Saturday, November 3, 2012

Veterinary Requirements--The Ick Factor

A pair of scrubs, $30.00.
A stethoscope, $199.00.
Four years of veterinary tuition, $120,000.
That warm, wet feeling you get from a puppy...peeing directly into your shoe, priceless!

Well, not exactly priceless in a good way. But the above incident really happened to a co-worker, last month in fact, and it does illustrate an important truth about clinical veterinary medicine. Namely, you're going to get wet. And smelly. And quite possibly sick or injured at some point.

Professional Attire?
(Courtesy of
There are many options for someone with a veterinary degree: fundamental research, education, food safety and regulation, journalism, politics and organization, public health, bio-terrorism and epidemiology, sales and pharmaceuticals among them. The most common public perception of a veterinarian, clinical practice, is not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach.

Basic, routine, every day appointments include the blood and guts of abdominal surgery and rectal temperature taking. That's before you get to the putrid stench of a pyometra, (uterine infection), cat bite abscess, anal gland expression, foot rot, chronic ear infection, rotten tooth, parvovirus diarrhea puppy or absolutely anything, (including driving through without actually stopping), to do with a swine operation. Sadly, I know whereof I speak.

Lunch Time!
(Courtesy of
Not that I'd necessarily do something else at this point. It is, after all, something of a point of pride among veterinarians that we hold dinner meetings and lunch and learn seminars with titles like, "Vomiting and Diarrhea, a case review" or "How I treat Foul-Smelling Ears." It's quite possible for us to enjoy meals which include bean dip and melted cheese or pools of gravy while gazing at power point presentations about aberrant bodily fluids.

Need someone to help with something disgusting on short notice? A veterinarian is probably up to the job.

Career Day
(Courtesy of

I had a pathology instructor who claimed he pranked senior veterinary students by surreptitiously placing a dollop of yogurt in the floating abdominal contents of a cow opened for necropsy and asking them what they thought it could be. When they inevitably professed bafflement he would stick his finger in for a big taste, swallow, and to their stupefied horror pronounce his diagnosis, "Vanilla!"

His field of research included hematology and platelet function. Platelets are the blood components partially responsible for our ability to form a clot and thus not bleed to death on a daily basis. They have a tendency to rapidly clump, it's their job actually, but that also hindered his research. To get around the inevitable delay involved in requisitioning blood from the resident Basset Hound colony he drew his own...i.e from his own arm. We loved him.

Veterinary students are funny that way.

Special thanks to Dr. Dean Scott of, for so accurately capturing the realities of veterinary school and practice and especially for making me smile out loud.

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