I’ve always kind of scoffed when people suggest that vet school might be considered harder than medical school because DVMs must know MANY species whereas MDs must learn a measly one. Today, officially, I stop scoffing. Learning all these ridiculous differences between species really is difficult. Anatomy is one thing – by far the difficult thing about anatomy is the little stuff they love to throw on exams…that sheep doesn’t have an internal jugular, the goat doesn’t have a linguofacial trunk, the pig has extra diverticula pretty much everywhere, from the head to genitalia. Horses have big old gutteral pouches on the sides of their faces. In cattle, the superficial gluteal muscle fuses with the femoral biceps to form the gluteobiceps muscle. The cranial tibial muscle is most superficial in the dog, but deep in large animals. I could go on and on and on and on, but I won’t…just trust me, the minutiae adds up, and they aren’t afraid to test us on every little bit of it.
The differences go far beyond anatomy, though. Decreased calcium levels will cause paralysis in a cow, and tetany (rigidity) in a dog. Some animals get antibodies from their mother through the placenta, others must get it from their mother’s milk. Some animals are herd animals, others solitary, others require family bonds, and knowing this is essential to ensuring their mental health in captivity. It’s not enough to just know the mechanism of given drugs or diseases when those drugs or diseases have different mechanisms in cats vs. dogs.
Specificaly, our reproduction module is bogging me down. Thank God I’ve forgotten most of my sex ed from 7th grade, because none of it matters, animals are entirely different from people (yes, it NEVER occurred to me that dogs don’t get periods. Only people do. Menstrual cycles vs. estrous cycles. Where have I been? And yes, there may be some cyclic bleeding, but it is a side effect, not the main event. Anyway.)
But the funny thing (funny-strange, not funny-haha), is that the foundation IS the same. It’s not like us people have one set of hormones and horses have another. Which is probably a blessing for us vet students, but it’s still amazing that the same foundation can result in such totally different cycles. And the foundation is really quite simple – there are three hormones produced by the brain (LH, FSH, oxytocin) that work on either the ovaries or testes which produce testosterone and/or estrogen. Throw in melatonin and progesterone with side roles, and it doesn’t seem like it should be that complicated. But it becomes it when you have to remember the different species.
It’s funny to think about. Can you imagine if people were seasonal breeders? All frisky in the spring but rather ‘eh’ about the whole thing with shorter days?
The key way to test for ovulation in mares is by teasing them with a stallion. Which is to say they bring a stallion into the room and if the mare seems to be receptive and shows classic signs of ovulation, then, she’s ovulated! Otherwise, just back off and try again tomorrow. (Vet medicine is rife with sexism, and so it is refreshing to see that all literature on the subject says that if the mare is not fully cooperative then it is a grave risk to both handler and stallion to attempt a mating…). Can you imagine if men and women could only get lucky immediately after a woman ovulates?
I’m not into it enough to know the specific differences between cows, horses, sheep [haha, initially I typed “sheeps”], goats and dogs, but in a few weeks I will be. And quite frankly, my brain is already feeling a little full.
My brain is full, and yes it would be much much easier if I could just learn about one little animal. Or a large animal, though not my preference. But just one, rather than many. Ok, I’m done whining. Back to studying.