The Other Side

Although the pas­sion of my life is exotic med­i­cine, I still find all other ani­mals inter­est­ing. At my pre­vi­ous job, I wasn’t exposed to the cat and dog aspect of med­i­cine because we had a seper­ate floor for exotic appoint­ments. But at Car­ing Hands, I get to work side by side with my cat and dog col­leagues. It has been fas­ci­nat­ing to watch the team work and see the par­al­lels of what we all do no mat­ter what type of pet. Some things I have learned:

1) I don’t know if I would ever get used to deal­ing with anal glands (sacs) if I had to express them. I am great­ful that the ani­mals I work with do not get impacted anal glands. I recently learned cats have anal glands as well and they can have impactions too. Oy Vey–thankfully never a prob­lem for my cats because if they were–well let’s say we will be going to see my vet.

2) I really wish my patients had veins like cats and dogs. Even the small­est cat and dog veins are rel­a­tively large com­pared to my bun­nies and birds. So jealous.

3) If a cat or dog is sick, it is not nec­es­sar­ily about to die. In avian andex­otic med­i­cine, there is alway that risk that the ani­mal will decom­pen­sate before your eyes if they are sick. It has to be at the back of your mind that they are frag­ile and can only han­dle so much stress, ill­ness, han­dling. How­ever, cats and espe­cially dogs have more for­ti­tude than this. Don’t get me wrong, if they are sick, they do need to be seen and treated. How­ever, they can han­dled the pok­ing and prod­ding, the diag­nos­tics and treat­ments that are required to get bet­ter and you don’t need to  nec­es­sar­ily remind the owner every step of the way that the pet is crit­i­cal and may not make it.

3) You can eas­ily take 5 or 6 ml (approx­i­mately a tea­spoon of blood) with­out risk of exsan­guinat­ing the patient. I am usally in good shape if I can get 0.2 ml on a small patient and 1 ml on a large one. If I can get 3 ml on a rab­bit or fer­ret, I am ecstatic.

4) My patients can’t maul me. Yes a larger bird can do dam­age. An iguana once bit through the tip of my thumb (aside from a lit­tle nerve damge, it healed entirely), and a fer­ret can bite. But the level of aggres­sion is noth­ing com­pared to a large dog or a frac­tious cat. These guys can do real dam­age. I am always impressed when these large dogs can be eas­ily han­dled and allow blood draws, vac­cines and other pro­ce­dures to be done. They do not have to coop­er­ate if they don’t want to and we need to always respect that.

5) All pets rec­og­nize their loved ones and are very dif­fer­ent at the vet office vs at their house. No mat­ter the species, the most dif­fi­cult patients turn into lov­ing com­pan­ions when they are with the ones they love. My own cat is a per­fect exam­ple. Shadie is due for vac­cines and I am dread­ing the office visit. He is a great cat that sleeps with me, purrs on my lap, and loves to play with me. But as soon as the cat car­rier is out, he is run­ning laps around the house and yowl­ing once he is in the car­rier. At his last exam, he scratched the tech, hissed and growled dur­ing his blood draw and was a com­plete grump for the rest of the day. A total oppo­site of the lov­ing cat that sleeps on my pil­low at night. So if you ever won­der why we restrain, use tow­els and seem to always be cau­tious around the most lov­ing, docile pets, this is why. You never know how they will react in a new place, with weird smells and strangers hold­ing them. Patient and staff safety has to be a priority.

I have the utmost respect for my col­leagues and what they do on a daily basis. CouldI go back into cat and dog med­i­cine? per­haps. But I do love my spe­cialty  of vet­eri­nary med­i­cine too much to try. And I just don’t know if I can get past the anal glands. So for  now I will keep work­ing my feath­ered, furred and scaled patients.

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