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Musings of a Veterinarian
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Archive for May, 2014

Cat Hero, Dog Menace

May 19, 2014 By: Dr. K Category: Opinion

The brave cat, Tara, blew up in the internet last week when a video surfaced of her attacking a dog that was attacking her owner’s child.

It. Is. Epic.

This video solidifies two things for me:

1. Cats are awesome. They tend to get labeled as aloof, indifferent creatures. Cat lovers know their cats have very individual personalities and love differently than dogs. Now the interwebz has proof that cats, really and truly, have deep affection and allegiance to their owners.

2. The dog is a menace. I have seen many social media posts from dog loving persons who bleat, “Blame the owner, not the dog!”

It is true this dog should never have left his yard and the owner will certainly be fined for “dog at large” and a litany of other offenses. It is highly unclear, unlike what you might read from animal activists, whether or not this dog has ever been mistreated leading to this behavior. When dogs act aggressively the owners are often blamed and for good reason. Many of the behavioral issues in our pets are directly related to how they are treated and trained. Yet, there are a small number of dogs who are unsocial-able and naturally aggressive. There exist breeds that are known to have a higher tendency to bite (and pit bulls aren’t on my list). Given he was reported as part Chow Chow, a distant and oft-times aggressive breed, it’s no surprise he would attack unprovoked.

Regardless of the owner’s responsibility in this dog’s behavior, the dog clearly stalks this child and attacks him completely unprovoked. I cut many dogs a break when children are tugging at them, jumping on them, or they attack our of fear during entrapment. That’s not the case with this dog. He poses a major threat.

My golden rule for aggressive dogs is this: He cannot be trusted no matter what medications or therapies he could undergo. Period. Perhaps he would be okay in an isolated home without children or other animals. But why risk the liability? All it takes is one incitement of the prey drive, one wrong movement, or one wrong pat and these dogs can bite again, sometimes with much worse outcomes.

I fully support euthanizing this dog, as is the plan following the mandatory 10-day quarantine. Too many nice dogs are euthanized every day in this country for this nasty menace to get a reprieve.

Open Letter to New Veterinary School Graduates

May 02, 2014 By: Dr. K Category: For Vets, Opinion

Congratulations! You made it through four hard, epically hard, years of veterinary school. You crammed, pulled all-nighters, learned many new skills, passed your boards, and survived job interviews. And here you are, ready to spread your wings and wear the title of Veterinarian.

Here are some pointers from a veteran to you newbies:

Savor the Ride

You’ve done so much work toward getting your veterinary degree. In the final weeks before you graduate and begin working, take a walk down memory lane. It’s hard to enjoy veterinary school while you are in it. Say goodbye to your favorite clinicians and technicians, enjoy time with your classmates. You never get this time back. And believe it or not, you will develop sentimental feelings. If not now, they will show up a few years out. Perhaps the hard labor of veterinary school equates to child birth – an oxytocin surge allows you to forget the pain and remember the fun!

Find the Right Job

Some practice owners don’t want to mentor. Mentorship is critical for a new graduate. But, it’s not enough that someone is willing to teach you. You need to make sure that new employer’s ideals and ethics jive with your own. One mistake I made was taking a position where it was routine to keep patients overnight without care. I compromised my ideals because I was an insecure new grad and regretted it multiple times during my tenure there. Have you considered what type of salary, hours, on-call, and tech support you’ll have? Will you have a good quality of life there?

Take Time Off

Unless you are scraping by financially and need to start work immediately following graduation, do yourself  favor and take some time off after graduation. You have the rest of your life to work and once you are in a contract taking a large lump of time off for yourself won’t happen. Travel, take a staycation, reconnect with loved ones – you will never regret it.

Know It’s Normal to Want to Run

You’ll pull up to your new practice on that first day of work and, more than likely, have emotions ranging from nausea to panic. Suddenly transforming from the student to the expert is scary. You’re not alone. We all did it and understand. But don’t run. You need to pay off those student loans.

Student Loans

Put them on direct debit and forget them. If you are lucky enough have extra cash laying around, pay those loans down sooner. But realize that car payments, mortgages, child expenses, and the unexpected will make that hard to do. Don’t stress over them and never, ever, look at the total balance.

Ok, just kidding about that last part. Kind of.

Don’t Expect Perfection…Ever.

The learning curve for a new grad is steep. So many veterinary students and veterinarians have Type A personalities: We expect perfection in ourselves and are very hard on ourselves when we don’t achieve it. You are going to ask a lot of questions, forget the dosing for amoxicillin, and bury your nose in the 5 minute Vet consult during your lunch. You will misdiagnose patients. You will offend clients. People will say mean things to you and about you. This is part of the professional pill that’s toughest to swallow.

You will never be perfect, no matter how many years in practice. Start your career off knowing that to err is veterinarian. Welcome to the best profession in the world!