A Puppy’s Heart
“Soundwaves like to go through watery tissue,” Dr. Leslie Schwarz tells her group of students, “which is how we’re able to tell right away if there’s a problem. Can you see Butter Bean’s heart beating?”
With a portable ultrasound machine, Veterinary Radiologist Leslie Schwarz can demonstrate not only the locations of the organ’s inside Butter Bean’s little body, but whether or not they’re working properly. And for Butter Bean, they are.
By learning how to read X-rays and ultrasound images, the students of the Veterinary Science Focus Program can understand what to look for when an animal is injured in any way. And they even learn how to identify animals from even partial shots on the screen — for instance, telling the difference between a rabbit and a bird. (What looks like a beak is really a rabbit’s sharp front teeth.)
As Leslie tells them, the only way for veterinarians to know what’s abnormal, they first need to understand what’s normal, “so we spend a lot of time studying the normal.” Case in point, Butter Bean: a very relaxed Boston Terrier whose owner, Lorie Durant, volunteered her services for this demonstration.
“Now, remember,” Leslie says, “anything black on the ultrasound monitor is fluid. And what’s the fluid in this case? That’s right — blood. See the black in the middle? That’s the blood flowing through Butter Bean’s heart, and it’s moving in the right direction.”
“How can you tell if it’s going in the wrong direction?” Grace, one of the students, asks.
“Excellent question,” Leslie says. “Not too long ago, I examined a dog who had a heart murmur. A cool thing about this machine is that it lets me color the fluid moving through the heart so I can check the direction it’s moving in. That day, the ultrasound showed that he had a leaky heart valve, with blood moving in the wrong direction.”
“Is the dog ok, now?” Alex, another student asks.
“Yes, we took him into surgery to repair the leaky valve, and now we’re monitoring him to make sure he makes a full recovery.”
Story + Photo by Lisa Merlini