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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Catch-up Blog #3: Vets Afraid of Big Dogs

Priscilla emailed me with the following,

 I came across your blog as I was looking for an answer to my big dilemma.I am a veterinarian and have now been practicing for 4.5 years.As a kid I always wanted to be veterinarian and that was what God would have me be ,but I have a serious fear of big dogs. I am very comfortable with cats (even those that come hissing and growling through the doors) and  small dogs but place a 100 pound Rottweiler, greatdane (yes ! those mellow dogs) German shepherd or mastiff in my exam room and I am really uncomfortable.How can I best handle my fear as well as approach aggressive dogs that are presented to me?
> I would greatly appreciate any insight you may have on the matter

This is actually not an uncommon dilemma.  Some vets and their staff have fears of certain animals.  A few years ago I worked with a great vet who had an unreasonable phobia of birds.  She would freak out being around even a small parakeet and she was embarrassed by this fact.  I had a very capable vet assistant who would break out into a sweat and even hives when working with even a slightly growling cat.  Big dogs are not an unreasonable fear, as they have the potential to cause some very serious harm.  But we also see a lot of them in small animal practice, so it's a situation that is hard to avoid.

This may actually be something to discuss with a psychologist, as it's a psychological issue.  Sometimes low-level exposure may help desensitize someone, but I don't have the skills to properly advise someone to do this.  And after nearly five years in practice this may not be easy.  That's when pharmacotherapy may help, utilizing antianxiety drugs.

Another option may be changing career choice a bit. Priscilla, if you're comfortable even around aggressive cats, why not work in a feline practice?  You would only see cats and never have to face large dogs again.  Look at options in specialty practice such as pathology, where you're not working with live animals.  Or you could consider really branching out and working with livestock or lab animals.

Hope this works out for you!  And I'd really consider talking to a human psychology specialist to see what options there are for phobias like this.