How Vet Techs View the Wild Side of Domesticated Dogs

Posted by on April 10, 2013

veterinary technology degree
Minnesota School of Business-Rochester veterinary technology degree students learn how to perform basic barium tests as part of their career preparation. The test allows veterinary professionals to detect on X-rays foreign objects consumed by an animal.

In the history of wild animals, dogs were known to hunt for their food long before humans got involved. From animate to inanimate, wild dogs have eaten everything from rabbits, to mice, to birds and other creatures. Conversely, today’s domesticated dog is fed a variety of foods from a bag or can. But this dog evolution is not all it seems to be.

In other words, you can take the dog out of the wild, but you can’t take ALL of the wild out of the dog!

One of the biggest challenges owners have in feeding their dog is keeping them from eating objects that they shouldn’t. So what part of the wild remains? Dogs have been known to ingest rocks, socks, plastic and a variety of other objects that they are supposed to give up because they’re now domesticated.

veterinary technology, barium testDue to the naturalness of their extracurricular eating habits coupled with the unnaturalness of their eating preferences, these objects often get stuck somewhere in the digestive tract, mainly the stomach, and need to be surgically removed. Since surgery is so invasive and opening up a dog to search for the foreign object in any one of the digestive areas is not an option, veterinarians use a barium study as a basic test to locate the object safely.  

This is where textbook learning ends and hands-on training begins.

Vet tech students calculate the amount of barium needed, which, as a liquid, is positive contrast material that allows for a foreign object to be viewed on an X-ray. With this X-ray procedure, a set of survey films are taken prior to administering barium. This allows for the veterinary staff to re-evaluate the abdomen and verify the X-ray machine settings.

The correctly calculated dosage of barium is then given orally via a syringe. Another set of X-rays are taken immediately after the barium is given, then additional lateral and ventral dorsal views are taken at 15-, 30- and 90-minute intervals.

If at some point the barium fails to progress through the animal’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract, there is the possibility of a foreign object lodged in the suspected area. If the barium continues through the entire GI tract, then the veterinary staff would continue with diagnostic tests to determine why the animal may have been seen for a GI concern. And that’s how a barium study works.

vet tech, barium test

While practicing in the campus surgery room, veterinary technology students gain the required skills that prepare them for quickly adapting to the requirements of a practicing clinic when dogs’ lives are on the line. Several vet tech students couldn’t agree more: 

  • “I enjoyed getting hands-on experience performing the barium study and utilizing our radiography skills in order to better understand the digestive tract of the common animal.” -Elizabeth Doberstein
  • “I thought the barium study was really unique in that I learned just how fast the digestive tract works. It was pretty amazing to see it on a living animal!”   -Courtney Olson
  • “The barium study was a great learning experience. It gave me the chance to learn hands-on about something I will eventually do as a vet tech.”  -Isabelle Archibald

Want to take a look inside the veterinary technology program? Call 507.536.9500 to speak to a representative.

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