Vet Med Students 2011 Study Abroad in Germany

Vet Med Students 2011 Study Abroad in Germany

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  • Day 2: Hannover, Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Cattle clinic tour- Dr. Herzog
    The cattle clinic tour began in a large animal surgery room.  In this room, there were also lecture benches for students to sit and watch professors and assisting students take radiographs, perform claw amputations, or do other smaller surgeries.  For veterinary school in Germany, students enter veterinary school after their equivalent of “high school” at the age of 19, and are enrolled in veterinary school for 6 years.  In their final year, students choose clinics where they would like to go to get their experience, and clinics like the cattle clinic have students complete their experience for 10 weeks.  The rest of the year, they travel to other clinics, both small and large animal, along with slaughterhouses and meat inspection facilities to complete their clinical experiences. 

    Like in the United States, Germany and all of the European Union (EU) take several precautions to prevent the spread of serious pathogens.  In Germany, they are very careful about infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (or IBR).  IBR is a herpesvirus that is found in cattle, and in order to prevent the virus from coming to the cattle clinic and spreading to other cattle at the facilities, all cattle that come to the clinic are tested for IBR prior to their arrival.  In addition, the herd from which they come must also have been tested for IBR and be IBR free.  There are special quarantine stalls to where the cattle are first broughtand  that indicates that the animals are not confirmed IBR free, and they must be tested once again to confirm their IBR free status.  After their results show that the animal is disease free, or has a “negative” test result, then they are moved to an “IBR free” stall.  In 2003, an IBR infection had managed to spread through the cattle clinic, and that event led to the precautions that they now take at this clinic. 

    On our tour, we saw a cow with a swelling on the jaw that was due to a nail lodging in its gums.  After the nail had been removed, the clinic used hydrotherapy and antibiotics as a means to treat the opening.  The clinic had stalls specifically for “downer cows” or cows that could not stand up for one reason or another.   Since cattle are very large, problems can arise if they stay down for a long period of time, such as injuries to the muscles or nerves.  So, these stalls have ways to lift the cows and shift them from side to side to prevent the pressure of their weight from causing those problems until they are able to stand again.  The clinic also had a truck with a rubber mat to transport cattle to and from the clinic with minimal stress to the animal. 

    In the cattle clinic, there are many active research programs.  Some of the primary research is about reproductive medicine, and a current project underway, for example, monitors uterine contractions by injecting crystals into the walls of the uterus.  These crystals allow for electronic measurements of these contractions.  In addition, video feed of the cows is monitored to observe the
    activity of the cows while they are having these uterine contractions. 

    The students who chose to get their large animal experience here are assigned to teams of 2-4 students, and these teams are able to get experience with many surgeries, including C-sections and displaced abomasum surgeries.  In the surgery room of the clinic, we saw a student fixing a displaced abomasum via surgery.  When the abomasum, one of the 4 chambers of a cattle stomach, gets into an improper position, gas needs to be released to allow the abomasum to return to its normal position.  In this clinic, local anesthesia is used for this procedure.  The student made the initial incision into the animal’s side and before fixing the problem, did an internal palpation of all of the animal’s organs to ensure that there were no other problems with this animal prior to beginning the surgery.  After the surgery, the animal will be monitored to prevent ketosis, and then the animal can be sent home 5-7 days after the surgery.  If there is a difficult birthing process for a cow (called a dystocia), a displaced abomasum may occur after the birthing, so it is important to monitor ruminants after birthing to prevent a displaced abomasum.

    In large animal medicine, it is important to remember that all medications given to an animal must be gone from the animal’s body at the time of slaughter so that humans do not ingest these medications in the animal meat.  Drugs that leave the animal faster are said to have a short withdrawal time, and these are to be selected for treating large animals. 

    Thanks to Dr. Herzog’s tour, we were given a great tour of the large animal facility and were able to understand how Germany’s veterinary program is set up.

    Food Safety lecture- Dr. Krischek
    When we returned to the classroom building, Dr. Krischek gave us a talk about food safety, after first being introduced by Dr. Klein, who is the department head.  Dr. Klein told us that all food products were regulated by one organization in the EU.  There are courses taught that look at new technology as means to improve the quality of food, and some courses include molecular biology and meat technology.  Salmonella, campylobacter, and antibiotic resistant bacteria are a particular focus in the molecular biology research.  Vets, chemists, and biologists all work for food regulating organizations to ensure the safety of food.  From here, Dr. Krischek reminded us that there are 27 member states in the EU and stated that Brussels is the main city in the EU for food safety, as most buildings and facilities related to food safety are located there.  In 2000, the EU made the European Union White Book of Food Safety.  The object of this book was to modernize legislations, make them more coherent, understandable and flexible, as well as to make it more transparent to consumers in the attempt to fix weaknesses in the design of EU food safety.  The aims of food safety are traceability of food at all stages of production, processing, and distribution, and demarcation of duties and responsibilities in the food chain so that farmers and other food handlers know what they are required to do.  This way, in the event of an outbreak, they can figure out where the problem originated from.  Primary production, slaughter, processing, and retail are all regulated by means of this traceability.  However, the one important part of food health and the problematic point in the food chain that is free of regulation is the consumer.  Consumers are hard to control and it is hard to tell if the consumer practices proper hygiene, or if the lack thereof was what led to illness.

    In the EU, directives are made and all member states (member states= the 27 countries in the EU) must comply with the wishes of the EU and turn these directives into legislation in their countries.  The goal of the EU is to promote free trade.  As a quick clarification point, Dr. Krischek mentioned that Norway is not a member of the EU, but said that they are the best non-members of the EU because they meet the regulations set forth by the EU in order to do free trade with the EU member countries.  A non-EU member state that adheres to EU rules is allowed to participate in trade with EU member states.


    In the EU, different institutions influence legislation: The council, commission, and parliament.  The council is mainly responsible for decision-making, and there is 1 council member for each member state (27 council members in total).  Originally, a 100% policy was in place where all members had to agree for a change to take place, but now it is an absolute majority policy where more than 50% of the council must agree before a change is made.  The commission is the executive body for the EU.  While not responsible for the adoption of the law, it is responsible for the preparation of the law.  The parliament, interestingly enough, is the only EU institution where members are directly elected.  The Lisbon Contract is increasing the power of parliament so that the EU is more democratic (because, as mentioned, all other institutions do not have elected members).

    The food regulations that are put in place are done so for consumers’ health and interest.  Responsibility rests with food business operator, and the regulations prevent falsification, deception, and misleading practices from occurring that could confuse the consumer.  Food shall not induce injuries to health nor be unable for human consumption.  Competent authorities have the right to control the food business and look at proper control systems, and are not responsible for informing, but rather they are responsible for enforcing the rules that are in place.  The farmers are accountable for obtaining information that they need to be responsible farmers.  The organization of official food control in Germany is set up so that there are local authorities in all of Germany’s 16 federal states.  Within federal states, starting from primary producer and ending in food sales, the local authority is responsible for all of the regulatory oversight. 

    Meat inspection tour- Dr. Krischek
    Dr. Krischek took us on a tour of a meat inspection facility on TIHO’s campus.  While this facility is not an actual meat inspection site, it is set up as if it were one so that veterinary students can practice and understand how to identify meat carcasses, look for lymph nodes and pathologic appearances and abnormalities in the carcass, learn how to identify different cuts of meat, and other important slaughter information.  Here in Germany, veterinary students must be trained at a slaughterhouse or meat inspection facility, in addition to intensive training at the veterinary school, for at least two weeks prior to graduating.  On this tour, we were able to watch sausage production at this demonstration-only meat inspection facility.  The courses taught to the students in this meat inspection facility are a meat inspection course in the spring and a food inspection course in the summer.

    Legislation of exotic animal products- Dr. Grabowski
    Dr. Grabowski talked about uncommon foodstuffs within the EU and the risks associated with them.  First, he started by writing down a list of unusual foods, provided by my classmates.  Examples were insects, rodents, bush meat, reptiles and amphibians, dogs, horses, and whales.  We learned that immigration increases the number of exotic animal products that are consumed in the EU, as ethnic foods and practices are brought with those that immigrated.  We also learned that the stores from which these foods come from may not be the safest and not nearly as highly regulated as the food produced in the EU is.  For example, kangaroo meat has a big problem with salmonella because it is normal to undercook it, which means salmonella will not be killed, and may make a person very sick.  With these exotic foods flooding the EU food market, there are some chances and risks associated with them.  Little is known of the food-borne diseases that are associated with many exotic foods, and crime may be committed in order to obtain these exotic foods if they are in short supply.  This may also result in habitat destruction where these exotic species typically dwell.  In addition, authorities may not be as informed about these exotic foods.  For example, if the food is from China and the label is in Mandarin Chinese, how will a non-Chinese speaker know what is in the can, and if there are any additives, residues, foreign contaminants, or if the product has exceeded its shelf life? 

    On the other hand, some benefits to exotic animal products are that it broadens the foodstuffs available to people and provides new sources for nutrients.  It could also possibly lead to food sources that can be used in a more sensible way, contribute to mutual understanding, and may even enhance trading.  Dr. Grabowski said the “golden rule” to exotic animal products is that food without definition equals food without regulation.  Sometimes, definitions in one regulation are not the same as another one.  For example, water bugs would be defined as a fishery product in one role, and food safety and hygiene would apply to water bugs, like it does to all other fish.  However, other bugs like locusts are defined as “other food products” and tests for these food products are less strict and may not have proper control measures set up.  At the end of the lecture, he emphasized the need to create a more comprehensive guideline for exotic animal products in the European Union, and that while exotic animal products themselves were not dangerous, a lack of knowledge or improper handling of the products could be, so it was essential to create better regulation for these food products. 

    Applications of molecular-based methods in food science- Dr. Abdulmawjood
    Dr. Abdulmawjood spoke with us about the oversight and regulations of food science in Germany.  In Germany, there are 6 food science clinics and 20 institutes.  Of these 20 institutes, we are currently being lectured in the Institute of Food Quality and Food Safety, which has 4 divisions:  The division of milk science, the division of meat technology, the division of food microbiology, and lastly, the division of food molecular biology.  The division of food molecular biology (the area in which Dr. Abdulmawjood works) has 3 main tasks: lectures of veterinary medicine and biology students, services, and research projects.  The services they provide are detection of food borne pathogens, identification of animal species in meat and meat products, sex determination of the meat animal, detection of Genetically Modified Organisms (or GMOs), detection of allergens, and quantitative detection of probiotics. 

    In Dr. Abdulmawjood’s lab, he had set up a lab procedure for us to preform so that we could understand the process of sex determination of the meat animal. We extracted the DNA from a piece of tissue through a series of steps, and then looked at a PCR that his lab assistants had already run from a previously performed DNA extraction.  By observing the PCR fragments, we were able to detect if the sample was a male or female pig, because if the sample was from a female, we would only see one “band” on the PCR that denoted the genetic material of the X chromosome, and we would detect two bands for males, indicating the presence of an X chromosome and a Y chromosome.  The reason this genetic test is important in Germany is because they do not eat male swine.  Instead, they only send female pigs to slaughterhouses for consumption.  This is because intact male pigs are not as tasty as castrated male pigs, and pigs are not castrated in Germany.  As a result, only female pigs are eaten.  However, if a farmer were to try to pass off a male pig as being female, the meat may be butchered and consumed.  So, this test is provided to prevent this event from occurring.


    Tour of TIHO’s new small animal hospital
    TIHO recently constructed a new small animal hospital, of which we were fortunate to see!  Some of the highlights of this beautiful new building were its separate rooms for abdominal and cardio ultrasounds, for which were employed two separate specialists, a hydrotherapy machine for animals recovering from injuries, a digital radiograph system complete with viewing screens in the consultation rooms and surgery rooms, and a 3 tesla MRI and a 64 liner CT machine.  There are several specialists employed at the small animal hospital.  This hospital was a very impressive building!  I was struck, especially by their surgery and recovery rooms.  The surgery room was near the recovery rooms, and there were separate recovery rooms for cats and dogs that were very quiet and were dark rooms with dim red lights that warmed the patients and also slowly woke up the animals in a stress-free environment.  There was always a staff member monitoring each room to ensure the animals wake from surgery without any complications.  There were also separate cat and dog ICU rooms, and separate entrances into the clinic for owners with cats and owners with dogs to reduce the stress that the animals experienced.  The clinic also had cat and dog blood donor animals that were well housed and well-loved.  These animals also are helpful for veterinary students to practice palpations and blood draws.  In addition, there were boarding facilities across the hallway from treatment rooms so that animals that were staying in the facilities could easily be looked-over during their stay.  In addition to these rooms, there was a room for veterinary students to practice their surgical skills such as placing intramedullary (IM) pins, suturing wounds, and several other activities.  At least one 12 week rotation is required for veterinary students to be done in small animal practice, which could be divided amongst this small animal clinic and a private practice. 

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