Monday, February 27, 2012

Pharm test tomorrow.

I feel like I'm gonna throw up. I've studied so hard for this class all semester with weekly tutor sessions and meeting with two of my friends to review the material on Sundays every week. Some of the material - local anesthetics, drugs acting on the blood (hemostatics, thrombolytics, etc.), diuretics and treatment of diabetes insipidus - I feel great about. It's the chemotherapy (antibiotics, anticancer, antiparasitic and antifungal) drugs that I can't seem to keep straight. Antibiotics in particular is just a tangled web of information in my brain.

I don't think I'm going to fail tomorrow's exam but I really don't think I'm going to get an A, either. And so will end my straight A streak. Ah, well.

It's funny, even though it's months away, but I want to pass and do well so that my mommy can come visit me in August over semester break. Last August my whole family came out and that was fun and I enjoyed having them here. But there's something special about mother-daughter time. And when the setting is a beach on a Caribbean island with a cooler full of mango rum, it's that much better.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Why my cat is perfect.

My cat's name is Mama, for those who've been paying attention. And some days more than others I'm struck by how very perfect she is for me. As anyone who's ever owned cats knows, they're each as individual with unique personalities as dogs. There's this stigma cats get of being aloof, indifferent and unaffectionate. Trust me when I say that I've cared for approximately, oh, at least a thousand of them through shelter and foster work and that's absolute hooey.

Some people want a super affectionate cat. Not me. When I was fostering Cookie and Luna, as much as I loved them both, it was nice when they went to their new homes. They're the sort of cats that are in constant need of attention. They needed to be in my lap, headbutting my chin, stealing my highlighters while I tried to study, all the time.

Mama is more independent. She is affectionate but not needy. She'll hop up in my lap when I'm sitting in my desk chair and only then, so if I'm not in the mood for kitty cuddle time I just don't sit in that chair. She doesn't sleep with me, she sleeps in her cat bed, which is good because my husband has allergies and when I move back to the States she won't be allowed in our bedroom. So not having to break her of that habit is a bonus.

Have I mentioned that I've also never had a problem with her destroying anything? Not furniture, not decorations, not curtains. I have a rather elaborate spread of shells and coral that I've collected during my time here arranged on my coffee table. She has not once fussed with them. The first thing Cookie did the first night I had her was to knock all of them over onto the floor. They had to go up while she was here because she wouldn't leave them alone. I also keep a bag of "cheap" grocery store cat food on a desk in the living room to feed to the stray cats that come up on my porch. Mama's never touched it. Luna, on the other hand, knocked it over onto the floor and spilled several pounds of cat food all over my living room twice.

She is also a perfect cat to own if you want to foster and rehab kittens. The story of Mama is that she turned up on my friend's porch with a single, solitary 4-week-old kitten and already heavily pregnant again. My friend kept the kitten and I took Mama. Soon afterward she gave birth to three adorable kittens and had to be rushed to the clinic for a c-section for the remaining two which were too big to pass naturally. One was still born and the other pulled through only to die of aspiration pneumonia five weeks later. The three surviving kittens all found good homes with other Ross students and Mama stayed with me. Ever since she's been helping me take in semi-feral kittens that I foster through PAWS and turn them into happy, well-adjusted cats when they go to their new homes. She is patient, loving and playful with them, even when they hiss in her face.

I love my Mama. She is perfect. She keeps me sane under the crazy stress of vet school. Yes, I just wrote a blog entry dedicated to my cat. Shut up.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rant time!

Let me preface this post by saying that anytime someone takes a hard stance against live-feeding the assumption is always that they’re a mouse or rat lover and incapable of being objective. I freely admit to being a rodent lover. I owned four pet rats and was a foster for many others. However, I also fostered reptiles for seven years, including snakes. Here is a pic of my foster ball python, Lolita, enjoying a meal of frozen-thawed mice (graphic photo warning for anyone who is upset by images of snakes eating whole prey). On top of that, I was a zoo volunteer for three years and my primary duties involved caring for the dozen or so snakes in the reptile collection. So please don’t comment about how soft-hearted or unobjective I am. I love rats and I love snakes and my position on live-feeding is a culmination of a deep concern for the welfare and health of both species.

The first thing that proponents of live-feeding always bring up is how it is “natural.” You can’t know how many times I’ve had to hear the words “food chain” in conversations with these folks. I actually had one guy tell me that snakes have to be able to hear their prey’s heartbeat in order to feed. (Psst! Snakes can’t hear!)

Anyway, here are a few reasons why that line of argument is bullshit.

  • You’ve got an animal in a glass box, on artificial substrate, with plastic logs and leaves, with an artificial light and heat source, and yet oddly you’re overly concerned with how “natural” their diet is? Mmkay.
  • Snakes are ambush predators in the wild. They do not stalk and hunt their prey. They hide and when a prey item happens to walk by, they strike. If they strike and miss, they go back into hiding and wait for another opportunity. When you put a live prey item into a cage with a snake you are forcing a confrontation that would never occur in nature. There is nothing natural about that situation.
  • Many times people who feed live prey will knock the prey item unconscious by swinging them by the tail into a wall or table, or break their spine or legs in order to avoid injury to their snake (more on that in a minute). So just how fucking natural is that? Sorry for the harsh language, but it really gets under my skin when these people dispassionately describe the torture they inflict on mice, rats and rabbits and then have the nerve to condescend to me about how “natural” their feeding method is.
When you point all of that out to them, the next thing almost all of them try to use as an excuse is, “But I tried to feed frozen/thawed and my snake won’t eat it!”

There are very, very few snakes that won’t make the switch to frozen/thawed prey if done correctly.  Again, I have to point out that I worked at a zoo for three years and volunteered fostering snakes for seven years and didn’t once have a snake refuse a thawed mouse or rat. Many times when people tell me that they tried to feed frozen/thawed what they really mean is that they gave their snake a half-thawed mouse and it didn’t immediately strike and therefore they assumed it couldn’t be transitioned from a live prey diet.

If a prey item is properly heated and dangled a bit from a pair of tongs, almost 100% of the time a hungry snake will strike at it. Most times they don’t even require movement, the scent and heat of the item alone will entice them to eat. If they don’t accept the prey item immediately, particularly if it’s a snake accustomed to a live prey diet, remove the item and offer it again the next day. Again, almost any snake will eventually make the switch. Don’t tell me you made some half-hearted attempt and concluded it was futile.

Point #3: Rodents have teeth. And claws. Notice how the eaten areas are multiple and widespread? That's because if a snake isn't hungry it will not defend itself against an attack by a prey item. It'll attempt to find a spot to hide and curl up in a ball. They won't fight back. Rodents can do some real damage to your snake. I have seen snakes or heard stories about snakes with scale rot from infected bites and scratches, abscesses, severe wounds eaten down to the vertebrae, dislocated jaws, etc.  Live prey items can also carry ectoparasites or internal parasites which can infect your snake. Feeding frozen/thawed is safer and healthier for your snake. And usually it’s a lot cheaper, too. Buying frozen in bulk usually costs about $25-$40 plus shipping for anywhere from 25-100 meals, depending on size. It’s very convenient, too. Just take one from the freezer, pop it into a bowl of hot water for a bit and you’re done. No trips to the pet store once a week.

And lastly, the general attitude toward rodents really irks me. The “Who cares? It’s just a rat!” attitude. Suggest feeding a 5-week-old puppy or kitten alive to a boa constrictor and most people will react with horror and disgust. Switch the species to a rat and suddenly it’s okay. However, there is absolutely no evidence that rodents are less capable of experiencing stress (psychological or physiological) or pain than other mammals. They aren’t less capable of hurting than your dog. So if they’re not less able to feel pain than species we accept as deserving of our best effort to prevent pain and suffering, why is it okay to allow rodents to suffer? Short answer; it isn’t. Either we have an obligation to try and minimize suffering in domestic animals or we don’t. You don’t get to cherry pick which species it’s okay to torment. That simple concept of unbiased animal welfare is why it’s illegal in the UK to feed any live animal to another animal.

Of course, none of this matters to a subset of the reptile owner population. In my experience talking with reptile owners and moving among various exotic rescue and owner circles, I have discovered that safety, health, welfare and humane concerns are unimportant to some people. Some people just want to watch an animal suffer and die. They think it’s cool. They got a snake in the first place so that they could watch it kill something. Nothing I say will ever sway them. When I run up against one of these types, I really struggle not to deliver a swift kick to their balls (they’re usually male). 

Long story short, it’s healthier, less risky, cheaper and more convenient to feed frozen/thawed. Almost any snake can be converted from a live prey diet to a frozen/thawed one. And if you’re still feeding live despite all of the obvious benefits of frozen/thawed because you enjoy or don’t care about hurting rodents, fuck you.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


So that Clin Path exam I was so worried about? I got a 93%! I missed 2 questions out of 30, and both were silly mistakes that if I'd been in a less stressed frame of mind and thought through them I wouldn't have goofed up.

One question in particular I am so angry at myself over. It was one in a series of questions on a CBC showing immune-mediated hemolytic anemia. I answered all of the questions correctly apart from one: "What is the most likely cause of this animal's thrombocytopenia?" Thrombocytopenia is a low platelet count. The two most common causes of thrombocytopenia in an IMHA animal are Evan's syndrome, where antibodies are attacking both the red blood cells and platelets, or disseminated intravascular coagulopathy. I knew that, and both answers were given as options. So my next step should have been asking myself how do you differentiate between the two. The answer is a coagulation panel. And the professor even provided a coagulation panel that was perfectly normal apart from a prolonged bleeding time, indicating that the only thing preventing the patient from clotting normally is a lack of platelets. DIC would result in a coagulation panel where everything was out of whack, and we were given just that coagulation panel on a later question which I got right! And yet I still put DIC when I should have put Evan's because my stupid brain kept going, "DIC is more common!" And it is, but the coag panel clearly said Evan's. I am an idiot sometimes.

I am getting straight A's so far this semester. It's been an intense ride and it isn't even halfway over yet. I hope I can keep going with the same steam but I doubt I'll maintain a 4.0. It's just ridiculously hard and uncommon in vet school. We've got a president's list apart from the dean's list that lists all the students who earned a 4.0 each semester and it's usually only got about 20 names on it from all 7 semesters combined. Still, I want my name on that list just once.

Fun with memes.

Mom you can go ahead and skip this post. You won't get it.

For everyone else who is familiar with rage comics, I made up this little diddy this morning.

Welcome to technology at Ross.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Big scary exam.

I struggle with Clin Path, I really do. I just don't like how much of it relies on interpretation. And yeah, I know, that's what a lot of medicine is. It doesn't mean I have to like it. I'm a hard facts kind of girl. Learn it, repeat it, done. This interpretive crap is not my forte. I've read through all of the assigned reading in the textbook, read through the Powerpoints a couple of times, and held a study session at my place with two friends to go over the supplemental cases. And I still feel unprepared. I've got the rest of tonight and tomorrow to go over the Powerpoints a few more times, and tomorrow in class we're reviewing the case supplements with the professor. Hopefully by Tuesday morning I'll feel ready.

If not, I figured it up and even if I score a 50% on this exam (which is unlikely), I would still only need 235 out of the remaining 310 points to pass. That's roughly 76% of the rest of the class. Not too bad, and like I said, I doubt that if I do fail this exam it'll be that badly. I just hate going into an exam feeling like I don't know my stuff. It's nerve-wracking.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Being silly.

My husband and I have the weirdest, funniest conversations. We've known each other for twelve years, and been together for nearly eight of that. We often just sit on Skype in silence besides making the odd "blooop!" or "meh!" noises at one another because we're just that comfortable and it's nice to just be able to see each other, even when we have nothing important to say. But occasionally we have an exchange that reminds me how much I love him. Like the one we had on Facebook tonight.

Don: Where you go when you disappear, woman?
Me: Valhalla
Don: You're an Amazon, not a Valkyrie.
Don: Nope. Mutually exclusive mythologies.

<3 We're so nerd cute.

Right now, however, I'm having an argument with my reptilian brain. You see, it is demanding sushi. I am trying to convince it that, A. We shouldn't eat out this weekend, because we ate out last weekend, and don't need to waste the money. B. We have to study, and waiting at the Marriott for an hour for sushi, albeit good sushi, is a waste of time when we have an exam on the following Tuesday.

And then my hind brain says, "But... but... Spicy tuna roll!" And it's hard to argue with that.