By Gloria Visser-Niven
Jantina McMurray, a third-year veterinary student at the university’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) won the student case presentation award during the Western Canadian Association of Bovine Practioners’ (WCABP) annual conference in January 2013.
McMurray’s presentation, ‘Novel pericardiotomy technique in a dairy cow', was based on a hands-on case she was involved with in 2012. Her primary mentor was Dr. Gordon Atkins, a UCVM instructor who also attended the conference.
The case involved a pregnant dairy heifer who was showing a variety of signs – swelling under her jaw, distended jugular veins, increased breathing rate and muffled heart sounds. The calf she was carrying was very valuable, so the veterinary team wanted to make sure she was able to carry the calf to term.
Based on the signs, congestive heart failure related to an excessive amount of fluid around the heart was suspected. To confirm the diagnosis and provide relief, the team performed a surgical approach to the pericardial sac around the heart.
“The fluid around her heart was a foul material similar to the contents of an abscess. We suspected it was caused by “hardware disease”, a condition where cows accidentally eat a sharp metal object. The metal object enters their stomach and can eventually works its way through the stomach wall and poke a hole into the lining around the heart. This is the likely cause of the infection,” said McMurray. “I was involved in the post-operative management of the cow and also assisted with the ultrasound scanning.”
“The procedure to drain the fluid around the heifer’s heart is usually provided for short-term relief; however, through the use of a unique drainage tube and novel technique, the team maintained the drainage for almost three months,” says Atkins. “The good news is that the calf was delivered alive and the cow remains healthy and is pregnant again.”
“Being involved in this unique case, traveling to the conference and presenting was a great learning experience,” says McMurray. “The faculty support and enthusiasm made a real difference.”
McMurray, who grew up on a small farm near Airdrie, Alberta, was one of three veterinary students from the UCVM to present beef or dairy case reports to WCABP conference participants. Two other UCVM veterinary students — third-year student Jan Stalwick and second-year student Melissa Westling — also took part and made excellent presentations.