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.

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

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

Does Kristen Lindsey deserve to die?

Orange catPeople are angry. There are calls for Kristen Lindsey, the veterinarian in Texas who allegedly shot a cat with an arrow, to be killed. Strung up from the nearest tree. Shot through the head. Tied up and dragged behind a car. Skinned alive. Many say she should kill herself and save all of the outraged readers the trouble. Save the state the cost of a trial.

She didn’t set off a bomb in a public place, or commit genocide. She didn’t join ISIL and behead journalists, drive drunk and kill someone with a car, burn down a school full of children, or shoot a police officer. She didn’t bilk old ladies out of their retirement money, didn’t sell drugs to ten year olds, didn’t sit in a clock tower with a gun and pick off strangers. Continue reading

Who’s protecting you from the quacks?

photo credit: shot_1303867480190 via photopin (license)

photo credit: via photopin (license)

I recently read an article by a human oncologist, wherein she made a profound statement that nicely encapsulated my feelings about the inherent conflict surrounding public protection and the practice of alternative medicine. She said that “…a doctor can face reprimand for inadvertent error but an alternative practitioner can get away with intentional harm.” Continue reading

The Ten Commandments of Dentalism

Gingivitis mouthHere’s one for all of our veterinarian friends. For the non-vets reading this blog, I’ll explain the commandments for you down at the bottom. (If anyone wants to copy the Ten Commandments elsewhere, I’d prefer you to link to this page or, if you feel the need, copy the text with attribution, please.) Continue reading

One vet’s view on euthanasia

People often ask me how I can “be a vet” and save lives on the one hand, and euthanize animals on the other. The truth is, oddly, that the best and worst parts of my job surround the end of a pet’s life.

On the one hand, it’s a heartbreaking time. Any time a life ends, there is sadness. If the pet was well loved and will be missed beyond words, I feel bad for the owners and the grief they are going through. I’ve been there many times myself, and I know how it feels not only to lose a dear friend and family member, but to have to make the decision to end that life. The sense of loss and emptiness is overwhelming.

Sad in a different way are the times when pet is alone and without family to hold him and comfort him at the end. Although I really do understand why this happens and why people cannot stay with their pets, the animal’s aloneness carries a poignancy that is heartbreaking. Continue reading