Articles

The doctors in overalls who’ve changed your life

Few Canadians know about the Ontario Veterinary College whose painstaking research has cut the death rate, stretched the shopping dollar and saved farmers from ruin. Its grads can also do a barnyard Caesarian or take ont Fido's tonsils

MAX BRAITHWAITE April 30 1955
Articles

The doctors in overalls who’ve changed your life

Few Canadians know about the Ontario Veterinary College whose painstaking research has cut the death rate, stretched the shopping dollar and saved farmers from ruin. Its grads can also do a barnyard Caesarian or take ont Fido's tonsils

MAX BRAITHWAITE April 30 1955

The doctors in overalls who’ve changed your life

Articles

ON A QUIET grassy campus dotted with enormous maples and elms at the southern outskirts of Guelph, Ont., stands a college that, directly or indirectly, probably affects the health and pocketbook of more Canadians than any other school in the country. It is the Ontario Veterinary College.

The OVC, established in 1862, is the only English-language veterinary school Canada has ever had. It has graduated 5,624 doctors of veterinary medicine and more than a thousand of these are still practicing in Canada. They make up about eighty percent of all our vets, the others having been trained either outside the country or in the small Ecole de Médecine Vétérinaire in St. Hyacinthe, Que.

These graduates play an important part in ail our lives. They protect the health of our twobillion-dollar livestock industry. They stamp out poultry epidemics, examine millions of cattle, sheep and swine for mastitis, foot rot, brucellosis and other diseases. They examine every rabbit, monkey and budgerigar imported into Canada. They dig into immigrants’ bundles to ferret out meats that might harbor animal diseases.

They keep canaries singing, racehorses running, zoo animals from dying, cats from having kittens and pet skunks from smelling. They protect the

Few Canadians know about the Ontario Veterinary College whose painstaking research has cut the death rate, stretched the shopping dollar and saved farmers from ruin. Its grads can also do a barnyard Caesarian or take ont Fido's tonsils

MAX BRAITHWAITE

health of the country’s three million dogs. They file down the teeth of chinchillas and develop new shades of mink.

They have been largely responsible for reducing the human death rate from bovine tuberculosis by eighty-four percent since 1917. While patching up injured animals, surgeons working in OVC’s modern operating rooms have developed surgical techniques that may someday put hopelessly crippled humans back on their feet.

Perhaps most important, by constant vigilance and rigid regulations they have kept this country freer than any other from such ruinous animal scourges as rabies, rinderpest, contagious pleura pneumonia, foot-and-mouth disease and hog cholera.

An incident in the spring of 1953 shows how OVC works with private vets and government officials to keep hog cholera, a disease that costs U. S. farmers millions a year, out of this country.

One afternoon in early May a hog breeder from

near Kitchener, Ont., brought to the college the carcasses of a number of pigs that had died of a mysterious ailment. “They just keeled over and died,” he said. Senior students cut the animals open in the post-mortem room (more than three thousand post mortems are performed yearly), discovered no apparent reason for death, and sent vital organs to Dr. F. W. Schofield, head of the pathology department.

Microscopic examination of brain tissue indicated hog cholera. The pathologists notified the health of animals division of the federal Department of Agriculture (most of whose officials are OVC alumni) who verified the findings and immediately destroyed every pig on the infected farm and compensated the farmer. Then they traced the infection back to a recent pig sale, tracked down other diseased animals and killed all hogs with which they came into contact. There has been no hog cholera reported since.

Four years ago an even greater service was performed for the three-hundred-million-dollar poultry industry. Suddenly, all over the country from Vancouver Island to Cape Breton, baby chicks began dying by the thousands. They would gasp, wheeze, twist their necks and legs into grotesque shapes, and die within five days. Some ranchers with flocks of fifty thousand birds lost as high as sixty-five percent of them. Little corpses shoveled out of chicken coops were hauled away by t he truck load. The disease spread unaccountably, breaking out in such isolated locations as Manitoulin Island on Georgian Bay. Vets were helpless against it because it was so widespread.

Two OVC researchers, Dr. John Taylor and Dr. Charles Wills, went to work in the college’s virology laboratories. By inoculating eggs with cultures from dead chicks they managed to isolate the virus. It was one that acted like that of Newcastle disease, a disease that first appeared at Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1926 and reached the United States in 1942. The 1951 outbreak was the first major one in this country and is believed to have been brought here by starlings and sparrows.

Working with the Connaught Laboratories at the University of Toronto, OVC virologists developed a vaccine that could be administered to a whole flock of baby chicks by shooting it in a fine spray over their heads. The vaccine worked so well that it brought Newcastle disease under control and has kept it that way ever since.

Rabies, one of the most horrible diseases for man and beast, has also been

Continued on page 40

The Doctors in Overalls

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 27

kept from spreading. Two years ago an epidemic broke out among the foxes, wolves and coyotes of the Fort Fitzgerald area in northern Alberta. Immediately a large area was quarantined and a team of vets rushed to the scene. With the help of the RCMP they vaccinated thousands of dogs and shot' forty-two that were infected. As a result of this experience OVC instituted a short course in diseases of wild animals.

Right now OVC and government parasitologists are spending a lot of time wading around in sloughs and marshes in the Burwash area of northern Ontario collecting snails. They are looking for the American liver fluke, a flat parasite about the size of a twenty-five-cent piece that gets into the liver of cattle and kills them. The parasite spends part of its life cycle in the body of the common snail and is believed to be passed on to cattle by deer and elk. The joint OVCgovernment project, still in the research stage, is aimed at controlling the liver fluke at its source—the snail.

The three hundred and two students, seventeen of them girls, now attending OVC are probably the most serious college students in Canada. They need to be to cover the extensive field of veterinary medicine in five years. “This is a far cry from the horse-doctor days,” Dr. William R. Mitchell, head of the college’s extension department, points out. “The modern vet must be a scientist. These students take bacteriology, radiology, pathology, genetics, virology, obstetrics, and public health. They know about hormones and nutrition. Animals get just about every ailment that humans do, except appendicitis, besides a lot more of their own. Whereas your MD deals with only one animal—man—the vet deals with hundreds of different anatomies varying in size from chinchillas to elephants. Besides, the vet can’t ask his patient where he hurts.”

They’re Not Pet Pamperers

Like the doctor, a vet is on call twenty-four hours a day. A cow with milk fever or bloat may be dead within half an hour if the vet isn’t there to give emergency treatment that often enough consists of a major operation performed right in the barnyard. He runs the constant risk of picking up from the animals such diseases as undulant fever, a malady something like malaria that affects about one vet in five.

But for all this the veterinarian can expect to receive on the average only about half the income of a medical doctor. Earnings for Canadian vets run between $4,000 for beginners to $15,000—in rare cases $20,000—for the most successful practitioners. A brochure prepared by OVC estimates the average earnings of vets at around $5,000 a year.

Consequently, it annoys the OVC staff and vets generally that many people think of vets only as owners of swank, lucrative pet hospitals. The extent of this misconception was emphasized at the 1952 Royal Winter Pair when a commercial firm that gives an annual prize to an outstanding agriculture student turned down an OVC candidate on the ground that dogs, cats and budgies scarcely qualify as agriculture.

“I showed them they were entirely mistaken,” Dr. Trevor Lloyd Jones,

the energetic Welshman who is the college’s fifth principal, recalls. “I made a survey of our 491 graduates of the past five years and discovered that 286 of them, or nearly sixty percent, are in large-animal practice.” Of the others, ninety-six are government officers, forty-two are teachers, one is a salesman and two are dead. Only sixty-four are small-animal specialists and most of these are in the larger cities. “I was able to demonstrate that the care of revenue-producing animals is still the main concern of the veterinary profession, and if I

have any say in the matter it always will be,” Jones declares.

The Ontario Veterinary College is a small establishment to carry such a load of responsibility. It consists of one main three-story red-brick building, a two-story brick extension building and a collection of white barns and sheds that make up the largeanimal infirmary, the small-animal clinic, the poultry houses, the furbearing-animal department and the post-mortem building.

Across Highway No. 6, which runs into Guelph from Hamilton, is the

much larger Ontario Agricultural College and the home-economics school, Macdonald Institute. The three collegas share their athletic and social life. The vet students groom faculty members’ pets and college livestock for the annual College Royal, and rent dress suits to attend the annual dance, called the Conversazione.

The present student register at OVC reads like a roll call at the United Nations. There are students from eighteen foreign countries, including Israel, Australia and Estonia, as well as from all provinces except Newfound-

land. Two typieal foreign students are George Victor Zatlokal and Leslie Ford. Zatlokal, a thirty-eight-year-old refugee from Poland, has studied veterinary medicine in his native land apd in Italy. Leslie Ford, who holds a master’s degree in animal husbandry from Cornell, is a native of British Guiana and plans to work under the Colombo Plan.

Each year the college gets a number of applications from girls determined to be vets. This is vaguely disturbing to college officials who limit the number to two or three a year. ‘‘When I graduated in 1934,” Dr. Jones says, “there were no girls in the college at all. Since the war we’ve been swamped with applications and already twentynine have graduated. It’s become something of a fad.”

Most of the female students are city girls (Suzanne Morrow, three times Canadian women’s figure-skating champion, is in her third year) but they gladly put in the four months’ practical farm work required for entrance. Ellen Thompson, a tall pretty debutante from Toronto, did her compulsory stint on a pig farm and “loved every minute of it.” The girls take exactly the same course as the men and participate in the threefold college program of teaching, research and extension work.

For the first two years the course is pretty general. About the only animals the students see are dead ones in the anatomy lab. But in senior years the embryo vets do a great deal of practical work with sick animals. In the small-animal clinic they work with thirty-five-year-old Dr. James Archibald, who is establishing a reputation as one of the most skilful animal surgeons on the continent. “Veterinarians from different parts of the country refer unusual cases to us and we take them on for the experience,” Archibald explains. “In the process we develop some interesting techniques.”

Recently a St. Catharines, Ont., veterinarian brought in a black-andwhite tomcat named Boots that had been hit by a truck.

First the cat was taken to the X-ray room where technician Edward Bishop, using the same sort of equipment found in the Toronto General Hospital, took shots from a number of angles. The X-ray showed that the ball of the ball-and-socket joint of the right hip had been badly smashed. The cat would have to have a new one.

Next Boots was taken to the shiny new operating room at the back of the main building. About the only difference between this room and that of a hospital for humans is that the figure on the table has four legs instead of two. The surgeon and his assistants scrub up, wear rubber gloves, white masks and green gowns. All equipment is thoroughly sterilized. Boots was covered with a green cloth with a hole above the shaved right hip through which the surgeon worked. Nembutal was used to anaesthetize the cat.

A gowned assistant—one of the dozen senior students observing the operation—slipped a scalpel into Archibald’s hand and he made a neat incision in the thigh and clamped off the bleeders. “The cat,” he explained to the students as he worked, “is the nicest animal to operate on. As you see, the muscular patterns are as well defined as the drawings in your textbook.”

With quick deft fingers he picked up the broken end of the femur and with a small handsaw sawed off the broken ball. Then he squared and smoothed the roughened areas of the end with a bone rasp. Next, choosing his angle carefully, he drilled a small hole into the end of the bone. He took

a previously prepared plastic ball with a slender neck about an inch long and, using a small plastic hammer, drove it into the end of the bone. Then he placed the new ball inside the socket in the hip, replaced the muscles and sewed up the cut.

This operation means a lot more than a new hip for Roots. When it is perfected (Archibald is still experimenting with different plastics) it will mean the saving of valuable breeding animals. More important, it may mean that many people past middle age who are using canes, crutches, braces or wheel chairs will walk again. These are the sufferers from osteoarthritis which often affects the hip joint. In human surgery stainless-steel cups have been used to cover the affected ball and sometimes the worn-out joint is replaced by a steel one. Plastics also have been tried. The operations on cats and dogs add to the sum total of knowledge about joint repair. The Stater splint, commonly used to mend broken jaws and other fractures in humans, was developed and first used on dogs by veterinarian Otto Stater in Pennsylvania.

Not long ago a springer spaniel was brought in with a hopeless kidney infection. Archibald decided to try a kidney transplant—that is, give the sick dog a healthy kidney from a dead dog. This extremely delicate operation involves cutting the two main blood vessels in the dog’s neck leading to and from the head and inserting the healthy kidney there. Unfortunately, although the new kidney functioned for a few hours, the dog died.

A Present For Some Kid

Archibald explains that up to now the transplanting of whole organs from one animal to another has not worked because the blood system of the host animal treats the new protein like a foreign body and sets up antibodies to destroy it. “Someday we may find out how to get around this,” he says. “Then the new kidney may function long enough for the animal’s own kidneys to regenerate. And what works in animals often works in humans.”

A new technique successfully developed by OVC surgeons is the insertion of small pieces of bladder between the two ends of broken bone to improve mending. “It’s not known exactly why,” Archibald explains, “but bladder tissue actually forms new bone. It’s most useful in breaks of the lower part of the leg bone where healing is normally slow.”

During recuperation the dogs and cats are kept in a room below the operating room where there are cages for about a hundred of them. “Many of these had tonsillectomies,” Archibald says. He explains that dogs’ tonsils flare up just as children’s do and that veterinarians differ about as widely as human doctors whether or not they should be removed.

“This little fellow,” he says, tickling the nose of a brown-and-white mongrel through the wire mesh, “was brought in the other day with a compound leg fracture. The owner asked us to put him to sleep. Incidentally that’s one big difference between a veterinarian and an MD. We are often required to give an overdose of nembutal to hopeless cases and put them out of their misery. Rut we didn’t do that with this fellow. Instead the students put a plastic plate we’ve been trying out on his leg. We’ll give him to some kid when he’s better.”

Not all animals brought in require operations. Some are just plain sick. Archibald says that distemper is still the worst killer of dogs. There is no known cure. Rut it can be prevented

by inoculation. Similarly, feline enteritis is the worst cat killer.

Neither of these diseases is transmittable to humans but there are some rare ones that are. Histoplasmosis, a fungus disease of the lungs, can be caught from dogs. So can Wild’s disease, a form of jaundice that destroys the kidneys.

Another common ailment of dogs is worm powder. “It’s almost an axiom in our profession that more dogs die from worming than from worms,” Archibald says. An owner notices his dog has something wrong inside,

diagnoses it as worms, and gives him an overdose of worm pills. Since these contain harsh irritants they may aggravate the infection in the intestinal tract and even kill the dog.

Although they handle dogs of every size and description veterinarians are rarely bitten. Most dogs are mild and docile. The chows are the most excitable and the most likely to give trouble while the farm collie is the most tractable. Archibald and h:s staff take no chances. They always ask the owner to lift the dog to the stainless-steeltopped examination table. The animal

is too busy keeping his balance on the slippery surface to snap at anyone.

If he encounters a really vicious dog the veterinarian takes a length of rope* with a slip knot on the end and lassoes him. Once a dog feels the lead he’s usually docile. If not, the vet simply lifts up the rope and while the dog is gasping for breath slips a muzzle over his nose.

Dr. Francis James Milne, a graduate of the Royal Dick Veterinary College in Edinburgh, supervises the large-animal clinic where farmers from the surrounding districts bring cattle,

sheep, pigs and racehorses. There is so much building going on around farms these days that a common ailment of cattle is what the vets call hardware disease, caused when cows swallow nails, hinges, wire and other bits of hardware they pick up around the barnyard.

To combat this ailment and other emergencies, Dr. Jones, the principal, started a traveling service last year with two veterinarians and three senior students standing ready to drive to the assistance of sick animals in the district.

A call from the farm of Tom Haines, eight miles north of Guelph, illustrates how the service works. When Dr. Douglas Maplesden and Dr. Jack Coté arrived they found a Holstein cow fussing and fretting in her stall. She had a fever, great pain and other indications that she’d probably swallowed a nail.

The two veterinarians decided the eight-mile haul to the OVC largeanimal operating room was too risky since a nail in the wall of the second stomach is dangerously close to the heart sac. They’d have to operate then and there.

They rigged up an extension light, clipped the cow’s right flank, blocked off the nerve from the spinal cord with a local anaesthetic and, with the cow standing in the stall, made an eightinch incision. Then Coté reached into the animal’s rumen (the largest of the four stomachs, which holds up to fifty gallons), cleaned out the undigested hay and oats and stretched his arm up into the second stomach. There he found the nail and removed it.

“The use of antibiotics has greatly increased the range of animal surgery,” Maplesden says. “Now we can perform delicate operations, even Caesarian sections, right in the barnyard with a good chance of survival.”

Farmers and veterinarians in the Guelph area frequently bring animals to OVC for X-ray. The college X-ray department is as complete as that in many hospitals. The attitude of the patients, however, is different. Edward J. Bishop, the precise little Englishman who heads the department, says, “You can’t tell a dog to hold his breath. In fact, we get absolutely no co-operation from the animals at all.”

To get around this, Bishop has devised some ingenious helps. Dogs and cats and other small animals used to be held in the arms of a student while the chest, stomach or pelvic X-rays were taken from the front, thereby exposing the student to excessive radiation. So Bishop rigged up a wooden troughlike holder into which the animal can be tied in any position and held still.

In the large-animal infirmary he has a mobile machine for taking shots of the lower limbs of cows and horses. Recently a racehorse was brought from Hamilton with a bad leg. Bishop dismantled his X-ray machine, placed the tube on a four-inch-high block of wood and, while a student held the film in a special metal holder (a Bishop invention) behind the bay stallion’s left leg, took a couple of shots. The resulting plate showed a diagonal crack in a small bone above the hoof. “Without X-ray,” Bishop points out, “that fracture could never have been detected.”

Students also learn about the ailments of fur-bearing animals. Dr. Arnold Hugh Kennedy, head of this department, and his associates have saved fur ranchers hundreds of thousands of dollars. A few years ago mink ranchers lost hundreds of potential fur coats from a mysterious ailment they’d never seen before. Experiments at the college proved it to be a liver condition

caused by rancid fat that formed on meat kept in cold storage for mink food.

Sickness among chinchillas, too, can be costly. Not long ago a rancher brought in a dead animal for a post mortem, saying sorrowfully that two weeks before he’d refused twentythree hundred dollars for it. Kennedy discovered it had died of a bacterial infection that causes abscesses to form in the intestines.

“Chinchillas get the strangest ailments,” Kennedy explains. “For instance, they get a thing called slobbers which is caused by their front teeth growing too fast. A chinchilla’s incisors will sometimes grow as much as four inches in a year. We learned to counteract this by putting pumice stone and other abrasives in their food to grind the teeth down.”

Third and fourth year students spend two hundred and thirty-two hours studying the thousands of parasites that plague animals and cause an estimated loss to Canadian breeders of $100 millions each year. Dr. Anthony Augustus Kingscote, head of the department of parasitology, explains that since animals pick up most of their food from the ground they are particularly susceptible to parasites. They get everything from minute protozoa, which can be seen only through a microscope and which cause such diseases as blackhead in turkeys, to tape worms six feet long. There are more than twelve hundred different, species of lice alone, hundreds of intestinal worms and thousands of flies such as the warble fly which lives in cows’ hides causing a yearly drop in milk production amounting to $21 millions in Ontario alone.

Smith Ran the Whole Show

OVC students are proud of their college’s history and traditions. In the faculty room there is an oil painting of a heavy-set determined-looking man with enormous shaggy muttonchop whiskers, who would undoubtedly be surprised and a little disturbed by all these scientific goings-on. He is Andrew Smith, who founded the college in 1862.

Shortly before that time the government of Upper Canada and the University of Toronto had become alarmed by the animal plagues then sweeping Europe. So they invited Smith, a recent graduate of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh, to come to Canada and start a school. They gave him encouragement and a charter, but no money.

Smith, who has been described as a “canny Scot,” and a “practical man,” began giving lectures in the old Agricultural Hall at the corner of Yonge and Queen Streets in Toronto, and opened up a dissecting shed on nearby Temperance Street. He didn’t worry much about academic standing. If a man had good common sense, a love of animals and a sixty-dollar fee, he was in. Nor did Smith take kindly to all the “scientific nonsense” then gaining ground. Years after Robert Koch had discovered the anthrax bacillus he ridiculed the whole idea and maintained that the real cause of the disease was faulty ventilation.

But Andrew Smith knew animals and he knew men. Until he retired in 1908 and the Ontario government took over the college and Dr. E. A. A. Grange became principal, he ran the whole show and was czar of the veterinary profession. In the fortysix years he ran it, his college graduated 3,365 veterinarians, more than any other veterinary college in North America.

It graduated such remarkable men as Dr. G. D. Rutherford, of the class

of 1879, who became the first Veterinary Director General of Canada and laid down the rigid control policies (slaughter and compensation) that have kept the country so free from animal scourges. It was Rutherford, too, who, in the face of stiff opposition from medical men and scientists of the time, insisted that bovine tuberculosis spread to humans. He, more than anyone else, was responsible for the campaign against that disease in North America.

As the college grew it needed more space and more animals. So, in 1922, it was moved from Toronto to Guelph to be in the centre of a diversified livestock industry. Here, under the successive leadership of Dr. C. D. McGilvray, Dr. A. L. MacNabb and Dr. Jones, it has established itself as one of the top three veterinary colleges in North America (there are seventeen in the U. S.) and is fully accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association, which means that its graduates qualify for official positions anywhere in the world.

Veterinary science has come a long way since the days of Andrew Smith when each vet was all things to all animals. As in human medicine, the trend is toward greater specialization. An OVC bulletin lists some of the specialties: animal pathologist, animal quarantine officer, bacteriologist, consulting veterinarian, food-control sanitary officer, food technologist, publichealth veterinarian, research worker, small-animal practitioner, surgeon, teacher, artificial-insemination expert.

He Fights to Save a Calf

Rut the aim of the vet is still the same—to keep animals healthy and their reproduction rate high. Under Clifford Albert Barker, head of the division of animal reproduction, laboratories have been set up at OVC to study sterility in cattle. Artificial insemination is another major study. At the college, sperm has been kept in refrigerators at a hundred and five degrees below zero Fahrenheit and later used successfully.

Horse players who slap down a twodollar bet on a three-year-old racehorse named Free Trade this summer can, if they win, thank OVC hematology professor Dr. Richard Humble and his assistants. Because of an Hs factor in horse blood (similar to the Rh factor in human blood) foals from certain dams and sires develop a fatal jaundice condition as soon as they nurse from their mothers. By crossmatching blood samples this condition can be predicted and then prevented by having a “wet nurse” for the foal. Many leading racehorse breeders now send blood samples of mares and studs to the OVC for cross-matching.

As a foal, Free Trade was subject to this Hs factor. He got to his mother and nursed from her. He would have died if a vet hadn’t been handy to give him a complete replacement transfusion from another horse.

It’s all part of the veterinarian’s job. The modern vet is part scientist, part farmer, part teacher and wholly a lover of animals. He’s a doctor in overalls. His job is to combat every affliction of bird and beast. He never stops preaching, arguing and threatening if necessary to establish sanitation in the barnyard and better living conditions for animals. He will fight for the life of a purebred Jersey calf the way a physician fights for the life of a baby. By teaching farmers how to breed for better production of meat or milk he saves us millions a year in food costs.

The Ontario Veterinary College is there to train him to do his job as it should be done, it