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Friday, November 28, 2008

Wrestling For A Living

Did you know that I was a professional wrestler? Seriously. And I get to practice it pretty much every day. Some days I think I might be able to take on Hulk Hogan or The Rock (yeah, dating myself a bit on my knowledge of wrestlers).

You see, many of my patients don't want me to examine them, inject them with vaccines, or collect blood and fecal samples. Go fig. Unfortunately, they really don't have much of a choice, and these things do get done one way or another. Many times that involves physical restraint, and sometimes that restraint can get pretty strong.

Veterinarians and veterinary staff are trained in various ways to safely and effectively handle pets. Most pets won't simply stand there as you poke them in various uncomfortable ways. We need to be able to keep them still to allow us to do necessary procedures, keep them from getting injured, and keep the humans from getting bit or scratched. It's also important to be able to "read" the pet and know when physical restraint isn't going to work, and we have to use injectable sedatives. The longer someone works in the field, the better they get at being able to restrain dogs and cats. After 24 years at this, I'd consider myself pretty darn good.

We had two patients today that required a bit of a "lock-down". One was an extremely happy but uncontrolled 80-pound pit bull. We needed to do some pretty simple things, but he just didn't know how to control himself. And even though I'm double his weight, it's still very hard to hold a dog this size still. I had one arm under his belly, while my other arm circled his neck around the top and came back to grab one of his front legs. Kind of a pretzel hold. The other pet was a 105 pound Burmese mountain dog that really didn't want his eyes looked at. Holding a dog's head still is actually harder than holding the rest of him still, and this dog wasn't an exception. These kinds of pets are far stronger than you would think, and it can be tricky to get them briefly still without anyone getting hurt.

Because I'm the only male in the place and because of my experience, I often hold large dogs for my techs to collect samples or do other simple services. And sometimes I do have to get the equivalent of professional wrestling moves on the patients. Now, when I'm talking professional wrestling, I'm not really talking about Olympic-style, Greco-Roman wrestling. I'm talking about the decidedly American "rasslin'" that you see on late-night TV and Pay Per View. I've often had to get very creative in how I grab legs, paws, heads, and bodies. I've sometimes had to practically lay on top of them and put most of my body weight on them.

Don't get me wrong. I definitely don't want to do anything to hurt the pets, and am very ready to use chemical restraint when necessary. I just hate having to do something like that for a procedure as simple as collecting blood for a heartworm test.

So think about this if you ever get into an argument with a veterinarian or their staff. These folks are very experienced in rasslin', and aren't the kind of people you want to pick a fight with!