Friday, June 25, 2010

Cats vs. Horses (and Palpation)

I examined a cat belonging to a veterinary school classmate of mine, Mike Galvin. The cat was brought in by Mike's very nice girlfriend. I was bummed that Mike wasn't with her. I hadn't seen Mike in about 20 years. Mike couldn't make it to the appointment because he had to be at the racetrack. You see, Mike is an equine veterinarian. Of my 81 classmates, he was probably the most equine-oriented of the bunch. He knew exactly what he wanted to do after he graduated. I, on the otherhand, was what the large-animal oriented classmates referred to as a "P's and K's" - puppies and kitties veterinarian. Horses, cows, sheep, goats, pigs... I like 'em, but it was pretty clear that I was not cut out to work on them.

Thinking about Mike and the horses reminded me of something funny that happened when I was in veterinary school. We had just finished a class in equine reproduction. In the class, we were being taught how to palpate the horses. Allow me to explain what this involves. You put a thin plastic glove with a sleeve that goes all the way up your arm to your shoulder, generously apply lube, and then insert your lubricated hand and arm into the horses rectum, all the way to your shoulder, and feel for the ovaries and uterus through the rectal wall. With this method, it is possible to feel for follicles on the ovaries, feel a fetus in the uterus, etc.

 Not my cup of tea, I can tell ya.

After the class, there was a quiz for us: three horses, side by side in their narrow chutes, with a quiz question written above each horse. Above the third horse was the question, "Which ovary is bigger - left or right?" A few of my tobacco-dippin', large-animal oriented, skeet-shooting classmates palpated the horse, and then started chatting amongst themselves. "The left one, definitely". "No way, the right one is obviously bigger". Meanwhile, I'm feeling and feeling, and I just can't find 'em. Dr. Asbury, our professor, was standing nearby. "Dr. Asbury, I know we've been practicing this all day, but I have to tell you", I said, sheepishly, "I can't find 'em. I'm sorry!" "Ah, don't worry about it today. Just practice a bit more when you can." After a bunch of us finished this informal quiz, Dr. Asbury asked for the verdict. "The left one", said one of the tobacco chewers. "No, no, the right one, you idiot", countered another. After a few more minutes of bickering, Dr. Asbury yells out to them, "You blowhards are so full of crap! Look closely at this horse". Dr. Asbury opened the door of the chute, so you could now see the underside of the horse. "It's a male", said an exasperated Dr. Asbury. Then he points to me. "At least Plotnick was honest when he said he couldn't find the ovaries. I don't know what you other guys were feeling in there, but Plotnick is the only one of ya who got it right!"

Score one for the P's and K's.

Cats Rule!
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