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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Struggles With Struggling

One of the most daily frustrating facts of veterinary practice is the behavior of our patients.  Some of them are very well behaved and sweet, but others....not so much.  It can make our job very difficult and can even be dangerous to the pets if not handled appropriately.

Just today I spayed a small black poodle.  We always do preanesthetic blood testing and so went to collect the blood.  She cried, squirmed, and generally made it hard to keep her still.  This makes it tricky because we collect blood from the jugular vein in the neck.  If they are moving around we can't hit the vein, and if they move too much while the needle is in we can cause a hematoma or similar problem.  We finally did get the blood, but it wasn't easy.

A little later in the day I saw a German shepherd mix with an ear infection.  I needed to look down in the ears to see the extend of the problem and evaluate the ear drums for damage.  Unfortunately he wasn't nice and the ears were uncomfortable so he growled, lunged, and struggled.  With some care I finally did get a good look, but once again it was difficult.

I can't say that I completely blame our patients.  We are doing uncomfortable or painful things to them and they don't know us well.  We are restraining them in ways that can be frightening, and it prevents them from moving.  If people I didn't know held me down by my arms and legs in order to shove a stick up my bum, I would certainly struggle against them!  Veterinarians and our staff are scary people doing mean things.  We can't explain to our patients that it will only sting for a bit and then be over, or otherwise rationalize with them to keep them calm.

There are many skills a vet must master, and wiggling, struggling pets is one of the biggest.  It takes great patience to work with them as you try again and again, getting more frustrated with each attempt.  In many cases we can't simply give up since we need to collect the samples or do the procedure right then.  It is one of the most irritating parts of the job, because if the patient would simply be still we would be finished in a fraction of the time.  Anyone entering the profession needs to be prepared for this as a daily issue.