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Monday, March 1, 2010

A Real Mess

Anyone who thinks that veterinary medicine is glamorous has obviously never spent time working with a vet.  I was just talking with some friends of Facebook about this, and I don't think people realize what we have do deal with in the course of a day.  I'll often say to people that if I don't get bodily fluids on me during the course of a day, I obviously haven't been to work.  Most days I'll come into direct contact at least with feces and blood.  Urine and pus are not uncommon.  And anal gland secretions are a necessary risk; I have my finger in the rectum of multiple pets per day.

Large animal vets have it even worse.  They walk around in barns or fields with an inch or more of manure.  Much of their day is spent literally up to their shoulders in the back-end of a cow or horse. Vets who work on dairy farms may have to rectally palpate several hundred head of cattle each day.  Often such work is done in freezing cold or blistering heat.

Then there are the smells.....Expressing anal glands are bad enough.  But a nasty abscess can really clear a room.  Swine vets carry the odors around with them for days, even with showers (I certainly remember my brief forays into a swine barn and how hard it was to get the stench off me).  Parvo has a very distinct, rather nasty smell.  As a vet you have to develop a strong stomach, and you become rather immune to many harsh odors.

And despite all of this, most vets love their jobs!  Yes, we're a bit of a strange bunch.


  1. Now I know why we couldn't get a vet to come to the farm when we had pigs! LOL

  2. Believe me, that odor really clings. When I was in school on my swine rotation I would spend an hour or so in a pig barn. After two hot showers I could still smell it on me! The noise is also deafening. Frankly, I don't know how swine vets do it!

  3. My true appreciation for what vet's deal with developed year's ago when our neighbor's old dog limped into our garage with an abcess wound teeming with maggots.

    I gagged all the way my vet's office with him and it took them hours to clean out the wounds and insert drains.

    Somehow the old guy survived their neglect - and the smell.


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