Unusual Animal Patients

And the delight of the vet

Veterinary doctors have no easy job and their university education is long and thorough – after all, animals are anatomically and physiologically just as complicated as humans, but instead of one species to deal with, vets have patients belonging to dozens of widely differing species. Therefore one of the problems for vets is that they see a much greater variety of body shapes and structures than human doctors. However, the clientele of the city veterinarian isn’t really that terribly varied: mostly cats and dogs, maybe an occasional parrot; oh yes, and hamsters and guinea pigs not to forget. Imagine my vet’s surprise (and delight) then, when I took some of my newts to him for treatment. Newts can suffer from newt pestilence, a terrible disease for these amphibians with an as yet not fully understood aetiology, which leads to loss of appetite, emaciation, skin lesions and a smell of parsley in the infected animal.

We decided that regular daily baths in running water might “flush out” the disease organism and that sick individuals had to be isolated. These measures were partially successful and some newts survived the potentially lethal malady. On another occasion I took to my vet a tuatara that had not moulted its left front paw properly with the result that the old skin had formed a ring around the middle toe and caused gangrene. The vet had never before seen, let alone held, a tuatara dead or alive in his hands and he was elated to be able to treat this relict of the dinosaur age. I was given instructions to inject a prescribed quantity of penicillin into the animal over a period of weeks to prevent further tissue death and infections in the vicinity of the gangrenous region. So excited was the vet over this his most unusual patient that he not only forgot to charge a fee, but he also missed to ask whether I actually possessed a permit (which I had, of course) to keep a live tuatara as a pet.

Fish I haven’t taken to my vet yet, although on numerous occasions I have had to deal with sick fish myself. Having had experience with tropical fish since my earliest childhood, all I need to do is to take a look into an aquarium to tell whether its occupants are healthy or not. To diagnose accurately the true nature of a fish’s disease may require more than a casual look, but even so, there are certain fish illnesses like the dreaded “white spot”, fungal attacks, and fish tuberculosis (caused by Mycobacterium piscium), which one can readily identify without a microscope or blood tests. Although I did not become a professional fish doctor, which had once really been an ambition of mine, I still know quite a bit about fish pathology. However, what was new to me until recently is the fact that fish, despite being cold-blooded animals, can develop a fever following infections with E. coli, Staphylococcus, and Aeromonas bacteria. But how to measure whether a fish has a fever? Having a thermometer poked into one of their body openings, fish would hate that as much as humans do. There are, however, some non-invasive means, which also allow the vet or researcher to determine whether lizards or insects or even worms can develop a fever.

© Dr V.B. Meyer-Rochow and http://www.bioforthebiobuff.wordpress.com, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to V.B Meyer-Rochow and http://www.bioforthebiobuff.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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