Palpating cows and mares is a big part of large animal medicine. The main reason to perform this procedure is for pregnancy detection and today I got the opportunity to practice on a pregnant mare. While I have palpated many cows, I was rather excited for this opportunity because I had only palpated one mare in the past.
My participant (or victim depending on how you look at it) had been brought into the stocks and was ready to go. She had already been palpated by a few others so she was less than thrilled to have another person work with her. With my hand gloved and heavily lubed up, I slowly put my arm in and I immediately found the foal’s head right there beneath my palm. As I moved my hands backward, the foal reacted by moving its head. The mare wasn’t too happy and I had to have a friend hold her head and comfort her while I quickly moved onto the next part of the exam.
After palpating the foal, it was now time to use an ultrasound probe to see the foal. The instructors had warned us that we would have to apply a lot of pressure with the probe to find anything. Seeing a few female students who went ahead of me needing to apply extra pressure onto their arm by using their knee, I knew the teachers weren’t joking. Knowing that the head was in the pelvic canal area, I knelt down and applied the probe about mid abdomen and pushed up with a lot of force.
The ultrasound monitor was over to my left and on the screen, I could see the outline of ribs. On the lower half of the ribs, I could see the faint outline of a beating heart. My instructor was surprised, saying that I shouldn’t have been able to find the heart on the attempt. Without a doubt, this was one of the coolest things I’ve done in vet school and it makes all the hard work worth it.
If I had to choose a specialty to pursue in veterinary medicine, theriogenology would be it. Ever since working on dairy farms and dealing with lots of calvings, and taking care of a bunch of kittens because I let a female cat into my house that ended up pregnant, animal reproduction has been my favorite aspect of the job. It’s also one of the reasons why I love large animal work and plan to become a large animal vet after graduation.