An Interview with a Veterinary Internist

Bari Spielman, a board-certified internal medicine veterinarian at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston, speaks about her work, endoscopy and discovering ET (yes, like the movie).

PetPlace: What are your cases like?

Spielman: As an internist, it can be anything from a chronic vomiter to a diabetic to an anemic animal. I see kidney failure, hepatitis – anything having to do with internal medicine. The cases I see by appointment are usually chronic problems. Then there are the more critical ones, which often come in as emergencies and are initially seen by the interns. Those are then signed over to me as an internal medicine specialist, to work directly with the intern who's involved.

PP: What's an endoscope?

Spielman: Basically, it's a very nice extension of the naked eye. On the average, the scopes that we use are approximately 3 feet long and a little bit narrower than, say, a garden hose; they're about 10 millimeters in diameter. They allow you to visualize wherever the tip of the scope is placed in the gastrointestinal tract. You can flex it up or down, left or right and evaluate all the way from an animal's mouth to the esophagus, to the stomach, to the small intestine. Then you can do the flip side, where you enter from the rectum and you can do most of the colon and a portion of the small intestine as well. It also has a port that allows you to pass instruments to either remove foreign bodies or obtain small biopsies.

PP: Do you ever have any surprises when you're looking around in there?

Spielman: Sometimes you know exactly what you're looking for because the owner saw the pet ingest it, or on a plain X-ray you can see something like a needle in the stomach. But there are times when you know something is there but you're not quite sure what it is. I took out a cute little ET plastic toy a few years back. You could have taken bets across the board – no one would have guessed an ET toy was in there.