Veterinarians! Let the large-animal games begin!


Taking care of big critters is an intense job of Olympic proportions.

Apparently, some of my colleagues believe that I concentrate too frequently on the problems of dealing with house pets and their owners. My friend, Juan Armup, a bovine practitioner, has often chastised me for failing to write about large-animal problems.

Well, the time has come for a confession. I am a small animal practitioner. That's right! The closest I've been to a cow in the last 30 years has been my penchant for eating ice cream.


However, I am pleased to announce to each of my readers who proudly wears a shoulder-length rubber glove that this month's column is devoted to large critters.

With the next summer Olympics just two years away, I figure it's not too early for my colleagues to start training for the veterinary events. With that in mind, a colleague of mine from Massachusetts, J. Merriman, has helped me compile the five events of the large-animal pentathlon.

Event no. 1: Find that thermometer. Contestants are pitted against a yearling Trakehner colt that responds only to commands in German given by a retired Prussian cavalry officer (who is not available at the time). The event takes place in a darkened stall in which the colt's owner, an heiress in high heels, screams incessantly while the colt rears. Meanwhile, the contestant attempts to find a human thermometer placed you-know-where two hours earlier by a groom who has since overdosed on morphine. If the heiress is even slightly injured during the event, the score will be determined by a 12-name Manhattan law firm.

Event no. 2: Humane twitch application. This is a weight-for-age competition. Each contestant must be older than the patient, and the contestant's weight must be equal to or less than 10 percent of the patient's weight. The horse, an Appaloosa-Arab cross stud, is to have his tear ducts flushed. Each entrant is issued a clamp twitch owned by the farm with a knotted shoelace holding it together. The twitch has been stored in a five-gallon can of disinfectant. A note with instructions has been left on the stall door attached to a halter. The horse is in an 8-by-10-foot stall with a door that opens into a half-acre paddock. Naturally, the door is wide open so the horse can bolt the minute he sees you. There is no food available to catch the horse with, even though the aisle outside the stall is littered with empty grain bags.

Once the evasive equine is captured and brought back into the stall, the contestant has three minutes to work before the owner arrives to ask how things are going. Attempting to place the twitch on the owner will result in immediate disqualification.

Event no. 3: Basic pregnancy determination. An entire year's pay from this farm hinges on the sale of five mares. A certificate of pregnancy must be issued for each. Unfortunately, the mares—two miniature horses, one thirteen-hand Arab, a zebra and a Sicilian donkey—are all kept in a 30-by-30-foot communal stall with no ventilation. Each contestant will start with two ounces of mineral oil, one rectal sleeve and four vacutainer tubes with two needles but no cuff. Each entrant will be assisted by the owner's 82-year-old mother and a 12-year-old girl who "just loves horses." Entrants may elect to palpate a fetus manually or tube a blood sample. One of the animals will have a granulose cell tumor the size of a basketball in her abdomen. Extra vacutainer needles will be available in a parked truck 300 yards away. After being judged on speed, accuracy and honesty, the first-prize winner will receive a check for double the balance due drawn on an out-of-state bank.

I thank Dr. Merriam for formulating these events with me. Next month we will conclude the large animal pentathalon with descriptions of the final two events: ownership determination and chain saw necropsy.

Dr. Michael Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.

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