Dr. JoGayle Howard wakes up early to go to the office. Her “office,” however, is the National Zoo and her job is to manage the breeding and conservation efforts for the mammals. Being the head veterinarian at the National Zoo is a lifestyle rather than a regular office job as the dynamics of caring for a wide arrangement of animals are deeply embedded within her personality.
Upon arriving at the zoo, she immediately sets off to the small mammal house. Today’s project? A recent litter of black-footed ferrets needs to be genetically tested. Dr. Howard has worked to expand the total population from 24 individuals to more than 1000 and ensuring genetic diversity is vital to the conservation program. Why? These pups will eventually be reintroduced into the wild.
Dr. Howard eagerly checks her watch in anticipation of the day’s major event. After dropping off the ferret’s hair samples at the lab for DNA isolation she heads to the panda exhibit.
This is an important day for the pandas as Mei Xiang, a 5-year-old female giant panda on loan from China, is ready to conceive. Pandas have a single brief annual window for breeding and the time is now for Mei Xiang. This mating is vital to the population and cannot be left up to her awkward mate, Ting Ting. Mei Xiang is induced into anesthesia for an intrauterine insemination.
Five hours later Dr. Howard leaves a groggy Mei Xiang in the custody of her handlers to take a scheduled conference call with the Thailand Department of National Parks and Wildlife to discuss a recent carnivore survey regarding the future of two clouded leopard cubs.
The clouded leopard project is close a special project for Dr. Howard. With less than 60 left in captivity, the clouded leopards are considered an endangered species. The species is notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, as the carnivores are shy, easily stressed in captivity, and exhibit deadly acts of aggression towards each other. The Khoa Kheow Zoo in Thailand has established itself as the center of the cat’s breeding program and intend to export their cubs to the National Zoo in an effort to improve the genetic diversity of the clouded leopard. The rest of the day is a flurry of activity as Dr. Howards prepares for a trip to the Nashville Zoo to review their conservation breeding program, finalizes a manuscript on the reproductive physiology of the Giant Panda, and interviews a new resident for the clouded leopard project. At the end of the day Dr. Howard has not only earned the satisfaction of saving species from extinction but also fostering international relationships through species conservation.
Prevention and Treatment - Day in the Life of a Dairy Veterinarian
Dr. Diana Stoll steers her truck down the snowy driveway to a picturesque Pennsylvania dairy farm to check on her first patients of the day. Dr. Stoll is a rare breed of veterinarian; she is a successful female bovine veterinarian with a private practice with a large Amish clientele. The majority of her patients are dairy cows, the bovine species that produce cheese and milk.
This morning’s client is a farm with 200 dairy cows and her patients gaze at her with large brown eyes as they calmly eat breakfast after their morning milking. The manager directs her past the milking barn to the patient, a sick one week-old calf. The calf is dehydrated from a bacterial infection and needs an IV fluid and antibiotics. Like any pediatrician she questions the manager to better understand the calf’s diet and vaccination protocol. Based on the manager’s answers and the calf’s signs, the illness can be traced to the quality of the milk containing colostrum given after birth. In order to prevent other calves from becoming sick she educates the client on the importance of colostrum in developing the immune system of neonates.
After examining the pregnant cows, the manager asks her to look at a cow that has not been eating and has a soft cough. As Dr. Stoll begins her examination she notes that the cow has a light discharge from her nose and increased salivation. She listens to the lungs and takes a temperature to identify fluid present from an infection. The findings point her to pneumonia but several other diseases can have similar signs. She takes a blood test to evaluate the immune cells present which will help refine her diagnosis. After administering an antibiotic to the cow, Dr. Stoll arranges to return to the farm with the results of the blood test.
On the way to her office to drop off the blood sample- her cell phone rings with a client concerned about a cow in dystocia or difficulty giving birth. Dr. Stoll quickly drives to the dairy farm and sets into work to determine the cause of the problem by assessing the position of the calf and the cow’s uterine contractions. She readjusts the positions of the calf facilitating the delivery of a health female calf. She quickly begins the process of learning to stand-up in order to nurse.
As a food animal veterinarian, Dr. Stoll has the distinct satisfaction of working to ensure the health and well-being of her patients that impacts the quality of their production.
The Ordinary and Extraordinary- Day in the Life of a Small Animal Surgeon
Dr. Schmidt arrives at Fecit Animal Hospital in Boston well before her first patients arrive in order to review their files as the technicians prepare the surgical suites. She is one of three partners at the clinic and the primary surgeon. The procedures awaiting her patients include a typical juvenile spay and neuter, liver biopsy, and a mass removal.
After double checking the dose of anesthetic and antibiotic, the first patient, a six month old female calico, is introduced into a soporific state for her spay. As the calico is recovering, a two year-old male chihuahua is being induced for his neuter. A few snips later the chihuahua is quietly recovering as the veterinarian reviews the next patient’s file.
Zeus, a six year-old male Boxer has a malignant abdominal mass. Today, Dr. Schmidt will remove the mass along with a small margin of tissue. The owners will then need to decide on whether they want to follow up with either chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
The last surgery of the day is a Miniature Schnauzer with a confirmed liver shunt in which the portal vein has connected to an adjacent vein. The shunt has redirected blood away from the filtering liver to effectively reduce the amount of blood going through the liver. The liver responded to a decrease blood flow by reducing its ability to work. The surgeon will open the abdomen to expose the liver to apply a constrictor ring around the insulting shunt. The constrictor ring will partially inhibit blood flow through the vein to restore function to the liver.
Although the day of a small animal surgeon has more opportunities for control- the routine and normal can quickly become the unexpected and extraordinary.
Few careers offer such an extensive range of application as veterinarian medicine. From puppy vaccinations to panda breeding veterinarians work to ensure the health and welfare of all animals. If you are interested in pursuing a career in veterinarian medicine- chances are there is a veterinarian near you that will enthusiastically show you their lifestyle.
Personal correspondence with Dr. Stoltz