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.