Have You Always Wanted to be a Vet? A Few Things I Wish I’d Been Told…

There is one thing about the Veterinary profession, sometimes the perceptions of what we do all day are completely different to reality.

Today I will share just 3 of the slightly less glamorous parts of the job and frankly, that could be enough. Settle down, get a nice cup of tea and perhaps a little snack and see if you can make it through to the end with your appetite intact.

Being a Vet- what it means

Anal glands

These tiny little things cause all sorts of problems for many dogs (and sometimes cats). Somehow they weren’t covered in Vet school, but at least 3 times a day I would be required to express these glands for the comfort of their furry owner. I’m sure you can guess where they’re located.

It is amazing how some smells can have so many different layers, all of them pretty awful. And the even better thing is that these little glands are often so blocked that expressing them relieves a certain amount of pressure, leading to a smelly missile that can occasionally land in the eye, on a shoulder, or as happened to a colleague of mine, directly in the mouth. Ew!

Pregnancy Testing Cattle

If I had known just how many cows I would need to check during my years of study to become proficient at identifying which were pregnant, and that I would never, ever need this skill again when I graduated, I’m not sure I would have been so enthusiastic about the idea. The truth is, I actually spent an extra month-long elective during Vet school doing reproductive work, because I was convinced that like James Herriot’s Vets, I would someday be travelling around the country in my little motor car (well, perhaps a white ute) visiting friendly farmers and chatting about cows.

I now work in small animal practice and we have much better ways of checking for pregnancy in small animals. The worst thing about pregnancy testing cattle is that usually the cattle are on very high protein, rich diets and almost all of them produce copious amounts of very liquid faeces. There is a reason for those long gloves and overalls. Say no more.

Cat Fight Abscesses

Actually I won’t lie, sometimes these are incredibly satisfying, but they are probably the one thing that will top the smell of point number one. Those poor kitties that have entered the fighting ring often pay the price with a seemingly innocuous puncture wound. This tiny puncture wound often closes over without anyone noticing, trapping bacteria below the surface.  This horrible anaerobic mouth bacteria often then multiplies in a most spectacular way just under the surface of the skin, forming a soft lump and occasionally bursting  forth into a smelly river of pus.

Worse for the owner is when this happens just as they are explaining that the reason they brought Fluffy in to see me, is that he isn’t quite right, he hasn’t been eating and oh, yes he does have a bit of a lump on his leg, OH MY GOD, WHAT IS THAT SMELL!

So as you can see, it’s not all cuddly puppies and kittens. Some of the work Vets do is pretty gross, but I would have to say, some of the best Vets and Vet nurses I know actually do secretly enjoy this part of the job. I do, however, know of one Vet who actually gave up the profession temporarily to become a florist, where I’m sure she was surrounded by some much nicer smells.