Medicine and Surgery, According to the Moon

D. E. Larsen, DVM

Mr. Hansen was leaning on the corral fence when I pulled into the barnyard. He had a half dozen young bulls in the corral. 

“Doc, I hope you are ready for these guys,” Mr. Hansen said. “They might be a handful.”

“We can handle them quickly with the chute,” I said.

Mr. Hansen, a Norwegian farmer outside of Enumclaw, had called to have these bulls castrated. I had wondered why he didn’t do it when they were small calves.

“You could have done this surgery much easier about 6 months ago,” I said. “This procedure is okay, but if you castrate enough of these guys, you will lose one. It is just the nature of the procedure, we use a tissue crush to control bleeding. That works fine unless a calf has been on clover pasture or has some other clotting disorder.”

“Well, Doc, I do all this stuff by the moon,” Mr. Hansen said. “It is pretty hard to get you guys out here on my schedule sometimes.”

I worked through the bulls with no problems. When I was cleaning up afterward, Mr. Hansen turned the bulls, now steers, out to pasture.

“See, Doc, not a problem one, see how easy it is when you do things by the moon,” Mr. Hansen said.

That was my first experience with the moon. Growing up, I had heard several men talk about the moon having an influence on castrations and dehorning. Still, I had never paid attention to it. It was easy to allow these folks to believe what they wanted, as long it did no harm.

There were events, however, that made a person wonder if there wasn’t some outside influence.

Uterine prolapse in the cat was one of those things that were considered rare. Some said it was a once in a lifetime for most veterinarians.

Alice called on Sunday morning. This was my first weekend to take emergencies after taking a job in Enumclaw, Washington.

“Doctor, I have a momma cat who had a litter of kittens last night or this morning,” Alice said. “I am not sure what I am seeing, but something hanging out of her is not right.”

“It sounds like I should get a look at her,” I said. “When can you meet me at the clinic?”

“I was hoping that we could take care of her right away,” Alice said. “I am not really interested in hand-feeding this bunch of kittens for any length of time.”

We agreed to meet at the clinic in a few minutes. I was excited to have a genuine small animal emergency this weekend.

Alice came through the door with her momma cat and her kittens in a cardboard box. Momma was a young cat. She was mostly white, and so were the kittens. She was nursing the kittens, oblivious to her own problem.

Setting the box on the exam table, I lifted Momma out of the box. A complete prolapsed uterus hung from her vulva.

“What are we looking at, Doctor,” Alice asked. “I have never seen such a thing.

I didn’t think it would instill any confidence in me if I told Alice that I had never seen such a thing.

“It is a prolapsed uterus,” I said with confidence. “This is considered rare in the cat. It is something that we often see in cows. In cows, we replace the uterus. In this cat, the easiest thing would be to remove it. That will solve her immediate problem, and it would keep her from having more kittens.”

“Am I going to have to take care of these kittens tonight?” Alice asked.

“I think that I can get my wife to help, and I can get this surgery done this morning,” I said. “I should be able to send her home this afternoon. These kittens have been nursing well this morning, they should be fine until mom is home.”

I placed Momma in a kennel, and Alice departed with the kittens. When I got back to the house, Sandy was less than enthusiastic about the task of helping with the surgery.

“All you have to do is be there, just in case I need you to hand me something,” I explained. “The girls can come along, they might enjoy watching.”

We placed a short bench alongside the surgery table and lined the girls up to watch. They were excited, however, other than Brenda, I don’t think they had any idea what was going to happen.

I had no idea what to expect with this surgery, but it turned out to be easier than I thought it would be.  

Momma was given a small dose of IV Rompun and Ketamine for anesthesia. Opening her abdomen, I found her ovaries stretched down into the posterior abdomen. I grasped the ovarian ligaments and pulled the uterus back into a normal position with moderate traction. After that, it was just a standard spay. Sandy survived the experience well, as did the girls.

Momma recovered well, and Alice was happy to pick her up in the late afternoon.

So what about the moon business?

The odd thing about the coming week was that I had this case within weeks of getting out of school. Don, the other associate veterinarian in the practice, treated a cat with a prolapsed uterus on Tuesday of that week. That was the first prolapsed uterus in a cat that he had seen in his 8 years of practice. Then on Friday, Jack, the practice owner, had a cat with a prolapsed uterus also. It was the first time he had seen the problem in a cat is his 32 years of practice.

That was 3, once in a lifetime events, in a single week in a predominantly cattle practice.

What are the odds of that, without some outside influence? I never worried about the moon, but after that week, I never argued with anyone who did things by the moon.

Photo by from Pexels 

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

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