Getting right to the bottom of matters

THE rain is lashing down outside, giving my allotment a well needed soaking, as I sit watching Buster, my Newbiggin Terrier ‘scooting’ across the sitting room floor. It’s anal gland time again.

I seem to spend a lot of time with bottoms, perhaps not the most picturesque part of our patients, but at least it has the advantage of being at the blunt end. The problems with the posterior can range from something as irritating as the aforementioned anal glands to the more serious pelvic wall collapse.

It is one of the safest parts of our patients’ anatomy from which to get a temperature, and a lot of information can be gleaned from the material that appears from the orifice that lurks under the tail. It still amazes me, however, just how many people are not aware of what their dog passes despite the obligation to poop scoop.

Just as our doctors are trying to encourage we humans to be a little more diligent in that department, so it goes for our pets, which can also suffer from IBS and bowel cancer — the sooner it is caught, the better the chance of treatment being successful. Parts of the urinary and reproductive system can also be examined per rectum.

Rabbit droppings are another fascinating entity as they traverse the digestive system of the host twice, the ultimate in recycling. It’s a great system when it works, but if the bunny does not eat the primary droppings due either to obesity or illness, then they can get soiled bottoms, which then attract flies and the situation can become life-threatening.

Cattle and horse rears have the advantage of allowing more than just a digital exam. There is no warmer place to be on a cold winter’s day than up to one’s armpits in a bottom. While there, one can diagnose a pregnancy (with or without a scanner), examine the guts (especially important in equine colics), check kidneys and bladders, and examine the pelvis.

Vets are not the only ones with a fascination for the inner workings of our patients. Parasites, predominantly worms, have evolved to successfully survive in this environment. Most animal owners are aware of worms, but assume they will see them if their charge is affected. Not so; pet, farm animal and horse faeces can carry thousands of eggs unseen by the naked eye and a lot of problems are caused by the worms before they even reach the egg-laying stage. Profuse diarrhoea, ‘poor doers’, ‘he’s just not right’ are problems often seen in worm-infested animals. The need to worm should not rely on seeing worms.

If we all paid more attention to what came out rather than just what went in, we might all live healthier and happier lives.

By Jane Barwick-Nesbit

Director and Senior Vet