Thursday, March 29, 2012
Saturday, March 24, 2012
He heard the voice as from a distance. It was the voice he heard every day, the voice of the one who scratched under his chin and behind his ears. The voice who controlled that damn red dot that somehow always vanished just when he was about to catch it. The voice who fed the yummy mushy food, and, when he used That Look, dispensed the tasty tuna treats.
The voice was soothing, and choked with emotion. He could feel the hand stroking his head and chin. He purred, enjoying the touch.
It wasn’t that he was in pain. He just ached all over. He was so tired all the time now, and so very thirsty. He couldn’t seem to get enough to drink. Sometimes he almost fell asleep while drinking. And today he just could not get out of bed.
The tiredness began to overwhelm him. He purred once more (he knew it made the voice happy), then took a deep breath and closed his eyes...
When he opened his eyes again, something was…different. He felt different. He stretched an experimental paw out, and realized there was no ache. He reached out with the other leg and reveled in the sensation. No aches, no kinks or creaks or pops. He leaned forward and stretched his back and hind legs. They felt loosed than they had in ages.
He sat down and took another deep breath. The air smelled clean. Pure. And a little… ‘nippy? His nose twitched. He moved his head as he breathed in the scent, homing in on the source. He stood and paced over to a small garden. He nosed through several less interesting plants (making mental note to come back later and investigate them) until he found the Catnip. He inhaled the sweet smell, letting it tickle the inside of his nose. Then he chomped hard on a leaf, the flavor exploding on his taste buds and swirling within his senses.
He came to a while later. He looked down to find himself sprawled on the grass next to the garden, a handy sunbeam warming his fur. He rose and shook himself, then settled back into the sunbeam to wash. He hated feeling dirty.
Once finished, he chose a direction at random and casually strolled through the grass. A light breeze tickled the fur inside his ears and countered the warmth of the sun overhead. He found a large tree with a cool shady spot underneath. He sniffed the tree, taking note of several scents he hadn’t come across in quite a long time. One of those might even be his brother…
He rubbed against the tree to leave his own message, and then stood tall and stretched his body against the rough bark. His claws dug into the bark, and he delighted in the feel of ripping his nails out, then sinking them back in, then ripping them out again. For several minutes he simply indulged his primal instinct to sharpen, mark, and destroy.
Afterwards, he contemplated the tree. He could easily make the jump to the lower branches, and there might be something interesting up there. He was preparing to leap when a splash nearby sounded. He turned and spied a small pond, ripples spreading across the surface. The tree forgotten, he moved to the side of the water and gazed down.
I have been working in ER/Critical Care for more than 10 years. And wow, today I read in the news that the owner/trainer of "Uggie" who was in Artist and Water For Elephants was suffering from some mysterious shaking disease and had spent thousands of dollars on trying to figure out what it was, I got a little miffed. Now you might think that I would be happy that they were spending money on the dog that they earn money off of, but no. Why does the amount spent have to be at the forefront of the conversation? Do parents always preface their quest for diagnosis on a illness in a child with a dollar amount that they are spending after insurance? No, not really!!!!I tend to agree - investing in preventive care up front can save a lot down the road. Too many owners are penny-wise and pound-foolish. But then, that's not a behavior limited to pet-owners. Emily, I feel your pain. I hope the economy turns around and fewer people are put into the position of making healthcare decisions with their wallets.
Does spending money on your pets make the owners saints? Some owners think so, but really come on people. Having a pet is a responsibility wether or not the pets are for companionship, breeding, show or other. It is very frustrating to go into a room and the first words from the client are "I've already spent 200 dollars on Fluffy and I she is not better and I really do not want to spend much more."
Well, had the owner got their pet vaccinated appropriately, you would not be here with the dreaded Parvo virus!!! Had the owner spayed or neutered their pet they would not be here with ulcerated mammary tumors, or a testicular torsion. Had the owner properly provided flea, tick and heart worm preventative, they would not be here for flea anemia, immune mediated joint disease or right sided heart enlargement. Had the owner actually paid for regular grooming, or bathed and brushed their pet regularly, they would not be here for skin laceration from trying to cut matts off their pet.
I have known clients to obtain a second mortgage to pay their vet bills. Their pets were family. I have had clients call family and friends to collect money to treat appropriately. It can be done!!!
So, when people brag on how much they have spent on their pets for sympathy or attention, I find it repulsive and insulting. We are doctors, we studies hard, we love medicine and prefer treating those who do not have a voice!! Veterinarians are here to provide a voice for the patients.
The owner/trainer of Uggie certainly have it in their budget for pet health insurance as well as most others. It saves in the long run just like it does in people. Imagine if you had to pay for your annual physical exam and blood work, mammogram or colonoscopy, or any ER visit or UTI or sinus infection.
We are doctors and not taking advantage of people or their pets. We want to practice excellent medicine and improve quality of life for pets. It is not amount the money.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
These occasions always make me think.
I think about death. What does it mean to die? Is it really true that sometimes, dying is better than living? I think so, but can I really be sure? It just about kills me (no pun intended) that I can't be sure. No one can show me the evidence. I have to take it on faith. I am not a person for whom that comes easily. I don't really believe in faith.
I think about my part in the process. Do I have "the right" to end anyone's life? Is there any person, group of people, or supernatural power that can grant me that right, or am I allowed to grant it to myself? Regardless, I feel a responsibility to end suffering when possible. Sometimes any continued life will mean continued suffering. So.
I think about the impact my patient's death will have on the people in his or her life. The owner. The extended family. Me. My staff. Sometimes it is very very hard. Other times, not so much. I'll come out and say it: given the opportunity to euthanize a particularly nasty-tempered animal, I have sometimes felt pretty good about never having to see that animal alive again. I believe the phrase "don't let the freezer door hit your ass on the way in" may have been uttered, in jest, even. More often it's sad, though. Sometimes devastatingly so, as when octagenarian or even nonagenarian pet owners have to say goodbye to their companions, and feel it would be unethical or inhumane of them to get a new pet, if they have no trusted friend or family who agrees to take it in should they, the owner, predecease the new pet. Those people always seem so terribly lonely - sometimes, we call them every few weeks just to say hi... sometimes, they just slip away and are never heard from again.
Anyway, all of this is just an aside. This past weekend, my patient was accompanied by his owner, a man of about 35 or 40 years old. The patient was quite large and we elected not to put him on a table, but to spread a blanket on the floor and let him lie down comfortably before I injected the euthanasia solution. Afterwards, the man laid down next to him and hugged him and cried, in a way that generally men of this age in this society do not do in public, unless experiencing overwhelming tragedy. I put the tissue box near them both, told him how very sorry I was, and left them to have a private goodbye.
The man ended up leaving the building while I was occupied in the other exam room, before I could come back in and say anything else. Not that I had any great prepared words of wisdom, but usually I'll offer a final "I'm so sorry," a handshake or hand on the shoulder, a "please let me know if there's anything else we can do for you," that kind of thing. For a long-time client like this, we'll follow up by sending flowers or a charitable donation or something in memory of the pet, depending on what we think would be best appreciated. I flagged the patient's chart to make sure the staff would have me personally sign whatever card might be sent. I'm not always around when they are preparing those to go out.
My very next patient was an adorable so-cute-it-hurt puppy. On the one hand - yay, puppy! Cycle of life, to everything there is a season, yada yada yada. On the other hand - pet store puppy. Fake/made-up pseudo-designer "breed." Entropion. Luxating patellae. HUGE inguinal hernia. No vaccine history. No deworming history. Serious case of craniorectal inversion in the owners! So, essentially, no heartwarming take-home message here. Just another day at the office.
Friday, March 16, 2012
I had to share a story about a situation that came up this week at my clinic that was so appalling, I had to write a blog about it so that I don't kill the person who did this.
So we're doing our normal routine right before lunch - working on a dental while the staff sees tech appts, etc. Right about then a car drives up in our parking lot and sits there. We notice, but no one has come in yet, so we just sort of wait.
Then one of my staff noticed that a woman with a small child got out of the car, brought a dog that was wrapped in duct tape to our light pole, and proceeded to tie the dog's leash to the light pole. Staff ran out to the car to see if we could help, and this person had the nerve to tell us that "the dog needs to be euthanized but I can't afford it." That was it. No explanation, just made it clear she was gonna dump her poor dog off on us and leave.
The dog had some sort of extremely large tumor on its side, and this idiot had wrapped duct tape around the dog in some feeble attempt to control the fluid leakage. Never mind that she hadn't taken the dog to a vet for ANY form of care. Do I really have to say that this person had no business owning a pet? But I digress again.
My staff caught her in time to shame her into admitting what she was gonna do. She told us she could not even afford euthanasia. Normally I would try to help if possible, but this person was so unbelievable in her trashy attempt to dump her suffering animal off on us, that I told her to take her pet to the low cost place and have him euthanized. It broke my heart for the pet. It made me want to kill her dumb ass.
But she was not a client of mine, and other than paying for it all out of my own pocket, there was nothing I was going to be able to do to help. And believe me - I pay out of my pocket every single day helping people and their pets. I'm much more apt to give a lot more when I'm being met in the middle for the most part. But come in as a non-client, offer ZERO money and just expect me to take care of your responsibility? Um. No.
So when people get mouthy with us and accuse us of being heartless or cruel or that we are being overly hard on clients... understand that it is because of situations just like this that we suffer from a condition called Compassion Fatigue - a very real syndrome that vets (and other healthcare professionals) suffer from, because of the constant struggle of caring for animals a hell of a lot more than a significant amount of the general public cares for them.
It simply wears us down with time.
10 years into this career, I can tell you that my used-to-be bubbly self looks at the newer generations entering the profession and I feel badly for them, because I know that they too will suffer from compassion fatigue at some point in this career.
Because you just can't fix stupid.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Saturday, March 10, 2012
This is not a veterinary story in any way, though it does reference an alternative word for cat and well as the word “vagina.” I wish I could tell the story in person, because the pronunciation is key.
I used to work for a very funny man…. He often said wildly inappropriate things and I think he even made a joke and rubbed his nipples at my job interview. But as he reminded me of Baloo the bear and when he said “I love you” to his staff (and meant it), I never took offense.
His recounting of stories was amazing, often including spot on imitations as well as bursting out into operatic song. This is one of his stories.
While he was in vet school, his wife was a teacher at an inner city school in the late 1980’s. This was about the time the group 2 Live Crew was pumping out songs destined to be banned. If you know 2 Live Crew, you know where this story is heading.
A kindergartener was skipping along the halls of the school singing, “Hey, hey, we want some puuussssy….” (click for full lyrics)
Said kindergartener was promptly tagged and bagged by his teacher and he was taken into the principal’s office. There the principal demanded if he knew what “a pussy is.”
The kid looked down and shuffled his feet, “I dunno, something you eat?”
Fo rizzal, to quote someone slightly more contemporary Luther Campbell. He said that. Well, at least he was getting some sexual education.
The icing on the cake was when the principal, a rather buttoned up woman shouted, “It’s not pussy, the word is VAG-in- A, VAG-in-A.”
Life, it is real and it is weird.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
This was given to a colleague in a day practice by a client who bought a wolf hybrid from a breeder & I thought I'd pass it on for interested parties. These are things I was never taught in Vet school & am sorely disappointed in said school. All the time & money I spent there....wasted. :P
CARE INSTRUCTIONS FOR VETS
Here are some helpful tips when one of our clients brings in their wolves for check ups or with problems:
They have a very high metabolism.
Parvo shots could kill them or make them ill.
Wolves are prone to have diarrhea because of their metabolism.
Can be caused by drinking too much water or not getting filtered water (as we always recommend)
Too much moisture in their system. Wolves absorb moisture through their skin.
Too much food, they should be eating one time per day.
Eating the wrong types of food. They need a high protein diet, 27% or
higher. Should not be eating any fruits or vegetables, can not digest
them, it make rake the colon and make them bleed.
Require dirt in
their diet. This comes from years of eating a kill that gets dirty on
the ground. It makes their stool solid. Food should be fed on the ground
or a small amount of dirt/pebbles added to it.
They do not get parvo or heartworm.
Diarrhea is more than likely caused by the above mentioned items.
No flea products. These products are made for hair not fur. It can burn the fur and cause their skin to be irritated.
They are from the feline family, non the canine as taught. This is why
they have a high metabolism. the same as lions, bears and tigers.
So no dog shots, feline shots only.
The skin is about 1 inch thick and so a mosquito can not lay larva
under the skin so they do not get heartworm. Because of this they also
do not get fleas or ticks because they can not penetrate it. Meds for
heartworm could cause them to become sick.
Because of their fur
coats they tend to get hotter faster than dogs. They can easily get heat
stronke so if it is hot outside they need a cool area they can get to.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions .
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
My parents were not responsible with any pet they had and they collected several dogs, snakes and even a raccoon. None of the animals were properly vaccinated, neutered or on any heartworm prevention (obviously snakes need none of this). Their pets ran loose and were frequently killed by cars. I was repeatedly traumatized by my pets’ horrible deaths.
The real trauma was due to my baby sister. She was not a psychopath-in-training but she had a very “experimental” mind. This did not end well for our pets. At six, she made parachutes out of napkins, attached them to her hamsters and threw them from the second story to their deaths. None of their napkins opened. I couldn’t sleep for many nights.
In earlier years, she had tried to lower a dog from the second story by his leash. Leashes didn’t reach from the second story in the ’70s. The poor dog did not survive.
She once caught about four anoles. She has always been fascinated by lizards. I have a weakness for them, myself. She cut all of the blonde synthetic hair from her Barbie dolls, glued the hair to the heads of the anoles and made clothes for them. I later found them dead in a change purse with pieces of hotdog interspersed amongst them; they were all blonde and wearing the latest in lizard fashion.
I am still haunted by the unnecessary suffering that all of these animals endured because of my family. I think about them frequently and hope that they would forgive our ignorance had they survived.
I have to say that my sister developed into one of nicest people that ever lived. She owns a dog and she is a very responsible owner. She even brushes her dog’s teeth daily. I hope that I have been able to educate my family on how to make a pet’s life better.
She had parvo as a pup and we barely saved her. It took nearly 10 days in the hospital to do it, but she came through with flying colors.
She ate a battery once and ended up in the ER. Survived that.
She ate plastic once and survived that.
She ate a plastic pencil sharpener once. Survived that.
Yesterday her owner called and said, "Sally ate a quarter! She picked it up and before the owner could get it back, down it went. So they called us, and we had her come down.
She also grabbed a whole bunch of dog food right before leaving the house. Vacuum cleaner, I tell ya.
Anyway, we induced emesis (vomiting) when she arrived. Given her history, we weren't even sure it was JUST a quarter. Sally's owner waited in the lobby for us to tell him what we found, and whether or not we needed to do xrays.
Up came the vomit. My techs had the wonderful job of digging through the warm pile of frothy dog food, looking for foreign bodies and quarters.
We found a nickel. A nickel amidst a smelly pile of partially digested dog food. Yay!
So I went up to the lobby to tell the owner that it was actually a nickel she'd eaten, not a quarter. But she would be fine and could go home.
The owner laughed and said, "Oh my! We've been robbed! It was a nickel, not a quarter!"
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Unfortunately that night we had also hospitalized a very young pup, first time away from mom. The pup was feeling better, and developed a bad case of the lonely's. And cried. and cried. And cried.
My tech, trying to convince the pup to sleep, turned out the lights in the ward. And the light switch was on the tech's side of the room, not the side of the Dr.'s room. And by now the panther was feeling better.
A brief time later I came out check on the patients. Now an irritated panther has a growl that will make your blood run backward and make you want to shit food you haven't even eaten yet. And it was growling. I had to cross a dark room with an agitated 90 lb. predator that had been in a flimsy airline crate. Was it still there?
I claim courage for very few incidents in my life. This is one of them. The walk across the room was one of the longest walks of my life.
Fortunately, all was well. But I never, ever wanted to do anything with a big cat again. And now you know why there's grey hair in my beard.
I had an interesting conversation today.
Actually, I had a lot of interesting conversations today, for the definitions of “interesting” that include “seriously unpleasant, yet necessary,” “horribly painful and depressing,” “same old family drama, different day,” and “you can’t make this shit up.” The one I want to discuss right now, though, was interesting to me because it reminded me yet again how perception differs between individuals, and how the most obvious fact to me can be completely non-obvious to someone else.
Today I saw the new puppy of a long-time client. The puppy was adorable, as puppies generally are. He did take issue with the whole temperature-taking thing, but I’m not 100% sure it was an inappropriate response. We’ll see how he does over the next few weeks. So, I did my exam, and chatted with his people, and was basically wrapping things up as I tend to do by explaining what had been done in the past, what I had found on my exam today, what other things I’d done today, and what needed to be done in the future and when, and I mentioned that generally speaking, I like to neuter male pups at about 6 months old.
Well, that led to a discussion of the fact that the breeder wanted them to neuter the puppy at one year old or later. For the first time ever, y’all, I replied brightly “Oh! The breeder’s a vet? Where did she go to vet school?” They looked at me blankly for a moment and then started laughing. “No, doc. She’s no vet. She wants to breed him is the thing.” “Oh, ok. I didn’t realize he was such a fine genetic specimen. I’m not an expert in the miniature schnoodlehunden breed standard, or anything. I had thought your breeder was one of those breeders who just prefers to neuter everyone really late because they think neutering sooner causes cancer, or growth problems, or whatever it is that they think it causes. You know, there are a couple of issues that have been looked at that may be influenced by pre-pubertal neutering, but generally having reviewed the available data, I think neutering males at 6 months is reasonable and results in a healthy pet with appropriate pet behaviors.” The other owner then said “actually, you’re right. She IS one of those breeders.” I just smiled and said “well, regardless, you have plenty of time to think about it and decide. I’ll have the front desk print you a handout about neutering to take with you.” And THAT is when it got interesting.
The man said “by the way doc, our last dog, you know, Cheeksie - we had him neutered, but they left the testicles in. Can we do that again?” I looked at him blankly this time. “I’m sorry, there must be some misunderstanding. The point of neutering is to remove that hormone source. The testicles are not left in.” He said “well, it was more like a vasectomy then. You know.” I said “I do know what a vasectomy is, but most vets don’t do them.” He tried to tell me we’d done it at our hospital and I told him there was no way that happened. Then a lightbulb went off over my head. “Is it possible that you were simply seeing the empty scrotum, without the testes in place?” and he said “yes! that’s what it was! So, you don’t take that part off then, just the inside?” and I explained that yes, generally speaking, we don’t remove the scrotum. He asked me what made it hang down like it was full, and after a couple of failed attempts to explain I said “forgive me for being crass, but - imagine a breast, after the removal of a breast implant. Wouldn’t there just be an empty breast hanging down, kinda flat?” And then his lightbulb went off and he nodded yes. “That’s great!” he said. “Because I was afraid, you know, you were gonna mutilate him.”
I just laughed and said that generally speaking, we preferred to avoid mutilation at our hospital. He laughed too and everyone was happy.
**Please note: my choice of breast implant as teaching model should in no way suggest any dislike of, disdain for, or other negative attitude directed at any woman who may have had or considered having placement or removal of breast implants at any time. No breasts were harmed in the writing of this blog post.**
Monday, March 5, 2012
Friday, March 2, 2012
Believe it or not, I expect people to be nice. I expect polite, intelligent, kind people to populate my world. I am constantly disappointed, by the way.
The guy with the obstructed dog wasn't out, though I saw his dog pee yesterday, so there's that. But a few homes past him is "my dog wants to play with your dog" man. This man drives me to drink. His dog is a land shark and shouldn't be allowed in polite society. But today his dog was not home (it's at the groomer! Yay!) so instead he just wanted to chat about his new "invention." He insisted that he was going to create a dog food system that involved feeding the dog a capsule and then 20 minutes later, dog food. The capsule dissolves to reveal a baggie that waits in the rectum to be filled with stool. Then the dog poops out a bag of stool. Honestly I was LMAO but he became quite put out & insisted he was "extremely not kidding." Then he said "you know I hadn't thought of it but we'd make a great team. We could market this in your clinic." I just looked at him, & raised one eyebrow, and left. He's probably blogging now about his bitchy-ass neighbor, the vet who blew off his big business idea.
- “If you really cared about animals you wouldn’t charge so much.”
- “You should name a wing of this hospital after me, for all the money I’ve spent.”
- “I don’t get paid until next Friday. Can you hold a check?”
- “Is that the lowest you can go?”
- “You vets are only in it for the money.”
- “I bet you drive a Porsche.”
For about a tenth of a second I thought about trying out one of those lines on the plumber: “If you really cared about washers you wouldn’t charge me,” or, “Think of my poor children! They won’t have clean clothes to wear to school!” But I didn’t, because I’m a decent person. Instead, I handed over the credit card.
For most people who claim they “can’t” afford veterinary care, it’s really that they choose not to spend money on veterinary care. It’s all a matter of priorities. If your priorities are an iPhone, shiny new SUV, and cigarettes, don’t try to make me feel guilty. I feel sorry for your pet that he is stuck with you as an owner, but I don’t feel sorry for you and your poor decisions.
And for the record, I drive a ’99 Subaru with 209,000 miles on it, having upgraded from an ’88 Blazer with 180,000 miles that couldn’t turn left in the cold without stalling.