Training with the VET

Mikaela at VET annual exercise
Mikaela (far left) and her peers—Emily, Luke, and Katlyn—feeling like astronauts as they donned the personal protection equipment the VET occasionally uses during deployments

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in the Veterinary Emergency Team’s (VET) annual exercise. It involved veterinarians, technicians, and other College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) faculty, staff, and alumni all coming together to assist in a mock disaster situation.The scenario for the three-day event involved two different explosions in South Texas. We “deployed” in smaller (strike) teams, made our way to the disaster sites, and then set up the VET trailers (mobile medical platforms) they use during actual deployments.

Mock cases would come in over the radio and teams would walk through how they would handle each situation and treat the cases, some of which involved, cats, dogs, horses, and cattle. You have to be ready for anything in these types of situations, which is why practicing is so important.

You also have to approach them differently than an everyday clinic situation—you don’t have the same equipment or personnel, or the history of the animal. Some of the cases involved animals that were injured in the blast; some of them were animals that had been stranded and just needed help finding their owners. As you finished a case, a new case would come in.

I was the controller for my team, so my job was to give information about the patients as my team asked for it, including blood values, microchip information, and radiation readings (one scenario included an explosion at a nuclear power facility). It was an interesting situation to be in because I got to watch the teams work through each case and see the types of questions that the teams asked in each scenario.

At the end of the day, all of the teams came together for a debriefing.

We also got to practice putting on personal protective equipment (PPE), which are special hazard suits that protect you in scenarios that include known or unknown chemicals that you could be exposed to. I was able to learn how to put on the suit and felt like an astronaut!

Overall, it was a great day and I learned so much about how the VET works and responds in disaster situations.

Terra, the ‘Service Dog’

Mikaela and Terra
Mikaela and Terra

Recently, I was able to bring my dog, Terra, to school! That is one of the perks of being a veterinary student—sometimes we get to all bring our pets to class.

We needed her for our orthopedics laboratory, in which we were learning to do a proper orthopedic exam and how to apply a splint. Nothing beats the real thing when it comes to practicing, and Terra was a willing patient (for a lot of treats).

We started out by just watching her walk in a straight line from the front, back, and sides to see her gait and how she moves. This can help you identify if there is a lame leg and which one it could be. Then you do the same thing at a jog. After that, we do a standing exam and you feel over all the joints for anything that is out of the ordinary. It is important to feel both sides at the same time to compare the two sides.

Following the standing exam, Terra got to lay down and we went through all the ranges of motion on each joint to make sure she had full movement in each without pain. Through this whole thing, she was just getting pets and treats and thought it was the best thing. Turns out, she is a pretty good patient.

After the ortho exam we went to the bandaging lab! But, first, we needed to give all the pups a chance to relax, so we went outside for a puppy party! Terra played with a 6-month-old Whippet named Goose, and they are now best friends. We also played fetch for a while so she would be tired and lay still for the bandage.

When we went inside, each of my group members got to practice making a splint and securing it to the body. We did Terra’s front legs, one at a time. There is a lot of padding and you need to make sure the placement of everything is correct so that there is no way for the animal to get hurt from the bandage that is supposed to be helping heal.

Once we wrapped the leg she was allowed to stand to see how she would move in it. At first, she tried to go backward; apparently all dogs do this to try and walk out of the bandage, but once I showed her some treats in front of her, she was basically running to get them. The splint was not going to slow her down. We took it off after a couple minutes and then the other leg was done.

All in all, we had a great day of learning, and it’s always fun to bring your dog to school. Because we are veterinary students, many of our animals are used to being handled, having their hearts listened to, and being our models. We love them so much, and they are willing to help us with our education.

So, really, for Terra, this lab was just another day as a veterinary student’s dog.

Being Selective About Third-Year Electives

Mikaela StanislavAs a third-year veterinary student, I have been
able to choose the electives that I take; after two years of taking
a pre-selected curriculum, this is an amazing experience! I get to
pick what I want to learn, which makes learning all the more

This semester, I have completed an oncology elective. Oncology
is a big part of veterinary medicine because 50 percent of dogs
over the age of 10 years will develop cancer. Through this
elective, I was able to learn about current research being done
that correlates human cancers and cancer in dogs, because it is
very similar and advances in each field can help each other.

The elective I just finished is dermatology. This is also a
large part of veterinary medicine, as many pets have issues with
skin or allergies, especially living in Texas. In dermatology, we
learned how to identify different infections, causes, and how to
treat common dermatologic problems. Did you know that dogs can have
food allergies, too? It’s a lot harder to find out if dogs have a
food issue because they can’t tell you they feel bad after eating
something or if they eat something that causes them to itch.

The next elective I will be taking is clinical pathology, in
which I will learn all about how to interpret blood work and
understand what the values mean. I’ll be able to tell if a dog is
anemic, if it has liver issues, or even if it’s a diabetic.
Clinical pathology is a skill that we will be using every day in
practice. Interpreting blood and urine are common practices and
taking this elective will hopefully help me feel more comfortable
with this aspect of veterinary medicine.

Overall, all of my classes have been good, but it’s even more
exciting to get to decide what you learn!

Receiving a White Coat

While the school year is almost over, it feels like everything is starting to pick up! Within the next two weeks I have one quiz and seven finals. It’s the time to test what we know and find out what we don’t. I was able to pick my electives for next year and I picked some that would cover all aspects of veterinary medicine, including some small, large, and even exotic work. I am really looking forward to working with wildlife!

On Friday I received my white coat. The White Coat Ceremony marks our halfway journey to becoming veterinarians, and during the event, all of my classmates and I got to walk across the stage and put on that coat in front of our family and friends. After this semester, we will start working in the clinics with actual patients, which is why we need the white coat! We still will have some lecture courses but will finally be able to put our knowledge to the test. My whole family came down for the event, and it was such a great moment to share with them. They are all so proud of me and how far I have come in school.

The White Coat Ceremony was a great moment to celebrate right before all of those final exams are here. Sometimes you have to be reminded that you are doing great and that what is happening now is not as important as your friends and family, as well as to see how far you have come. It is easy to be discouraged and get overwhelmed with school. Having people on the outside who are proud of you is all you need to look at the bigger picture.

Happy Thanksgiving!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! I am sitting here writing this while on break because that’s what veterinary students do on break. We work. But have no fear, we do a lot of other fun things to! I was especially looking forward to this break because of one thing I severely lack in veterinary school, and that is sleep. Want to know what I am doing this break? Sleeping, eating, watching TV, and sleeping. There are even some naps I already have planned.

You might be asking, “Aren’t finals just around the corner?” Well, yes, yes they are. But who can think about finals when you have turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and rolls sitting on the table. There are also many football games to be watched this weekend. Worrying about finals will just have to wait until Monday. I will share with you one very cool wet lab I was able to attend this past month. A wet lab is basically a hands on animal lab.

If you read my last post, I talked about my trip to South Africa, where I was able to work with the wild animals there. Ever since that trip I have been wanting to work with wildlife here in the United States. I was given the opportunity to work with one of our own deer here on campus. We had to de-antler him. We de-antler them so that they do not fight with each other, get caught on things, or fight with the fence. It is all about the animal’s safety and there is no pain associated with the procedure. We bring him into a small enclosed area so that the veterinarian can administer a dart to give the sedatives. Then, once he is down we all move into the area and monitor breathing, administer oxygen, and check pulse. We are always monitoring the animals and taking records to make sure everything is going smoothly. I was chosen to administer some vaccines! Then, two students were chosen to take a strong wire and cut through near the base of the antler. Once this was done we administered the reversal agents to wake him up and made sure that he was fully mobile and alert before releasing him back into his pen.

There is a lot of planning that goes into these procedures before you even bring the animal up to the holding area. WE have to make sure to have the right drugs, equipment, and anything we might need in case something goes wrong. Working with wild animals even in a controlled environment can be dangerous, and one must always be prepared.

Traveling To and Fro

Every since I was little my family has taken an interest in travel. It started when I was in preschool, and my family decided to take a trip in an RV and drive across the western part of Canada. I remember seeing moose and being able to stare out the window at the vast countryside passing by. Our next big trip was to Australia where I was able to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef, play with orphan kangaroos, and hold a koala. I learned so much about the different cultures and how people live in other countries that I knew travel would always be a part of my life.

Studying abroad was always on my plan for college. I have a passion for horses, so why not combine horses and travel? After my junior year of college I was privileged enough to travel to Scotland through a study abroad program. In my program we were able to ride horses three times a week and take an equine anatomy and physiology class as well as an equine fitness course. We had classes during the week, and then the weekends were ours to go out and explore. We traveled to Edinburgh and saw the castle and King Arthur’s Seat. One weekend we were able to travel out to Loch Ness to try and find that elusive monster. It is a great way to connect with students from all over the country and meet new people.

After my first year of veterinary school I was able to travel to South Africa to work with the wildlife there. This was by far one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. We would have class some days and others we would be out in the field. Our classroom time consisted of us learning about the different drugs used on animals, how to safely capture, and different disease that the animals could have. These days in the classroom were fine but the real fun was out in the field. We worked with a wildlife veterinarian in South Africa, who planned excursions for us to partake in. One day consisted of darting and relocating 23 gemsbok. We were able to work with rhino, cheetah, and giraffe. Getting to put my hands on these animals is something that I will never forget.

Traveling not only opens up new places for you to explore, but it also opens up something inside yourself. Traveling allows you to be pushed outside of your comfort zone where you can learn about yourself. I encourage everyone to give it a try!