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Thursday, April 30, 2009

"Your Cat Is Fat"

Regular reader Mary sends in another question.

I recently saw a person who means very much to me. This person has two cats. In all the time that I have known this family, they have always taken very good care of their pets, but since they have had children, their cats have been banished to the basement where they are fed from a giant trough. (Before this time, their cats were a reasonable weight.) While I was visiting this person, I got to see the cats. It had been a while since I had seen the animals, but they have become ENORMOUS! I am concerned, because I'm pretty sure these cats have got to be pushing 30 pounds. I don't know how to talk to this person about the unhealthy condition of their pets, or how to urge them to put their cats on a diet. I know they have lots on their plates (pardon the expression), I know I haven't always been the best pet owner, but I feel really terrible for their poor cats. It's probably easier for a vet to express concern about the condition of someone's pets. It's part of the job, and you have a certain authority that we lay people don't have (besides, you can probably be more frank about it and get away with it, you are a doctor after all). Are there any suggestions you can give me about how to handle this situation?

This is a tough situation, as you want to help out their cats, but you also don't want to upset a friend. I think how you handle this depends on which you feel is more important. But in the end, I always think that honesty is the best policy, and it sounds like these cats are in a serious health condition.

Obesity in cats is a serious health condition. They are much more prone to diabetes and liver disease, as well as causing stress on their joints. Most cats should weigh about 9-11 pounds, with certain breeds (Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest cats) weighing 15-20 pounds. Your average cat weighing 30 pounds is like a person who should weigh 150 pounds actually weighing over 400. People can usually understand this kind of analogy better than simply saying that their pet is overweight.

Here's how I would recommend approaching them. The next time you're over look at the cats and say something like "Wow, those are pretty big cats. I'm not sure I've ever seen cats that big. What did your vet say about their size?" Then let them answer the question. If they say "Yeah, she said they needed to loose weight," you can then talk about it a little more. "Yeah, I've heard that obesity is a really serious problem in cats and can cause a lot of health problems. So I guess you're working on that, right?" Then see where the conversation leads.

Now, if the discussion takes a different turn, such as them replying "No, we haven't taken them to a vet in years", or "Yeah, the vet said they were a little fluffy but I really don't believe it", then you'll have more difficulty. Depending on how comfortable you are with them, you can just jump into "You know, I heard that overweight cats can die of diabetes or liver disease. Aren't you worried about that?"

Now, if you still don't feel comfortable with that, I have another, maybe easier option for you. "You know, I've been reading this really cool blog written by a vet. It's has funny stories and free veterinary advice. Oh, and you can ask him questions for free! Oh, I know, why don't you ask him about health problems in cats and talk about your own cats." I'll be very happy to be the meanie and tell them how they're basically killing their cats.

Good luck!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Well, Poop!

Here's a consequence of being in veterinary medicine that nobody seems aware of. When you're around animals on a daily basis you WILL get "stuff" on you. There is literally not a bodily excretion or fluid that I haven't had on me at one time or another. Most of the time you just get used to it since it all washes off. To someone in this profession, it's really not a big deal to get blood, pus, urine, feces, etc. on you. If that kind of thing really bothered you or disgusted you, you simply wouldn't last long.

Some days, however, are worse than others. Like today. The very first pet I handled was a dog that had been dropped off to be neutered. And apparently he wasn't too happy about it as he tried to bite my tech. I managed to get ahold of him so that she could put a muzzle on, but this was not easy. He was fighting me and flailing and really putting up a struggle. A 30 pound dog really isn't too hard for me to manage, and I was able to keep him relatively still. However, when a pet is really scared and stressed, they will often release their bowels and bladder. And he did so. In abundance. By the time we got him muzzled the floor and my legs were covered in feces and urine. He had managed to defecate right on my shoe, leaving a really big turd right in the middle. His struggles had also managed to get feces up and down both of my legs and one of my socks.

Many people reading this are probably completely disgusted and would have even thrown up if they had been that covered in poop. But not a vet. Oh, I was really ticked off, but it was because of the inconvenience. A little poop can be washed off, but this was too much to easily clean, and I couldn't exactly spend the day seeing clients with feces-covered pants. So I had to reschedule my appointments for an hour or so, drive home, change clothing, and drive back to work. I was more ticked that I had to change clothes and interrupt my schedule than I was about what exactly I had gotten on me. And that's the mindset of a vet. Yeah, we're not exactly normal.

Oh, and I got my revenge. He still got neutered.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Emergency Diarrhea

It surprises me how many people consider diarrhea a dire emergency. A pet can be coughing for weeks and I never see them, but they have diarrhea on the owner's floor one time and they're right in. Most of the time these are cases that would resolve on their own, and there isn't really a need to see the vet. However, there are some guidelines to follow, as diarrhea can also indicate some health problems that should be addressed.

If your pet has diarrhea for 1-2 days but is otherwise acting normal and eating, it probably doesn't need to be seen. If there is vomiting at the same time and the pet isn't eating, I would definitely recommend a vet visit. If the diarrhea continues for 3 days or more, you should see the vet, even if it turns out to be minor.

Most people are highly concerned about dehydration when their pet is vomiting or having diarrhea. Honestly, dehydration doesn't happen that quickly in most cases. Unless the symptoms are severe, a pet isn't going to easily dehydrate from a little diarrhea.

Another concern is if there is blood in the stool. This really freaks people out, even though it's usually minor. Most commonly this is small drops or streaks of blood in the feces or some small clots of blood. Even though the sight of blood panics people it's not always a cause for concern. When the colon is irritated, the lining might bleed a little bit. This is merely a sign of irritation (colitis) and usually not a serious problem. However, if the blood is profuse or if there is any bleeding from anywhere else, it can indicated more serious problems.

So keep this in mind the next time your pet has a little loose stool. You may be okay to wait it out for a few days rather than rushing right to the vet.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sore After Vaccines

Something I always try to tell my clients is that vaccines can cause soreness and lethargy. Unfortunately, some people seem to get very upset if this happens. I occasionally have clients who bring their dogs back to me the day after being given vaccines because their pet is just laying around and not eating. In probably better than 99% of the cases, there is nothing to worry about, and they never needed to come back in the first place. So I thought I would spend a little time telling everyone about this so maybe you won't worry about your own pets and won't bug your vets.

When we give a vaccine we are stimulating the immune system. The goal is to create antibodies so that if the pet (or person) is exposed to that disease, their body will be prepared to fight it off. Vaccines stimulate the immune system in a controlled way that should cause antibody formation without causing the actual disease. However, being infected with a disease will also stimulate the immune system. When it becomes active, more happens than just antibody production. The cells that produce antibodies also release biochemicals that cause a cascade of events throughout the body. Some of these chemicals can cause inflammation (locally or systemically), raise the body temperature, and similar effects. Know how you feel sore and drowsy and just "blah" when you have a cold? That's the effect of these biochemicals. The same ones can be released by vaccines, and all it means is that the immune system is working properly.

Each individual's immune system reacts differently with illnesses and vaccines. When getting a tetanus or flu shot some people will be just a little sore at the injection site. Some people will be really sore in their whole arm. And some will run a low-grade fever and feel achy. The same thing happens with dogs and cats. Many have no side-effects whatsoever. But some can feel various degrees of lethargy and soreness for 24-48 hours.

This is not a vaccine "reaction". Instead, it is a vaccine "response", and is normal. True adverse reactions usually cause excessive vomiting, facial swelling, or hives along the body. In a true anaphylactic reaction, the pet (or person) will suffer a very quick reaction and will generally collapse as the blood pressure drops. In 12 years of practice, I have seen this happen 3-4 times out of the thousands and thousands of pets I've vaccinated.

So if your pet is sore or lethargic for a day or two after vaccines, don't worry. This is nothing to be concerned about, and if you just wait another day or so, everything should be back to normal. But if you have any doubts or questions, please contact your vet.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pet Peeves #5 & 6

I was looking back over my archives, and realized that the last time I talked about some of my pet peeves was way back in November. Well, today I came across a couple more. Both have to do with cheap clients.

Number 5: Clients who come in for exams but already know they can't do anything. This really gets me. A client will come in with a sick or injured pet, yet they have absolutely no money to do any diagnostics or treatment. Today I had someone who brought a small dog that had been completely lame on a hind leg for two weeks after being bit by another dog. There was something wrong with the knee and I needed to take x-rays. They couldn't afford to to that, but also didn't want to get any pain medication. All I ended up doing is telling them that their dog had a problem with his left knee, which they kind of already knew. Last week we had someone who wanted us to do a free exam on their sick pet because they couldn't afford the office visit fee. I refused because I knew that if they couldn't afford the office visit, they certainly couldn't afford any tests or medication. The client became very upset because we refused to see her pet. No, we would be happy to see the pet, just not for free. I can understand not having money to do extensive tests or treatment. But if you know going into the appointment that you don't have any money beyond the office visit, what is the point? It's very uncommon for us to see a pet and not need to do anything at all. Usually we need to do at least some testing and treatment. What do these people expect of us? I usually forget to bring my crystal ball and magic wand to work, so I'm not much help in these cases. I really wish people would realize that the exam is simply the beginning, and there almost always will be more.

Number 6: People who refuse services when you know darn well they can afford it. Today we saw a client who refused to do more than a rabies vaccine on her pet. She didn't want heartworm testing or prevention, or a distemper-parvo vaccine. She complained about it being too much money. Yet my tech had seen her pull up in a 2009 BMW that still had a temporary tag. Lady, if you can afford a brand new Beamer, you can certainly afford to take care of you pet! I know some people can't afford to do much (which is another pet peeve that I've already talked about). But don't come in with expensive cars, clothing, and jewelry and tell me that you don't have the money to do the simple things.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Therapeutic Purrs

Sometimes you just have a hard day, and nothing seems to help you feel better. This afternoon I had two appointments and two walk-in clients in the last hour, all with sick or injured pets. That's always a bit of a stress, as I hate leaving work late. I'm very much a home-body, and really want to get home on time to have at least some time with my kids before they go to bed. Having last-minute clients often delays me, and that makes me frustrated. Then when I came home, I had to take pictures of our pets for a school project of my daughter's. If anyone has ever tried to get pets to pose exactly as you want them, you know how hard this can be. So that made me more frustrated. As I was getting over this, I lost some things I was trying to work on, and couldn't find them anywhere. So by the time I finally sat down to relax, I had gotten myself pretty worked up and was trying to keep my temper in check.

Then I put Tristan on my chest, and he started to purr. Wow, that was a great feeling, and very relaxing. As I stroked him and looked down at the little guy, my stress seemed to melt away, and for the first time in several hours I smiled. As I type this he is trying to play with my hands, and is watching my typing very intently.

This is why we have pets. They can be frustrating and a headache at times. But they give us so much love, amusement, and pleasure. They love unconditionally. And it's so great to have one of them cuddle next to you, lick you, or otherwise show their affection. It melts your heart, and suddenly all of the frustration seems worth it. The picture below shows Tristan in one of his favorite places, on my shoulders or behind my neck. He fell asleep in this position and my wife grabbed the camera.

So here's to therapeutic kitty purrs! Better than any prescription medication!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Evil Cell Phones?

It's pretty crazy how our society has changed in the last 10 years. I remember a time with dial phones, no answering machines or voice mail, no cell phones, and no call waiting. If you called someone and they weren't home, you tried calling back at another time. But that's not the way it works anymore. Many people don't have traditional land lines anymore, opting strictly for cell phones (including myself and my wife). Nowadays if you can't get ahold of someone at home, you call their cell phone. If you can't get ahold of them there, you might freak out a little (like happens with members of my wife's family). I couldn't imagine not having my cell phone, yet I also see how it has changed how we act towards each other and how we interact with society.

One of the areas that I see it is in my work. I'll walk into a room and the client will be talking on their phone. I sometimes have to wait for a while for them to finish before I can talk to them. Or similarly they will answer their phone while I'm trying to talk to them about their pet. It's really rude and annoying to have to fight the cell phone for their attention.

Yet on the flip side it's been very helpful. It's common that the person who brings the pet in may not be the one who actually knows all of the details about a situation. When that client can call home to their family members, it really helps me try to make decisions on how best to care for their pet.

Whether or not we love them or hate them, cell phones aren't going away. In fact, I think it's gotten to be difficult to fully function in a 21st century Western society without one. Yes, it may annoy me at times when clients can't leave it alone, and I try to avoid being the same kind of person when I'm with a doctor or in a professional situation. But it's something we all have to learn to live with, and I just hope that everyone learns proper etiquette and politeness when using your phone.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Being A Vet Vs. Having A Life

Here's the last of Jessica's questions (read the last two days). I wanted to post this one separately because it's a great topic of discussion.

And finally, I consider myself a mix between introvert and extrovert... but I really value having free time alone and stuff. Does this job take up a lot of your time, so that you don't have any time to NOT think about your job?

I'm not sure how much of an issue this is in other professions, but it's a big one for most vets that I've know, myself included. Historically it was common for veterinarians to work 60 hour weeks as a rule, and many older practitioners see nothing wrong with this kind of schedule. However, most people getting into the profession in the last 5-10 years actually want a life outside of work, and so it's more common to emphasize a typical 40 hour work week, or even part time (as we discussed before). Nowadays this is more the rule than the exception.

Depending on the practice, you may also have to do your own after-hours calls. More and more vets are referring cases to local emergency clinics rather than doing them themselves. People are realizing that there has to be a balance between life and work, and doing your own emergencies makes this difficult. Other vets feel such a strong loyalty to their clients that they don't want to send them to anywhere else. Be aware of the practices stance on emergencies before choosing a job, and make sure that you're okay with this. I've been on call before, and am glad that I now work at a place where I never have to go in after closing.

The problem is being able to leave work at work. Most of us go into veterinary medicine because we have a lot of compassion, and that means that we care a lot. When we care this much we worry a lot about cases. I've had numerous times when I have worried about a pet for days. Sometimes it's a difficult surgery that I worry about the complications and recovery. Sometimes it's a medical case that isn't turning out right. In most situations it's not because I did anything wrong, but because I second-guess myself a lot.

So really the fact of whether or not you can NOT think about work is more about you than it is about the job. It's all a matter of how well you individually can handle the stresses and worries inherent to this job. Some people have no problem with it while other struggle a lot. I've been mostly in the latter category, and it has taken a toll on my wife. After 12 years of practice I'm better at it and don't do it as often, but it still happens. I wish I could give you a great tip on how to cope, but I'm still learning myself. But this is one of the things that you'll have to figure out about yourself and take into account as you choose your career path.

Great questions, Jessica! Everyone else, feel free to ask your own.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Part-Time Vets

Remember yesterday? Here's the next part of Jessica's question.

I was also wondering if it's possible to be a part time veterinarian. Only because if I ever get married and have children in the future, it might be hard to be a full time veterinarian at first.

Women are now in the majority of veterinarians, and this is changing the business of veterinary medicine. Part of these changes are directly related to Jessica's question. More and more women want to have a family AND a career. Instead of having a full-time job and putting the kids in daycare all of the time, they want to work part-time. So this is definitely not an unreasonable thought.

I know many people who are veterinarians and only work part-time. Most of them work 3-4 days per week. This kind of work pattern is in the minority (and likely always will be), but is becoming more common. The trick is to find somewhere that will allow this. Since more prospective employees are looking for this kind of schedule, more employers are willing to accommodate it. When it comes time to look for a job, you may have to do more looking around to find someone willing to hire you with this stipulation. It may be more work, and may mean it will be longer to find a job, but if it's what you really want it will be worth it.

Tomorrow...the last of Jessica's questions on being a vet.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Viability Of Veterinary Medicine

Here's the first of several questions from a reader, Jessica. She has some good ones that merit discussion so I'll split them up and answer each in turn over the next couple of days.

Hi! My name's Jessica and right now I'm eighteen years old, trying to decide my future and all that... haha.

I've been considering going into some sort of medicine for some time now, and I think veterinary school would be a good option for me. I've always grown up with animals and loved animals, and I would like to make a difference in animals' lives and in the lives of their owners. So, I've been thinking a lot about being a veterinarian. But I was wondering if you could answer a couple of my questions on it.

First... do you think it's easy to find a job and a practice to join right out of veterinary college (assuming I don't take an internship or residency?). Also, my mom is wary on this path because she thinks with the economy, it would be hard to find a job, since "people won't be as willing to take their dogs to the vet" etc. Do you think that's true?

Actually, it's very easy to find a job as a vet, especially if you have some flexibility about where you live and practice. There is a lot of talk about shortages of veterinarians in various parts of the US (I can't say about other countries), so depending on where you want to go, you could get something quickly. If you have any interest in large animal medicine or public health, these are the areas where there is the most need. I've never known a veterinarian to be unemployed because of lack of opportunities.

The aspect of the economy is actually an interesting one, and something that's being discussed a lot here in the US. Interestingly, people tend to take their pets to a vet MORE in economic hard times. They may not have a lot to spend, but their pets are a source of great comfort, and they want to take care of them. Yes, many vets have seen reductions in their client numbers, but it's not everyone. My own practice has been open about 2 1/2 years. In 2008 we saw a 59% increase in our business compared to 2007. So far in 2009 we are averaging about an 80% growth over the same period in 2008! You definitely can't look at my location and tell that there is a recession anywhere nearby. I'm practicing north of Atlanta, in an area on the border between suburban and rural, so I'm not in a high income area. My situation may not be the rule, but it's also not the exception.

I feel that there is no concern about going into veterinary medicine because of economy situations. In fact, a veterinary degree is a great thing to have, as it's extremely versatile. You can do everything from private practice (large and small animal) to research, specialty to general practice, working for a government (federal or state), teaching, and just about anything else. There are always opportunities for a vet with the right skills and interests.

Here's a suggestion I have about looking for a job. First, find an area that you want to practice. Then find the address of every single veterinary practice in the area you are considering. Send all of them a resume and letter of introduction. Follow that up with a call to the hiring manager or practice owner. You'll be surprised at what might happen! I did this before I graduated and sent out about 40 letters, calling each of them. I ended up with about a dozen face-to-face interviews. That led to offers from three different practices, and I got to pick the one I liked best. What is most interesting is that the one I eventually chose (and worked at for almost 2 years) had never advertised for a new vet!

Jessica, also keep in mind that you won't be graduating from veterinary school for at least 7-8 years assuming everything goes well and you get in on your first attempt (something not everyone does). A lot can change with the economy during that time, and we may be having a completely different conversation in 2017.

More of Jessica's questions tomorrow!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

...A Beginning

Timing can be a funny thing sometimes. Two days ago, after I made the decision to euthanize Perceval, my wife mentioned that we could get a new kitten. I nixed the idea right away. It was a bit odd to think of doing that so close to Percy's death, and I also wasn't eager to go through the kitten stages again.

Yesterday a kitten was found abandoned by a nearby dumpster, and somebody brought him in to be checked over. He was about six weeks old, and overall good condition. He was also a little cutie. We knew the person who brought him in and knew that she was looking for a home for him. All of my techs immediately started trying to get me to take him. I, of course, said no. Every time he would meow, my lead tech would say "Daddy" in a little voice and hold him towards me. We agreed that we help to try and find him a home.

Now normally I'm not that big of a softie and I'm good at resisting abandoned pets. I've been in the veterinary field for 25 years, and during that time have only taken home one homeless pet...and that was Perceval. In that time I've only been tempted a handful of times, and always been able to pass on the opportunity. But as I held that little abandoned kitten yesterday, something inside me melted. There was a certain something about him that drew me to him, and I became really tempted. Somehow I thought that I might be jumping the gun and getting a new pet too soon, or that I would be doing a disservice to Percy. But the more I was around him and the more I thought about it, there was just a feeling and a bonding I felt. I called my wife and she was surprised that I was actually considering adopting him. When I told her about this feeling I had, she said it was meant to be.

So I have a new kitten now. Yes, I caved in and took him home today. It was a bit strange in a way, as I also buried Percy today. But right now he is asleep on my shoulder, and seems to be very drawn to me. My wife is determined to make sure that he is my cat, even though he will be around the family. She knows it will help my loss of Perceval to have another kitty friend.

The little one's name is Tristan. When I first started getting cats I established a theme of Arthurian knights (Galahad, then Perceval), and decided to keep with that. The other cats, Ash and Pooka, are not so sure about him. Guinevere is her usual sweet self and has taken to trying to lick him silly. Inara is very curious and wants to play, but hasn't learned that her normal rough play like with her big sister is too much for little Tristan.

Perceval will always be remembered, and will have a very special place in my heart. But I think that Tristan will become a new close friend, and will help with some of the sadness.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

An Ending...

Regular readers may recall my post a few weeks ago about my cat who has been sick. I had narrowed the possibilities to either inflammatory bowel disease or intestinal lymphoma. For the last several weeks I have been treating him for IBD. Unfortunately, he hasn't responded to therapy, and is getting worse. He can't hold down any food, and many days doesn't even want to eat. He is emaciated and down to nothing but skin and bones. His behavior has changed, and he is obviously weaker. At this point I don't have many good choices, and it's killing me to see him waste away and suffer. Tomorrow I am going to take him to work with me and put him to sleep.

This is a very hard thing for me, even though I understand the necessity of it. He will be the second pet I have had to euthanize as an adult, and in a way harder than the first time. I've had several weeks to ponder this moment and watch him get worse. And this time I have my kids to consider.

My wife told them when she picked them up from school, and I talked to them again when I came home. Our daughter (who is 6) took it especially hard, crying for about 30 minutes the first time and about 10 the second time. I think that both of them understand what is going on and why we need to do this, but this is the first time they have lost a pet (our last cat died when our son, now 8, was 1).

Perceval has been with me for 16 years, longer than any pet or even person I have ever known other than my immediate family. He has been a constant presence for a little less than half of my life. He was always the sweetest, calmest, kindest cat I have known. I will never forget him, and will miss his gentle paw reaching slowly to touch my arm to get attention.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-4)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Foreign Veterinarians In the US

Armando sends in this question that brings up an interesting topic of discussion.

I am planning to move to Houston, TX. My girlfriend who graduated from Vet. School in Costa Rica is planning to move with me. She does not have her boards in the States, therefore she can not work as a Vet in the states. Since the move will be for a year tops, then we will move to Costa Rica, we wanted to know if there is any job opportunity for her in the Veterinary field or if there is maybe a course she can take while we are there in order for her to specialize in a section of Veterinary medicine. Is there any possibility of her making an income doing something in the Vet. field? Also if there is, what steps must we take? Thank you very much for your time.

There is a pretty extensive process for becoming a veterinarian in the US if you graduated from a foreign veterinary school. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has a certification program called the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates (ECFVG). The program is rather extensive, takes a long time, and costs many thousands of dollars. Rather than go through all of the details here, I'll direct those interested to the official ECFVG site. Armando, if your girlfriend wants to practice in the US, this is the method that she will have to use. However, if you're going to be here for less than a year, this process may not be completed in time and likely isn't worth the costs.

The only other option would be to work as a veterinary technician or assistant. There are pros and cons to this option. She would still be able to work in the veterinary field and her skills would be directly applicable. There are a couple of potential problems with that, though. Many places wouldn't be eager to hire someone for such a temporary position, and if they did it would likely be for less money or authority than a long-term employee. Also, some vets may be hesitant to hire an experienced vet in this kind of a role, and would worry that they would try to overstep their boundaries and start to practice medicine illegally. Or, you could run into an equally bad situation if you find an unscrupulous vet who would hire her as a tech but use her veterinary skills. In any case, she needs to be careful about the situation.

I would recommend starting with one of the larger veterinary businesses, such as Banfield and VCA. A larger, national practice has more experience with these situations, and may be more likely to hire short-term help. Also, she can contact the Texas VMA for job listings and veterinarians in the Houston area.

This question also brings up a larger issue, that of foreign licensing. For those readers in other parts of the world, I don't know if it would be equally as difficult for an American vet to become licensed in your own country. I've worked with many vet from other countries, and I know that it's a big complaint of how difficult and costly it is to become licensed in the US if you're a foreigner. On one hand I can see the AVMA's point of trying to make sure that the standard of veterinary medicine in the US remains high, as not all colleges may have the same rigors of education or the same type of education as those in the US. However, it does discourage people who are otherwise highly qualified from moving to the US. There are those in the US who have been trying to get the rules loosened or changed to allow more foreign graduates to practice here.

Good luck to Armando's girlfriend!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Most Important Day Ever

Today is Easter Sunday, the celebration of Jesus Christ rising from the dead. I think it can be successfully argued that today is a celebration of the most important day in the history of the world. Think that's a merely Christian viewpoint? I would take a position that it's not merely religious.

The resurrection of Christ is the linchpin of Christian theology. Yes, we celebrate His birth on Christmas, and that is a much bigger holiday in secular societies than is Easter. But as important as that date was, it is not the most important one. Yes, the fact that Jesus was born and the circumstances of his birth are crucial and we should indeed celebrate it. But if He had been born, lived, and died, that would not have influenced the world in the same way as His resurrection.

You see, Christianity doesn't rest on the birth of Jesus or even His death, as great as these events were. Jesus claimed to be God, claimed that He could forgive sins, and claimed that only through Him could people find a place in Heaven. His death and subsequent resurrection showed that He had the power of God, for only God could rise from the dead. If Jesus had stayed dead, it wouldn't have impacted His followers. In fact, after His crucifixion, the Disciples were all despondent and scattered. Only after His return from the grave were people willing to die to share Jesus' message. Only by rising from the dead did Christ prove that he actually could forgive sins and prove that everything he claimed was actually true.

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:14-17)

Okay, that's fine and good for us Christians. But how is this the most important day ever? No matter what anyone may think, and for all the good and bad done in the name of God, it seems clear that Christianity has had a stronger influence on the last 2000 years of world history than any other culture or religion. Even though people like the Chinese have a longer continuous cultural identity, they haven't has as wide-reaching of an impact as have Christians of various nations. Incredible good and horrible evils have been done in the name of the Christian god. Numerous wars have been started over disputes among Christian sects and between Christians and non-Christians. Most colleges, hospitals, and charitable organizations in Western society have their start in Christianity.

None of this would have happened if Jesus had not been resurrected. If He had remained in His grave, Christianity would never have been started. And if there had been no Christianity, our world would be a much different place. But even more importantly, we would have no way into Heaven.

So I wish everyone a Happy Easter! Have fun with your eggs, candy, and gifts from the Easter Bunny. But don't forget the true importance of this day, and that it is a celebration of the triumph of life over death, eternal life over eternal damnation.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Recovering From A Vacation

Have you ever come back from a vacation and said that you needed another vacation to recover from the one you just took? I'm kind of feeling like that now.

This was the first week-long family vacation we've taken in three years, and one we were all looking forward to. Usually we plan a lot of activities to maximize our time away from home, but this time we planned on just taking it easy and relaxing. All of that was well and good until I managed to either get food poisoning or pick up some nasty gastrointestinal virus. Pretty much the entire day Thursday I spent in our room laying in bed or crouched over the toilet trying to keep my stomach from coming out of my mouth. Yay, me. And even three days later I'm still not completely recovered. That kind of put a major damper in the last part of our vacation, and I know it was hard for my wife to watch. With my luck I expect to be completely better by the time I go back to work on Tuesday.

And of course once we get home there is mail to catch up on, the checkbook to balance, suitcases to unpack, laundry to do, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (to quote "The King And I"). I'm also expecting to go back to work with a list of minor fires to put out and cases to catch up on.

Y'know, it almost makes me not want to go on vacation! But then I realize how much fun we normally have, and decide that vacations are worth the day or so of extra work once you get back.

So few more days of rest, and then back to the ol' grind!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Time For Family

The older I get, the more that I realize that my life is not defined by what I do. More and more I tell people that being a vet is what I DO, not who I AM. As much as I enjoy parts of it, it's a job that allows me to support my family and my hobbies, and not something I am disappointed leaving at the end of the day. Unfortunately, I see many people who don't seem to realize this, and put their careers ahead of their loved ones. I used to want more out of my career, but now I want to find more excuses to spend time with my family. It's an often-used phrase and kind of a cliche, but nobody comes to the end of their life wishing they had spent more time at the office.

With that in mind, I'm getting ready to spend some well-earned family time. The kids aren't getting any older, and we haven't taken a long, full family vacation in about three years. So in the morning we're getting up early to drive and spend a few days with my father. After that we're going to the beach for the rest of the week to enjoy some relaxation and family activities. I'm leaving the laptop at home and won't even look at the internet for a full week. This week it's all about my family.

Any of you with families, I would encourage you to do the same thing. Don't concentrate so much on your job that you neglect your spouse and children. Take some time to actually be with them and enjoy fun activities without other distractions. You definitely won't regret it.

I'll see you all in a week!

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Humor Of Abscesses

Vets can be a pretty strange group of people. This week I was mentoring a doctor new to our practice, and showing her around. One of my last cases of the day was a cat who had a nasty open wound that the owner had just noticed. When I was done with the exam and was working up the estimate for fixing it, the new doctor and I were talking about it. The conversation went something like this...

Me: Just saw a cat abscess. Looks nasty, but the cat is in really good shape and is purring.
New Doc: Was it a bite wound?
Me: Looks like it. [and I proceed to give her the history] It had already opened and the owner noticed the hole.
New Doc: Did you get anything out?
Me: Nah, already opened and drained. Too bad.
New Doc: Yeah.
Me: I haven't seen a good messy cat bite abscess in a long time.
New Doc: Oh, I know what you mean! There's nothing as satisfying as popping one of those open and seeing all of the pus pour out.
Me: Tell me about it. It's so great when you get a big, messy one and lance it and see that spurt of goo!
[both of us chuckle as we remember cases like this]

What kind of people get a kick out of pus and infection??? Vets. We're pretty strange, and enjoy a rather strange, twisted sense of humor. A few weeks ago I got all giddy and excited when I diagnosed a hamster with a type of mite that I had only heard of and never seen. We'll make fun of really ugly or silly-looking animals. Just about any type of disease or injury can be a potential source of humor for us.

We're not the only ones. I've had friends and acquaintances in just about every health-related field: paramedics, physicians, nurses, dental hygenists, etc. All of them tend to have a rather twisted and often gallows humor. I think that it's primarily a coping mechanism, as people in these fields are often faced with pretty disgusting or dismal cases. If we couldn't laugh about these situations, we might just go crazy.

It takes a pretty special person with a certain kind of odd personality to truly thrive in a medical field. A large part of that is being able to laugh. We just laugh at some pretty strange things.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It's April 2nd!

Well, it might be when you're reading this, but as I write it's actually April 1st. Happy April Fool's Day! I'll admit that I'm not much of a pranker, though I do enjoy a good joke. Thankfully my day was pretty uneventful, and I didn't have any tricks played on me. I almost did prank my staff, though. My associate had taken a personal day today and I was the only doctor on staff. My plan was to call the hospital from the parking lot and tell them that I wasn't feeling well and wouldn't be coming in today. Since they wouldn't have a back-up doctor, I knew that would cause them fits. Once I got off the phone, I was going to walk in and tell them "April Fool's!" I know they were pretty happy not to have me do that.

My kids really got into the whole thing. They kept wanting to play tricks on each other and people around them. Being 6 and almost 8, their pranks were pretty harmless and simple, but it was amusing to see them wanting to try. My daughter was excited about putting an ice pack under my son's bedsheet, but he didn't seem to mind.

That got me thinking about where this all started. Here's what Wikipedia says...

The origin of April Fools' Day is obscure. One likely theory is that the modern holiday was first celebrated soon after the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar; the term referred to someone still adhering to the Julian Calendar, which it replaced. In many pre-Christian cultures May Day (May 1) was celebrated as the first day of summer, and signalled the start of the spring planting season. An April Fool was someone who did this prematurely. Another origin is that April 1 was counted the first day of the year in France. When King Charles IX changed that to January 1, some people stayed with April 1. Those who did were called "April Fools" and were taunted by their neighbors. In the eighteenth century the festival was often posited as going back to the times of Noah. An English newspaper article published on April 13th, 1789 said that the day had its origins when he sent the raven off too early, before the waters had receded. He did this on the first day of the Hebrew month that corresponds with April. A possible reference to April Fools' Day can be seen in the Canterbury Tales (ca 1400) in the Nun's Priest's tale, a tale of two fools: Chanticleer and the fox, which took place on March 32nd.

Regardless of the origins, it seems to be a pretty fun and mostly harmless event. Heck, with the bad news we get bombarded with every day, having something to laugh at is pretty nice! Check out the list of pranks in the Wikipedia article. There are some great ones there!