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Saturday, May 22, 2010

No Veterinary Hand Models

Today I was on the losing side of a run-in with a particularly evil cat.  I ended up with numerous scratches over both hands and arms, though thankfully managed to avoid being bitten.  Though not the worst I've ever had, it was the most scratches I've received in a few years.  They're more annoying than really deep or dangerous but they're a reminder of what can happen in the business.

Injuries from animals are a known hazard of being in veterinary medicine.  I've known large animal vets who have had limbs or backs broken by a kick from a horse or cow.  I've personally been bitten by dogs, cats, snakes, lizards, birds, hamsters, rats, guinea pigs and just about every species I've ever worked with.  Thankfully most of my injuries have been minor, but I've been to the emergency room in the past to have deep bites treated.  My first battle wounds happened when I was only 14 years old and had been working for a vet for just a few months.  When we're in this field, we are aware of the risks.  Most of our patients aren't going to be a problem, but there is a reason for muzzles, cat bags, and bite-resistant gloves.  We also learn to read behavior and body language and most of the time are able to tell when to push and when to back off.

Those of us who have been doing this for long enough have the marks to prove our profession.  I can still see the small scars from my first cat bite 26 years ago.  I've often said that there will never be any hand models among veterinary staff because of the wounds that we get.  At any moment you can find someone on my staff that has welts, bruises, or scratches from some of the rougher patients. 

In a way, I think we get jaded to the whole experience.  When I was getting scratched today I didn't freak out or panic, instead concentrating on trying to handle the patient with minimal further trauma to me or the cat.  After we decided that we couldn't do anything without sedation, I worked on cleaning and treating my wounds, followed by bandaging my arm.  Within a few minutes I was making jokes and seeing my next patient.  When you're in veterinary medicine you don't have time to be sidelined by a little thing like cat scratches.

Yes, more excitement in a day in the life of a vet.