Dr. David A. Rustebakke
This heifer was presented with a severe lameness in the left hind leg; examination revealed a draining tract at the coronet that extended into the coffin joint, the joint inside the hoof. This is a fairly common cause of lameness in cattle either from puncture wounds in the foot, or an extension from hoof rot. The infection, if not treated, can easily extend into the coffin joint. In the horse, a coffin joint infection is generally a death sentence as they are not amenable to treatment due to the inaccessability inside the hoof. And horses do not have a spare. Cattle are fortunate as they have two hooves (claws) on each leg; if one gets infected it can be removed, the healthy hoof can actually support the entire weight of the animal, and they can have a long and productive life in spite of a toe amputation. The following video will show the procedure. The animal is restrained in a chute, the foot is anesthetized with a local anesthetic, and a tourniquet is applied above the amputation site. The hoof is then removed with a wire saw. You can see there is no pain to the animal during the procedure. The stump is bandaged to control hemorrhage and keep it clean till healing can begin. After a week or two depending on how it is doing, the bandage is removed and the animal is allowed to rejoin her pasture mates. This hoof was removed on December 14, three weeks later she is completely healed and walking without a limp.
David A. Rustebakke, DVM
Dr. Rustebakke is a long time large animal veterinarian, and owner of Rustebakke Veterinary Service
The call came in about 1:30 PM on a cold winter day; a cow was having problems giving birth. She was located in a corral in the Grand Ronde Canyon about 40 miles away; the road to the ranch was steep and snow packed; there was no way to haul her to the clinic. My assistant Sandra and I drove in to give her a hand. Chains on the 4 wheel drive truck were required!
What I enjoy most about Veterinary Medicine is the challenge; we are often asked to do things that seem difficult or impossible. However I have learned that difficult tasks are just a series of simple tasks put together in a logical sequence, one simple step at a time.
This video illustrates how we make do in the field. We have an uncooperative patient, and the operating room is primitive. Human surgeons seldom need to do it this way. We start out with a rope and halter with the cow tied to a fence as we don't want her going down in the squeeze chute. She fought too much to get much done, however we were able to tell the calf was still alive, but it was in a position that was going to be very difficult to correct. The chances for survival for the calf was better if we took her to surgery.
We put her in the squeeze chute to shave and inject the incision site with local anesthetic; then moved her to an open sided chute with a head catch to do the surgery. She had an epidural nerve block to control her straining and keep her from swishing her tail into the incision.
Although we do not have a sterile operating room available, we take great pains to be as sterile as possible; she was shaved and scrubbed with surgical soap and rinsed with alcohol; we use sterile instruments and sterile surgical gloves. We make every attempt to avoid contamination.
The video illustrates how we do surgery in the field. Cows are tough, and we seldom have complications. We always tell the cow to take it easy for 2-3 months and avoid any heavy lifting; I have yet to have one follow my advice. The rancher typically puts them in a smaller corral for a week or two, then they go back with the herd. Skin sutures are typically removed in 2-3 weeks, by the time the hair grows back there is no visible scar.
As soon as the calf is out, the rancher (Dennis) clears the airway and makes sure it is doing OK. After the surgery the cow is milked, and the calf is stomach tubed with fresh warm colostrum; they are typically up and ready to nurse within an hour after birth.
I have always admired these hard working men and women who ranch and raise cattle; it is not only a job, it is a way of life for them. With the cold weather we have been having, Dennis and other ranching families are on duty 24 hours a day 7 days a week till the calves are on the ground. Once the calves are dried off and get a belly full of warm milk, most do well in spite of the weather. Many of the calves get to live in the warm house or in the warm cab of a pickup for a few hours after birth till they get a warm meal and get dried off!
Thank you to my assistant Sandra Whittaker, who did double duty as surgical assistant and videographer; she tried to hand me stuff while remaining sterile with one hand and running the camera with the other; a master at multi tasking! She also edited the video. And thank you to Dennis Moss for allowing us to video his cow, and Bill Ruchert for his valuable assistance!
Have fun in the snow, but watch out for these winter hazards!
Colder temperatures are just as critical for our pets and livestock safety as it is for ours. If our animals are not prepared for cold, wet, or snowy weather, health conditions such as frost bite, hypothermia, and death can occur. If animals need to be outside, please make sure they have adequate shelter from rain, snow, and wind. Also, fresh water, warm if possible and proper nutrition. Blankets and sweaters can help keep dogs and cats warm as well, but do not leave them unattended if they can get tangled or caught. Hair coats can be left longer to provide more warmth if needed. Below is a chart to help you know when it is too cold for your pet. When it is too cold for us to be outside, then it is too cold for our pets.
Sidewalk Ice Melts:
Ice melts can be very irritating to skin and paws. They can also cause drooling and nausea. Most of these products are severe gastric irritants and will cause vomiting. First know the ingredients in your ice melt products so if your pet does ingest it, your veterinarian will be better able to help. If your dog or cat ingests a large amount, it can affect their electrolyte levels and will need treatment to correct it. Removing the contact with pet’s feet and hair by wiping them down after contact or having them wear outdoor paw booties will greatly reduce exposure. Please call your veterinarian if you have concerns about your pet consuming the de-icing salts.
Exercise is important in winter as well as the warmer months. Snow and our pets can be a lot of fun, however they face many of same risks as we do. Walking or running in snow can cause muscle and joint pain, especially in our older pets. Limit activity to your pets needs and don’t overdo it. Ice and frozen snow can contribute to slipping, falling, and injury, so use caution during outside time. Taking shorter walks, or playing in yard more instead of walks on slick sidewalks may be good alternatives. Also, look for indoor canine activities such as obedience classes or indoor agility events.
We wish you a safe and fun filled winter! Happy New Year!!
Dr. Jessica Bell
Dr. David A. Rustebakke
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