"Animal Hospital"

PBS Airdate: February 3, 1998
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ANNOUNCER: Tonight on NOVA, a dog gets a new hip. An ape gets a physical exam.

HAYLEY WESTON: It's hard to not react when you're getting gorilla feces shot in your face.

ANNOUNCER: And a foal gets a second chance.

MARY ROSE PARADIS: If this baby had stayed at home, it would have died. Is she breathing OK?

ANNOUNCER: Be on the front lines of veterinary care with the students and doctors of the Animal Hospital.

Major funding for NOVA is provided by the Park Foundation. Dedicated to education and quality television.

This program is funded in part by Northwestern Mutual Life, which has been protecting families and businesses for generations. Have you heard from the Quiet Company? Northwestern Mutual Life.

And by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and viewers like you.

OWNER: How does she look, Jake?

OWNER: I don't know. She doesn't look so good.

NARRATOR: This is the other ER. It's the animal hospital of Tufts Veterinary School outside of Boston.

VETERINARIAN: She was hit by a car. And what are her pulses?

NARRATOR: And it's every bit as advanced as a hospital for humans. Here, animals can take advantage of all the latest medical technology available to people, from intensive care to sports medicine, radiology to surgery. This is also a teaching hospital for some of the country's brightest veterinary students, who undergo four rigorous years of medical training to earn their degrees. Today, after three years of basic science, students move out of the classroom and into the clinic. For the next 12 months, NOVA will follow these students as they receive hands-on training in virtually every specialty of modern veterinary medicine. A newborn foal arrives, struggling for her life. And it's Mike Thibodeau's first day in the clinic. Mike has never spent any time around horses. But now, he's on the spot.

MARY ROSE PARADIS: I don't get the impression that Mike is a horse person. And so, not only does he have to remember all the medical things he learned in the last three years. He has to adjust to working with larger animals than dogs and cats.

MIKE THIBODEAU: All right, so the foal's ten days old—was ten days premature, right?


MIKE THIBODEAU: It was born...

OWNER: This morning.

MIKE THIBODEAU: This morning. Did it stand at all?

OWNER: Not on its own.

MARY ROSE PARADIS: Do you know when they should stand? How old should they be?

MIKE THIBODEAU: Like, three hours?

MARY ROSE PARADIS: Right. OK, so anything longer than three hours is abnormal.

MIKE THIBODEAU: The doctors immediately thought it was probably a dummy foal, which means maybe during birth, it lost oxygen somehow for a period of time, or at least had low oxygen levels, and it knocked his brain off a little bit.

NARRATOR: The lack of oxygen causes the brain to swell, and the foal becomes unable to stand and nurse from its mother. No milk means no antibodies and no protection against infection.

MARY ROSE PARADIS: And so, our first step is to make sure that it has protection against the bacteria. And that's in the form of a transfusion with plasma, antibiotics. And then, we have to worry about nutrition, because these babies, if you don't have enough glucose, they're going to die from hypoglycemia. So, you have to think of all of these things at once.

MIKE THIBODEAU: The mother seems fine. Some of them will, you know, maybe get a little nervous around you going near their baby.

MARY ROSE PARADIS: We generally like to keep the mom close, because it keeps her quieter. If you take her away from her baby, she'll start yelling and screaming and creating quite a ruckus, and then when we introduce the baby back, she might not be as happy about it. And so, as long as we can keep the maternal bond with the mare and the foal, then we're much happier. And the mare is much happier.

NARRATOR: Even with fluids and antibiotics, the foal is not out of danger. Her brain is still swollen, and x-rays of her lungs reveal more bad news. She has pneumonia. There are no guarantees that either problem can be cured.

MARY ROSE PARADIS: Babies are funny creatures. They can die—She could die in an hour without giving us much warning. Or she could be standing and romping around the stall tomorrow. If this baby had stayed at home, it would have died. I mean, if it had stayed at home even another four hours, it probably would have died. And so, the fact that she might walk out the door makes you feel like you're doing something for these animals.

NARRATOR: It will be hours before they know if the drugs will cure the pneumonia, and if the swelling in the foal's brain will go down. Mike has a long night ahead of him.

RANDY BOUDRIEAU: We can palpate his quadriceps muscles.

NARRATOR: A dog with a painful hip is being seen by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Randy Boudrieau, assisted by fourth-year student Marvelyn Motamed. Schatzie is an eight-year-old German Shepherd.

SHELLY LOWRY: Schatzie loves to play Frisbee. She loves to run. I noticed she began to limp. She was favoring her left hind leg.

RANDY BOUDRIEAU: OK, there we go.

NARRATOR: The first step is to check the range of motion in Schatzie's hip.

RANDY BOUDRIEAU: OK, girl. We're almost done.

MARVELYN MOTAMED: You can't pull her hip as far out as you should be able to. You can't pull it forward as far as you should be able to.

RANDY BOUDRIEAU: Let's try to lift the leg up and back. Not too bad over here, although a little bit of discomfort.

NARRATOR: Dr. Boudrieau suspects that Schatzie's hip joint is worn down, a problem common in large dogs.

RANDY BOUDRIEAU: All right, these are radiographs of Schatzie's hips. What we're seeing primarily is that we do not have a good fit to the hip joint, which is normally a ball and socket joint. The ball is not seated deeply enough within the socket. This is the socket in a normal dog. You can see how smooth and round everything is in this particular case. If we look at just a half of the bone of a dog that had severe arthritic changes, and you notice that there's really no socket that's even present. And this is the femoral head and the proximal portion of the femur. And you can see what normally had happened here is that the socket is gone, and this piece of bone was resting across here, and there was really no hip joint in this particular animal.

NARRATOR: Schatzie's hip isn't that bad yet. But it still has to be replaced. The operation is the same one done on people.

RANDY BOUDRIEAU: What we're doing is placing a polyethylene cup and then implant the cup with some bone cement that actually acts more as a mortar to hold everything in place. We do the same thing on the opposite side, which is with the femur. We actually implant a stainless steel ball that has a stem that actually goes right down inside the shaft. Here's the femur, again with the femoral head implanted. And this is the articulation that will develop. And still, Schatzie's still a little bit bigger than what we have here. But this is what we're after here.

SHELLY LOWRY: (to Schatzie) You're going to feel so much better when all this is done. You'll be able to run, play Frisbee, and frolic with Zeta.

NARRATOR: The operation will last two hours. Schatzie's new hip will last for the rest of her life. The first thing to go is the ball at the top of Schatzie's leg bone.

RANDY BOUDRIEAU: I've removed the ball of the ball and socket joint. There's a fair amount of wear right—If you look right on the surface right here, you can see that the articular cartilage right over from this area here is gone. The articular cartilage starts right about there. And this area here, it looks pretty shiny. That's because it's highly polished bone. That's what has been rubbing on the acetabulum. What we're going to do here is go ahead and ream out the socket so that we have the appropriate size cup that can fit in here.

MARVELYN MOTAMED: So, the prosthetic socket is like a piece of plastic, and they use some cement, special cement that they pour in that area. And then, they stick the socket in, the piece of plastic in.

RANDY BOUDRIEAU: So now, we just have to wait 13 minutes for when this thing will set up. What we've done is implanted our polyethylene cup. It's in position. The cement's already in place. Our plan at this point is to go back to the femoral side.

MARVELYN MOTAMED: For the ball part, they drill a hole down into the bone, pour cement in there, and then stick in the prosthetic ball in there.

RANDY BOUDRIEAU: This is the actual head, which is identical to the one that we just removed.

MARVELYN MOTAMED: So, now, you have a fake ball and a fake socket that should—You know, if they're angled right and everything is perfect and the cement stays in well, then everything should work out and the animal should have better support.

RANDY BOUDRIEAU: This is the neck. The stem goes down into the femur. Here is the head, which is seated within the acetabulum which has been cemented on that side. So, simply making sure that everything looks appropriate, which it does. That moves nicely.

MARVELYN MOTAMED: She's going to be resting right now. For the next day, she'll get pain medication. It's going to take her a good eight weeks to fully recover, and probably to do what she normally does, her normal activity as far as running and Frisbee and stuff like that.

NARRATOR: Five days later, Schatzie is ready to put the whole experience behind her.

SHELLY LOWRY: I think she's feeling a whole lot better today. She says, "I've been here long enough. I want to sleep in my own bed."

NARRATOR: Over in oncology, Rosario Delgado-Lecároz is feeling overwhelmed. She is about to go through a vet school rite of passage, seeing her first patient and its owner all by herself.

ROSARIO DELGADO-LECAROZ: There are so many drugs in oncology. I have to measure, somehow, the lymph nodes. I have no idea how. I mean, it can't be that complicated. You just go like that, I hope. It's a good dog, too.

SUE COTTER: I think sometimes this can be a little bit overwhelming for a student when they are rotating through all these different specialties here. For example, in oncology, we do have a lot of different treatments. And you know, when an animal perhaps relapses, we may have to go to other approaches and then go back and re-discuss everything with owners.

NARRATOR: Ebony is a seven-year-old German Shepherd with cancer of the lymphatic system. He was treated with chemotherapy more than a year ago. But now, his cancer is back.

ROSARIO DELGADO-LECAROZ: So, how is he? Does he still have the diarrhea?

OWNER: No. No.


OWNER: Good, yeah.


OWNER: Oh, yeah.

ROSARIO DELGADO-LECAROZ: Eating and drinking OK?

OWNER: Mmm-hmm.

SUE COTTER: When you first go in, the student is always in a tough position, because the owners know that they're students, and the owners sometimes are a little uncomfortable, although I think Rosario is particularly good at interacting with people.


OWNER: Yeah. (laughter)

SUE COTTER: Dogs and cats do get a lot of cancer. It's usually middle-aged or older dogs. It's probably one of the most common, if not the most common, cause of death in old dogs and cats, probably because they're living longer now than they used to. They have better nutrition, better medical care. They don't have the cardiovascular diseases people have. And I think if people didn't have heart disease and strokes, they'd have probably cancer as their highest cause of death.

NARRATOR: The latest weapon to combat cancer is a linear accelerator. A hand-me-down from a human hospital, it is one of the first to become available for precision radiation therapy in animals.

SUE COTTER: We can treat deeper cancers. We can spare normal tissues like skin, for example. So, hopefully, it will give us a better variety of ways that we can treat tumors, and better precision and fewer side effects. Each cancer is an individual disease. Breast cancer is very different from lymphoma, very different from leukemia. Some are treated with surgery, some with radiation. Some are treated with chemotherapy, some with various combinations of all of that.

ROSARIO DELGADO-LECAROZ: We're going to give an anti-tumor drug. It's just going to try to kill all the cells that are multiplying too much. And that's what the drug's going to do. And it has some side effects that you have to monitor.

NARRATOR: Ebony's chemotherapy uses the same cancer drug prescribed for people. But animals don't have to worry about their hair falling out. It's given by injection every few weeks, and it costs several thousand dollars.

ROSARIO DELGADO-LECAROZ: It's a lot of money. It's a lot of money that goes into the treatment. But then again, I mean, some animals are some families' babies.

OWNER: We're going to fight it as long as we can.

ROSARIO DELGADO-LECAROZ: It's just a matter of making their life longer, because they will die from this.

OWNER: We'll get a few more years out of him.

SUE COTTER: When students graduate, we're really expecting to turn out someone who can be a general practitioner. We're not really expecting to turn out a specialist. I think the important thing that they should get out of the rotation is, what are the big issues from what are the little issues. And I think as students go through their fourth year, they get better at doing that. You know, we don't expect them, in the beginning of the fourth year, to know all of this or there would be no reason to have a fourth year.

TERESE RIORDAN: Ever since I was a kid, I've always just liked pigs. It's just that they're so cute. In order to have a pet pig, you definitely have to be a pig person. (To Wilbur) Wilbur, sit. I said, sit. All the way back. They are high maintenance from the standpoint that they like attention. As Wilbur has gotten older—Well, he's four now—But he started to have a behavior problem when he was about three, mostly with my brother.

STEPHEN: That time, I got teeth!

TERESE RIORDAN: Stephen can never come over to my house if Wilbur is always going after him. But I'm also worried that eventually it will be to everybody, and not just him or my neighbor or certain few people. It will be to everybody. So, obviously, I want to get it fixed.

NARRATOR: Behavior problems are as common as medical problems. And as Marvelyn is about to find out, they can be just as difficult to treat. Wilbur's owner has called in pet therapist, Dr. Stefanie Schwartz.

STEFANIE SCHWARTZ: Has he ever been destructive with the furniture at all?


STEFANIE SCHWARTZ: Do you ever yell at him? Do you ever say, "No, bad pig"?

TERESE RIORDAN: I mean, depending on how it is, or how the other person reacts, I might just say, "Wilbur..." sometimes.

STEFANIE SCHWARTZ: How do you say it? Let me hear what it sounds like.

TERESE RIORDAN: Well, a lot of times, I'll hold his snout, and I'll, you know, "Wilbur," and really, you know, try to be a little loud. I mean, I'll grab his snout.

STEFANIE SCHWARTZ: And what does he do when you do that?

TERESE RIORDAN: Oh, he tries to, you know, wriggle out of my hand. Oh, oh, oh, Wilbur. Oh...

MARVELYN MOTAMED: When I work with pigs in veterinary school, they're very inquisitive. They're very smart, and I think they could make good pets. But probably most people that get pigs would not have the proper environment for them.


NARRATOR: To fully appreciate all of Wilbur's talents, Dr. Schwartz asks to see him in action.



STEFANIE SCHWARTZ: That's enough for me.

STEPHEN: That's enough for me. (laughter)

STEFANIE SCHWARTZ: What's going on here is that Wilbur began to exhibit normal behaviors for pigs. Except that the behavior was unfortunately directed towards another person. To Wilbur's point of view, Steve is a threat to his dominant status in this herd. Another thing that's interesting is that you are actually reinforcing this undesirable behavior in him. The ritual in greeting is for submissive members to scratch the belly of the pig. And then, the dominant animal actually lies down and allows submissive animals to scratch his belly. So, you've been reinforcing his dominance over you.

TERESE RIORDAN: By scratching his belly?

STEFANIE SCHWARTZ: Correct. You fed right into his little scheme of things.

TERESE RIORDAN: Yeah. Now, is it too late?

STEFANIE SCHWARTZ: Is it too late? No, I don't think it's too late. No. You've got to get him to understand that he is no longer chairman of the board, and that he's got to go back down to the mailroom. First of all, no more rubbing his belly. You understand that that reinforces his dominance?

TERESE RIORDAN: I mean, what about other people? I mean, nobody should be rubbing his belly?

STEFANIE SCHWARTZ: Nobody should rub his belly.


MARVELYN MOTAMED: I don't think you can get them out of that. I honestly don't think she's going to be able to—that pig, you know, there's any help for that. She's is not going to be there all the time that he attacks someone or that he does something mean. And you saw how wimpy she was when she was trying to tell him no. Yeah, she's going to have to either lock him up or get rid of him. Lock him up every time someone comes to the house.

NARRATOR: If Terese is to become the leader of the herd, as Dr. Schwartz recommended, Wilbur can expect to see some changes around the house: more exercise, fewer treats, and no more belly rubs.

TERESE RIORDAN: I mean, it's going to be hard, because I like to give him belly rubs. So, that will be hard. It will be a pain to always keep him on the leash as far as, when someone comes in, I've got to stand there and hold him all the time. But you know, I'd rather that for six months or a year than to have my friends say, "I don't want to come over because I don't like your pig."

NARRATOR: The animal hospital is a mecca for race horses. When these expensive athletes under-perform, they are brought to the large animal clinic for investigation. Spanish Dancer is a thoroughbred racer who has come to the hospital with colic, a severe pain in the abdomen. Student Marina Cesar's first job is to threat eight feet of tubing up this mare's nose.

DR. MELISSA MAZAN: Marina, why are we doing this?

MARINA CESAR: To decompress her stomach, because it gets filled with fluid and causes a lot of pain.

NARRATOR: Horses can't vomit, so the first step is to siphon off the contents of the stomach.

MARINA CESAR: Here we go.

NARRATOR: Having relieved pressure there, the next step is to tackle the manure that is stuck in the horse's large intestine. Since laxatives have failed to do the job, the surgeons have been called in.

MARINA CESAR: She's been sedated. So now, we're just waiting for that to take effect, and then we're going to give her some more drugs. And then, she'll drop. As her head drops, that's a sign that she's becoming more and more sedated. They're giving ketamine, which is a drug that is going to allow her to fall down now. It's actually the same drug as angel dust.

ENDA CURRID: Horses present a very unique challenge for the surgeons, because in many ways, they're a designer's nightmare. Horses are large, large animals, so they represent a large obstacle, just in terms of moving them about when they're anesthetized. Horses have a huge bodies, and they're supported on four, what are usually very, very skinny and stick-like legs. So, they're very fragile animals, and that's something we have to think about all the time. We really don't like to keep horses under anesthesia for any more than about three to four hours maximum. And the reason for that is, when a horse lies on its back or side for more than that period of time, we risk really damaging the muscles in that horse. We get a lot of muscular swelling. Horses can recover extremely sore. It's like if you and I had severe muscle cramps.

MARINA CESAR: It's just extraordinary that they can do that. They can open the abdomen and take all the, you know, guts out and put it back in, right back where it was. A lot of times, owners will watch, and they're just flabbergasted that we do that.

DR. JEFFREY ZARUBY: From the physical exam, our impression was that this was a large colon problem. So, that's what we're pulling out right now. This is all impacted with feed material. The thing that we always wonder about is why it's impacted, whether there's a twist at the base of the colon. So, we take the large colon and exteriorize it from the abdomen and place it on this tray. And then, I'm going to make an incision and we pass tubes up the large colon and evacuate the feed material.

NARRATOR: Domesticated horses are very sensitive to their feed. Any sudden change in diet can lead to a blockage.

MARINA CESAR: And then, what we're going to do is just make an incision through the gut and just flush everything out.

DR. JEFFREY ZARUBY: I'm going to go up ventrally first.

MARINA CESAR: What we do is, we stick a hose up there and just literally flush the contents out.

DR. JEFFREY ZARUBY: Well, it's not a glamorous job, as you can see.

NARRATOR: Twenty gallons lighter, the colon can be sewn up, and put back where it belongs.

ENDA CURRID: The thing about the colon is that you really do want to get it back into the right place again. It has a quite a specific orientation around the stomach—right around the abdomen. So, you want to get the pelvic flexure, which is where we made our incision, back in this area of the intestine. Then, you want to make sure that it's all lying not twisted and not upside down. That's what I'm doing right now.

NARRATOR: Students assisting in surgery often get to sew up their patients. But here, too much is at stake.

DR. JEFFREY ZARUBY: There's only one layer that has any strength that holds all the viscera in, so if you have any problems with the closure—when they're standing up from recovery or days after the road—if they eviscerate, all their gut contents fall on the ground. So, we tend to be quite meticulous about doing this ourselves rather than having the students close the midline.

MARINA CESAR: Well, I got to put my hand in there, which is good to get practice, because that's the whole art of it, is being able to feel and use your hands to find what part of the bowel you want. Nothing was really found, but I think we fixed her. I think she's going to do better now. I wish I could have done more, but you know, it's hard to do a lot in that type of a surgery. Hopefully, she'll recover soon, and she'll be back in her stall and she'll be eating...and back to the races.

NARRATOR: It only takes four hours, and the horse is up on its feet, well along the road to recovery.

MARINA CESAR: (to Spanish Dancer) Good girl. Yes.

NARRATOR: And Mike is seeing encouraging results in his young patient, too.

MIKE THIBODEAU: And now, with some fluids and some antibiotics, we've gotten her up. She's standing. She's walking on her own now a little bit, you know, with a little bit of help, still a little wobbly. And that's what we want. You know, she seems to know who mom is. She's doing very well. And as you can see, she's got a little bit of strength right now, too. If another foal came in tomorrow and they said, "Oh, Mike do the work-up on this one. Do the physical," I think I'd feel more secure than I was yesterday when they said, "All right, here, do the physical." And I didn't know what to expect. Now, you know, working with one for the last 24 to 48 hours, I've definitely got more of a feel what it is working with a foal and what to look for.

JANET KIRKPATRICK: He used to just sit in my lap. I don't know if he'll do that anymore.

NARRATOR: Jake is a three-month-old Chocolate Labrador who is suffering from violent seizures. No one can figure out why. In the last few days, his seizures have been getting worse.

JANET KIRKPATRICK: He moves around quite a lot. And when he gets up, he's very disoriented. He walks into walls.

NARRATOR: His owner, Janet Kirkpatrick, is thinking of having Jake put to sleep. But fourth-year student Noelle La Croix has convinced her to let doctors run a few more tests.

NOELLE LA CROIX: We're going to admit the dog. We're going to have to keep him in the intensive care unit because he's seizuring.

JANET KIRKPATRICK: My bill so far has been about $500.00, and I'm willing to spend more, $2,000.00 more.


JANET KIRKPATRICK: But I really don't want him to be an experiment. And I don't want him back unless he's functioning. Use up to $2,000.00 to get this dog on its feet, or...


JANET KIRKPATRICK: Destroy the dog.


NARRATOR: They begin a series of tests to figure out what's wrong with Jake.

AMY TIDWELL: There are numerous possibilities for the cause of the seizures. One of them might be that the animal had some form of trauma to the head and it resulted in excessive activity within the brain, causing the seizure. An animal could have a virus, such as distemper virus. It might have a neoplasm, which is a form of cancer, which is very unusual in a young animal. But occasionally, there are some tumors that will affect the animal's brain when they are very young. Lead poisoning or low blood glucose could certainly cause an animal to seizure. It's very difficult to give the owners a definitive answer as to what the cause is.

JANET KIRKPATRICK: If they found something that he was born with that they can't reverse and they can't treat, that would be good in the sense that it would be over.

NARRATOR: To see if the seizures are caused by abnormalities in Jake's brain, they will use a CAT scan.

AMY TIDWELL: When we perform a CAT scan on an animal, we have to anesthetize them. Unlike a human, we can't ask them to lie perfectly still, and if they're not still during the scan, then the images will be blurry.

NARRATOR: The CAT scan will give them a series of cross-sectional views of Jake's brain.

RADIOLOGIST: We're going to do parallel slices just like a loaf of bread, and we're going to start at the very back of the skull, and we're going to go all the way up to the eyes.

NARRATOR: As the first images come in, it's clear that Jake is in trouble. One of the fluid-filled chambers of his brain is nearly twice the size it should be.

RADIOLOGIST: We've seen a lot of things in dogs, boy, but I've never seen anything like this.

NOELLE LA CROIX: I had seen the CT scan and I was like, should I tell her? Should I say anything before the doctor comes? Should I say anything? And I saw the look on her face, and I said, "Well, it doesn't look good, and it looks like his brain isn't formed well." (to Janet Kirkpatrick) I kind of feel like I let you down or something.

JANET KIRKPATRICK: No. Well, we gave it another shot. Because I was a little bit impulsive Saturday because I was distraught. So, it wouldn't have been a mistake to put him down, but I would never have known if I had made the right decision. But now, right.

AMY TIDWELL: What we're finding is a very large cyst on the right side of the dog's brain. Basically, the cyst is full of water, so it's like having a large sac that's compressing the normal tissue, and that's what's causing the seizuring. If this were a person, there would be attempts made at draining it. But in a dog, we haven't had very good success with things like this, and I think the prognosis would be fairly poor.

TECH: We only have a couple more slices.

JANET KIRKPATRICK: I want you to put him down.

DR. JOHN MCDONNELL: We'll put him to sleep humanely, all right? And simply what that is, is we give him an overdose of a barbiturate. It's the same that they do to anesthetize them, but it's an overdose.

JANET KIRKPATRICK: Just so long as he doesn't wake up. I want this to end.

DR. JOHN MCDONNELL: He is not going to wake up. He's not going to wake up.

JANET KIRKPATRICK: All right. Because...(weeping)...thank you.

DR. JOHN MCDONNELL: You bet. I'll walk you out.

NOELLE LA CROIX: (to Jake) You were very good to our owner. You gave her a month of happiness, she told me. You gave her a week of really good times. She was so happy. She said that you protected her house. You were very brave, and you gave her so much joy. You did the best you could do. It's the best thing. It's the best thing for him. He had his time. He had his good time in his life, so...

NARRATOR: Vip is a 450-pound African lowland gorilla. He lives with his girlfriend, Gigi, at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. But there's a problem.

HAYLEY WESTON: Gigi really didn't like him at first. He's a very touchy gorilla. He likes to hug and be really close, and she's not that way. Vip is a genetically valuable male, and he's not breeding here, so we need to get him someplace where he's reproducing.

NARRATOR: But before they can send Vip to another zoo, they have to get close enough to give him a complete physical exam, and make sure he is fertile.

HAYLEY WESTON: All right, we're ready?


HAYLEY WESTON: Everybody got everything?


HAYLEY WESTON: So, we'll be TB testing him, doing an ophthalmic exam, dental exam, heart exam. We'll be doing a reproductive exam, x-rays of his wrists, basically everything we can while we have him under anesthesia.

NARRATOR: Tufts veterinary student Martha Smith is considering a career as a zoo vet, and so she's helping out here.

MARTHA SMITH: I'm very excited. This is quite an opportunity to be able to participate in something like this.

HAYLEY WESTON: These are blow darts. They're specially made for zoo animals. It's a two-chamber system, and it comes with a special needle, so that when the syringe hits the animal, it pulls the sleeve back over the needle, and this pressure injects the drug into him. So, I actually put this in a pipe and I blow it with my breath into either his arms or legs, into his muscle. And that's how we dart him. Is he ready? OK.

NARRATOR: At 6:00 a.m., they begin the tricky job of anesthetizing Vip. But Vip senses that something is up.

HAYLEY WESTON: He likes just about all the keepers, but I don't think he likes me too much. But that's because he knows I'm the doctor here. He will probably throw some feces at us and scream and do everything that gorillas do when they're apprehensive. That hit! It's hard to not react when you're getting gorilla feces shot in your face. (laughter) (to Vip) I'm sorry. I know. If I got too close, he could either grab my blow pipe, or he could grab me. You know, I've got to keep in my mind all the time where my body is in relation to him, because once a gorilla grabs you, you can't get loose. Looks good. It went off. I really worry about if he's going to wake up during the procedure. I have a lot of people here. So, if he wakes up and goes berserk or whatever, are we going to be able to control and keep everybody safe, plus him safe at the same time?

VETERINARIAN: We do have to assist his breathing because he's so big that he can't take a big enough breath on his own to fully expand his lungs. And literally, the life of the gorilla right now is in my hands, not in everybody else's.

NARRATOR: To avoid the danger of pulmonary problems and nerve damage, they can only keep Vip under for an hour. Everything has to go like clockwork. A dozen specialists are on hand, doing everything from dental work to a heart exam, with a state-of-the-art sonic probe inserted down the esophagus.

HAYLEY WESTON: And what it does is it enables them to get closer to the heart than they would normally be able to get through the chest wall. So, we're getting a really clear view of the heart and the vessels that go to and from the heart, and how the blood's flowing and all the valves, things that you would have a difficult time on an animal this big seeing if you just went through the chest wall.

NORM ATCHUE: And there's the main pulmonary artery with the pulmonary valve. It looks like an adult human's, no difference.

HAYLEY WESTON: This is something that not many zoos are able to do because the equipment is so expensive, and you're putting a $6,000.00 camera through a gorilla's teeth. So, it makes you a little nervous. If they should bite it, that's gone. That equipment's gone.

NARRATOR: Martha has give minutes to find a vein in Vip's arm and draw enough blood for tests.

MARTHA SMITH: I got a flashback. I'm advancing the catheter. Yeah, I'm in.

NORM ATCHUE: All right. Did you syringe the—

MARTHA SMITH: Do I flush first?



NORM ATCHUE: Draw some out first.

MARTHA SMITH: Drawing blood from a gorilla is very different from drawing it from a cat or a dog. I wonder if it's not more similar to drawing it from a person. I don't know. I've never done that.

HAYLEY WESTON: Our reproductive physiologist is going to do a reproductive exam, try and get semen from him, make sure everything's normal. He's collecting semen and he's getting good samples so that we can test him and make sure everything's OK. We can freeze the semen so if we need to use it later, if something should happen to Vip, we have his semen. We can do whatever we need to do with that. How are we? OK. And then, we'll get the x-rays and we're out of here.

NARRATOR: Vip gets a clean bill of health: good heart, no arthritis. And he's fertile. All systems are go for his move to Seattle.

JEANNINE JACKLE: Oh, he would never let you get anywhere near this close to him. He's pretty good.

NARRATOR: But losing Vip will be bittersweet for Jeannine Jackle, who has cared for him for the last six and a half years.

JEANNINE JACKLE: It's hard for us when they go someplace else. But we feel it will be best for him to be in a situation where he'll be with more females, females that might like him better, where he can hopefully reproduce, because that's the important thing, is to get more gorillas.

HAYLEY WESTON: The keepers are all going to miss him. And we'll all miss him. He's got a great personality. But we know it's for his good and the good of the species to go.

NARRATOR: But Vip didn't quite see it that way, and he let it be known that night on the 6 o'clock news.

ANCHORWOMAN: Vip was a little noisy on the trip from Boston to Cincinnati. Then, it was on to Salt Lake City, and that trip was fine. But on the final leg to Seattle, Vip was booted off the plane because he was causing quite a stir. So, he made the 16-hour journey by truck to the Woodland Zoo.

NARRATOR: The female gorillas at Seattle's zoo seem quite taken with Vip. Only time will tell if the romance will be fruitful, though. In December, more than halfway through their last year of school, students face one of the most dreaded of all fourth-year experiences: the veterinary board exams.

MARVELYN MOTAMED: It's a pretty important test, because you won't be able to practice if you don't pass it. And I need to practice as soon as possible to pay back my loans. I have the whole thing planned out.

ROSARIO DELGADO-LECAROZ: There's nothing I can do. There's nothing I can do. I'm not going to learn it tonight.

NARRATOR: The class has chartered a bus—nicknamed the "stress bus"—for the seven-hour ride to the national exam in Philadelphia. Here, they will be tested on every animal, every disease, and every technique that veterinarians have to know.

SUE COTTER: Veterinarians are unique in having to know about many different species, whereas physicians essentially have to know a lot about one. The way I think we survive and can function with that is that there are fortunately more similarities than there are differences between species. And the way we try to approach with students is have them learn the rule and then, as they go along, maybe learn the exceptions.

NARRATOR: After two grueling days, the ordeal is over.


VETERINARY STUDENT: I did too! Oh, did you do that, too?

MARTHA SMITH: It didn't hit me until a couple of days before we were coming down for the exam. But it was like a shifting of gears. Now, we're thinking about outside of school. We've been cocooned in school for so long and all of a sudden, wait a minute. This isn't about being in school. This is about getting a job. This is about real life. So, it's kind of been an interesting wake-up call.

NARRATOR: The results of the exam won't be in for some time. So, for now, it's back to the hospital to meet a pit bull with an attitude problem. Lucy is not sick, and she's not injured. But she is out of control. And her owners are worried, because they're about to have a baby. If they can't get rid of Lucy's aggression, they might have to get rid of Lucy. So, they've brought her to pet psychiatrist Nick Dodman, who is being assisted by Rosario.

NICHOLAS DODMAN: Hi, I'd like to introduce you to Rosario, one of our senior students.


ELIZABETH PORTO: I'm Elizabeth Porto.

ROSARIO DELGADO-LECAROZ: I'm Rosario. How old is she?

ELIZABETH PORTO: We're not really sure.

ROSARIO DELGADO-LECAROZ: Where did you get her from?

ELIZABETH PORTO: My parents found her in Pennsylvania, and they kept her for a few months. But they couldn't handle her, and she was very aggressive then. She would growl, like, whenever you wanted to make her do anything she didn't want to do.

ROSARIO DELGADO-LECAROZ: Did she ever bite anybody?

ELIZABETH PORTO: She never bit them, but she's bitten me.

NARRATOR: Lucy's owners have been to trainer after trainer, and have started to gain the upper hand. Whenever Lucy wants something, she has to work for it, from walks to daily meals. But they're still afraid of how Lucy might react when the baby comes.

ROSARIO DELGADO-LECAROZ: I just have to ask—I don't even know if this is appropriate, but I'm going to ask anyway.

ELIZABETH PORTO: It's OK. Please ask.

ROSARIO DELGADO-LECAROZ: How come you thought of really training her, and you didn't think of just—because of the danger. I'm scared of dogs that are aggressive. I've been bitten. Why didn't you think of just—

ELIZABETH PORTO: Putting her to sleep?


ELIZABETH PORTO: We have. But that is a real issue for this dog, that she might have to be put to sleep. But now, we're attached to her.

MICHAEL PORTO: Besides, we really like the dog.

ELIZABETH PORTO: Do you feel that with our very vigilant supervision after the baby is born that this dog will be able to be a dog that we can co-exist with, with a small child, an infant?

NICHOLAS DODMAN: If you want to try working with me, we could lubricate the works with medicine, which would be along the lines of, you know, a Prozac-like drug—not to make the dog, you know, wonderful at cocktail parties and smile all the time. This is actually to increase serotonin in the brain and therefore to stabilize the dog's mood and reduce aggressiveness, which that always does.


ELIZABETH PORTO: It's a complicated issue. I don't know. I wouldn't want to have to be on Prozac.

MICHAEL PORTO: Well, I don't have a serious problem with it, especially if it was very temporary.

ELIZABETH PORTO: And especially if it meant the difference between keeping her or putting her to sleep. Yeah.


NICHOLAS DODMAN: Behavior problems are probably the leading cause of mortality in the canine population. We estimate something like one and a half million dogs are needlessly put to sleep each year as a result of behavior problems, which is three times as many as die of cancer.

MICHAEL PORTO: The decision to put her on Prozac is a last resort.

ELIZABETH PORTO: And the reason we did it was aggression towards other dogs. That's what we hoped the Prozac would do—would alleviate. And it has taken the edge off it. The other concern was that she would see the baby as a prey animal. And that still remains to be seen.

MICHAEL PORTO: That she would attack it, and that's what we were afraid of.

ELIZABETH PORTO: Well that, we'll still have to be careful with.



NARRATOR: Dr. Dodman also recommended daily doses of something else—(baby crying sounds on tape)—getting Lucy used to the sounds that will be filling the house in less than two weeks.

ELIZABETH PORTO: (To Lucy) Come on. Sit. Down.

NARRATOR: Of all the specialties students are exposed to in their final year, the month spent working in the countryside around Woodstock, Connecticut is probably the most popular. Leaving the hospital behind them, students learn about the most traditional role of their profession: the farm vet. Today, they will have to give a herd of 120 dairy cows three different vaccinations.

ROSARIO DELGADO-LECAROZ: They're all like, heifers, which means that they're teenagers. (laughter)

MIKE THIBODEAU: I think I'm getting the hang of this. So, a lot of my friends now that are out working are all engineers and making very good money. I can just hear it when I talk with them sometimes, you know, just, "Why didn't you go into human medicine?" You know, "You're not going to make any money," this and that. And when I start telling them stories, there is more of—sort of like a giggle, a laugh, you know. Even myself, my first couple of years, too, I never thought of a veterinarian as the same level as a doctor. It was always just, you know, bring my dog in for shots, that sort of thing. And my perception has definitely changed in the time that I've been here.

ENDA CURRID: And you realize early on that you're not going to make a lot of money. But I think the job satisfaction is so high that it becomes less of a problem.

SUE COTTER: One of the things I like about teaching veterinary students is that most of them are here because they're idealistic, they're enthusiastic. They tend to be intelligent. They tend to be good students just because it's so competitive to get in. But even more than that, they're here because this is really what they want to do.

ROSARIO DELGADO-LECAROZ: It can be a difficult career if you're a woman, and you're 5'3" and 115 pounds. You come here and you're like, on your feet, always moving, running if you have to. So, it's tiring. But it's fun.

NARRATOR: Final year rotations influence students' career choices. Rosario's experience on the farm has made her think about specializing in cattle. But first, there is the question of the board exams.

ROSARIO DELGADO-LECAROZ: I don't know. If I don't pass, I'm going to be very sad. Oh, my God—all right. Oh, my God, I did pass them!

MARTHA SMITH: And the winner is—"Dear Candidate—pleased to congratulate you." The winner is a winner. Very good.

ROSARIO DELGADO-LECAROZ: You want to see it? (laughter) I passed! I'm a doctor! That's it. It's legal.

NARRATOR: Today, at the end of fourth year, the students are officially doctors of veterinary medicine. About a third of the class will go on to further training. But with debts reaching $100,000.00, the others will need to start practicing immediately.

MARTHA'S MOTHER: I'm so proud of you.

MARTHA SMITH: I've been working my whole life for this.

MARTHA'S MOTHER: Congratulations, Doctor.

MARTHA SMITH: Thank you.

NARRATOR: Martha and her classmates have become animal doctors. But they are not the only ones whose lives have been changed by the trials of the last 12 months. Vip has two new girlfriends at the Seattle Zoo: Jumoke and Amanda. Both are pregnant, and two baby gorillas are due any day. Mike's dummy foal has made a complete recovery. She seems like a good prospect for the track. Schatzie's hip is on the mend, and she'll be playing Frisbee again soon. Wilbur the pig is still stubborn and spoiled. It seems like you can't teach an old pig new tricks, after all. Thanks to Prozac, Lucy the pit bull has mellowed, and considers the baby as part of the pack. Lucy's owners are hoping she won't change her mind when the baby begins to walk.

ROSARIO DELGADO-LECAROZ: I'm so excited. I'm very excited. I got all the goals achieved, so I passed my boards, I graduated. My friends are here, my family is here. Everything worked out very well. I'm very excited.

MIKE THIBODEAU: Eight years I've been hiding in school, you know? (laughter) And then, as of tomorrow, they're sending us out into the world.

MARVELYN MOTAMED: I'm going to find a job! (laughter) That's what I'm going to do.


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DAVID BREASHEARS: Before he had the nerve to walk on Carol's door.

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DR. HOWARD DONNER: What's going on, Ed? Breathing quickly now won't help you, Carter.

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Mrs. Conway: What do you want, a prince to come along and sweep you off your feet?

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Animal Hospital

Written and Produced by
Michael Barnes &
Joseph McMaster

Directed and Edited by
Dick Bartlett

Hal Linden

Ray Loring

Dick Bartlett
Boyd Estus
Brian Dowley

John Cameron
John Osborne
Dick Williams
Steve Bores
James Mase

Online Editor
Patrick Gaspar

Post Production Editors
Mark Steele
Jim Deering

Sound Mixer
Dan Lesiw

Special Thanks
Jim Grisanzio
Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, Class of 1997
Christine Previe
Joanne Bartlett
Andrea Cross
Marti Louw
Gretchen Sinnett

Additional Footage
Shea Salyer

NOVA Series Graphics
National Ministry of Design

NOVA Theme
Mason Daring
Martin Brody

Closed Captioning
The Caption Center

Production Secretaries
Queene Coyne
Linda Callahan

Paul Marotta
Lisa Cerqueira

Nancy Marshall

Unit Managers
Laurie Cahalane
Amy Trahant

Business Manager
Janel Ranney

Post Production Assistant
Pamela B. Jacobson

Associate Producer
Post Production
Kimberly Schaffer

Post Production Editor
Rebecca Nieto

Post Production
Mark Geffen

Senior Producer
Coproductions and Acquisitions
Melanie Wallace

Series Producer
Beth Hoppe

Managing Director
Alan Ritsko

Executive Producer
Paula S. Apsell

A NOVA Production by the WGBH/Boston Science Unit © 1998 WGBH Educational Foundation. All rights reserved.


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