A Day in the Life of a Veterinarian
A lot of people have always asked, “how do you do it?” Most often, they are referring to the act of euthanasia and relieving animals suffering. But our profession is more than that. And no, it’s not just playing with puppies and kittens though sometimes that is the best part of our day. All this in consideration, I thought I would take you through a recent day I had with all the ups & downs that may come with it. Just to preface this, it will try to be like an episode of “24” except no explosions, car chases, or Kiefer Sutherland.
My job at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic is scheduled from 9am to 6pm every Tuesday. The particular Tuesday we’re looking back at happened like this…
7:00am – The buzzing of the alarm goes off. Yes, it’s good to be alive but the sound is still unpleasant. The morning begins as I get ready for work and take care of all 5 of our own family pets. Then I leave the house with 30 minutes to go before work.
9:00am – I arrive at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic and have a quick look at the schedule. It’s a full morning as I’m completely booked up with appointments from then until noon. Alright, time to start! The first appointment looks to be a simple one – a dog with an ear infection. But the owner just cleaned the ears at home! This makes a diagnosis more difficult but we agree on a symptomatic treatment plan and they depart. In the next room, a family awaits with their kitten they just adopted from the humane society. No problems but they want to establish a relationship and just have a general health check up. I examine the kitten and deem her healthy so we have a discussion on feeding & litterbox use before they depart.
A healthy puppy I vaccinated
This continues over the next few hours. Vaccines on a middle-aged dog, itching & scratching for 3 weeks on another dog (he had fleas!), a cat urinating outside of the litterbox and her owners are frustrated by it…that was just the next hour. I had a few more appointments involving a mixture of vaccines, skin & ear problems (which are very common in the summer), and a case of diarrhea in a dog that eats whatever he wants.
11:30am – I came to my last appointment of the morning which was a cat who had a 3 day history of being lethargic and breathing a little heavier than normal. His owners were concerned but had not felt this was an emergency so he was not brought in earlier. As I examined this kitty, I could see an abnormal movement in his breathing pattern and I could hardly hear any lung sounds. I was suspicious of a pleural effusion, which is a build up of fluid in the chest surrounding the lungs which makes it difficult to breathe. I was given consent to take an x-ray (radiograph) and the diagnosis was confirmed. I went over the possible causes and prognosis with the owner then explained how we would have to drain the chest which they agreed to do.
More normal lung capacity in a cat
Pleural effusion in a cat
12:15pm – I spent the next 45 minutes getting the patient ready and doing the procedure of tapping the chest. The intricate details of this will be told at another time. Once we were finished, the cat was breathing much better and I called his owners with an update.
1pm to 3pm – This is the time of day on Tuesdays when I can get caught up on records, phone calls, filling prescriptions, maybe have a bite to eat, or take my dogs out if I brought them to work that day. On rare occasions, I’ll end up seeing an emergency if the other doctors are fully booked or I could get an emergency surgery (which everyone I work with knows I would drop everything in a heartbeat to help a patient).
3pm to 5pm – Appointments start up again with another mixture and variety of vaccines, a limping dog that we determined was a likely sprain, and a check eye. For the check eye, the owners aren’t sure what happened but this particular cat is squinting and has a discharge. I try to get a look at the eye but this particular cat is not very happy,
Example of fluorescein stain
possibly because he is in pain. I get one of the veterinary technicians to hold onto the cat by wrapping him in a blanket. We are able to get his eyelids open and put some numbing drops in there. When I look again, I can see some cloudiness and we decide to stain the eye. I explain the findings to his family and we get him set up with some antibiotics and pain medication to go home.
5:30pm – Appointments have run over by a bit and my pleural effusion patient is waiting to be discharged. The prognosis is not great but they are going to take him home for as long they can keep him comfortable. I would dearly love to get out on time and get home to my dogs as I know my wife will be at work late (her shift runs an hour later than mine this day) but a few more medication refills have been added to the list as well as the records I still have to do. I’m also reminded that a client is waiting by the phone to hear about some blood tests we did yesterday.
By the time I’m done, admittedly with a brief social break to chat with a co-worker, I’m finally done just after 7pm and begin the commute home. It’s time to take care of my own pets with a walk outside, some food for both them and my wife & I, and then I settle in with some television as I put the final touches on my next blog post. It was a busy day and I’m thankful that I didn’t have to euthanize an animal. And sometime around 11pm I’ll finally get some sleep and rest up for the next day. Not everyday is like this where it can be a bit hectic but everyday is different which is part of the fun and enjoyment of being a veterinarian.
Jennifer & I with Charlie & Taylor…the cats don’t pose well
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