In Summary
  • Just the same way a human patient will visit the same doctor several times before seeking a second opinion, farmers should allow a veterinary doctor to treat their animals over a period of time if the original treatment appears not to be effective.
  • While the doctor may not exactly predict the duration it would take for a certain disease situation to resolve, he should be able to give the farmer some timeline and favourable indicators of progression towards recovery.
  • Diseases in incubation are not visible from clinical examination and some may not even be detected by laboratory methods because they are hidden in the organs and they have not yet released disease markers in the blood, urine or other body fluids that we normally sample to test for diseases.
  • A doctor must tell the farmer if further investigations are needed.

Human beings share many disease-causing organisms with livestock, including worms such as tapeworms, bacteria such as anthrax and viruses such as Rift Valley Fever.

Together with our animals, we feed parasites such as fleas, ticks, flies and mites. Therefore, I view veterinary medicine and human medicine as congenital twins joined at the hip.

However, one thing I find interesting is that animal owners always fail to appreciate the same processes that a human doctor takes to diagnose or investigate a disease are very similar to the ones taken by a veterinary doctor.

While a human patient will make several trips to the doctor if the treatment is not working well, a farmer is very quick to change the veterinary doctor if treatment appears not to be working.

Unfortunately, medical treatment does not work that way. Just the same way a human patient will visit the same doctor several times before seeking a second opinion, farmers should allow a veterinary doctor to treat their animals over a period of time if the original treatment appears not to be effective.

This allows the doctor to progress up the hierarchy of diagnostic and treatment protocol from the lowest to the highest level. The doctor is then able to manage both the cost of treatment and the effect on the animal.

The only caveat is that the veterinary doctor must provide clear notes on the diagnosis, treatment and expected progress towards healing.

While the doctor may not exactly predict the duration it would take for a certain disease situation to resolve, he should be able to give the farmer some timeline and favourable indicators of progression towards recovery.

The doctor must also tell the farmer what further investigations may be required if the initial or subsequent treatment does not appear to be effective.

Farmers need to know that diseases are destructive processes in the body. They take time to establish and disrupt normal processes and structures in the body from the organ down to the cell level.

They also interfere with the chemicals that drive normal body function. For healing to take place therefore, the treatment given must be able to reverse the destructive process all the way back to normal or to a level that is able to support close to normal body function.

TRIGGER A DESTRUCTIVE PROCESS

In some cases, diseases do not come singly. Additionally, the occurrence of one disease may trigger a destructive process that is more difficult to cure than the initial disease. Like it happens in East Coast Fever infection.

I call this the “conspiracy of diseases”. It can be very frustrating to the farmer particularly when the diseases come in multiples; and it happens that some are in the incubation period while others are evident visually or on laboratory examination.

The doctor will treat the diagnosed diseases but the animal will continue being sick when the diseases in incubation show up.

Diseases in incubation are not visible from clinical examination and some may not even be detected by laboratory methods because they are hidden in the organs and they have not yet released disease markers in the blood, urine or other body fluids that we normally sample to test for diseases.

In the middle of last month, Jane from Ruiru called me and said one of her pregnant heifers had stopped eating. The animal was almost due to calve. “Doctor, this heifer is very high quality and I can’t afford to lose her or the calf,” she concluded.

Page 1 of 2