Dogs, cats, horses and goats. Why not?

Posted 11/8/17

The life of a mixed-animal veterinarian—a veterinarian that sees just about all animals—is always full of unforeseen adventures and meetings with amazing people. This past month has been …

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Dogs, cats, horses and goats. Why not?


The life of a mixed-animal veterinarian—a veterinarian that sees just about all animals—is always full of unforeseen adventures and meetings with amazing people. This past month has been nothing short of stellar, and just the past week summarizes the month perfectly.

The first interesting patient of the week was Bruce. Bruce is a Shiloh shepherd, a breed of dog related to German shepherds, who had been low-energy and eating poorly for about a week. Bruce’s family brought him to the hospital as part of a second-opinion evaluation. After a thorough examination and several tests, it was discovered that Bruce in fact had gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), twisted stomach. This is normally an emergency condition; however, Bruce looked much better than what was going on inside of him.

The only way to address this condition is to perform emergency surgery to put the stomach back in the correct location. After doing so, while still in surgery, I discovered that Bruce had an injury to his spleen. That injury included a recent rupture that could have killed him. The body, as amazing as it is, attempted to heal the rupture by forming a bandage called an adhesion. Unfortunately, with those findings I had to remove Bruce’s spleen as well. The surgery took an hour and a half, but Bruce did extremely well afterward and was able to go home after a short hospital stay.

Last Thursday, a wonderful 17-year-old cat named Kali was brought to the veterinary hospital by her concerned owner. Kali has lost nearly 40% of her body weight in the past four months. Kali’s owner had brought her to an area veterinarian, who peformed thorough blood testing that resulted in no significant findings. Unfortunately, closer examination revealed that Kali has a considerable-sized abdominal mass. After being informed of the findings tears immediately started to fall from Kali’s owner’s eyes. The softest and kindest words can only soften the heart-wrenching news so much—especially if you have a relationship nearly two decades long. Kali’s owner agreed to take her home and enjoy their remaining time together.

On a dark Sunday morning in November at 5:50 a.m., the emergency phone line rang; on the other end was a distraught owner whose horse was gravely ill. Maverick, a young thoroughbred, had been under the care of another veterinarian in the practice, and had been under close monitoring for severe intestinal issues as the result of an anti-inflammatory medication called phenylbutazone (bute). After gathering information over the phone, I knew Maverick was in trouble. His owner found him rolling and thrashing around his stall, indicating colic (severe abdominal pain). After rushing to the farm, my suspicions were confirmed. Maverick was flat out on the grass, completely drained of all his energy. His heart was racing and temperature elevated. Maverick’s owner was on the verge of complete heartbreak, as she gazed into the eyes of her beloved horse.

As I tended to Maverick’s needs and assessed the situation, I learned more about his owner, who had traveled a rough road. Her 10-year-old son has severe developmental disabilities resulting from unknown causes at birth. Having Maverick as his pasture companion helps to bring some peace, mental escape and rejuvenation. Maverick was transported to a referral equine hospital in Rhinebeck where, unfortunately, my suspicions were confirmed. Maverick had an intestinal twist, or torsion. His prognosis was extremely bleak and unfortunately, Maverick was euthanized in effort to relieve his suffering.

The last two cases of the week end on a positive note. Budd and Guinness live on a 100-acre farm located in a beautiful part of Warwick, NY. They live the life of luxury on the farm. They get to enjoy some of the area’s best apples and extra treats from visitors to the orchard and farm stand. The goat duo was being evaluated for surgical castration. Uncastrated goats can become unruly at times and develop an extremely unpleasant smell as they become sexually mature. A quick snip and tie-off, and the castration is complete. During the procedure I learn the story of the orchard and how the immediate and extended family work together to carry on the farm. One of the owner’s daughters has taken a strong interest in farming and carrying on the family tradition of farming. This is a rare find and a truly a pleasant surprise.

Never a dull moment in the life of a traveling mixed-animal veterinarian. Unfortunately, not every experience has a happy ending, but the experiences and relationships are truly amazing.

[Contact Dr. D’Abbraccio at,, or jdabbrac]


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