Meat is Life, From the Archives

D.E. Larsen, DVM

“What would you say if I told you I thought you ate too much red meat,” Dr. Goddard asked?

This was my first appointment with Dr. Goddard. He was trying to get a new style of practice off the ground, and I needed a new primary care doctor.

“I don’t think your profession knows squat about nutrition.” 

“That is sort of blunt,” Dr. Goddard says with a surprised look on his face.

“First eggs are bad. My mother-in-law lived for her eggs in the morning. Her doctors put her through hell for the last few years of her life. Now eggs are fine.”

“Okay, I will give you that one,” Dr. Goddard said. “But let’s get back to the red meat.”

“I am not sure you have looked at my file. I am a veterinarian. At heart, I am a cow doctor. Except for my 4 years in the army, my entire life has been involved with cows. I eat red meat, and that is not a discussion topic for this visit.”

“I don’t understand how you guys can feel good about caring for animals and then sending them to slaughter,” Dr. Goddard said. “The saying, meat is murder, comes to mind.”

“I think you are trying to bring this appointment to a close,” I said.

“No, I am sorry, I just don’t understand,” Dr. Goddard said with an apologetic tone.

“Do you want the long story or the short story?”

“I guess I better hear the long story,” Dr. Goddard said.

“How far are you removed from the farm? I mean, did your grandfather live on a farm?”

“No, my roots are in the city for a whole lot of generations,” Dr. Goddard said.

“So when you drive down the freeway and see hundreds of sheep grazing on the grass seed fields, how many of those sheep to you suppose would be there if they didn’t sell lamb chops in the store?”

“I hadn’t given it any thought,” Dr. Goddard said.

“Not even considering the expense of maintaining a flock of sheep for a year, the labor is considerable. People wouldn’t do it for fun.”

“I see your point,” Dr. Goddard said.

“But you wanted the long story. Those lambs that go to market probably live less than a year. But my profession ensures that their year on earth is good. And we ensure that the meat that reaches the market is the best available in the world,” I said.

“A short life is far better than no life. And the market lambs sacrifice themselves to give their mothers and some of their sisters a long life. So I would change your little quip to be more like meat is life,” I said.

“And the story goes on. I place at least some of the blame on your profession for the family farm’s demise in this country. You guys have been in cahoots with the food industry in your drive to reduce consumption of meat and dairy. Not only the egg issue, but butter is another one. You pushed margarine to replace butter. So you had your patients consuming trans fat instead of butter. Your understanding of Cholesterol metabolism at the general practitioner level was way under my training.”

“I am not sure I will take the blame for the demise of the family farm,” Dr. Goddard said.

“It was a complex issue, but you guys were cheering from the sidelines, at least. And what was the result of that loss? You guys make your recommendations and do your heart surgeries and your drugs, adding a few years onto the life of an old man. With the loss of the family farm, you also lost a whole cluster of farm kids. Farm kids served as stabilizing influencers to their peer groups. Without the farm kids, we have seen drug use spiral out of sight. We lose far more years of life to overdosing than you save in the old men. We lose probably more years yet to the pits of addiction. That all happened at the same time, I don’t think you can convince me there is not a correlation.”

“You give me something to think about,” Dr. Goddard said. “And I guess you are not much interested in my spiel on red meat.”

“No, but I want you to know, every time I throw a steak on the grill, I give silent thanks to the animal who provided it. And in a couple of seconds, many animals flash through my mind. The cows I pulled from a creek or saved from death, the calves who I worked so they could be conceived, the steers in the feedlots, and the ones going through the slaughter process.”

“So, after all of that, do you still what me as your doctor,” Dr. Goddard asked?

“When I was playing ball in high school, I was told that it was a good thing when a coach chewed you out. If he didn’t think you were worth his time, he would say anything. You just need to mark that file to not discuss red meat.”

Photo by Julia Volk from Pexels

The Spica Splint 

D. E. Larsen, DVM

We stopped at the clinic to check on a cat that didn’t get picked up on Friday. Sandy and I had taken the kids to a matinee in Albany, and everyone was anxious to get home.

Brenda came back to the kennel room with a bit of a frown on her face.

“Dad, there is someone at the door,” Brenda said. “And he has a big truck in the parking lot.”

Getting caught at the clinic for some minor issue was always the danger of stopping on the weekend. At least we were on our way home this time. I unlocked the door.

“Good afternoon. I’m Doctor Larsen,” I said, extending my hand. “Can I help you with something?”

“Hi, Doc, I’m Bob Wilson,” Bob said as he shook my hand. “I’m sorry to bother you, but we have a little dog that hurt his leg a few minutes ago. Some folks over at Safeway said we might check to see if you were open. It looks like we caught you during some off hours.” 

“Yes, we just stopped by to check on a cat that got left for the weekend,” I said. “What happened to your little dog?”

“I drive a big rig,” Bob said, pointing to his truck in the parking lot. “I just made a delivery over at Safeway, and the wife wanted to pick up a few things for our trip home. When she got out of the truck, old Jimbo jumped out after her. It’s a long way to the ground from the seat in the truck, and he sort of landed hard. I think he broke a leg.”

“Bring him in, and I will get a look at him,” I said. “But, if this is a broken leg, I won’t be able to do any surgery until the first of the week.”

Bob ran back to his truck and helped his wife and Jimbo out. When they came through the door, his wife, Martha, clutched Jimbo to her chest.

Martha carefully placed Jimbo on the exam table. Jimbo looked at me and snarled. This wasn’t going to be a pleasant exam.

“This is our situation, Doc,” Bob said. “We don’t have a lot of time here. I have to be home to pick up a load Tuesday afternoon. That means we need to be on the road as soon as possible. We were hoping that you could do something to get Jimbo home. We live in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and Jimbo usually goes to the vet school there at Oklahoma State University.”

“I know a professor there,” I said. “Doctor Hopkins, he was a resident at Colorado State when I was in school. He’s a cow doctor, though. He probably won’t be looking at Jimbo.”

“What do you think?” Bob asked. “Can you help us out?”

“I am thinking that I need to put a little muzzle on Jimbo before I’m going to be able to look at him much,” I said.

“You’re probably right there,” Martha said. “He isn’t very friendly in the best of times. With this leg, I doubt you will be able to get much of a look at him without a muzzle.”

Without Joleen around, getting a muzzle on Jimbo proved challenging. Joleen would just grab these little guys around the neck and hold them so they could be disarmed. Bob finally stepped up and got Jimbo under control enough so I could apply a muzzle.

As I started doing an exam, ignoring his fracture for the moment, Jimbo had his nose bounce off my hands just so I knew that he would be chewing me to pieces if he didn’t have that muzzle in place.

When I came to his left front leg, he quieted as I lifted the leg at the elbow. I could feel the bones grind on themselves in the elbow. I lowered the leg and patted Jimbo on the head. He made one more swipe at my hand with his muzzled mouth.

“It feels like his elbow is broken up pretty bad,” I said. “That is a common injury from a jump like that. I should sedate Jimbo and get a good set of x-rays, and I can probably get this leg immobilized in a spica splint for your trip home. But you want to get him looked at right away when you get home. I am certain this fracture involves the joint surfaces, and a timely repair is important.”

“How long is this going to take, Doc?” Bob asked.

“If you guys walk over to Mollie’s and have a bite to eat, maybe drink an extra cup of coffee, I should be able to have Jimbo awake enough to be good to go. If you could just give me a hand and hold this little paranoia while I get an injection into him.”

Bob held onto Jimbo while I gave him an injection of pentathol. Just enough for me to get him on a mask for some gas anesthesia. That way, he would be under my control, and I could wake him up quickly.  

I put two films in each x-ray cassette so I could send a set of films with Bob and Martha. I snapped the pictures and started on the splint while they were developing.

Sure enough, the x-rays should the end of the humerus was broken into three pieces at the end of the bone at the elbow. This would be a repair that would require a screw and a couple of pins, or sometimes on a dog this size, I could get a good repair with three pins. But that would have to wait until they were home.

I put a soft wrap on the leg and secured the wrap by encircling the chest with the wrap also. On the outside, I laid a length of fiberglass cast material along the leg and extended it up over the back. Once this with included in the wrap, the elbow was immobilized, and it would hold them until they got home, at least.

When Bob and Martha returned, I handed them copies of the x-rays and the paperwork for the vet school.

“Have them call me if they have questions,” I said as Martha handed Sandy a credit card.

“Yes, I will make sure we let you know how things go,” Martha said. “We want to thank you guys again for taking care of our little guy. I know we sort of caught you here.”

We walked back to Jimbo’s kennel, and he was up and almost bouncing.

“I will let you pick him up out of the kennel,” I said. “I am sure he would love to get me a parting bite.”

“He looks like he feels better with that splint,” Bob said as Jimbo almost jumped into his arms.

“That leg was pretty broken up,” I said. “Having it immobilized is bound to make it feel better.”

We all went out the door together, and the kids were in the car before I locked the front door. 

“I want to thank you, kids, for being so patient,” Sandy said. 

“How far is it to Oklahoma?” Amy asked.

“It’s a long way, about as far as it was to Colorado,” Sandy said. “If you can remember that trip.”

“I can remember that trip,” Brenda said. “It was a long way.”

***

Martha called the following Friday to say that the vet school decided that the splint was doing well. They would just let Jimbo heal in it.

“Does that sound right?” Sandy asked.

“It’s hard to say who made that decision,” I said. “Jimbo is not a spring chicken, and when Bob heard the repair cost, he could have influenced that decision a bit.”

Photo by Boys in Bristol on Pexels.

The White Cat

 D. E. Larsen, DVM

Dixie was having some difficulty restraining Mary’s cat. Mary had the cat wrapped in a towel when she entered the clinic. It was still straining to turn flips as Dixie struggled with it on the exam table. Mary had withdrawn from the exam table and stood against the wall, concerned and not understanding what was happening with her Ghost.

“Oh, Doctor Larsen, I don’t know what happened to Ghost,” Mary said when I entered the room.

I grabbed Ghost by the back of the neck to help Dixie control his movements. Ghost’s head continued to twist and turn, even with his body restrained.

“How long has this been going on?” I asked.

“Ghost has always been a little odd for a cat,” Mary said. “He started acting sick last week and was holding his head to one side most of the time. But this turning flips, like this, has only started the last hour or so. What is going on with him?”

“This is a vestibular problem,” I said. “He has lost his inner ear function. The world is spinning for him right now. I am going to get an injection for him that will sedate him so we can do an exam.”

After giving Ghost an injection of ketamine, we waited a bit for the drug to take effect. Then we removed the towel.

“White cat, and with one blue eye,” I said. “If he has always been a bit odd, I would guess he is deaf.”

“You know, Fred has wondered about that a couple of times,” Mary said. “Why do you guess that?”

“White cats have a genetically linked deafness associated with the white coat. Blue eyes are also on the same gene. Some of these cats, not all of them, will be born deaf or at least lose all hearing shortly after birth. White cats with two blue eyes will have the highest percentage of deafness. One blue eye, maybe less than half, will be deaf, and a few white cats with normal eye color will be deaf.”

“That explains the odd behavior,” Mary said.

“Yes, these cats seldom get along well with other cats,” I said. “There must be a lot of verbal communication that they never learn. When I was growing up, we had a white cat in the barn for a time. She couldn’t get along with the other cats and finally moved up on the hill behind the barn. She would come down to eat, but that was all.”

“Is his deafness causing this problem?” Mary asked.

“I don’t know if there is a correlation,” I said. “Most of the time, this is associated with an ear infection, and sometimes it just happens. Sort of like the same thing with people.”

“I have heard of people with dizzy spills, but I have never heard of them acting like this,” Mary said.

“I don’t know if anything this severe occurs in people,” I said. “They probably seek care earlier than a cat.”

With the initial questions answered, I started with an exam on Ghost. When I came to his ears, his problem was evident. Black debris filled both ear canals. Ghost must have had a chronic ear mite infestation.

I grabbed a forceps and tugged on the hardened debris in the left ear canal. It came out almost entirely intact and as a perfect casting of the ear canal. A flow of white pus followed the casting. 

“Well, that explains the problem,” I said. “I have never seen anything like this. We sometimes see an ear filled with mite debris but not solid like this stuff. Probably with his deafness, the debris in his ears wasn’t a big bother to him.”

“That looks awful,” Mary said. “What do we need to do?”

“We have him sedated,” I said. “We will take him back to treatment, clean these ears, and get him on some medication. He is going to need to keep him for a day or two. Usually, this balance issue clears up. Sometimes these cats will have a head tilt when they recover. They sort of realign themselves with the world as they see it. I have no idea how things will turn out with this infection in these ears.”

We took Ghost back and cleaned his ears. When we removed all the debris, I could see that the eardrums were intact. We flushed the ears to remove all the exudate and then instilled some medication for the infection and the ear mites. I gave Ghost an antibiotic injection and some dexamethasone.

“We will give him a little more ketamine before we leave tonight,” I said to Dixie as we put Ghost in his kennel. “That should keep him quiet until morning, especially in the dark kennel room.”

***

In the morning, Ghost was up on his feet, looking a little confused by his surroundings. His head tilted to the left, and his eyes still had a slight nystagmus.

“You look better than I expected,” I said to Ghost. He didn’t respond to my words at all. “Deaf as can be, I guess.” I opened the kennel door to pet Ghost. He was cautious of my hand but pushed back when I petted him.

“Sandy, give Mary a call and tell her that Ghost is doing better than expected,” I said. “We will send him home at the end of the day if he continues to do well.”

Ghost was ready to go home in the afternoon. We sent him home with medication for his ear mites and ear infection and some antibiotics for a couple of weeks.

His hearing never improved, of course. But Mary and Fred got along with him better now that they understood he was deaf. 

With time his head tilt lessened, but even several years later, he was not back to level.

Photo by Dids on Pexels.

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