Not Much Room for a Mouse 

D. E. Larsen, DVM

We had several clients who always wanted to talk with me rather than the front desk. That was on the phone or in person. They were always men, and for the most part, they were large animal clients.

They were accommodated if my time allowed for the conversation. These guys didn’t abuse their status in the clinic, and they were always willing to wait their turn or call back if it was a phone call.

So, when I noticed Bill standing aside out in the reception room, I knew he was waiting to speak with me.

As soon as I had a spare moment, I stepped out to the reception room and motioned Bill to come back. He followed me to the surgery room. It was the only open room we had at the time.

Bill was one of my favorite large animal clients. His cow herd was not large, but it was well cared for, and I often visited his place. If he needed a dog looked at, he would send it in with his wife. He had cats on his farm, but I think they were like the barn cats of my youth. They were pretty much on their own.

Bill was a tough man. He had been in the Marines during World War Two and fought in the Pacific. Bill was on Iwo Jima. And he even had similarities in his appearance to Lee Marvin.

“Now, Doc, I don’t want you to be laughing at me,” Bill said as he laid a small towel down on the surgery table. “And I didn’t kill this little guy. I would have, had I found it alive, but I found it dead.”

I carefully unwrapped the towel. It seemed like I could remember almost the same conversation with Bill a year or two ago.

There in the towel was a dead mouse. And a pitiful-looking little mouse.

“I have never seen anything like this before,” Bill said. “You always seem to have all the answers. It is sort of like nature is sending me stuff to see if I can stump you, one of these days.”

I pulled on a pair of exam gloves and picked up the little mouse. On closer exam, the skin was moving. I parted the fur, and there was a breathing hole. I turned the mouse on its back. There were four large lumps on his ventral abdomen. Then I found three similar masses on each side and two on his back.

“Bill, did you ever see any warbles on your cow’s back?” I asked. “I mean, we treat them now, but twenty years ago, warbles were common.”

“Yes, I used to squeeze them when I was a kid,” Bill said. “The biggest grub you could imagine would pop out of those warbles.”

“Do you see all these lumps on this mouse?” I asked. 

“Yes, that is why I brought him in for you to look at,” Bill said. “You know, I have a bunch of grandkids. I don’t want them exposed to anything from some sick mouse or squirrel.”

“Well, if you watch these lumps, they move,” I said. “The mouse is dead, but these lumps are still alive. These are like those big grubs you popped out of those warbles on the back of a cow.”

“These are from heel flies?” Bill asked.

“No, it is a different fly, but sort of the same type of life cycle,” I said. “These are Cuterebra larva. They are from a rodent bot fly. We see them in rabbits and occasionally a cat. In those animals, they are a nuisance. In this little mouse, there is not much room for a mouse. It is all larva.”

“So, nothing to worry about for grandkids,” Bill said.

“Probably not,” I said. “I have seen a note or two about these on people, but I would guess that is pretty rare. Especially if you bathe once in a while. Probably the biggest risk would be for one of the little ones finding a mouse like this and picking it up while it is still alive.”

“If I just left this mouse out in the barn, would those things go ahead and hatch?” Bill asked.

“I think the flies didn’t read the book very well,” I said. “If a parasite that kills the host, generally it kills itself. There are so many larvae in this mouse; he has just been consumed. In a few days, these larvae will be dead.”

“Do you want me to dispose of this guy?” Bill asked.

“No, my garbage can is as good as your manure pile,” I said. “I can get rid of the mouse. And there are a couple of gals here who need to see him. So they can know what people are talking about next time we get a call.”

“How many times to see something like this?” Bill asked.

“Bill, I have never seen one of these larvae on a mouse before,” I said. “I see two or three cats every year with one of these. It is a big circus to pull the larva out, especially if we have a curious client who wants to watch.”

“Okay, you can throw the towel away also,” Bill said. “Billie as was definite that she didn’t want me to bring that back to the house.”

“That’s good. I will just put the whole thing into the trash can,” I said.

“Do I owe you anything?” Bill asked.

“No, I will get out of you on my next call,” I said.

Photo by Alexas Fotos from Pexels

A Note to My Readers

D. E. Larsen, DVM

Both of my books are available kn their Kindle version on Amazon today until midnight PDT.

Bovine Piercing

 D. E. Larsen, DVM

Otto was sitting on a stool by the barn door when I pulled up the drive.

“Doc, I am a little surprised. You are right on time,” Otto said as I extended my hand to shake. “I thought I would have time for a little nap.”

“You know how it is, Otto,” I said. “I make every effort to stay on time. It’s just that there are always things that get in the way.”

“My bull will appreciate it,” Otto said. “He is not too happy being locked up in the old stanchion.”

“Let’s get a look at him,” I said. “The girls at the office said you wanted me to put a ring in his nose.”

“Yes, if you could put a ring in his nose, and I would like you to cut his horns off, also,” Otto said. “Nils told me you use a little wire instead of those big whackers that the old man uses.”

“See, that is one of those things that get me behind schedule,” I said with a smile. 

This was an old dairy barn with a long row of stanchions. Otto had his bull, Romeo, locked in one of these stanchions. I was expecting a young bull, but this was an older red bull. 

“This is one big bull, Otto,” I said. “Are you sure this stanchion is going to hold him?”

“He is pretty gentle,” Otto said. “And Nils said that when you did his heifers, they didn’t know anything happened to them.”

I scratched the bull on his back as I looked him over. He was trying to eat a little of the grain Otto had in front of him, but his neck was so thick, he couldn’t reach the bottom of the feed rack with the stanchion closed.

“Are you going to have enough room to work?” Otto asked.

“If you help me carry things around in front of him, I think I will be fine,” I said. “He is big enough that I won’t need to get into the feed rack. If I can get a halter onto his head, I will be okay.”

Otto had a leather halter the fit just right. It was a little tight for everyday wear, but it was going to work well for this procedure. With a lead rope attached to the halter, I tied Romeo’s head to the left. I clipped the hair around the base of the horn and applied Betadine to the area. With a syringe filled with lidocaine, I did nerve blocks around the base of his right horn. That meant I injected lidocaine at the three, six, nine, and twelve spots around the horn, like the numbers on a clock. Then I turned the head to the right and clipped and similarly blocked the left horn.

Romeo was starting to wonder what was going on when I turned his head back to the left and stretched it as tight as I could before I tied the rope. I placed a length of OB wire around the base of the right horn and glanced at Otto before I started to saw on the horn. Otto was watching every move I made with deep concentration but without saying a word so far.

“That little wire is going saw that horn off?” Otto asked.

“Yes, I think you will be impressed,” I said. “These bull horns are thick and takes a lot of work for the saw. The good thing about that is the wire gets so hot that the blood vessels are cauterized, and we probably won’t lose a drop of blood.”

I leaned back as I started with long strokes with the wire saw. It only took a moment before smoke rose from the base of the horn.

“My gosh,” Otto said. “That smells just like the old-time dentist drill.

“My thoughts, exactly,” I said as I quickened the speed of my strokes. “The good old smell of burnt bone.”

I took a deep breath when the horn finally popped off. The now tightly coiled length of OB wire was white-hot, and it sizzled when I dropped it in the bucket of water. 

“Notice, there is no blood,” I said to Otto as I motioned to the opening into the frontal sinus. 

“What do you do with that hole?” Otto asked. 

“I am going to pull these blood vessels out first, and then I will put a piece of filter paper over the hole. The paper will just be a temporary covering for a few days. This wound will heal, and the bone will cover that hole. when he is healed, Romeo will look like he was a polled bull.”

“There is no bleeding,” Otto said. “Why are you going to pull the blood vessels?”

“By pulling the vessels out, they stretch and break off deep in the tissues. That allows a secure clot to form. If I didn’t pull these, and Romeo goes out and rubs his head on a stump, he will open the vessels, and they will bleed like the devil.”

With a forceps, I grabbed the largest vessel at the six o’clock position. I pulled it until it broke off, with the vessels snapping back into the tissues, leaving about an inch of an artery in the grasp of my forceps. 

“Look at the size of this blood vessel,” I said. “This would bleed for three days if it wasn’t pulled out. When I was a kid, maybe six or seven, the decision was made to dehorn all the milk cows in the herd. They used the same guillotine type dehorner that is still in use today by some people. There was no anesthesia. The cows bellowed, some even when to their knees. They swabbed the wounds with pine tar and turned them out. Blood spurting out of both sides of their heads as they went out of the barn. Those cows bled for three days. I have no idea how much milk production was lost with that procedure. But I learned, way back then, that I would never use those dehorners.”

After pulling all the vessels on the right horn, I turned Romeo’s head back to the right and repeated the procedure. When I released his head for a moment to rest, he had a completely different appearance.

“He is going to look pretty fancy now,” Otto said. “And I didn’t notice him acting like he felt a thing.”

“Now, for the nose ring,” I said. “They told me you had your own ring.”

“Yes, I bought this ring, and the guy at the feed store said you just shove the sharp end through his nose,” Otto said. “After I talked to Nils, we decided I should get you out to do the shoving and to dehorn him at the same time.”

“Nils probably saved your life,” I said. “You try shoving the sharp end of this nose ring through Romeo’s nasal septum without any anesthesia, and you probably would have one pissed-off bull. And he is no little guy.”

“That’s just about what Nils said,” Otto said.

“Let me tie his head again, and I will show you an easy way to do this,” I said. 

I tied Romeo’s head to a center post in the barn, stretching his head straight out. Then I wiped some Betadine in his nose. I palpated the fleshy septal area and injected it with lidocaine.

“If you ever do one of these in a young bull, there is a bone in that septum if you go too far into the nose,” I said as I let Otto feel the fleshy septum in front of the bone.

“I see, now they never said a thing about that at the feed store,” Otto said.

I took my rumen trocar with a sleeve on it and shoved it through the nasal septum with only a little force. Then, removing the trocar, the hollow sleeve remained through the nasal septum.

“Let’s look at that nose ring,” I said to Otto.

These ring were made with two half circles of brass. Hooked together at one side with a hinge joint, and then the sharp piece dovetailed into the groove on the other end, and a screw secured this joint. 

I removed the screw, stuck the sharp end into the hollow trocar, and pulled it through the tissue. I closed the ring and placed the screw back into the joint. 

“How you’re all set, and Romeo thanks you for making sure everything was done with some anesthesia.”

I started to scratch Romeo’s head, and then I heard the voice of both my father and grandfather. “Never play with the head of a bull. It doesn’t matter how old he is, even a calf. You don’t play with their head.”

I cut some filter paper to cover the frontal sinus holes. I sprinkled a little antibiotic powder into the sinuses and then covered them with the filter paper, held in place with a bit of backtag cement.

We turned Romeo out and watched him as he headed back to the pasture. Acting like nothing had happened.

Photo by Павел Хлыстунов from Pixels

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