Monday, May 29, 2017

An Homage to a Special Mom


            Life on the farm can be tough. And sometimes, it can be downright cruel. I experienced one of those moments a few weeks ago. Less than twelve hours later, a second tragedy occurred. But just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, something wonderful happened. The result of which couldn't have been better had it been written by a Hollywood screenwriter.

            The drama began in the morning of the second Friday in March, right in the heart of- you guessed it- lambing season. One of my oldest ewes, "1114", gave birth to triplets- two girls and a boy. Everything seemed to be fine. The mom was very attentive to the lambs, and they were all nursing. In spite of their full bellies, I was a little concerned she might not have enough milk for three, but I would worry about that when I got home from work.

            Upon my return, I quickly glanced into their pen on my way to check the pregnant ewes for any new births. What I saw was the ewe resting peacefully in a back corner with her lambs nestled around her. When I passed by again, closer observation revealed she wasn't resting. She was dead!

            Raising orphan lambs is not high on my list of favorite things to do. Though feeding them the first few times is kind of fun, I guess, and the lambs always seem so grateful. "Nobody ever likes you as much as a bottle lamb," I often say.

            But to take on that task is a huge commitment in time, and milk replacer is not cheap by any means. Nevertheless, I had no other option, so I mixed up some replacer, and did what had to be done. At least they were vigorous suckers.

            The next morning I checked the pregnant ewes before feeding them, as I always do, and didn't notice any new lambs. But when all the ewes were eating with their heads forward and rear ends toward me, one ewe about halfway down the line had afterbirth hanging from her "lady parts." Two big, dead lambs were found, hidden behind a round bale feeder.

            I must have been somewhat shaken from the loss, because a few minutes passed before the obvious dawned on me. "Catch that ewe!" Fortunately, "1368" was still eating the last remnants of corn, and had enough other ewes around her, that I was able to get her caught and haltered.

            As I half led and half wrestled the ewe back to the pen of orphans, I truly didn't know what I was going to do next. My track record of grafting orphan or rejected lambs onto foster ewes isn't great. A successful graft requires time and patience, neither of which I had this busy Saturday morning. So I decided my goal would be to provide a good meal for the triplets, and like the day before, worry about the rest later.

            I tied the ewe in the pen expecting her to jump, and maybe even kick at the lambs, like many ewes do when strange babies try to nurse on them. But she didn't move, not even a little. And the lambs were really going to town on her udder, so to speak.

            After a couple of minutes, I untied the halter and all she did was munch on some hay. A moment later, I removed the halter entirely. That's when I saw the first hint of trouble- a nudge. She pushed one of the lambs away from her udder.

            "That's it," I thought to myself. "The rejection process has begun." Then she nudged him again. Only this time it was back toward the udder. It appeared the first nudge was merely misdirected, not malicious. Apparently, I caught "1368" at just the right time, a hormonal window of opportunity where she felt compelled to be a mom, and those lambs were more than willing to oblige.

            Although "1368" ultimately didn't have enough milk to support all the lambs, and they required some supplementation, that was okay with me. What she did to help ease the burden of caring for three orphan lambs was much appreciated. But what she did to provide those lambs a real family experience was a godsend.

             After all, they make a replacer for milk. They don't make a replacer for moms. And to have a mom is really the most important thing.
By Dr. John H. Jones

Pet Cancer Awareness: Fighting the Fight for Pets


                                Those who know me well, probably would say I am passionate about two things:  veterinary medicine and ending the fight against cancer. 

                                My greatest frustration is diagnosing cancer in pets or learning about a loved one with cancer that has lurked in their bodies too long.  As time marches on, I am witnessing the loss of many people, and just as many pets, to cancer. Sadly, the leading cause of death in older cats and dogs IS cancer.           To that end, I would like to share the following to help you prevent and fight cancer in pets.

                                Probably the most obvious advice I have is never "watch  a lump  grow!"  All too often, pet owners tell me they are "keeping an eye" on their pet's lump.  After a moment of discomfort, I suggest that the lump either be aspirated to examine some cells under the microscope, or removed and biopsied. The peace of mind that comes with these options can be huge.

                                If a growth is benign (harmless) like a fatty tumor, you can be informed within minutes of an aspirate. And, EARLY surgical removal and biopsy of a suspicious lump, can result in a cure. If an aspirate proves  a growth is benign, you may be able to continue to monitor that lump for rapid growth or changes in shape or texture that warrant a second look.

                                Occasionally pets are presented to veterinarians when owners find noticeably enlarged lumps under the pet's jaw line. These swellings are lymph nodes, and when these and other lymph nodes  located behind the knees , in front of the shoulders or in the armpits are enlarged, the likely diagnosis is "lymphoma" (cancer of the lymph system). Biopsy or aspiration of these nodes will aid the diagnosis of lymphoma, considered by many to be the most treatable cancer in pets.

                                On to the mouth...if your pet's breath suddenly becomes atrocious, oral cancer may be lurking. Tumors in the mouth are not uncommon and tend to be one of three  types: squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma or fibrosarcoma.  Each tends to be malignant, but they can sometimes be cured with early detection.  Keep in mind, that something as simple as brushing your pet's teeth everyday can alert you to an early oral tumor as you may observe an unusual odor or lump upon daily dental inspection.

                                Note that any unexplained bleeding from the mouth, gums, nose, vagina, or penis that is not due to injury, should be brought to your veterinarian's attention. Bleeding disorders do occur in pets, but they are usually diagnosed when pets are younger.  Bleeding in an older pet warrants immediate exploration for a cause which could be cancer, and time is of the essence!

                                While there are numerous reasons why pets cough, a dry, non-productive cough by cats or dogs is the most common sign of lung cancer. Your veterinarian will recommend  chest x-rays to further diagnose your pet's cough.  Consider that chest x-rays can provide great peace of mind when your veterinarian delivers the news that your pet's diagnosis is NOT cancer. 

                                Weight loss, distention of your pet's abdomen, vomiting or diarrhea will also warrant x-rays or ultrasound to find cancers of the intestinal tract or outside the abdominal organs. Masses located outside the organs can be benign and just take up space , or serious tumors could be growing in the spleen or liver that may cause abdominal bleeding and collapse.  The good news is expedient surgical removal  of abdominal masses can sometimes provide a cure. 

                                Persistent straining to urinate or bloody urine not responsive to antibiotics can be a sign of bladder or prostatic cancers. Abdominal ultrasound or bladder biopsies are instrumental in diagnosing urogenital cancers. Familiarity with your pet's  elimination habits will help you detect changes as soon as they occur, and these should be reported to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

                                Finally, many older pets limp, but if your senior pet develops a new or different limp, it warrants a trip to your veterinarian, especially if your pet is a large breed dog. Unfortunately, bone cancers are diagnosed all too commonly and this cancer, called osteosarcoma, needs aggressive, immediate pain control and treatment.

                                Please be your pet's best advocate! Partner up with your veterinarian to always be on the lookout for signs of cancer. Together, we can help your cat "Call for a Cure" and your dog "Bark for Life!" 
By Dr. Bonnie Jones