Being James Herriot

Skeldale House plaqueI wanted to be a veterinarian from the time I knew what a vet was. At age six I “found” a pregnant cat in the alley behind the house when I was walking home from school. I tempted her to follow me home, and used my tiny allowance to buy a can of cat food at the convenience store a block away. I had dreams of her living in a cardboard box bed under our deck and giving birth to adorable kittens, all of which I would be able to keep and love. Instead she ate my cat food appreciatively and disappeared down the alley when I went in the house for supper. I had already named her Mrs Patches. I cried when I found she’d gone. Continue reading

“I thought you said your dog does not bite?” Insp. Jacques Clouseau

Your dog bites. Whose fault is it?

Snarling GSDI can tell you whose fault it isn’t – mine. And it’s not my assistant’s fault. So please don’t get pissy with me when I tell you that I’m going to have to muzzle your dog. I don’t muzzle many dogs; I find that with low-stress techniques we can usually de-escalate the biting and snapping and actually make the visit bearable even for very anxious dogs. But sometimes a dog is too big to control well, or the owner is very tentative and afraid of the dog, and I’m not sure I can keep someone from being bitten. Or, after many years of doing this, I recognize the signs of stress in your dog and I know he’s about to lose it (and no, he hasn’t growled yet). Out comes the muzzle.

No, I’m not hurting him. No, he’s not like this because he was abused as a puppy (I buy that this is a temperament or personality issue, but not abuse. You’ve owned him since he was 7 weeks old). No, he’s not dominant. He’s never growled before? Hmm. I seem to recall this behavior last time I saw him. He’s a “talker”, but never bites? Your son just said the dog bit your new girlfriend. That must have been an exception.

Enough excuses. You have had many opportunities over the years to address this and you haven’t. You came in today for a routine wellness visit. I don’t have, right now, the hour it will take to condition your dog to some of the procedures I need to do. You have consistently declined help from trainers and behaviorists, so I don’t have a choice. If you won’t recognize the problem and take steps to protect other people, I have to. On goes the muzzle.

Truth in advertising

How many veterinary websites have you seen that look like this:

State-of-the-art services… cutting edge technology… highest quality veterinary care… first rate pet care… animal clinic of choice for the XYZ area… advanced training… high-quality… advanced technology… compassionate care for all the animals we work with… unique… ultimate in care and convenience…

DVM AlmightThis kind of thing is common and ubiquitous. Some veterinary websites sound like they are written by the same folks who write ads for Saul Goodman. Many sites are grandiosely self-laudatory. If the verbiage on the sites is to be believed, these clinics are all brand new, equipped with millions of dollars’ worth of wondrous gizmos, staffed by selfless angels who weep at the thought of an animal in discomfort, and whose veterinarians are to the field what Dr Michael DeBakey was to human heart surgery. Continue reading

Important information

The other day I saw a cat with a swollen foot.

Me: So what’s up with Megapod today?
Mrs Iterate: She’s perfectly fine, but her foot is huge! Why is her foot big?
Me: Not sure yet, let me take a look.
MR (2 seconds later): What is it?
Me: Hang on, just give me a sec.
MR (1 seconds later): What is it?
Me: Well, there’s a scab.
MR: A scab?
Me: Yes, a scab.
MR: From what?
Me: Probably a cat bite, it’s hard to tell.
MR: A bite? Continue reading

Don’t come crying

Photo by Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee

Photo by Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee

Herd immunity is a wonderful thing. As long as we have about 70% of a population immune to a disease, the chances of a devastating epidemic are low. When the percentage of the population that is immune dwindle, the risk of an outbreak increases. And we’ve seen this in action in the natural world before the inception of vaccines – a population would be exposed to a disease like influenza or yellow fever, survivors would gain immunity, the epidemic would fade out, and the risk of a repeat epidemic would be minimal until an adequate supply of susceptible individuals emerged again.

There has been a real push back against vaccination in the last 10 years, in humans as well as pets. I’m all for minimizing vaccinations. I don’t think I’ve advocated annual vaccines for routine illnesses since graduating vet school almost 2 decades ago, and I hate that some local vets are advising clients to vaccinate their pet (mainly dogs) for diseases that we really don’t see here. So I’m not a shill for the vaccine companies, and I don’t live in the pocket of big pharma. Continue reading

Why we do dental x-rays on all missing teeth…

We had a very interesting puppy in yesterday. Maggie was here to be spayed, and as a matter of course we always check teeth (and hips) on these youngsters. This puppy had several missing permanent teeth, all of which should have been in place by 6 months of age. The perpetual question is, does this puppy simply not have these adult teeth, or Continue reading