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Exclusive Interview: Dr. Brenda talks heartstopping The Incredible Dr. Pol episode

Dr. Brenda Grettenberger
Dr. Brenda Grettenberger gave us the inside scoop on tonight’s Incredible Dr. Pol show!

Tonight on The Incredible Dr. Pol “Three Vets and a Baby,” there’s babies galore, lots of sore hoofs and lots of problem labors…including the show ending with an emergency for a near-term pregnant Dr. Emily Thomas.

Dr. Emily is 5 weeks from being due so Dr. Brenda Grettenberger is doing all the field calls while Emily is in the office.

Spring is busting out all over in Michigan. The birds, bees and babies are afoot. A sow in labor for six hours kicks off the show. You will see a poor mama pig who needs some help getting her litter out.

Dr. Pol discovers she has a tilted pelvis and advises the owner not to breed mama again.

In the show, Dr. Brenda is out in the field and on the case of a pregnant mare named Classy that’s limping. Dr. Brenda susses out the issue and discovers something deeper is festering in the tissue. Pain meds and time will tell.

Then, three Pit Bulls attacked Spike the fat adorable cat. He is lucky and doesn’t seem mortally wounded. X-rays reveal other than a mangled leg, Dr. Emily says he’s going to be okay.

Angel the reindeer proves to be quite a happy story for Dr. Brenda, still out in the field who after tending to a sick reindeer returns to visit the reindeer farm to see the springy happy babies.

Angel's baby reindeer
Angel is a longtime patient of Dr. Brenda, who loves all the reindeer!

While she is getting her cute on, Dr. Pol and son Charles visit Terry Anderson and his bird rescue. It’s beauty day as nails and beaks are trimmed up. Dr. Pol explains the idiosyncrasies of owning and caring for birds too.

Suddenly, at the office, Karen and Burt Mann’s pregnant sheep is rushed to see Dr. Pol. The animal’s insides are poking out from straining. The problem is the sheep is too fat. He pushes everything back in and stitches her up untl the lamb is ready to be born.

Julius brings his baby goat into the office. His back legs won’t work. The baby was born prematurely and despite the taping, Dr. Emily says its guarded for the animal’s future. Later in the show, Ginger learned to straighten her leg and was saved.

The show closes with a sick bulldog named Minnie. Dr. Pol does a fecal exam and rules out Parvo. But her lungs sound terrible and he determines the dog has pneumonia. Heavy antibiotics are the answer. Also Smokey the cat has an abscess on his pad and a raging fever. It has ruptured and now Dr. Emily tends to him.

But the episode Three Vets and a Baby tonight ends in a scary human emergency. We spoke with Dr. Brenda about all these big first steps, happy birthdays, farm visits and the scary closing scene with Dr. Emily on Dr. Pol tonight:

Monsters and Critics: The episode tonight features a pregnant mare you tend to, her foot seems sore and she limps. How do you find out if the horse has a treatable abscess and explain how the pinchers work on the hoof?

Dr. Brenda Grettenberger
Classy has a bad hoof as Dr. Brenda examines

Dr. Brenda: Examining a horse with a painful foot would include looking at and feeling the foot and lower leg, then using a hoof knife to scrape away a small amount of the sole – the bottom of the foot –  looking for bruising or hole in the bottom of the foot for a puncture wound. The hoof testers – pinchers –  are a tool used to evaluate the foot for pain. The hoof testers apply pressure to the hoof wall, and if there is a fluid pocket in the hoof or inflammation in the foot, the horse reacts to the applied pressure.

M&C: Where did you go to school and how did you come to work with Dr. Pol?

Dr. Brenda: I attended college at Michigan State University. I answered a help wanted ad in the AVMA journal (magazine) to find my way to Pol Veterinary Services.

M&C: Talk about the reindeer farm! How cute those babies were. Angel was a real trooper. Was I imagining they were more friendly than a cow or horse? They seemed to like people very much.

Angel’s cute as a button reindeer baby!

Dr. Brenda: The reindeer at Rooftop Landing are awesome! Angel is great as a pet and as a mother. The reindeer calves get a lot of attention from the humans at Rooftop. The newborn calves are handled by humans almost immediately after being born [in] a process called imprinting so that they are as comfortable with their human “herd” as they are with the rest of the reindeer herd. This is very important for the reindeer’s future as an ambassador for Santa and the Rooftop Landing Reindeer farm. The calves like to visit with people, and they are great fun to watch.

M&C: How do you get a cow in distress to trust you enough to do internal exams – how do you keep from being trampled or smashed against something? What are the safety protocols you must follow?

Dr. Brenda: In order to be able to examine a cow, I have to be able to restrain (control) her. This can be done with a halter on her head, and tying her to something solid. It may be as simple at holding her behind a gate. Or there may be a chute or stanchion available to put the cow in to hold her. Hopefully, this can be accomplished without harm to me.

I try to use her natural “fight or flight” response to help get her to move where I want the cow to be. There are no written safety protocols to follow, just a matter of knowing normal cow behavior, and assessing the immediate working environment and using these things to my advantage to protect myself and keep the cow safe also.

M&C: So the episode ends with Dr. Emily being rushed to the hospital. We know from our interview with Dr. Pol she had her baby, but can you talk about that night and how does being one veterinarian light affect your day to day schedule?

Dr. Brenda: Life as a veterinarian is full of variety. I never really know what I may have to do from day to day. We start the day with a schedule and a plan, but the plan gets modified as needed depending on what phone calls come in and what emergencies happen. The ability to multi-task and work with plan B (or plan C or D, etc) are very important skills.

Incredible Dr. Pol airs Saturday at 9/8c on Nat Geo

April Neale
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