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Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Being a veterinarian requires more than just intelligence, training, and compassion, though all of these traits are certainly important.  It also requires often lightning-fast reflexes.  The most obvious application of a quick response time is dodging the claws and teeth that often come at us.  But many people don't think about how often we have to avoid spraying fluids.  It's not dodgeball around's dodgegoo!

Yesterday I was getting a rabbit out of his kennel to look at an eye problem.  As I was trying to remove him from the small kennel he started urinating, spraying directly on my lab coat.  Kind of failed my dodge on that one.

That afternoon I removed a rather large mass from a dog's abdomen.  After I was out of the surgery I cut into the mass to see what it was composed off and get a sample to send to our lab.  It had felt very solid and initially seemed that way when I first started incising, so imagine my great surprise when a slightly bloody thin liquid came shooting out of the center under pressure.   This time I was lucky and managed to jump back in time to avoid getting more than a couple of drops on me as it sprayed out a good foot or so.

Today I had a small female dog that presented for difficulty urinating.  We took abdominal x-rays and saw a very full bladder (which I had felt on abdominal palpation) and a rather large stone stuck in the area of her urethra, likely causing a partial blockage.  I needed to catheterize her, which is never easy on a female and was more difficult since she was only nine pounds.  After some sedation I got her in position and tried to pass the catheter.  The first attempt didn't work, so I used a larger catheter, trying to push the stone back into the bladder where we could deal with it easier.  Though tricky, I did get the larger catheter through the urethral opening and started gently pushing it in.  All of a sudden a spray of bloody urine came shooting out of the end, thoroughly covering my lab coat.  I was successful in moving the stone, but at the expense of a dirty coat.

Veterinary medicine is rarely glamorous, and is far dirtier than most people realize.  On a daily basis I have to avoid urine, blood, feces, and pus coming at me at often rapid rates.  Large abscesses under tension?  Yep, you can get a good several inches of distance when you lance it.  Full anal sacs?  Express one of those in the wrong direction and you can get hit.  Even though you never like it, after a while you tend to get used things like this and it becomes part of your daily routine. In the above circumstances I tend to just sigh and calmly strip off the dirty clothing (if I can without flashing everyone or becoming indecent...I've had to deal with "stuff" on my pants many times), then move on with whatever I'm doing.

Anyone with dreams of becoming a vet still want to do so?