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State Fair Veterinarian Oversees All Creatures Great and Small

August 13, 2010

Dr. Bruce Leuschen, ISU College of Veterinary Medicine, (515) 290-7951
Ms. Tracy Ann Raef, Veterinary Communications, (515) 294-4602

AMES, Iowa – The deep-fried Twinkies and corn dogs will have to wait. As the veterinarian for the Iowa State Fair, Dr. Bruce Leuschen won’t have much down time as he oversees the health care for approximately 15,000 animals during the 11 days of the fair plus several pre-fair days.

Leuschen, Iowa State University Veterinarian and Clinician at ISU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, left Tuesday morning for the State Fairgrounds. His days will begin early and end late, with the occasional late-night emergency. It’s a routine that’s familiar. After 23 years in a private food animal practice in Northeast Iowa, he’s got the experience to handle most any situation.

Leuschen will have some help, though. Joining him will be Dr. Adam Krull, ISU veterinarian, and several veterinary students. They will work as a team to ensure the animals have around-the-clock veterinary oversight. Each day there will be routine health exams to perform, animals that need veterinary attention from injury or sickness, and urine or blood collection for routine drug screening tests. Leuschen and his team also help the State Veterinarian with regulatory issues. Leuschen says heat-related illnesses and injuries from transport to the fair are the more common ailments they treat.

“We get up early in the morning to monitor treatments that horses are already on from their owners and home veterinarians,” said Leuschen. “We will then look at any animals that are reported to us from the owners that need our attention. We will talk to the exhibitors at their meetings about taking care of their animals while at the fair to guard against over-heating issues and other problems that can arise. We also do drug sampling on some of the animals to help assure that all of the rules of exhibition are followed. The barns are filled with different animal classes that then go home so that another set of animals can come in; for instance the swine barn has four classes of hogs that come at different times and then fills again toward the end of the fair with goats.”

“The State Fair is a huge event that is loads of fun. It can be physically exhausting, but interacting with the public and taking care of the animals make it worthwhile,” said Leuschen. “It’s a tremendous commitment that I’m able to do because my colleagues at the ISU College of Veterinary Medicine take care of the animals I’d be working with if I was at the hospital.”

This is the third year that Leuschen has been the State Fair veterinarian. He’s seen about everything, but surprises still happen. “We have had an ostrich get its head caught in a gate, a rabbit that came down with meningitis and a llama that overheated, things that you don’t see every day! Last year H1N1 was a top concern, so we monitored pigs for that illness. This year we’ll continue to focus on keeping animals cool and healthy. The surprises will just happen. ‘Non Stop Fun’ is part of every day at the Iowa State Fair.”