Posts Tagged Veterinarian

What’s In A Name

Veterinarians are simple practical people. This is reflected in the names of many veterinary diseases. Maladies like lumpy jaw, woody tongue, footrot, chronic wasting disease, white spot and white nose syndrome are sensible practical names that describe the most recognisable symptoms and tell you exactly what to expect.

Medicos, on the other hand, seem to think it more important to immortalise themselves by naming afflictions after themselves. Diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Wernicke’s disease, Perthe’s syndrome and Häusler’s disease, as well as being impossible to pronounce, tell you nothing about the condition except who first described it.

Perhaps it is time to follow the veterinary example? Instead of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease we could have “mad human” disease. Wernicke’s disease becomes “booze rots your brain” disease. Perthe’s syndrome turns into “motorcycle riding crushed chest” syndrome and Häusler’s disease morphs into “skier’s insanity”.

Dr. F. Bunny

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Fade To Black

“So Much For That”, the Lionel Shriver book I finished recently, featured a character who decided he had had enough and put a full stop to his life sentence, at least partly because of a botched penis lengthening procedure. It really was as silly as it sounds.

Being male he did it by putting a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger, splattering much of the contents of his head all over the family kitchen. This got me thinking that, no matter how miserable you are and no matter how bad you think your life is, spare a thought for those that will find your body and have to clean the mess up afterwards. If you choose to do it in your own home this will likely be one of your beloved family members. In this case it was his wife and daughter. Who wants the final image of their husband/father to be one of him lying on the kitchen floor with half his head missing, blood, brains and bone having sprayed everywhere? Do you know how hard it is to get blood out of curtains? Needless to say the wife refused to enter the kitchen ever again and wound up selling the house. But who wants to buy a house with a history like that? I can just imagine the new home owners finding a bit of skull under the fridge several months after moving in. So, if you must flush your life down the drain, at least have some consideration about how and where you do it.

Veterinarians have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession (1.54 times the average). I believe there are two reasons for this. I can’t say I am much of a Jeremy Clarkson fan but I believe he hit the nail on the head when he said that people become veterinarians because they have a love of and affinity for other species. They want to devote their lives to helping animals and mitigating suffering. Unfortunately a lot of that relief comes in the form of euthanasia. Don’t get me wrong. I would much rather euthanase a terminally ill, suffering animal than have it go through months of pain and anguish, the way we allow people to. But all that death takes its toll after a while. Years ago I spent six months working at the RSPCA. The number of cruelty cases I saw and the number of animals I had to euthanase, some quite healthy, simply because we had no room was almost enough to drive me to join them. While the RSPCA performs a vital function six months was more than enough for me.

The second reason is that if a veterinarian decides to end his life he will probably succeed. Veterinarians obviously have an excellent command of physiology and have all sorts of lethal drugs available, one of which is etorphine, an incredibly powerful anaesthetic used to immobilise animals like elephants and rhinos. It is rumoured that one scratch from a needle dipped in etorphine is enough to kill. The drug is rigidly controlled and only veterinarians working with these animals can gain access to it, but I did have a friend who used it to end his own life. He did it because of the aggressive bone cancer that was spreading up his leg, but his profession gave him access to the means.

Even regular veterinarians have shelves full of pentobarbitone, the drug of choice for euthanasing dogs and cats. I have heard more than one story of a veterinarian hooking himself up to an IV line, connecting the line to a bottle of pentobarbitone and then slowly going to sleep as the drug ran into his body. No doubt it is a very peaceful way to go.

The flipside of all this doom and gloom is that veterinary medicine also provides some pretty amazing highs. Seeing that falcon that came into the clinic with a broken wing fly off into the sunset is close to the top of my list, not mention the quoll with the really bad skin condition I saw recently that now appears to have made a miraculous recovery.

Dr. F. Bunny


Quoll without its skin condition

Quoll without its skin condition

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What’s Up Doc?

I pity us poor veterinarians. It seems every other profession has managed to come up with some sort of scam designed solely to increase business and profits. The accountants invented GST and quarterly BAS statements to keep themselves busy four times a year, instead of just at tax time. Electricians came up with test and tag. What a waste of time and money that is! I had one test and tag my desk lamp at work. It passed his inspection and was awarded its little tag, even though the lamp was completely non-functional! Veterinarians, on the other hand, invent ways to put themselves out of business. After recommending for years that dogs and cats be vaccinated annually researchers have now discovered that the vaccines are so effective that they only need to be given once every three years.

You won’t find the medicos making that sort of mistake. They obviously subscribe to the “no man gets left behind” philosophy because, no matter what the problem is, the GP must be involved. My daughter fell off her horse and injured her wrist. Instead of seeing the appropriate specialist we had to attend the GP, who gave us a “note” which allowed us to then see the specialist. When I broke my nose I also wasn’t allowed to see the ear, nose and throat (ENT) guy without first getting my “note”. Interestingly the “note” was only valid for 12 months. So, after a year I had to get another referral from the GP, even though I was an ongoing ENT patient. The GP, who is actually a marvellous fellow, was concerned about my cholesterol, so I had it checked. It came back a touch high and he suggested a repeat in four months. Four months later I tried to book it in, but still had to get my “note” from the GP first, before they would consent to take my blood.

It seems to me that GPs spend more time these days writing referrals than they do actual medical work, and they are virtually impossible to contact. When was the last time you rang up the doctor’s surgery and actually spoke to the doctor? Not so the veterinary clinic where you will always be able to speak to the veterinarian, unless he has his arm up a cow somewhere. And I can take my little Fluffy-wuffykins straight to the veterinary ophthalmologist to get the grass seed taken out of his eye, without first getting my “note” from the regular veterinarian.

Dr. F. Bunny

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All Creatures Great And Small

As Christmas approaches spare a thought for your long suffering veterinarian. Of all the times over the years that I have been called to emergencies perhaps 10% were genuine. A dog that has been coughing for three weeks probably does not need to be seen at 11 o’clock at night. If you have a bitch on heat and your male dog is whining and has a whitish discharge from the end of his penis, he is probably behaving like a normal dog. Unfortunately it is hard to determine over the phone if you are dealing with a genuine emergency or not. The one time you successfully put off a client will probably be the one time you have a dead animal the next day.

For genuine emergencies we will of course drop the Christmas turkey and attend to it. Genuine emergencies usually come on suddenly e.g. snake bite, hit by car or a twisted stomach because someone took their large dog for a run right after a big meal. Non-genuine emergencies tend to have been grumbling along for some time, such as our dog with a cough. That is not to say that something that has been dragging on for a while could not now have become a genuine emergency, but it would have been better to have had it seen to before it reached that stage.

And don’t even think about grumbling over the bill after you have dragged your veterinarian out of bed or away from Christmas dinner. Veterinary medicine has an incredibly high attrition rate (and suicide rate) attributable, at least in part, to working long hours (try finding a mechanic that is open at 7 pm, or even a GP) along with the relentless stress of making life and death decisions, all for relatively little remuneration. A 1996 North American survey found that the average income of an experienced veterinarian aged between 40 and 49 was $53,500, compared with $110,000 for dentists, $124,100 for physicians and $101,700 for lawyers ( Consider your average GP whose overheads comprise an office and a stethoscope and compare that with a veterinarian who has to pay off the $20,000 X-ray machine, the $5,000 anaesthetic machine and a few thousand dollars worth of cages. Consider also that human medical procedures are heavily subsidised by the government. While repair of the anterior cruciate ligament in a dog may set you back $2000, the equivalent surgery in a human can cost up to $50,000. As the government subsidises these sorts of procedures and many people have private health care the actual out of pocket expense for the surgery on a human is about $2000 ( So please stop complaining about vet bills and use some common sense when deciding if Fido needs to be seen before or after the turkey.

Dr. F. Bunny

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