Sep 28 2015

Life Behind The Exam Room Doors – Faces I Remember

“There are faces I remember….” I am sure those are words to a song and in the last few days they keep running through my head. Many of the faces I remember are covered with fur and are often associated with bad breath. I see the faces with long white whiskers, the cats with the perfect white “milk” mustache or those unlucky enough to be born a Hitler mustache. Have you ever Googled cats that look like Hitler? Well we rescued and found a home for Lance despite his resemblance to Hitler. Then there were the dogs who slobbered and drooled continuously, those with perfect wrinkles on their forehead, or the dogs with the old man bushy eyebrows. One face I will never forget is Mr Lewis. I always loved Lewis and his large black face. He was always friendly, always purring and rubbing his head against everything and everyone. And on this particular day there was no difference, he sat in one of our cat kennels still purring away and rubbing his head on the kennel walls, except on this day, his lower jaw was hanging down at 90 degrees.  Somehow, and only he knows how, he had fractured his lower jaw, both sides so that it hung straight down. But that didn’t stop him purring or looking for a few head butts!

Some of the hardest faces to look into were the pets who were seriously ill. Griffon after he was, unable to walk, unable to eat, as he peered at me with his brown eyes. His eyes will always haunt me. What was he saying with those eyes? Help Me? Fix Me? Was he scared? What did the poor dog go through all on his own? I have seen those eyes on many sick dogs including my own Winston when he ate poisonous mushrooms.

Poisons are part of daily life in a veterinary clinic and our hospital in Abbotsford is no different. We had the crazy lady who rushed in with the rat poison that her cat was chewing on but refused to do any tests or treatments. Why did she come in if she did not want to actually help her cat. Now she burdened me, as I know that bleeding to death was what was in store for this cat and yet I also knew that I could save the cat. Treatment in this case was inexpensive; we are talking pennies a day, so why would she not treat? I will never know what her reasoning was to pay for an examination but to refuse the lifesaving treatment, but my conscious would not allow me to ignore this cat. Despite the repercussions I did call the SPCA and reported the case. It was up to them to decide if there was neglect. I never did find out if the cat was treated or how the cat did but the owner did call me and well lets say that her side of the conversation was not something I would care to repeat to my worst enemy.

Marijuana poisonings are my favourite of all possible toxins, that is if your pet has to eat something he shouldn’t – well let it be this one! The dogs typically stagger around the room usually urinating uncontrollably all over the floor while I try and get the owner to tell me what the dog may have eaten; nobody wants to admit that their dog ate an illegal drug.  Supportive care and time and the dogs bounce out of the hospital a few hours later, perhaps a little hungry but otherwise no worse for wear.

Then there are the cases of toxicity that I will never forget. The cat that chewed on a lily and died of acute renal failure despite everything we tried, or the elderly man who poisoned his cat with a store bought flea treatment. As his cat sat violently shaking on the exam room table he told me that he was unable to read the package. He looked at the picture and thought that small dog picture on the box was a cat. My heart broke for this man who tried to do the best for his cat and ended up poisoning her.

And then there was Buffy, a small white curly haired dog. Doesn’t it seem that all small white dogs seem to have names like Muffin, Muffy, or Buffy.  Anyway Buffy, owned by a middle age man, Tom, and his wife. I never met Tom’s wife, it was always Tom’s responsibility to take care of Buffy. Buffy had every thing a dog could want and was cared for to the 10th degree. It was obvious Tom loved this dog. On this particular day Buffy was not doing great. She was a bit lethargic but not much else was obvious on her exam. “Any chance your dog could have consumed antifreeze?” Was what I had asked Tom. Not something I looked for in every lethargic dog but if I missed this diagnosis and started treatment too late then it would be too late for Buffy. “Nope. No Way.” Tom was adamant. But after the exam I still had concerns, and after running some tests it was confirmed. Somehow Buffy had consumed antifreeze and I knew it was going to be a long night.  So Buffy moved into my bathtub at home and the two of us settled in for a night of vodka on the rocks! Yes Vodka was the treatment of choice – oral or intravenous – to compete with the ethylene glycol. Poor Buffy had the worst hang over but her kidneys were saved and she lived well into her senior years!

My favourite toxin story though actually happened at another hospital and not to a dog or cat! There was a break in and the thieves were looking for money and drugs. They found the apo-morphine and I am sure they thought they scored!   Sometime later they ended up at the hospital vomiting profusely. They were sure when they took the apo-morphine they were going to escape reality and have a “trip”. Unfortunately apo-morphine is not actually an opioid. Nope. Apo-morphine is a potent emetic and one we use when a pet eats something they shouldn’t and we need to induce vomiting. How is that for justice!

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One thought on “Life Behind The Exam Room Doors – Faces I Remember”

  1. Fiona Vogt says:

    Another great read, thanks for sharing….

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