Behind the scenes of the animal hospital at the Maisons

Léa, a student at the animal hospital of the Maisons-Alfort veterinary school, takes part in an ultrasound. (©Delphine Dauvergne)

From 8:30 a.m. animal hospital from the veterinary school of Houses-Alfort (Val de Marne) welcomes its patients by appointment. It’s a real anthill, something 37,000 views take place there every year.

Clients and their animals wait in one of the waiting rooms, each dedicated to a specialty (general medicine, neurology, dermatology, cardiology, etc.). The animal first goes through a pre-consultation, usually carried out by 5th year students.

A progressive immersion

This Tuesday, October 25, 2022, Emma, ​​gently examines a 17-year-old black cat, Sablotine. “She comes for a follow-up of hyperthyroidism (an excess of hormones), I take stock with her mistress to find out what treatments have been taken, if there are other things to report, her diet…”. So many elements that will then allow the student to put together a set of clues, to point towards a possible diagnosis.

Emma prepares to present her case to Maxime Kurtz, research engineer and hospital practitioner, who supervises 5th year students in the general medicine department. The student summarizes the situation of this cat, which is “amputated of a member following a cancer, has gastrointestinal and behavioral problems”. Maxime examines Sablotine and decides to take her cat’s blood pressure.

He formulates with Emma all the hypotheses of possible diagnoses, to arrive at this conclusion: “she probably has a bowel disease, you can stick to an ultrasound and a blood test to avoid examinations that are too invasive for your age”. Direction the nursing care center, where Emma calculates with one of the nurses the dose of sedative to administer to the cat before the ultrasound. Two 4th year students are supervised by nurses to learn these basic technical gestures (blood sampling, catheter placement, etc.).

“Students come to the hospital from their second year to observe, then begin to practice during the 4th year, in services such as reception, the telephone switchboard, pharmacy or even preventive medicine. In the 5th year, they are at full time hospital and must go through all the specialties,” explains Maxime.

I love to practice, discuss with the owners, they come with problems and we have to find the right answers to care for their animals, it’s very stimulating.

Jonathan, fifth year student

If the young man wished to become veterinary to take care of race horseshe now plans to diversify in order to continue to care for cats and dogs.

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The diagnostic challenge

His patient for the morning: Oney, a magnificent red Maine Coon. This four-year-old cat comes for a check-up, in particular concerning excessive licking of certain areas. Maxime and Jonathan list together all the possible causes and question the owner for additional clues, it could be behavioral. The veterinarian asks the student to make his diagnosis, before giving his own recommendations: “we will start with a flea treatment and another for dermatitis”.

Maxime and Emma take the blood pressure from Sablotine, placed in the arms of her mistress so that she is calmer.
Maxime and Emma take the blood pressure from Sablotine, placed in the arms of her mistress so that she is calmer. (©Delphine Dauvergne)

The case of Léa, a poodle three years, seems less easy. Very stressed, the dog does not allow herself to be examined. Maxime pushes Léa to list all the scenarios that could explain her urinary abnormalities, then to eliminate some of them. Léa accompanies the dog to do a urine analysis and an ultrasound of the bladder. A bacterial infection is confirmed.

“It’s difficult, you have to revise all the time to be able to prepare for these practical casesbut the framing is still caring “, she underlines. And if at the end of the morning there is a little time left, Maxime makes a debrief to deepen certain cases. Each student must also report on their consultation.

“It’s impressive and very beneficial to be supervised by specialist teachers”, recognizes Léa. Because, if the students are present in all the departments, even in the emergency room, the animal hospital “is a center of recognized specialists, half of the consultations were guided by veterinarians who recommend specialized advice here”, recalls Maxime. This hospital, with a dozen operating theaters, is also known for its state-of-the-art equipment and plans to expand further.

Delphine Dauvergne

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Behind the scenes of the animal hospital at the Maisons-Alfort veterinary school