6 Crazy Veterinary Procedures

Veterinary medicine is a truly interesting field. On one hand, many procedures and medications are created for and tested on animals before they are used on humans. Alternatively, because there are so many species of animals out there, sometimes a basic medical procedure can present a whole new series of problems when applied to a certain animal. When veterinarians work with zoo residents or wild animals, they are confronted with even more challenges, often times needing to drug the animal before they can even investigate the cause of its discomfort. Looking at the amazing care veterinarians provide does not only show what ingenious and fantastic people these animal doctors are, but also how amazing and unique each of their patients are.

Elephant Acupuncture

Regardless on your opinion of Eastern medicine, it’s undeniable that the countries that practice these methods are true believers in their effectiveness. That in mind, it’s only fair that they would use these same cures and treatments on their animals. Of course, then the question arises, “how do you provide a 5,300 pound elephant with acupuncture?” Tun was a 15 year-old Asian elephant with a long-lasting leg injury caused by a male elephant crushing her when she was only 4. The zoo veterinarians worried she would have a hard time supporting her body as she continued to age and gain weight. They decided to bring the zoo’s resident acupuncturist, Oh Soon Hock, in to give her some therapy. Oh Soon Hock had performed this therapy on cheetahs, orangutans and giraffes, but never on the world’s largest land mammal, the elephant. Tun’s biweekly electric acupuncture sessions were expected to last for almost six months. To get her to lay down and cooperate, her keepers cooed at her, gently tugged on her ears and rewarded her with bits of fruit. While handling the sessions well for the most part, she would occasionally become restless from lying on one side. Acupuncture is generally a painless procedure, but that didn’t leave Oh out of danger from the unanesthetized animal. Once, the electric charge in the needles led her whole body to jerk violently. After only a month and a half, she already began showing a noticed change. "After the first treatment, she was more mobile. Now her leg can be bent better and her muscles are more relaxed," said Oh. Source

Sturgeon Sterilization

It may seem a little strange to sterilize an animal to help save a species from extinction. It also may seem a little strange to sterilize a fish at all. But that’s just what researchers from the University of Georgia did in order to help protect the wild short-nosed sturgeon population. As to why you would “fix” an animal that’s going extinct, the fact is they sterilized a captive-bred sturgeon for release into the wild population. The number of farmed sturgeons is just fine, it’s the wild ones the doctors were concerned about. This special fish was going to be placed in the wild so the scientists could gather more information about the sturgeons, like their habitat viability, mortality rates, and distribution. At the same time, the scientists wanted to protect the gene pool of her wild counterparts. Naturally, sterilizing a fish is not quite the same as spaying your dog. To anesthetize the fish, drugs were added directly into its water. The veterinarian, Dr Stephen Hernandez-Divers, inserted two endoscopes with cameras into the fish so he could get a clearer picture of what he was doing. He then had to cut out the ovaries and cauterize the wound, which he was able to do simultaneously using one specialized instrument. He also tied the fish’s fallopian tubes. Throughout the surgery, there were only two pinhole incisions cut into the fish and these both were stitched up as soon as the procedure was over. The fish recovered from the surgery well and was soon released into the wild to help learn more about our wild sturgeon population. Source

Owl Eye Surgery

A lot of animals rely much more on their sense of smell or sound than they rely on their eye sight. Owls are the opposite. They are even more reliant on sight than us humans are and will eventually starve to death if they cannot use their extraordinary sight for hunting. So when a great horned owl showed up at the Colorado State University with a damaged cornea, the school’s ophthalmology department knew than something had to be done soon. Dr. Julie Gionfriddo was placed in charge of the surgery and she opted to attach a piece of the bird’s muscle to the damaged cornea. The muscle worked as a bandage and allowed the eye to heal on its own. After several weeks, the bird’s eye was mostly healed, and a second procedure was done to cut the muscle away so the owl could see again. This operation was performed with the help of a specialized microscope. The cornea was stitched up to let it complete the healing process. Because the eye needs proteins from inside the eyelid, the eyelid was stitched closed as well. Within the following week, the eyelid was unstitched and the bird finally had its sight back completely. Eventually, the beautiful bird of prey was released back into its natural habitat, none the worse for the entire experience. Source | Photo: apurdam (Andrew) [Flickr]


These may not be a common procedure, but dogs across the country have had their testicles not only removed, but replaced. Creators of Neuticles claim that dogs who are neutered lose self-esteem, are traumatized from the experience and don’t look as good as other dogs. So to help loving dog owners fix their pets without having to traumatize them, the company has released prosthetic dog testicles designed to trick man and beast alike into believing the pup has not been tampered with. Reading a variety of pet forums and testimonials, it seems that Neuticles are of greater benefit to dog owners than the dogs. The products seem to sell very well in places like Texas, that are known for having very masculine populations. There are a lot of people feel like they are emasculating themselves by having their dogs fixed, and these people are ideal clients for the Missouri-based company that produces Neuticles. According to their website, over 100,000 animals have been “neuticled” already. As silly as these products may sound, it seems even stranger that some people are genuinely offended by the concept of artificial dog balls. Who are these people –dog show operators. All dog shows expect the animals being presented to be of breeding stock, as such, all of the dogs must be “intact.” The AKC keeps its eyes out for sneaky pet owners who want to neuter their dogs and still allow them to be show animals. If owners are caught having dogs with Neuticles, they will be permanently barred from future events. Source

Elephant detox

How do you treat a 9,000 pound animal addicted to heroin? That’s what veterinarians in China had to find out when they encountered an Asian elephant with a major drug problem. The smugglers that illegally attempted to capture Big Brother fed him bananas laced with heroin in an attempt to keep him under control. Unfortunately, when they were arrested, Big Brother started to go through withdrawal symptoms. So the veterinarians at the Beijing animal protection center Big Brother was sent to had to learn how to make a drug detox program suitable for a mammal of this size. For the first year of the treatment, the elephant had to receive methadone injections five times the dosage given to humans. Gradually, the dosage was lowered until Big Brother was clean and sober. The program took over 3 years for Big Brother to complete, but now he seems happy and healthy. Source

Turtle gets prosthetic fin

Sea turtles rely heavily on their big front flippers –not only for swimming, but for climbing onto sandy beaches. Without being able to get on dry land, turtles are unable to lay eggs and continue their species. So when a sea turtle missing her front fin was rescued in southwestern Japan, the Sea Turtle Association of Japan arranged immediately began brainstorming. It wasn’t long before everyone involved agreed to give the little girl a new lease on life with the help of a prosthetic fin. "We need to pay special attention as the forelimbs will have to be strong enough to (allow her) to climb up a beach," said Erika Akai, a researcher at the non-profit Sea Turtle Association of Japan. The turtle is believed to have lost its fin after a shark attack, making her a very brave girl. This bravado should help when it comes time for her to re-learn to swim once again with the help of her artificial limb. The team hopes her strength will come back enough for her to be able to lay eggs in the future. The project will begin in May, once there has been time for the rescue group to raise funds and develop a working prototype for the animal’s fin. It will be exciting to find out how the turtle fares. "We are fully aware that it will be a difficult challenge," said a spokeswoman for the prosthetic limb company, Kawamura Gishi Co. "But we were moved by the passion of the association and decided to take part in the project." Source If you like these sorts of stories, I highly recommend The Rhino With Glue-On Shoes, a book about vets and their most memorable patients.

Fascinating stuff! I used to work for a veterinary opthalmologist, and we did work on a few wild birds sent to us from local rescue/sanctuaries. Very delicate surgery, especially for a bird, and we almost lost a duck on the table once. We did a similar procedure on a barn owl, like the one mentioned. It was incredible to be a part of that.

The elephant acupuncture is awesome! While I have never worked with elephants, we had a floating vet that did acupuncture for arthritic dogs on Fridays, and it really seemed to work.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Um, "intact" is one word.
What is with this trend in the last few years, anyway? I don't remember, several decades ago, ever seeing people write "in tact".
Sorry, this bugs me!
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I remember hearing about Neuticles a couple years ago on Pen & Tellers BS show on HBO. They made the exact same points, but the bit about the dog show judges is new to me. I'm just surprised it wasn't a Japanese guy to think of such a thing before an American.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Sue, thanks for questioning that. I was looking for an average elephant's weight and just checked my numbers...some how I grabbed that world record elephant's weight instead. That certainly is a big elephant -but it wasn't the one on detox...that would take a lot of drugs to get him high!

If you're all interested, I found this elephant story interesting, but decided against including it. An elephant who lost it's leg due to a landmine got a prosthetic leg:
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.
Click here to access all of this post's 8 comments

Email This Post to a Friend
"6 Crazy Veterinary Procedures"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More