D. E. Larsen, DVM
I looked at the large black tumor on Dr. Walker’s old gray mare as I wrapped the tail. It was a good thing that the horse was gentle. There were no facilities, and I was at considerable risk, standing directly behind the mare. This tumor was the size of a small egg and located on the right side of her vulva. The lucky thing was it off to the side enough that I could remove it without disrupting the structure of the vulva.
After doing an epidural for anesthesia, I scrubbed the area and soaked it with Betadine. I had the tail tied to the side with a twin around the mare’s neck. I palpated the tumor to make sure is as superficial as I suspected.
Removing the tumor was easy. I made a wide elliptical incision and took a sizable, deep margin. I laid the tumor on the surgery tray and closed the wound with two layers.
“I will send this in just to check on its malignancy,” I said. “There is probably not much else we can do, but it will be good for you to know.”
“I know,” Dr. Walker said. “She is an old mare, but we love her.”
“This is a melanoma, for sure,” I said. “Black tumor on an old gray horse is almost a description of a melanoma. I was always taught to cut early, cut wide, and cut deep. In this business, the initial surgery is probably our only treatment for these old horses.”
“How much do we owe you?” Dr. Walker asked.
“No charge,” I said. “I never charge a colleague, something I learned from Dr. Craig.”
“That’s not fair, I can’t make this much up to you,” Dr. Walker said.
“My goal in life is to have others owe me,” I said. “That way, I know that I have been doing good in my life. I have no expectation of repayment.”
The tumor was a melanoma, but not highly malignant. It would not have any influence on the mare’s longevity.
Some months later, Althea brought in a feral tomcat with a rotten mouth. It was a Friday evening, just after we closed.
The tomcat growled and hissed when I looked into the carrier. I could see raw tissue under his tongue and in the back of his mouth.
“How long have you had this guy, Althea?” I asked. “This is a bad case of stomatitis, and he has some teeth about ready to fall out.”
“I have been putting out some canned food for him for several weeks,” Althea said. “His mouth is very painful when he eats. It has taken me this long to get him into a carrier.”
“Maybe I will try to get an injection into him for tonight and have you bring him back in the morning,” I said. “I am not sure I want to keep him in the clinic overnight.”
Feline Leukemia Virus infection was prevalent in Sweet Home. This kind of mouth was one of the presentations we see in cats with FeLV.
“Do you think you can do that without getting bit?” Althea asked.
“We will find out,” I said as I worked a snare around the tom’s neck.
Once I had him snared, I pulled him out of the carrier and gave him an injection of Amoxicillin under his skin.
As I directed his head back into the carrier, he exploded. Up and down and around, he bounced on the end of the snare. When he calmed for a second, I grabbed him by the back of the neck with my left hand to pin him to the exam table.
Now, the fight was on. There was no way he was going back in that carrier, and there was no way I could let go of my grip on him. The ketamine to sedate him was in the lockbox. I called Sandy to get the key from my pocket and get me a dose of ketamine.
When she had a dose in a syringe, I let go of the snare for a second to give the injection. Ketamine burns when it is given in the muscle. Before I could drop the syringe and grab the snare again, this old tomcat turned and bit me on my index finger’s knuckle on my left hand. He held onto the bite, just to let me know that he had won the battle. I waited, thinking that one bite wound was better than three. Finally, the ketamine began to soak it. I could feel his muscles relax, and the pupils of his eyes dilated widely.
I carefully removed the rotten canine tooth, his right fang, from the wound on my left hand.
“It looks like I am going to hang onto this guy for the next 10 days,” I said to Althea. “I doubt if he has ever had a rabies vaccination, and if you take him home, he will be gone at the first opportunity.”
“Do you think he is going to be okay?” Althea asked as I started to tend to the bite wound he had just inflicted on my left hand.
“My guess is he is a feline leukemia cat,” I said. “That probably means that he is not going to do well. But I can check him out in the morning. Right now, I am going to take care of this hand. I will give you a call in the morning.”
I should have gone to the doctor that evening. But I flushed the wound several times with saline and betadine. I started myself on some antibiotics off of my shelf.
In the morning, I woke with a throbbing hand. My whole hand was swollen, and a lot of pus was draining from the wound. I called our doctor and arranged to meet him in the ER when he finished his morning rounds at the hospital.
One look at my hand and I was promptly admitted to the hospital.
I have worked on almost every dangerous critter around, and a damn tomcat puts me in the hospital.
“What am I going to do with that cat?” Sandy asked as they settled me into a bed and started hooking me up to an IV.
“You get Dixie to help you put food and water in his kennel,” I said. “Anything more than that can wait.”
The culture came back as staph, and they moved me into isolation. My hand was feeling a little better with the IV antibiotics. About then, Sandy called on the telephone. Answering the phone is a real challenge when you have a couple of IV lines on one arm and the other hand in a hot pack.
“The cat died,” Sandy said.
“Good,” I said. “I don’t think I liked him anyway.”
“It’s not funny,” Sandy said. “What am I supposed to do now?”
“You call Dr. Walker,” I said. “I am certain she will take care of things. We need to send the head in for rabies testing.”
I had no more than hung up the phone, and Dr. Gulick entered the room.
“The cat died,” he said.
“Yes, I was just told,” I said.
“With you in here, how will we get the cat submitted for rabies testing?” Dr. Gulick asked.
“Sandy is going to get Dr. Walker to take care of things,” I said. “I don’t think there will be any problems.”
By Monday morning, my hand was doing well, and I was released to get back to work.
I called Dr. Walker to thank her for taking care of things.
“I just wanted to call and say thanks for helping Sandy with that old cat,” I said.
“Are you doing okay?” she asked. “Those cat bites can be bad, and the mouth on that guy was as rotten as I have seen.”
“I was a little worried on Saturday morning,” I said. “But the IV antibiotics and the hot packs did the job, I guess. We will probably hear about the rabies results today. I think that cat was probably a feline leukemia cat.”
“Well, I hope it is not rabies positive, for both our sakes,” Dr. Walker said.
“So, how much do I owe you for your work?” I asked.
“How much do you owe me!” Dr. Walker said. “Are you kidding. You come all the way up to my place and stand behind our horse to do surgery, and you say, “No Charge.” You have to be kidding, you don’t owe me anything. We are colleagues, remember.”