Wednesday, November 10, 2010

All things gross and beautiful

Because of James Heriott, just about every pet lover is familiar with Cecil F. Alexander's hymn "All Things Bright and Beautiful".

All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great and small
All things wise and wonderful
The Lord God made them all

Well my take on this hymn is "all things gross and beautiful" should be the first line.  Earlier this year, I got the chance to do a career day talk at a local school.  After my little spiel, there was a question and answer session.  The first question by one of the students was "Do you ever see gross things?".  I think the teacher was a little taken aback and she tried to redirect away from that question, but leave it to a veterinarian to jump on any opportunity to talk about all things gross.  I thought that was a GREAT question and I was more than happy to talk about having a career that has daily exposure to bodily excretions of all types.  I know the human medical field has their fair share of the gross factor, but veterinary medicine excels in this field.  There is nothing like coming home from work smelling of anal sacs, tom cat urine and infected Cocker Spaniel ears all at the same time.  God bless the families of veterinarians.  They will surely achieve sainthood for putting up with such odors making their way into their entrance ways and laundry rooms.

A couple months after career day, one of our vet techs came running into the back room all smiling and excited and in search of the camera.  Something had happened in the waiting room and she wanted to get a picture for my blog.  Awwwww, thanks for thinking of me!  I had just seen a young large and gangly dog in the exam room that came in because it was having diarrhea.  After history and physical exam and a stool test, I determined that worms were the most likely cause of this dog's diarrhea.  As the client was waiting to check out, the dog deposited of pile of liquid bloody diarrhea complete with wiggling worms onto the tile floor.  I still have this photograph and might even use it for a future blog (you have been warned!).

Then last week I had another case of a dog that had pyometra (pus in the uterus).  I've seen a lot of pyometras in my career, but I don't think I have ever seen a case that had a vaginal discharge like this dog did.  It was creamy and mucousy and if you really want an accurate description, her discharge looked like the biggest nastiest ball of snot you could imagine.  Quite fascinating actually.

OK, stop.  I now realize that all of us in the veterinary field thrive on gross.  It is not that we wish bad things on our patients.  Far from it.  I would be happy if I saw nothing by wiggling puppies and purring kittens all day long.  But diseases happen and gross diseases fascinate.  When you actually step back and think about it, isn't it amazing how much pus can come from a cat abscess or how much diarrhea a parvo puppy can produce.  I think if you are in veterinary medicine your brain is just hardwired so the first words out of your mouth when you see something particularly gross is "Wow".  You may say "ewwwww" and hold your nose second, but "wow" is always first.  That response is what sets us apart.

By the way, the dog with diarrhea and the dog that had surgery for pyometra are both doing great.  So if your pet has something really gross going on, don't hesitate to take it to your veterinarian.  It may just make our day.

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