Brendan Kraus â " not your average doctor


Staff writer

Brendan Kraus is your average doctor. Well, except for the fact that all of his patients have four legs.

On the day this reporter spent with him, he saw 16 animals. A typical day in the life of a veterinarian at Spur Ridge Vet Hospital.

His daily routine is mostly dictated by the schedule of appointments. He said, "About 95 percent of the appointments are made in advance. The schedule is pretty well laid out each day."

And the schedule on Wednesday was no different.

One of his first tasks of the day was to breed a mare. He used frozen semen that had been stored since February. His goal was to breed the mare that morning and hoped she would ovulate by noon. The semen was inspected under a microscope to make sure it was viable.

Kraus said, "We have to make sure it's alive. Usually half of it's dead and half is alive." After making sure the semen was satisfactory, Kraus used an insemination rod to deposit the semen into the mare's uterus.

His next appointment was a dog, brought into the office to get a blood cell count. Kraus said the dog had been diagnosed with cancer in the liver about three months ago. He said the owner takes the dog to K-State every week for chemotherapy, but brings the pet in the day before to get the red and white blood count checked.

The owner of the 9 a.m. appointment called to reschedule. Like children, cats don't like shots either, and the owner was having trouble locating them. In the meantime, Kraus worked with a horse brought in by Bobbie Pickrell, registered veterinary technician at Spur Ridge Vet Hospital.

Pickrell said, "One thing about working in this field is that you have to be adaptable because things will change in a split second."

Before taking a look at the horse, Kraus checked on the mare that was bred earlier in the morning. He noticed that the horse had sore feet, so he used some tools to reshape the hoofs. "We're trying to prevent laminitis," he said. "We do that by giving her something soft to stand on and by changing the shape of the hoof to change the biomechanics of the foot." Laminitis is also known as "founder" and is an inflammation of the laminae within the hoof.

After working on the feet of the mare, Kraus began his work on Pickrell's horse. "The horse is a performance horse that has become lame," said Kraus. After watching the horse trot, Kraus injected local anesthetic on the nerves of the hoof and watched it run again. There also was a severe crack in the hoof. "The problem with this horse is that it has multiple problems so we're not sure if it's the foot or the crack (in the hoof)," said Kraus.

He said an injury like this takes time to heal. "It takes about one year for a hoof to grow from top to bottom. It might take three months for it to grow an inch."

The first attempt was at blocking the nerves to the area around the crack. It helped, but not 100 percent, so Kraus decided to block off the rest of the heel to see if that improved it more. Kraus said the local anesthetic would last about two hours.

Next on the agenda was a bull that was scheduled to get its semen checked. "It's a good idea to get it checked before breeding, and it's pretty common for most producers," said Kraus. "Usually bulls will breed 20 to 30 cattle so it's good to know beforehand." The semen was tested immediately after collection. Kraus said about 75 to 85 percent of the semen was motile, which is good. He said the standard requires that more than 30 percent of the semen be alive. Then Kraus checked the structure of the semen. "It has to be at least 70 percent normal."

After OK'ing the semen, Kraus checked the mare again to see if she had ovulated. This was done by imaging the ovaries with ultrasound. He said, "Timing is critical. Frozen semen doesn't live as long as natural breeding."

With another break in the schedule, Kraus returned to Pickrell's horse. He sanded the hoof of the horse and packed medicated wax into the crack. Then he fixed a clamp onto the crack to hold it together and bonded over the hardware with epoxy.

Six horses were scheduled to get their teeth checked and their rabies shots. In order to clean out their mouths, a large syringe-type tool is filled with water and squirted into the back of the horse's mouth. This forces the horse to spit out the water, which in turns cleans out the mouth.

After those horses were checked, Kraus did some finishing touches to Pickrell's horse.

The owner of the three cats who were scheduled earlier in the day got their cats rounded up and brought in. Kraus gave them shots and did physical exams.

"I always do a thorough physical exam when giving shots. I feel it's as important or more important than the shots. We check for general health and attempt to pick up on medical problems that need to be addressed," said Kraus.

The physical exam consisted of taking the temperature of the cats. Kraus then checked the skin, ears, eyes, teeth, and heartbeat. He took a stool sample to test for worm eggs to see if the cats need to be de-wormed. On dogs he clips the toenails.

After the cats were finished, it was time to check the mare again.

Two dogs were brought in for a checkup and blood was drawn to check for heartworms.

After lunch, the mare had to be checked again and she still hadn't ovulated. "We're hoping that she ovulates on time this afternoon otherwise I'll have to come up every couple of hours tonight to check her," said Kraus.

A race horse was brought in to have its legs looked at. Pickrell trotted the horse so Kraus could see it run. Some medication was injected into the horse's joints to help the arthritis.

For the final appointment of the day, a couple of dogs were brought in for heartworm testing.

Kraus' practice is evenly split between cattle, horses, and small animals. "It's equally mixed and there's a variety. It makes it fun that way." The appointments tend to be seasonal. "We see a lot of horses now and cattle are worked in the spring and fall. But small animals stay pretty steady."

Life before the clinic

Kraus has been a veterinarian for six years. He practiced in the Kansas City area for a couple of years before moving back to Marion and opening Spur Ridge Vet Hospital in Florence, where he has been the past four years. "We wanted to come back to Marion County." said Kraus. "I practiced in a larger city and we missed the rural area and the people."

"I was always interested in it (veterinary work). I enjoy doing work with animals."

In college, Kraus was majoring in biology. "When I decided to apply into veterinary school I already had most of my classes," said Kraus. "You don't have to have a bachelor's degree to get into vet school but most people do."

Kraus said people who go into the veterinary field now specialize further than they used to. "It used to be you got out of school and went straight to work," said Kraus. "Now it's more like human medicine. There are smaller numbers of people doing mixed animal practice, and more people focusing on one type or area, which is a big concern for rural areas."

Kraus graduated from Pittsburg State University before attending vet school at K-State, where he got his doctorate of veterinary medicine.

Kraus and his wife, Tina, have one daughter, Taryn, and are expecting another child this winter.

Future plans are unknown at this time. "I hope to expand the facilities and staff to be able to serve our client base as well as we can."

Be part of the series

Brendan Kraus graciously agreed to an interview for the "Day in the Life" series.

Readers who are interested in being part of the series may contact Bernhardt at 620-382-2165 or e-mail