Wendy Kuceyeski, a senior veterinary student, was the first student to intern with Superior North Mobile Veterinary Services in Ontario, Canada. “My family has had a cottage in northern Ontario for the past 25 years,” Wendy said. “Last year I saw a posting for a mobile veterinary clinic that visited the town and decided to call.” Dr. Carl Bowyer, a graduate of the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College, owns the mobile clinic which services the north shore of Lake Superior from the city of Terrace Bay in the east to Chapleau in the west. Veterinary technician, Alyssa MacDonald, and clinic cat, Forest, regularly travel the 600-650 miles per week with Dr. Bowyer providing veterinary services to rural Ontario. Dr. Bowyer has been offering his mobile veterinary services for over a year, and started his practice after seeing many clients drive 5 hours or more to a clinic in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
The mobile clinic keeps a very busy schedule. On Monday, their inventory and travel day, they stock the 30 foot trailer with any needed supplies and travel to the farthest town. The rest of the week they see regular clients and emergency cases while they gradually make their way back home. The 2 person staff stay in hotels each night and rise early for their appointments the next morning. “I use the term “hotel” loosely,” said Wendy. “The areas we traveled through were often extremely rural, and while some places we stayed at were well known hotels, others were questionable.”
In her 4 week rotation, Wendy was engaged in typical small animal medical and surgical activities each day. Dr. Bowyer performs surgeries in the morning and sees appointments in the afternoon. The veterinary unit travels to cities where people would normally have to drive 5-7 hours to get to the nearest veterinarian. These cities range in population from 3,500 people in the largest cities, down to 650-700 people in the smallest towns. The smaller towns, like Hornpayne, will be visited by the mobile unit once per month, whereas Dr. Bowyer will travel to the larger towns once a week.
Dr. Bowyer’s mobile unit is fully equipped with a radiograph machine and developing ”closet“, hematology and blood chemistry units, a fully stocked pharmacy, isoflurane anesthesia, etc. There is even a reception area equipped with a large dog scale. The mobile unit offers routine wellness exams, vaccinations, and most types of surgeries. Most commonly they will perform spays or neuters and mass removals. One unforgettable case for Wendy involved a cat that came in with chylothorax, or an accumulation of a milky fluid, known as chyle, in the pleural cavity, or space around the lungs. This can be a very serious condition because as the fluid accumulates the animal cannot expand its lungs to full capacity and will have great difficulty breathing. This particular cat was not very stable so they set up an ICU area in the back of the truck and Wendy rode with the cat to monitor its breathing as they traveled to the next town.
Other memorable cases include finding a 44 inch long tapeworm from a chocolate lab and an emergency surgery to spay a Malamute with pyometra. When the uterus was removed, it weighed in at 5 ½ pounds!
Finally, Wendy noted that one essential service the mobile unit provides to their clients is euthanasia. Wendy commented that in her 4 week rotation with Dr. Bowyer, he performed a number of euthanasia’s. This is a necessary service, as most people will not drive the 5 hours or more to the nearest veterinarian to have their pet euthanized. If the mobile veterinary unit did not provide this service, Dr. Bowyer finds that people may dispose of their pets in less humane ways.
“One interesting difference between veterinary medicine in the Midwest and Canada that I never thought about is that because the winters in Canada are so cold, reaching around -40oF, they do not have many problems with external parasites such as fleas and ticks,” Wendy said. She remembers one case where they found a tick on a dog, and the owner was so concerned that they saved the tick and sent it out to be tested for Lyme disease, a very rare course of action in the Midwest.
“It was an amazing experience and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in rural veterinary medicine. Dr. Carl was very amenable to stopping along the way, and I got to see so much of the gorgeous north shore of Superior. I even enjoyed the unusual chores that go along with working in a mobile unit. All of the clients were super thankful that he provides this service and were not shy about saying so!”
To learn more about the internship, or to contact Dr. Bowyer, click here.
From left: Wendy Kuceyeski, Dr. Bowyer, Alyssa MacDonald with Forest, Joanie Kuceyeski (Wendy's mom)
About the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State
Founded in 1885, The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine is ranked fifth in the nation and includes more than 1,000 faculty, staff and students in the Departments of Veterinary Biosciences, Veterinary Clinical Sciences, and Veterinary Preventive Medicine. The Veterinary Medical Center is one of the largest specialty referral centers in the world, with more than 35,000 farm, equine, and companion animal patients each year. A nationally-recognized ambulatory practice and teaching unit in Marysville, Ohio provides farm animal experience to every veterinary student, and the Food Animal Health Research Program in Wooster, OH focuses on detection, control, and prevention of disease. Located on the only campus in the country with a comprehensive medical center offering seven health sciences colleges, we admit up to 162 veterinary students per class, and offer a new comprehensive graduate program in Veterinary and Comparative Medicine as well as a unique Master’s degree in Veterinary Public Health, in partnership with the College of Public Health. http://vet.osu.edu.