Smiles and tears are part of every day in our profession!

Externship Project

This week was a celebration of life and death, a common theme for every single species in our planet...while some are being born, some are dying. We often associate with the first one happiness and with the latter sadness.

The week started with the birth of a much awaited foal in the clinic, colt number five for Winnie, Dr. Paula’s mare. He decided to stay a couple of extra days in the uterus, so we were all very eager to hear the good news. Tuesday at 4:00 in the morning the baby finally decided to make his appearance! A lovely colt, named Waterloo (Loo for short). He is an incredible beautiful foal!

Photo of horse and foalOf course it is not hard to imagine how happy we all are at the clinic and Loo has gotten his share of pictures, hugs and visits. It is very easy to celebrate life and as veterinarians is very exciting to be able to participate in one way or another in the miracle of life! As a horse person myself this was the highlight of my day, I mean...who doesn’t love foals!! As a veterinary student, Loo’s process has been an incredible learning experience. From a good review on mares’ pregnancy and parturition to being able to help with some foal health concerns. Dr. Stephanie Whalen, one of the other vets at the clinic, has been an incredible teacher! Foals (like other species) have specific requirements for colostrum in order to receive from their moms the appropriate amount of immunoglobulins (which is going to be the immune protection on the first months of their lives).

Photo of an IgG Foal SNAP test The next day after Loo was born we needed to check his IgG levels to ensure his levels were correct, but he was falling short Photo of a foal named Waterlooon the magic number! So we prepared to do a plasma transfusion which helps correct this deficiency on immunoglobulins. Dr. Stephanie was in charge of this procedure and it was a wonderful experience to be able to assist her! She has been an incredible teacher on horsey matters. Using the Madigan foal squeeze technique, we were able to have Loo sleeping in no time to be able to carry out the procedure of plasma transfusion. The following day his levels were above the magic number and he is thriving now!

On the other hand, we have death as another normal part of nature, but one that we often find painful, one that moves our deepest feelings and shreds our hearts as we try to remain calm to comfort owners. There are no smiles…sadness is often the sentiment that accompanies the owners in the last moments of their beloved pets. It is probably the side of my profession that scares me the most. There will be times when making the decision of euthanasia will not be a difficult one, an animal that is suffering and has no hope on getting better and having quality of life. I truly believe that as veterinarians we are privileged to be able to provide animals a peaceful dignified death. We can relieve them from suffering and help them go to the other end of the bridge in a very loving and carrying way. But that doesn’t make it any easier. We know that our clients are going to miss their furry babies, their wagging tails, their greeting at the door, their purring, etc. We feel your pain and our heart aches when you have to say goodbye, when you hold your animal close to your heart and tell them how much they will be missed. We too hurt… even if we know we are doing it because we are putting the animals’ well-being and welfare above the owner's’ feelings and our own.

Will it ever get easy? I honestly don’t think so, and I wish we could somehow celebrate the end of suffering, the beginning of our pets’ travel to the other world; but it is too hard. But it is the reality of our profession; we celebrate life with new lives and when we can save your beloved pets, but we also help you say goodbye to them when the time comes. Life and death are part of our day-to-day and every single paw leaves a print in our hearts. We will continue to celebrate with you the miracle of life and hold your hand when the time comes to say goodbye.