Tiny instruments; quick, steady hands


Fourth in a series

Anybody with a major trauma, including a 5-day-old eviscerated turkey, is assumed to be shocky. Blood vessels lose their tone, meaning that their diameter expands – fast. Blood pressure drops like a stone. The best surgical skill is meaningless if the heart and brain fail because they’re oxygen starved.

Feathered “John” (namesake of the aforementioned poodle) needed a rapid fluid infusion to fill up his vessels and raise his blood pressure. The little squirt weighed mere ounces; attempting to find a vein would have been an exercise in futility. Luckily, bone marrow can distribute fluids almost as fast.

I scrubbed a spot at the top of one of young John’s femurs (thigh bone) and inserted a hypodermic needle into the shaft of the thin walled appendage. A generous dose of lactated ringers solution was pushed in as a bolus. Then we marched the kid into surgery.

Only tiny instruments would serve our purpose; I directed Amos to ready our sterilized eye surgery pack. I made a skin incision and, astonishingly, found no damaged or leaking intestines. After thorough abdominal irrigation and careful trimming of the wounds in turkey John’s muscle layer and skin, I stitched him back together. As I tied the last suture Amos switched off the anesthesia. About 15 minutes later the little devil (John, not Amos) shook his head and wobbled to his feet.

John needed syringe feeding and warmth for a few days but pretty soon he was pecking for hen scratch and lay pellets with my other poults as though his innards had never had a bad day.

Of course, we had to call our recovering turkey “John” because he’d suffered a ravaging much like John the poodle – who was very clearly male. It was a few weeks later that a retired livestock veterinarian and personal friend, Dr. Leonard Vader, visited. “Doc” had a whole career of farm animal medicine behind him. Observing my happily pecking poultry population, he pointed to John and said, “Jeff, I think that poult is actually female.” What!!!???

Next week: There were greater lessons.


For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website, drjeffnichol.com.

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (drjeffnichol.com). Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Email pet behavior or physical questions to or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.