Pets come in many forms

Externship Project

I can't believe it's already the end of my third week! I guess the expression “time flies when you are having fun” is very true. The days are filled with amazing cases, cute puppies, wild horses! And then, my favourite, emergency calls!!

At some point during the week, close to 6 p.m. an owner called. She was very concerned that her pet “Teresa” was having difficulty breathing; but Teresa is not just any pet, it's a special pet: it's a chicken! I was very excited about an emergency coming in; but after I heard what type of pet it was I got 10 times more excited about it.

Teresa came in and I was drawn by how pretty she was, but it was evident that she was having a really hard time breathing. You could hear her wheezing from the other side of the room!!

Photo of a radiograph of a chickenWe listened to her heart and lungs and from there we took her back to get some radiographs of her chest.

There was no indication of any foreign bodies in her trachea and her lungs and air sacs were clear.

The sounds Teresa were making were consistent with some kind of problem in her trachea, so Dr. Paula proceeded to anesthetize the chicken in order to have a better view of her trachea. But we don’t see chickens too often in the clinic and the oxygen mask used to deliver anesthesia is mostly designed for dogs and cats. So Dr. Paula had to make some adjustments to the mask, Teresa's owner compared her to MacGyver.

Some of you might be too young to know who this character was; but I do remember that series because it was one of my favourites. MacGyver was very practical and would invent and find solutions to any problem; he could do anything with a swiss knife, matches, gum and duct tape.

Anyway, back to the emergency!

Birds have a very quick metabolism and a very different respiratory system compared to mammals, so once she was anesthetized we had to move quickly to see what was in her trachea. Using a laryngoscope Dr. Paula was able to visualize a thick whitish material that was blocking the airways. It was a caseous plug... let’s see how can I describe this to you without making it too disturbing… (warning: details might be upsetting to some readers)... think about cheesy-pus (hope I didn’t ruin your appetite). Anesthesia wouldn’t last for too long and Teresa started waking up fairly quickly.

In the meantime some of the caseous plug was smeared on a microscope slide and stained so we could see what cells were present.

A saline washed was performed in her trachea to help clear her respiratory tract. Teresa started breathing better and was more responsive and happy by the end of the night. She went home on a course of antibiotics and is doing great!

I have always empathized with how much other people can love their pets independently of what type of pet they have, but seeing how much Teresa meant to her owner was very touching. It was a great reminder of the importance of the human-animal bond and the important role that veterinarians play in it. Dr. Paula treated Teresa the same way she would treat any other pet, with love, compassion and with the best interest for the animal. 

You don't know what is going to walk through your doors, but one thing is always the same: it is a worried owner who loves their pet… furry one or feathered one, it's their beloved animal!