Learning: It's for the Birds
As a second-year veterinary student, it is
sometimes very easy to forget that there are things outside of
charts, notes, and endless PowerPoint slides. But, recently, I was
reminded of the other learning opportunities we have here at the
Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine. One of those many fun
and inspiring aspects of our professional program is the chance to
head over the Avian Health Complex, where a couple of weeks
ago, I had the pleasure of practicing handling pigeons and
I was elated to go to that rotation because I love exotic
animals. After being debriefed on the safe and proper manner of
handling birds, we got started. We gloved up to protect both the
bird and ourselves, as we both can transmit diseases to each other.
I then had to catch my pigeon! I caught mine pretty quickly; she
was a lot less rambunctious than some of the others. My partner and
I both took turns doing a complete physical exam on her, checking
her eyes, ears, wings, musculature, and many other body parts. We
identified in a report that she was healthy and then we moved on to
weighing her. Lastly, we drew blood from her wing vein so that the
flock could be screened and given a clean bill of health. I loved
handling the birds.
The tortoises were a bit trickier. You see, when a tortoise does
not care to be picked up, it has a very effective method of
defense—IT PEES ON YOU!! And this is not just a little trickle;
these little guys can aim! Part of our task was to do a bunch of
similar examination techniques on the Texas Tortoises, but there is
a huge difference between a tortoise and a pigeon—a tortoise has a
shell, of course! So how do you take a heart rate on a tortoise?
Well, I am glad you asked. I found it quite fascinating. We used a
Doppler. A Doppler is a type of ultrasound machine that you place
in the crook between the tortoise's head and forelimb. Through the
machine, you can actually hear the pulse of the heart.
For me and my partner, we got through our physical exam with no
incidents. Others were not so lucky and went home with a little bit
of tortoise urine to commemorate the event.
Nobody really minded.
It's all in a day’s work.