Animals Eat Some Stupid Sh*t

Light bulb (Dr. Lisa Nowicki)

I’m sure this isn’t news to anyone. Animals eat some seriously stupid sh*t. If you’re reading this and you’re a vet treating small animal or exotics (or goats, they eat everything), there’s a good chance you’ve removed something from someone’s pet at least once in your career. If you’re not a vet, you either own an animal that ate something or you know someone whose pet ate something.

I’ve been practicing for nearly 13 years, and in that time I have removed A LOT of foreign bodies. Truth be told, it’s one of my favorite surgeries. Every one is a bit different. Is it going to be in the stomach or intestines? Is it a straightforward removal, or a linear foreign body (like a piece of string) that will need multiple approaches? Is the intestine healthy or does some need to be removed? And the best, what the heck is it? Because face it, a lot of time owners have absolutely no idea what they might have eaten.

Still, there are some totally unpleasant aspects. Depending how long this object has been there, the smell when you get inside can be completely atrocious. And I don’t know if this happens to other doctors, but I habitually stand really close to the surgical table. So when it comes time to flush out that abdomen, I always end up with scrubs and underwear soaked with blood-tinged lavage fluid. You’d think I would have learned after the third or fourth time.

If there’s something I’ve learned, it’s definitely that there are certain items that seem to be preferred by a lot of dogs. Dirty laundry, especially socks and underwear, are the foreign body filet mignon. I know of more than one vet who has removed a pair of underwear, only to find out they didn’t belong to the wife when the dog was picked up! Rocks are another big one – seriously, I don’t get it, what is appetizing about a rock? Tampons are the potato chips – you can’t stop with just one…and I’m not talking about the clean ones still in the package. Ladies, do us all a favor and get a trash can with a locking lid. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re going to vomit while wearing a surgical mask. And do you every feel like no matter how many hair ties you buy, they just all go missing? They do. They’re in your dog (or your cat, that’s one of their favorites).

And then there’s the extra fun ones. Toys. Jewelry. Nails and screws. Coins (those can be dangerous because pennies are toxic.) I’m in San Diego, and Queen Palm nut foreign bodies are big here. I had one little Corgi that I operated on 5 separate times for those things. I’ve removed leather gloves and pounds of grass. I even had to cut my own kitten twice for eating baby bottle nipples.

Here are a few x-rays of some of the amazing things animals eat.

Are you up to the challenge? – 6 foreign bodies in one dog. They are all visible on these radiographs. How many can you see?

And the pièce de résistance – a snake that swallowed a beer bottle.

So here’s to all the vets heading into surgery, I hope it goes smoothly. And to all the pet owners whose dogs, and cats, have joined the club, and especially the owners of repeat offenders.

Has your pet eaten something stupid? For the vets, what’s the best thing you’ve removed from an animal? Comment below!

You Spent How Much? – The High Price of “Designer” Mutts

I had a client a while ago come in for a new puppy exam. It was a cute little dog, small and fluffy and friendly. The owner handed me the puppy contract he had. This guy paid $4,000 to a pet store for a Teddy Bear Malshi.

Let me say that again.  This guy paid FOUR GRAND.  To a PET STORE. For a “Teddy Bear Malshi”….

Now I have no idea what that is. Maybe it was written down wrong? “What breed is this, sir?”

“A Teddy Bear Malshi”

“Excuse me?”

Angrily, “Teddy Bear Malshi.” Like I’m some idiot for not knowing what this is.

OK. Let me just put that in our computer…mixed breed it is.

I feel like I see a lot of new pets like this these days, and I can’t be the only one. People are paying outrageous prices for these “designer dogs”. New breeders are popping up by the dozen, selling through websites or Craigslist (I’ll talk more about Craigslist in a later post.) And what started with just Labradoodles has morphed into Aussiedoodles, Bernadoodles, Malshis, Morkies, Schnoodles and whatever other combination people think they can monetize.  Don’t get me wrong. Some of these puppies are seriously cute. But mixing two breeds together and giving it a cutsie name doesn’t make it exotic and worth the prices these “breeders” are charging. There’s a sucker born every minute, and don’t these guys know it.

Let me put this into some perspective. I don’t have a problem with breeders in general. I have two dogs, both of which came from breeders. I paid $800 for my Miniature Schnauzer in 2008 and $1500 for my Soft Coated Wheaten in 2010. To me those prices were justified. Both came from breeders who also show dogs, and my dogs came from champion bloodlines. My miniature schnauzer had full veterinary exams and had his eyes checked by a boarded veterinary ophthalmologist before I got him. Wheatens are more expensive, because there are fewer breeders around. Mine came from lines that were unaffected by the protein-losing disorders we see more commonly in this breed. I am willing to pay more for a breeder that does all the appropriate health checks and is truly dedicated to producing healthy and quality dogs.

I’ve definitely seen a few labradoodles and goldendoodles that came from parents who may have had hip scoring done.  They are definitely the minority. A large number of the puppies I see have obvious problems. They might be bow-legged or have lax hips already. Lately I’ve been shocked with how many have really poor dental conformation – these dogs are needing extractions at 12 weeks old because their teeth came in the wrong place and are causing damage.

Final thoughts…these dogs are here to stay. And hopefully with time we will start seeing more and more truly quality breeders. But if you’ve absolutely got your heart set on one of these, please do your homework. Don’t get one from Craigslist or the pet store. Look really closely at the puppy and see if you notice anything wrong before you take it home. And be sure you get some sort of health guarantee. Otherwise you’re better off just heading to the shelter to adopt a dog – and you’ll save a ton of money.

I’d love to hear your stories on the designer dogs you’ve seen. Leave a comment below!

The Vet’s Tail – What’s the Point

Is there a point to having a veterinary blog? To be honest, I don’t know.

I think there’s an idea in everybody’s mind (well, everyone that isn’t a vet) about what veterinary medicine is. Vets are smart. After all, there’s only a handful of veterinary schools, so it’s actually way harder to get into vet school than medical school. There’s a lot of playing with puppies and kittens. Sometimes we do cool surgery. Sometimes we euthanize animals, and that’s sad.

I’ve seen a lot of veterinary websites and blogs. Some are directed just to other vets, talking about medical conditions or cool surgical techniques. Some are directed to pet owners, ways they can take better care of their pets, and layperson information on conditions their pet may have.

What I haven’t seen is a blog for everyone, a blog that lays out what its’s really like to be a vet. The adrenaline rush of getting the emergency GDV case into surgery and saving a life. How challenging it can be to read a simple chest x-ray. How hard it is to euthanize 4 patients before lunch (that was my day today.) And, yes, of course, all the puppy and kitten kisses. But also the aggressive animals, the serious and sometimes disfiguring bite wounds.

I’m in a lot of really wonderful Facebook groups for veterinary medicine. Ones where I’ve realized that there is something about this job that links us, that makes us a real tribe that relies on each other, more so than any other career I can think of. Maybe I think it’s time the rest of the world sees that too, sees what it’s like to be us on a daily basis. Perhaps someone considering vet school will read this and the information and stories here will take off those rose-colored glasses and let them see what it’s really like. Some may decide after reading this that it’s not for them. Some may rise to the challenge. Maybe my colleagues will follow this blog, and remember that even when it seems hard, we all share the same experiences and are in this together.

So, I don’t know. I think I’m a little bored after transitioning from emergency medicine to general practice, but it was better for my family (something I’ll discuss later). I thought this blog might be a way to occupy me, to give me a challenge and to open some eyes. A catharsis of sorts. Maybe no one will read it, but I hope someone does, and I hope it helps.

So this isn’t just my tale (tail?). It belongs to everyone.

Who Am I?

I’m just a veterinarian. One of many (over 110,000 in the United States). I went to vet school in Edinburgh (The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies…no, you read that right, I am a Dick Vet). I did my internship with The Supervet (you should check him out if you’ve never heard of him) and got my Master’s at The Ohio State University. I’ve been in private practice since, emergency and general practice.

I’m a little driven. Seriously, if there’s a certificate attached to a course, I’m signing up. My business card is running out of space. Currently I am:

Dr. Jacqueline Johnson, BVM&S, MS, DABVP (C/F), CVPP, CCRP

I guess technically it’s shouldn’t be “Dr” because I have a bachelor’s in veterinary medicine & surgery, but hey, I’m in the US, so you’d better believe it’s Dr. Johnson now.

I’ve been married for nearly 12 years to a Brit I brought back with me from Edinburgh. We have 2 kids, 2 dogs and 3 cats. (I actually think my husband has 2 kids and I have 7… I’m a little nuts about my animals). So between work and family and pets, I decided that with all my free time, I would try writing a blog. My musings on veterinary life, pet care, my crazy pets, whatever. Here goes nothing…