Wednesday, August 29, 2007

First Weekend On-call

Last weekend was my first weekend on-call. Since my normal on-call night is Thursday, when it is my weekend, I'm essentially on from Thursday night to Monday morning. As you would expect, I was a bit nervous. Strange things tend to happen on weekends, and this one was no exception.

It started with a late night call from a woman with a vomiting puppy. She had purchased the puppy earlier in the day, and -- typically -- had spent all of her money on the dog and would not be able to pay anything, even the emergency call fee. She wasn't sure if the puppy was sick before she picked her up, because the breeder had just set it on her lap and said it was "tired." After telling her I had to at least have the emergency fee before I could see the puppy, she said she'd see if she could find the money and call me back, which she never did. I certainly feel bad about the situation. I'm sure she wanted the puppy to be seen and treated. However, I can't do much without payment. Every vet I know of has been burned on cases just like this. Unfortunately, many people don't realize that veterinary medicine is a business just like any other, and we can't give out free services and products and expect to stay open. It's a bit of an ethical issue as well. I am supposed to relieve animal pain and suffering, and promote animal health. But how can I do that if I can't keep the lights on?

The next big case was a seizuring dog that, unfortunately, went badly. She came in twitching and covered in foamy saliva. A lot of valium later, the seizures were largely controlled, but she was never very coherent. She continued to have focal seizures and exhibit signs of abnormal mentation for the next 24 hours despite additional anti-seizure therapy. By the next morning, she was dead. What caused the seizures, we will likely never know in this case, but I certainly feel bad for the family.

The rest of the weekend was full of questions from the understandable to the inane. I'm just glad I have another month until the next one.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Old Remedies Die Hard

It is not surprising that you come across people trying to medicate themselves and their pets with old remedies. Case in point: I went in on a new puppy exam with a pit bull x pup. The owner was nice enough, but a little clueless. I spent a good amount of the time trying to convince them that they needed to neuter this dog. He is going to be huge, dominant and they have small kids in the house. That, of course, is ignoring the fact that this is precisely the kind of dog these people should not have. And I'll be honest...I was actually pleading with these people to neuter this dog.

But that's not the main reason I'm telling you about this dog. While I was looking over his patchy vaccination history, I noticed that he had never been dewormed, and the owner had not brought in a fecal sample to check for parasites. Since intestinal parasites are so common in puppies and there were small children in the household, I told the owners that we should probably go ahead and deworm him anyway.

"Oh, no, he doesn't have worms," the owner informed me.

"Really?" I asked. "Did he have a fecal sample checked for them?"

"Oh, no," the owner repeated. "We offering him some chew and, since he didn't want any, that means he doesn't have worms."

Now for a history lesson: back in the day, some people used chewing tobacco to deworm dogs. The idea is that the nicotine in the tobacco paralyzes the worms so they let go of the GI tract to be defecated out. Where I had heard this, I have no idea, but I'm glad I had that random piece of trivia in my mind so I didn't freeze and give the owner a completely blank look. I had to then convince them that screening with chewing tobacco is not a very accurate way of looking for internal parasites.

So they left a half hour later after appropriate vaccinations and deworming medication had been given, and with at least the thought they they may neuter this dog. I'm not sure if I did the world any good in this case, but at least they won't be trying to feed the dog chewing tobacco. I hope.....

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Groupie? No, thanks!

I learned today, in some cases, it is a good thing if certain people don't like you. Today's example: Lisa Elp. Ms. Elp brought her new Scottie in today to have an exam. She was concerned because the dog hadn't eaten in the last 3 days, and had only urinated three times in the last 48 hours. She had gotten the dog about a week ago, and was clearly upset and looking for a fight. My attitude regarding her was immediately settled when I stepped in the room and she declared, "Don't you think this dog was abused?!"

Looking at the dog, I was a little puzzled by this statement. The terrier was looking at me with what I can only describe as the infinitely patient look of a quiet person with an overbearing spouse. He looked in perfect health, and as I examined him to the constant mutterings and complaints of Ms. Elp ("He never had his dewclaws removed! Have you ever heard of such a thing?" ; "Don't his teeth look yellow?" ; "What a sad look he has! He is sad!"), I felt nothing if not sympathy for this Scottie. Still, I had to address Ms. Elp's concerns.

So, first of all: not eating and weight loss. As it happened, we had the past record of this dog and, when comparing weights, he was a few pounds down from his most recent weight from about 4 months ago when he had last visited a veterinarian. After explaining to Ms. Elp that the difference may not be significant given the inherent differences in scales and the effects of natural doggie squirming that can throw the weight one way or another, I showed her how we body condition score dogs and that this Scottie was as near to a perfect 3/5 as we can expect to see. Additionally, his defecation had been normal and regular and -- after further investigation -- it was revealed that he had a large bowl out with free-choice food, it was likely that he was actually eating, even if Ms. Elp hadn't seen him do so. As another test, I offered him peanut butter and some canned food in the exam room, which he happily ate.

"But look at him!" Ms. Elp nearly shouted in astonishment. "He's starving!"

In all actuality, he was eating the food as happily as I would expect any terrier to do.

The next issue was housebreaking. "He is an older dog! He's already a year and a half! Is it too late to housebreak him?" While it is true that it can be more difficult to housebreak an older dog that is set in his ways, to assume him untrainable was a bit unfair. We talked through crate-training (which she first declared as "Cruelty! I'd never pen up my dog like that!") and the theory behind that. We talked ad nauseum about routine and schedule and consistency. By the time she left, I had gotten her to agree that crate-training would be a good idea for this dog, but it was an uphill battle.

Where our conversation went from there, I'm not entirely certain. It traveled a meandering path that covered everything from heartworms to fleas to diet to exercise to grooming to car rides to..... you get the idea. All I know is that a good 50 minutes later (after what had been scheduled to be a 10 minute appointment for a nail trim), she finally walked out the door, but not without grabbing one of my cards and informing me "I'll make sure to call you if I ever have any problems!"

As a vet, you certainly want to do your best with every client. No matter how nutty the owner, the pet needs to receive the best attention and care that can be provided. That said, I could certainly do without worrying about the next phone call from Ms. Elp.

Monday, August 13, 2007

First Call

I had my first night on call last week, and my first emergency case was certainly a doozy! A man called at about 7:30 pm and informed me, in an understandably frantic voice, that his terrier had just been kicked in the head by his horse. A horrific series of images flashed through my head as I visualized the scene. The dog had been knocked unconscious and hadn't been breathing when the owner got to him. After mouth-to-nose resuscitation, he had been able to get the dog breathing, but the dog had not regained consciousness. I told him I would meet him at the clinic, and I raced out the door.

I arrived at the clinic about 10 minutes before they arrived. I pulled out an anesthetic machine to provide oxygen, the crash box full of our emergency drugs, and some other odds and ends. Quite honestly, I didn't think there would be anything I could do for this dog when it arrived. I had visions of violent seizuring, blood pouring out of nostrils, eyeballs hanging out of the skull...all manner of horrendous injuries that a ~1000 lbs horse can inflict on a 10 lbs dog.

By the time they arrived, the terrier was conscious. He was understandably woobly, but able to stand. His pupils reacted normally to light, there was only a trickle of blood from his nose and he had full range of motion in his neck and back. After some oxygen, steroids (to hopefully limit swelling), furosemide (to hopefully limit fluid build-up in the skull), and warnings that he could deteriorate quickly if he did have brain damage, they took him home!

I called them the next morning, curious for an update. Apart for staggering a bit, he was doing fine. He was eating and drinking a lot (no surprising given the steroids and furosemide), but mostly normal. The owners started him on some aspirin for pain, and he seemed to be doing all right.

So, that was my very first call. I am on call tomorrow again, and I certainly hope I don't see anything as exciting as my terrier vrs. equine case!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Yorkie Family

With the visit over the weekend of Bucky, we had the whole nuclear family represented. From left is pictured father Teddy, mother Bibi, son Bucky, and daughter Shiba. (It is amazingly hard to get 4 Yorkies to pose for a family photo!)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Birds....not in the nest!

So, I have been keeping an eye on the bird nest on a daily basis since I found it and, suddenly, there are no birds! They were nowhere near fledging, as you can see from the picture at left that I took a few days ago. Today's picture at right is sadly empty. They must of been found by a predator, likely a racoon or a cat in this area.

As to what species they were, I'm not sure. They were fairly large chicks for how immature they were, yet the nest construction seems more consistent with some sort of small finch. Only once did I see an adult bird fly out of the tree, and I did not get a clear view of it. By size and color, it could potentially of been a Swainson's Thrush which are do inhabit this area, but in not particularly large or visible numbers. It could also have been a female cowbird which certainly rank right up there among my most hated of bird species. However, as I saw the bird fly off, its flight pattern seemed like that of a thrush of some sort. Also, as far as I know, cowbirds never take care of their own young, so it would be inconsistent for them to be feeding nestlings.

Whatever they were, we'll never know. But I'll certainly keep my eyes peeled for more easily accessible nests. We have quite a few nests in birdhouses in the garden, but it is much harder to get pictures without disturbed the birds a lot in those.