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Monday, July 5, 2010

Smells Like Work

When you're a vet, your nose tends to get pretty immune to most odors.  I regularly deal with diarrhea, blood, pus, rotted tissue, anal gland excretions, and many other undesirable things.  All of these can have some pretty offensive odors, and you simply get used to them.  There are very few scents that turn my stomach anymore.  However, I still can find them offensive and certainly don't like smelling like these things.

The worst part about odors is when they stick with you.  Today I had a severely constipated and impacted cat and had to give it an enema and pull firm feces from its rectum.  There was several days worth of stool backed up in its colon and all of it needed to come out.  So I ended up filling the colon with soapy water and digging the stool out with my finger.  Needless to say, this was not exactly pleasant and had a rather "distinctive" odor.  I did what I had to do and began washing up.  I was rather unhappy to find that odor clinging to me for the rest of the afternoon.

However, that's not as bad as what swine vets have to face.  When I was in vet school I did a swine rotation and had to spend some time in pig barns.  Let me tell you, that was an ordeal.  I would be in a facility for only an hour or two and then take several hot showers once I got home.  Even with repeated washes I would smell like pig waste for a couple of days.  I can't imagine having to deal with that every day, and am glad that other people can put up with it.

Even when I can't smell "work", my pets can.  One of my cats (Perceval, who passed away last year), used to rub all over my shoes after I came home, trying to cover the scent of work with his own.  And my dogs commonly spend great attention to the odors attached to my pants, especially if I managed to get feces or urine on me during the course of the day.

So tell me again what the glamorous part of veterinary medicine is?