UT-VMC emergency room tails: The joy of Jambo

UTVMC COLUMN HEADER  2By Dr. Amanda Rainey

When I think about why I wanted to be a veterinarian, the reason is very simple. It’s the reason that most pre-veterinary advisors tell young students applying for veterinary school not to discuss in their letters of intent, because I suppose it’s a very obvious one. It’s the fact that you really love animals, which I do.

Many of my favorite memories involve a family pet or experience with an animal, and for as long as I can remember, they have brought me joy. Sure, there are other reasons, such as wanting to help and serve others, an interest in science and a desire for a varied and exciting career. But I think a love of animals should be the most important one.

I was recently reminded of how true this is for me when I ran into a fourth-year student I worked with on the ER rotation back in the summer. We chatted for a few minutes to catch up, and then she brought up a patient I hadn’t thought about in awhile, but instantly remembered.

Jambo came into the ER on a hot Sunday afternoon after having a seizure at home. His owner had been napping when he awoke to him convulsing. Even though it didn’t last long, the owner rushed him in to the ER.

Jambo was small in stature, but still maintained the burly physique of a Staffordshire terrier. He recovered from his seizure by the time we examined him and happily jumped from person to person in the triage room, stealing kisses and wagging his tail so fast it took the shape of a white blur. The physical examination was completely normal. To be honest, I probably grinned during the whole process at his funny antics and sweet disposition.

After his examination, I discussed a number of things with his owner. Seizures can have many causes; I ran through the differential list. Animals develop seizures from organ dysfunction, toxin ingestion and brain abnormalities, which include such etiologies as epilepsy and tumors.

In a young, two-year-old dog like Jambo, epilepsy is most common. He had only experienced one seizure. I recommended a screening lab work to ensure we weren’t missing a metabolic cause, although this was much less likely. I also advised the owner to keep a log of any additional seizures so that he could discuss starting medication to prevent them with his regular veterinarian.

Jambo’s lab work was pristine. His owner was very relieved to get the good news. We typed up some discharges that had instructions for monitoring Jambo for any issues in the future. As we walked Jambo up to his owner, I couldn’t help but frolic right along side of him, and for a moment I felt much younger than my 34 years and much lighter in my heart as I disregarded all worries and played with a dog, as I once did when I was little.

I thanked Jambo’s owner for bringing him in and told him how much pleasure we had at being the fortunate ones to meet and take care of him. After watching him walk out with his owner and noting the pure love of life Jambo possessed, I felt very grateful to be his veterinarian that day.

(Dr. Amanda Rainey, DVM, is a clinical assistant professor in the small animal clinical sciences department at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center in Knoxville.)

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