Regardless of my current level of satisfaction at my job, I have to say the pride I feel in being an RVT never fades. I love the industry I work in, the camaraderie felt with the other techs as well as support staff and doctors, and the constant challenge that each day brings.
Some of the jobs that fall under my job description aren’t pretty, aren’t desirable, and quite often don’t smell very good. However, no matter what, I know that all the little things that I do will contribute to the betterment of the pet’s life. It does become tedious when you are trying to teach someone how to help their pet and they’re clearly going to dismiss everything you’ve said as soon as they walk out the door, provided they actually listened in the first place. I’ve written previously about the things that irk me as a veterinary professional and those things continue to happen day in and day out. What keeps me in this field is the group of like-minded individuals I get to work with on a daily basis.
Even though many of us are in different stages of lives, we have a common goal of helping animals that bring us together at work. Through thick and thin we keep a positive attitude, which is so essential in avoiding burnout and compassion fatigue. Lately in the veterinary world, the number of people succumbing to these things is on the rise and thankfully our clinic has taken this quite seriously. We are all attending a workshop on mental health next week, and I can’t be more proud that our clinic’s partners are taking such a proactive role in addressing the issue of mental health. It’s not something a lot of people think of when it comes to our job, but it is very real and it does affect people in a big way.
As much as I may complain about the job of a vet tech sometimes, we do find time to have fun and see the humour in everyday situations. We can laugh about the tough things from yesterday or about an entertaining animal or client who is booked in today. We can compare stories or “battle wounds” and make light of the fact that our job can really suck. Despite that we love it because we are doing what we love, and we should count ourselves lucky as there are many people out there who either don’t love their job or have no idea what they even want to do. We’ve found what makes us happy.
I certainly feel appreciated during National Vet Tech Week as our clinic owners took the time to show us their appreciation with sweet tweets, and even a little gift. This really shows us that we are valued members of the team and that our work doesn’t go unnoticed.
From this tech to all the others: KEEP IT UP! Your efforts and hard work are what keep your clinic functioning, and just know that what you do matters. Every day you contribute so much to the betterment of the lives of animals and their people, and you should be proud.
Owners of overweight cats need to hear this, and hear it without any type of sugar coating or euphemisms. When I tell you your cat is overweight, it’s because your cat is overweight. I’m not calling you fat, I am not picking on you, and I am not saying you are a bad person.
I can’t stress this enough – it’s not about you. When I make a recommendation for your cat to lose weight, it is only because of the high number of risks associated with overweight cats, much the same as for a human. It’s also because your cat is far too heavy.
People hear these risks so often that I think they’ve become desensitized to it, and therefore complacent when it comes to actually changing it. Even if it may not be something that you take into account for your own daily life, at least do your cat the courtesy of helping them. They depend solely on you for it. A cat doesn’t understand the risks and complications of obesity so it is up to you as their sole caregiver to help them lead a happier, healthier life.
How can you tell if your cat is overweight? Look at his head. If it looks tiny in proportion to his body, your cat is too fat. If your cat is over seven kilograms (ish), chances are they are overweight. If your cat can’t lick it’s own ass, it’s too fat. If any of these things apply, you need to take a good look at the way you’re feeding. What may seem like a miniscule amount of food to us can actually be a normal meal for your feline.
It seems that people think that treats and a buffet of food is the key to keeping a kitty healthy and happy. Oh look how cute he is, meowing because he wants more food. Oh look, I’m feeling sad so I am going to get some love from my cat by feeding it some more treats. This is not OK. If you do these things even though it is making your cat rotund, then you should re-think being a cat owner.
You are not making their lives better by giving them all of the food and treats they want – you are contributing to a poor quality of life. You are shortening that life, and making what they have left of it more and more uncomfortable with each pound they gain. Outward signs that your cat may be uncomfortable or feeling effects of obesity are:
Panting (this is NOT normal for a cat and indicates distress)
Unwillingness to climb or jump
Inability to groom properly causing scalding around hind end
Itchy, scaly skin
By inappropriate urination, I mean urinating or defecating outside of the litterbox. Maybe he just can’t fit, or maybe he’s trying to tell you something. A common misconception I hear of on a constant basis is that urinating outside the litter box happens because the cat is unhappy with you, the owner. This is silly and you need to stop thinking this way. While it may seem like they have the capacity for vindication sometimes, this is false. Inappropriate urination is understood to be a behaviour indicative of stress or urinary tract disease. Don’t believe me? Here’s a University who has also said it:
Something in your cat’s world, be it a new person, thing, or even renovations, can trigger these behaviours and getting to the bottom of which one it is can help. It is heartbreaking to see cats being brought in for euthanasia for something like this because the majority of cases can be helped with a little guidance from the vet and effort from the owner. If you have a situation like this, please ask your veterinarian for information first.
People need to realize that what you may think is a good weight for cats is actually much too high. It seems like it has become a social norm to have a chunky cat at home. If your cat doesn’t have a defined waist or it takes more than a light touch to feel ribs – your cat is too fat. Here’s a little comparison to help this sink in – 1 pound gained on a cat is like 15 pounds on an average adult woman. Click here for the full chart.
Injecting your cat after every meal probably doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time, does it? Approximately 0.5% of cats will develop the disease due to obesity. This puts the numbers IN THE MILLIONS. I don’t think it’s fair to these animals to feed them the way people do. Let’s face it, there’s probably a solution and the onus needs to be put back on the owner to seek it out and make change. Your cat is not mad at you, not getting back at you because you left, your cat is stressed. It is your job to help.
Understand this: Veterinary professionals have a unique “outside looking in” view on how your animal behaves while at the clinic. Often we can see exactly what is lacking in the dynamic between you and your dog, or read your cat in order to see when they’ve had enough of us.
Having said that, we use this knowledge to help us decide on the best possible course of action to keep you, your pet, and us, safe. Some dogs are fearful, some are dominant, some couldn’t care less. Then there are those dogs that do things in the most unexpected of ways. These are the dogs you don’t see coming, and the ones that veterinary professionals have to be on guard for at all times.
I commonly experience owners who become offended or even get angry when we need to restrain their animal. What people need to understand is that no matter what, everyone’s safety is more important than your belief that Fluffy is going to be mad at you. Many people say, “Oh, Fluffy would never bite” or “Fluffy doesn’t need a muzzle”. Here’s a tip – if we are suggesting it, then yes, Fluffy does need what we call a “party hat”. The picture below depicts a tech or vet holding a dog in what we call “lateral”. We hold the down leg to prevent the dog from getting up. He can breathe and he is not in pain, he is just laying on his side and is being stopped from getting up. Mean? No. Useful? Yes.
Maybe your pet wouldn’t normally be one to bite, but now we have taken them out of their normal environment with their familiar people and schedule, and brought them to a stress-filled place with other animals and people they don’t know. Believe it or not, this changes things for your pet. Their normal behaviour doesn’t apply. By putting them in an exam room, we’ve taken the flight option away from them, and that leaves fight. In some cases I have even watched owners who refused a muzzle get bitten by their animal and think it’s completely normal and OK. Please understand me when I say this – your animal biting someone is NOT OK. Our job is to keep your animal healthy, not to scar up our bodies even more than they already are.
Just over three years into practice and I already have countless scars that will likely never fade. Some are there because we were not given permission to muzzle an animal. As an owner, do you think it’s alright for another person to have wounds and scars just because you find it offensive to put a painless muzzle on your animal? If your answer is yes, I suspect you may be a sociopath and you need to seek help.
Another point that I must be clear on is aimed at small breed dogs. Chihuahuas, Yorkies, Daschunds, Shih Tzus, and other dogs of this type. Often owners don’t treat these guys like dogs, they more treat them like small children. This means that they don’t always have the same grasp on basic obedience or “manners”. This can also mean that we can have a very angry dog once we start to do things like examine ears and teeth or trim nails. Now this dog, who is not accustomed to doing things it doesn’t want to, is being told to stand still and allow us to do what we need to do. As you can probably guess, there is probably going to be some attempts to bite, tantrums, and some high-pitched squealing, making it sound like we’re torturing the dog.
Here’s a newsflash to all of the owners who would be offended by us restraining your little dog at this point – pipe down. We are not torturing your dog. Fluffy has this all figured out since, at home, if he lets out that shrill scream you probably let go and Fluffy gets away scot-free. Here at the clinic, we don’t fall for this trick and that makes Fluffy miffed. THAT is why he’s making those sounds, not because we are hurting him. Either teach your dog that nail trims and exams are not a bad thing at an early age, or accept the fact that we don’t want to get bitten so we’re going to throw a muzzle on your landshark. Savvy?
Cats are a whole different ball game. One must read the body language carefully to try to anticipate aggression. Sometimes cats give you fair warning, sometimes they must think it hilarious to keep you guessing. One strategy commonly used with cats is scruffing. This seems to quiet many cats, and is a way to restrain them without causing them physical discomfort. Many revert back to kitten behaviour and go very still. This is not meant to make the cat in any way uncomfortable, it is merely done to make sure we have control over the bitey end. Whether we need to give a pill, an injection, or just inspect an issue more closely, the scruff allows us to do so safely. Pet owners should realize this is a very useful tool and in no way means we’re being mean to fluffy.
This may be shocking to you as an owner, but the vast majority of people who work on your pets for a living actually love animals. We probably have some of our own. Believe me, the last thing we want to do is cause your beloved animal pain. In fact, the whole reason you brought him to us was probably to relieve it, no? We aren’t mean, we are just trying to help without getting hurt in the process ourselves. Cut us some slack.
If you aren’t sure how to properly prepare your pet for their future vet visits, please contact your veterinarian for information or tips on how to help make the process as smooth as possible. There are many things you can do, like visit the clinic just to give Fluffy a treat and meet everyone, without anything invasive being done. Helping them to associate your clinic visit with positive things like treats and affection can go a long way. Another thing you can do is handle your puppy from a young age. Lift the lips and earls, handle the paws, even trim little pieces off just so they get used to the sensation. These things will only take a few minutes out of your day, but can really go a long way to making veterinary visits much easier.
As always, feel free to shoot me a message with any questions or comments!
There are days at the vet clinic that never seem to end. You’re missing veins, nobody is cooperating for their exams, owners are being difficult or non-compliant and euthanasias are abundant. How does one keep a positive attitude and bring a smile to each and every client when faced with a day like this? Here are a few ways that seem to work for me:
1. Make light of any situation
I am one of those people who uses humour, or attempts at humour, in any situation that makes me uncomfortable, sad, angry, frustrated. You name it, and I’m trying to be funny. This not only makes my coworkers laugh (sometimes), but laughing and/or smiling allows me to release some of that emotion and to make an otherwise terrible situation seem a little more bearable.
For example, we had euthanized a very large dog that day and had some trouble getting it in the freezer because there were things in there that didn’t need to be. Once I had solved the problem of getting that stuff out and the big dog in, I sent out a clinic-wide email asking people to please remove what they could from the freezer because I wasn’t really into playing “Jenga” in there for long periods of time. It made a few people chuckle after an otherwise crazy day and if I can help to boost morale with cheesy things, then I am gonna lay it on.
2. Allowing someone to “let it out”
The first eleven seconds of this video is what plays in my head all the time.
Every single time I read or hear the words “let it out”, I am reminded of the above scene voiced by the late Robin Williams. It makes me smile a little inside, but I also do this in the literal sense. Whether they need to cry, vent, or they just can’t bear to be present in another euthanasia that day, I like to be that person who listens or fills in whenever needed and I know that my teammates would do the same for me. Think of your coworkers like you’re all part of the Amigos.
I think voicing your frustrations can be a very good strategy for getting through the day with your sanity intact. There are certain people I work with who know that when I need to vent, it’s not that I am mad at them or I am being too negative. They know that I just need to voice my opinion or voice my frustrations and then it’s over and I feel better. Then I can continue on with my day. Often you can’t voice what you really think in an appointment because staying professional and courteous is so crucial, so being able to do so can help with getting rid of some frustration.
3. Cut yourself some slack
Yes, I get it. You’ve done this job for “x “years and you are more than capable of hitting that vein, or powering through that tough appointment. The sooner someone realizes that perfection is an impossible goal, the sooner they will be less hard on themselves when they’re having a bad day.
Even being as relatively new as I am, I know that there are going to be days when I’m not at my best. Those days are getting fewer and further apart, and that is what I strive for. You’re going to make mistakes, but as long as you make each one a “teachable moment”, you’re on your way to becoming an even better technician (or whatever your title may be).
Being perfect one hundred percent of the time isn’t going to happen because the industry is constantly going to evolve and change. You can either learn and adapt, or get left behind thinking you’ve seen it all. Chances are, you haven’t. Even some of the technicians I respect the most, who really have “seen it all” know that there is always more to be learned, and staying humble really goes a long way.
4. Give yourself a minute
Sometimes you just need a sec. Take a few minutes to allow your brain to rest, to recharge, and to deal with the craziness. I realize that there are some days where time is short and there doesn’t seem to be enough of it to go around.
I think it is incredibly important to at least have a few moments where you can just sit and release some of that tension. I recently did some CE on compassion fatigue which I felt was really useful. Since we are in a field which requires a compassionate and empathetic person, sometimes this can put some strain on us mentally. I intend to write further on the topic, not as an expert by any stretch of the imagination but just put out the information I have gathered so far and possibly inject some of my own experiences in.
Just think, you could have to work with people.
Don’t get discouraged. Just know that at the end of the day, you really are doing all you can and you are making a difference in the lives of your patients. Any client or employer with sense will know that you are only human, and that you deserve respect for the work that you do.
If all else fails, I watch cat videos until I feel better. This one, for example, had me laughing until I cried.
As always, feel free to leave me a comment. Any positive feedback or constructive criticism to become a better blogger or a better tech would be great!
One can probably write as many parts on this as there are parts to the Fast and Furious movies, but I think it’s time to touch on a few more.
1. The term “neuter” applies only to male animals.
This is a fairly harmless one in my eyes but nevertheless it is misused by both professionals and clients. By definition, it can apply to the sterilization of both males and females but often it is only used to describe the castration of male animals, while we use the term “spay” for females. Or “spaded” as some folk who are one sandwich short of a picnic call it. Often I am tempted to reply, “No, we don’t take them out back and beat them with shovels” but I fear it would be lost on some and slightly unprofessional.
2. Cats urinate on things because they’re mad at you.
This idea infuriates me a little bit, even though I can understand why it may be a valid theory to some. Often cats will urinate inappropriately due to stressors like something significant changing in their daily routine. New people, new things, new pets – these can all contribute. Cats can also be prone to stress cystitis, which essentially means a stressed cat with an angry bladder which makes the cat’s life very uncomfortable in the urinary department and yours very frustrating when you find wee little bits of urine around the house.
Please cut the cats some slack. Sometimes the issue of stress can be solved as easily as cleaning the litter box more often, adding another, or changing the style (ie lid vs no lid). Obviously you aren’t going to remove your new crying, screaming, attention-hogging little human from the home, but hopefully your cat will eventually come to realize that life can still go on with the addition of a baby to the family dynamic. Stay strong, there are ways to work around this and avenues that may help.
3. It can be “normal” for your cat or dog (usually cats) to vomit on a regular basis.
Do YOU feel nauseated and/or vomit on a regular basis if you are healthy? Would YOU think this is normal if it happened to you? What makes you think that vomiting every day is normal for your cat, then? Yes, they do it all the time. No, this does not mean it is “normal”, it means it is “frequent” and that sucks for your cat. I don’t think you would enjoy it, and I bet your cat doesn’t either. There are myriad reasons why your cat may throw up. Excessive grooming, stress, kidney disease, liver disease, toxicity, plus many other things. I think it is worth a trip to your vet to see if one of these issues is happening and perhaps you’ll be able to halt something serious before it progresses.
4. Lastly, but certainly not least, is one that I have become quite passionate about this year especially with a local epidemic of parvo virus – VACCINATIONS.
I am quite passionate about my pro-vaccine stance and it’s Monday, so I have absolutely no patience for unfounded claims and other such silliness. Let me start by describing to you what a day in the life of a dog with CPV (canine parvo virus) is like. They’re put in isolation due to the fact that CPV is incredibly contagious, they vomit and defecate bloody, liquid material which has a smell like a mixture of skunk, digested blood, and death. Too often they die from dehydration or lack of nutrition.
The disease causes the villi of the intestine to become disabled, making it impossible for the dog to absorb any kind of nutrients. It’s important to note that there is no cure, so just like a human cold, only supportive treatments are available to help the body fight off the virus and stay hydrated. Antibiotics and fluids will do their part, but the animal’s immune system must fight it off in order for the pet to recover. What’s particularly heartbreaking is that this disease targets primarily puppies, whose immune systems aren’t always quite developed enough to fight this disease properly.
This can be prevented as easily as a needle under the skin. A vaccine. Lately there are many people trying to tell us that vaccines are bad, they’re just moneymakers, they cause autism, etc. Let me ask you this – when is the last time you saw an autistic dog? Right. Give it a rest. CPV is a serious, deadly disease that can live in almost any environment (anywhere) for five months (see: http://ow.ly/Acrnn). Many disinfectants aren’t enough to kill CPV except bleach, therefore it is very difficult to get rid of. Dogs pick it up by ingesting the virus from the environment, like where an infected dog has defecated. Then they quite literally defecate and puke their life away. Parvo poop is a smell you won’t soon forget.
I will stick to vaccines in pets because that is where most of my knowledge lies, but I am slowly learning about the human side of it. From what I have read and what I can tell, preventing fatal disease epidemics will outweigh most other risks in my eyes. When did Hollywood attention-seekers become a better source for scientific information than actual science? Oh, and since when did a disability like autism become worse than death?
Vaccinating your pet regularly can help prevent disease not only in your one pet, but any pet that yours comes in contact with. It doesn’t take much for a disease to spread, but if your pet is vaccinated that is one less that will carry it and pass it on. Sometimes people will say to me, “We haven’t seen “x” disease in years, why are we still vaccinating for it?”. The answer is simple. We don’t see it because we vaccinate for it. It still lives in the wildlife population, so if you were to stop vaccinating it would become a problem all over again.
I’ve seen this type of person many times. It is when their pet dies from a preventable disease that all of a sudden the proverbial light bulb flashes on and they’re right in to get their next pet vaccinated. It’s a shame that it often happens this way, but it is the reality of it. Clinics in Ontario see multiple cases every year (don’t worry, I’ve asked many people in the veterinary field in Ontario). Currently Cornwall, Ontario is in the midst of an outbreak. There are larger clinics in the US that have seen 5, 10, and in some clinics even upwards of 50 cases this year alone. It’s out there, and it is very real. Please get your puppy vaccinated.
I plan to write more extensively on vaccines at another time, once I have gathered more hard evidence to show you. If there is a particular vaccine or disease you’d like me to touch on, by all means leave me a comment or send me an email with the form at the bottom of the page.
If you don’t mind, perhaps you can help me gauge the opinion of people reading this blog: