Ethology of the veterinarian, part III

This is the third and perhaps final installment in this series for novice owners of Homo herriotus pollulus (the common small animal veterinarian). The first article, The Husbandry and Feeding of Veterinarians, and the second, Ethology of the Veterinarian Part II, were eye-opening to many, if the volume of email the author has received is any indication. Here we hope to further enlighten the (as yet) uninitiated.

Greeting rituals. Interactions with animals outside of the workplace take on an atypical form. Veterinarians might perform a verbal acknowledgement of an animal and perhaps pat or stroke it, but will then use this activity to mask a covert inspection of the teeth or palpation of the ribs, or both. Your veterinarian may then incautiously advise the animal’s owner that the animal has “rotten teeth”, or is “obese”. Your veterinarian may learn that this conduct results in social marginalization, but will continue to perform the greeting ritual regardless. It appears to be a hard-wired behavior.

“Hidden” paraphernalia. If you are cleaning up after your veterinarian and come across needles and syringes in its pockets or find them in the lint trap of the dryer, do not panic. It is not a “dope fiend” and is not “chasing the dragon”; it simply ran out of room in its hands to hold everything it needed at some point in its day. If your veterinarian repeats this behavior, you can attempt to train it to empty its pockets before leaving the workplace. This training meets with variable success and requires continual reinforcement.

Pen hoarding. If the problem is pens rather than needles and syringes, the problem is more serious. Controlled studies show that veterinarians cannot be trained to leave pens at the workplace. Don’t even bother. Enjoy your new office supplies.

Scars. Some of those new to H. herriotus relationships may be alarmed by the amount of physical damage evident on their veterinarian, particularly on the medial forearms. You must keep in mind that your veterinarian works every day with animals who suffer its interference with varying degrees of patience. Some love your veterinarian and would never harm it. Others tolerate your veterinarian only as long as it does not step over a certain line, the location of which, in the case of cats, changes from instant to instant. These patients come armed to the fight, and human skin is no match. Expect more battle scars over the years.

Inability to watch nature shows. Your veterinarian may not be able to tolerate the sight and sounds of gory animal death. To you, the footage of a lion eating a gazelle is a fascinating window into the life of a carnivore; to your veterinarian the gazelle is an injured animal that needs fixing. The tension of not being able to relieve the suffering may overwhelm your veterinarian’s nervous system and cause grief. Observe your veterinarian for signs of distress when watching this kind of programming, and consider changing the channel to a more soothing choice like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, or an MMA match.

Ethology of the veterinarian, part II

VeterinarianThis is the second in a series of articles wherein we will attempt to articulate some of the common idiosyncrasies described by experienced owners of Homo herriotus pollulus (the common small animal veterinarian). The first article, The Husbandry and Feeding of Veterinarians, was met with relief by some, who finally had explanations for the bizarre behaviors they were witnessing. We hope to expand the topic here, for the edification of those who are forced (or choose) to interact with veterinarians regularly outside of a professional relationship.

Warning: The following paragraphs may be disturbing to those in the early stages of owning a veterinarian Continue reading

Traveling with your veterinarian

Traveling with veterinarians is like extracting teeth – it can be either simply awful or awfully simple, depending on how much work you put into planning and what complications arise. Consider the following carefully in preparation for your next trip.

Make sure you have your veterinarian’s travel documents in order. Check with the consulate for the countries you are entering to determine whether any special vaccinations are required. Make sure that you have its passport updated and have copies of its vaccination certificates. Continue reading

The Rise of the X-Poo

Several things came across my Facebook feed and showed up on my favorite vicarious veterinary forum this week with a similar theme.

I must conclude that a lot of veterinarians are somewhat irrational breedists.

Cute mutt

Simply full of squee.

Why do we (vets) insist on being breed purists? We aren’t dog show judges. We aren’t dedicated to preserving the genetic purity of any one breed. When we see some admitted mutt with a cute little face we melt and feel happy and gush over how adorable he is. Yet, when presented with a dog that is a putative cross between known breeds, particularly if the cross is given a name, some veterinarians completely lose their shit. Continue reading

Mystery

Old houseGod, I hate a mystery.

I had two of them this week, which made the week both diagnostically interesting and somewhat frustrating. Today is Friday and one of the mysteries was solved (post-mortem, unfortunately) but I’m left with a lingering sense of having not done a good job.

It’s interesting that despite the “wins” this week (patients with complex issues that I was able to sort out, the rare disease I recognized at a glance, curative surgeries that went off without a hitch), I’m dwelling on the “losses”. I know I’m not alone in this habit. Most of my vet friends express the same pattern, where the great good they do and the many lives they save are relegated to the attic of the mind like the crazy old auntie, while the mysteries and failures occupy the main floors, making our heads into haunted houses. Continue reading

Madison Avenue & Fido

Don Draper (Mad Men). He could take any product and craft an advertisement in print or on screen that really hooked people and made them buy. Cigarettes, floor wax, cars, burgers, shoes, mundane things were magically transformed by the ad men from “meh” to “I need that” or “I love that”.

Who can forget the iconic Coke commercial with all the young people singing, “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony…”? Continue reading

Open up a whole new world

Get pet insurance. Veterinary medicine is advancing at a rapid pace. It always has, I guess, just like human medicine. We can do things now that were impossible 20 years ago, but 20 years ago we were doing things impossible 20 years before that, so in that respect progress is unchanging.

Cat face Now, though, I think that the advances are relatively more expensive. New stuff always costs, but I think the technology that backstops the latest advances is costing more of a paycheck percentage-wise than the lower-tech advances used to. A new surgical procedure, suture material, or antibiotic are cheaper to implement than a million-dollar MRI machine.

Perhaps steps just used to be smaller. In any event, this hike in cost presents a problem when it comes to providing excellent care to my patients. Continue reading