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A Day In The Life Of A Large Animal Vet

On the road by 8.30am, van loaded with equipment to take care of the days work and deal with the unexpected. First call to a farm to confirm pregnancy in a group of heifers (never had a calf before). The ultrasound scanner is the tool of choice here, balanced on the back of a tractor placed next to the crush holding the heifer. Fortunately it is a dark shed on a dull day so the small screen can be seen clearly. Only one of the group of fifteen has failed to perform, the rest are 5-8 weeks pregnant.

After cleaning everything and packing it away it is another 20 minute drive to repeat the same job with another farmer's cows. Of the seven cows it is disappointing to find that four are not pregnant. In the discussion about this some doubt is cast on the bull's "abilities" but these cows have already failed to become pregnant during an earlier period with a different bull so I suggest to him that the ladies are at fault here.

Again at the next farm female problems dominate the picture with a cow needing to have the placenta (afterbirth) removed 3 days after she gave birth. In a human this would most likely have proved fatal but a cow can take it in its stride.

A further twenty minutes driving takes me to a horse livery yard where Olly is awaiting his vaccination against flu. He is very well behaved and shows off his piebald colouring (black and white patches) beautifully. Whilst there I am asked to look at another horse called Nolan who is practically walking on three legs. Examination of the sore leg reveals pain in the foot over a specific area of the sole. Digging in with a special curved hoof knife I spot a small crack in the sole which soon reveals some black fluid oozing out from the hole - an abscess, the most common cause of foot problems. Quickly bandaging on a poultice, because Nolan is tired of having someone prodding at his sore foot, I give instructions for changing it and head home for lunch.

The afternoon is spent returning phone calls, seeing a couple of small animals and updating computer records until I set off for the evening surgery at Linlithgow. On the way I visit a pony called Katy who has been suffering from a mild lameness problem. Due to the history of a long shaggy coat, large fat deposits on the neck and rump and mild signs of laminitis (foot pain) I decide to take a blood sample for tests. This is a brave decision as when vetting this pony 3 years ago it took two men and a ten minute rodeo performance by Katy before she would relinquish any of her precious blood for me.

Despite being as sneaky as possible in hiding the needle from her as soon as I insert it into her jugular she rears up and springs away but there is just enough blood in the collection tube. Katy is by now as far away from me as possible and very suspicious.

Glad to have got away with that one I finish the evening surgery and send the blood away to the lab. But guess what? I collected it into the wrong tube and will have to face a forewarned Katy for round two of the blood collection rodeo! Last job of the day, hopefully, is to check on the in-patients at Kirkliston surgery and keep my phone on the bedside table for my on call duty through the night zzzz...