I have always liked animals and remember as a young boy going up to the local vet clinic after school. My mum worked there as a part time vet nurse and receptionist. I’d go into the kennel room to see the animals were in and ask the vet what they were in for. I was allowed to watch some operations and even to assist in one or two – only in a very minor way though!
Murray (the vet) would tell me all about the animals: what was wrong with them, how it happened and what needed to be done to make them better. Once he showed me why it was important to worm your pet (a puppy whose intestines were so packed with worms that it had died). I would help to clean out the cages, exercise the dogs and feed the animals that were being kept in overnight. I’d spend ages looking through the veterinary medical books. Occasionally Murray would take me out on farm visits which I found fascinating. In fact, I’m amazed that I ended up a computer programmer!
Unfortunately I wasn’t that interested in photography back then. But I am now, and in late January 2010 I phoned Helen Bell at the Stewartry Veterinary Centre (Castle Douglas, Scotland) to see if I would be able to go along to the clinic and photograph them and their patients. Helen pretty much agreed straight away and the following week I went in for my first day at the Stewartry Veterinary Centre.
4th February 2010 – Clinic – Meg waits for her cage to be cleaned.
4th February 2010 – Barnbackle – Testing for BVD.
Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) is a viral disease of cattle caused by a pestivirus (similar to Border Disease virus in sheep and swine fever virus in pigs). It has many different manifestations in a herd, depending on the herd’s immune and reproductive status. Transient diarrhoea, mixed respiratory infection, infertility or abortion and mucosal disease are the most common clinical signs of the disease and can be seen simultaneously in a herd. Due to its varied manifestations and subclinical nature in many herds, the significance of the disease has not been understood until recently, when diagnostic methods improved.
4th February 2010 – Crochmore – Examining a scouring calf.
Once a cow has calved the next big challenge is to get the calf through the first few weeks without scouring. Scours are the main cause of death in calves between 2 and 30 days of age. Calf scours is a broad, descriptive term referring to diarrhoea in calves. Calf scours is not a specific disease with a specific cause, but is actually a clinical sign of a disease complex with many possible causes.
On this farm early calves are kept in individual plastic huts with fresh straw as bedding. Keeping the calves separate helps prevent the spread of disease to other calves.
4th February 2010 – Crochmore – Checking for pregnancy.
8th February 2010 – Clinic.
8th February 2010 – Clinic – Scrapie.
Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease that affects the nervous systems of sheep and goats. It is one of several transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), which are related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or “mad cow disease”) and chronic wasting disease of deer. Like other spongiform encephalopathies, scrapie is caused by a prion (an infectious agent that is composed primarily of protein). Scrapie has been known since the 18th century (1732) and does not appear to be transmissible to humans.
The name scrapie is derived from one of the clinical signs of the condition, wherein affected animals will compulsively scrape off their fleece against rocks, trees or fences. The disease apparently causes an itching sensation in the animals. Other clinical signs include excessive lip-smacking, altered gaits, and convulsive collapse.
Since 1993, by law, any animal suspected of having scrapie must be reported to the local Animal Health Divisional Office (AHDO).
8th February 2010 – Clinic – Calf with Septicaemia.
8th February 2010 – Clinic – Dog with mange.
8th February 2010 – Clinic – Clipping a cat’s claws.
8th February 2010 – Caenloch – X-Raying a ponies hoof.
Peaches the pony suffers from laminitis – a painful inflammatory condition of the tissues (laminae) that bond the hoof wall to the pedal (coffin) bone in the hoof. This can cause the pedal bone to grow downwards and eventually, if not treated, push through the bottom of the hoof.
8th February 2010 – Clinic – French Mastiff suffering from GDV.
Gastric Dilation-Volvulus is a life threatening condition affecting mainly large breed dogs of any age. It is the result of accumulation of gas, fluid, or a combination of the two in the stomach. In this case it was caused by the dog exercising too vigorously after eating, causing the stomach to twist around the longitudinal axis of the digestive tract (this twisting is also known as volvulus). As the volvulus was greater than 180° the esophagus was closed off, thereby preventing the dog from relieving the condition by belching or vomiting.
The results of this condition include hypotension (low blood pressure), decreased return of blood to the heart, ischemia (loss of blood supply) of the stomach, and shock. Pressure on the portal vein decreases blood flow to liver and decreases the ability of that organ to remove toxins and absorbed bacteria from the blood. At the other end of the stomach, the spleen may be damaged if the twisting interrupts its blood supply. Tia’s spleen was engorged and had to be removed.
Tia made a full recovery and was back home in a few days.
11th February 2010 – Clinic – Neutering a Greyhound.
11th February 2010 – Clinic – Neutering a Collie.
11th February 2010 – Clinic – Checking the teeth of a miniature Poodle.
After the sedative has had time to work, general anaesthesia will be induced and this usually involves an intravenous injection which is administered slowly usually into one of the veins of the front. Once consciousness is lost an endotracheal tube is placed into the windpipe through the larynx. This is then connected via tubing to an anaesthetic machine and maintenance of anaesthesia begins. This is a gaseous anaesthetic used together with oxygen. This ensures that while unconscious sufficient oxygen reaches the brain and tissues and at the same time allows controlled amounts of the selected anaesthetic agent to be administered.
11th February 2010 – Clinic – Labrador that had been in a fight.
18th February 2010 – Clinic – X-Raying a cat.
Millie was brought in suffering from unexplained weight loss. There can be many reasons why a cat is losing weight and it is a good idea to initially x-ray the cat.
18th February 2010 – Clinic – Spaying two kittens.
2nd March 2010 – Finlay Black Craig – Testing cattle before exporting.
8th April 2010 – Crofthead – Internal surgery.
For me, this was never going to be a long term project – I spent only six days with the Stewartry Vets but that enabled me to tag along on farm and home visits, sit in on consultations and observe surgery. I hope you found the resulting photographs interesting – they show scenes that most people don’t get to see.
I’d like to thank all the staff at the Stewartry Veterinary Centre – Helen (vet), Graham (vet), David (vet), Will (vet), Jennifer (vet – now working near Loch Lomond), Ally (student vet), Lisa (senior vet nurse), Audrey (vet nurse), Karen (student vet nurse), Aislinn (reception/student vet nurse), Anne (receptionist) and Pippa (senior receptionist).
Thanks also go to the farmers, farm workers and pet owners that allowed me to photograph their animals and also allowed me to show the photographs to the public.