben stayed in overnight on a drip, with nurse Lindsay keeping a close eye on him through the wee small hours. He was a much happier chap this morning, and should be ready to go home later today.

Danny had collapsed on a walk earlier in the day, in considerable pain and unable to bear weight on his hind legs.

Examination and X-rays under a general anaesthetic revealed ruptured cruciate ligaments in the stifle (knee) joints of both hind legs. Intravenous pain relief was administered overnight, and Neil Adams, our visiting orthopaedic surgeon, performed major surgery to stabilise one stifle this morning. When this has healed, he will need surgery on his other leg.

In the meantime, he will need ongoing pain relief and support from an abdominal harness to allow him to go outside and relieve himself.

The third challenging case overnight was Charlie, who came into the Alnwick surgery yesterday having been vomiting repeatedly overnight, and in obvious abdominal discomfort.

X-rays and blood tests revealed nothing significant, so the cause was likely to be something unpleasant that he’d eaten the day before.

The subsequent profuse bloody diarrhoea necessitated an overnight stay in the isolation kennel, with intensive intra-venous fluid therapy, under Lindsay’s close supervision.

Charlie responded well and will go home today on a special diet and anti-diarrhoeal treatment.

A varied case-load for a night on call, but that’s what makes the job so interesting!