Sunday, February 1, 2015

What if it really is all about the bass?

In writing these journals, I've noticed a startling trend: I spend way too much time in animals' rectal area...

Week 3: January 26-February 2, 2015

This week was a mixture of the routine, excitement, and disappointment. Basically, your average week working in an animal hospital. The main skill I had opportunity to practice was anal gland expression. From taking anatomy, I know the location of these malodorous glands, but I’ve mainly been observing or restraining for the procedure. This week, I felt confident enough to step up and try the technique myself. I started by expressing glands on anesthetized patients so I would get the feel of where the glands are and what they feel like full on an animal that wasn’t struggling. I then was able to practice applying the correct amount of pressure and squeezing technique and feel the glands emptying and observing the discharge, again at my leisure since the animal was asleep. I then moved on to patients that were awake. I found I like to equate the procedure to milking a cow in that I start at the bottom of the gland and “milk” the discharge out by applying pressure with my thumb against my index finger on the inside of the rectum. I try to exert the least amount of pressure as possible to prevent injury to the animal, but I’ve encountered a few glands that were “plugged” and needed a little extra work. After those expressions, I like to wash the perianal region with cool chlorhexidine to ease any discomfort. This procedure is the epitome of, “it’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.”

Hey, ya'll, you're lucky I didn't post a picture of a dog getting it's anal glands expressed. That's how much I care about you keeping down your lunch. For the rest of your life. Instead, here's a picture of a dog scooting, a common indication that it needs it's anal glands expressed. Should I say anal glands again? Anal. 

We perform quite a bit of blood work, and we’ve recently started using new machines for CBCs and chemistries. Generally, we aren’t running more than one animal’s blood at a time, but one day this week I was handed tubes for three animals that were ASAP. I got to work putting the tests into the Avimark system, which then put an order into the lab machines. The green tops were spinning and the lavender tops were rocking when an error message pops up on the Catalyst screen. It was time for a crash course in troubleshooting the new machine. Knowing similar problems have occurred in the past, my first step was to empty the waste tray. It was full, which often results in the slides not being able to load into the machine properly. The error message still appeared, so I then opened the front of the machine and took all the slides out. It was terrible to waste them, but the number one priority was getting the machine to run! After running an initializing process, I set the machine to run the blood work again and crossed my fingers it would work. It did! I then worked efficiently to systematically load the plasma and slides into the machine to run in succession. Even though most of my job is working with animals, I learned it was also important to understand how the equipment we use works so that we can fix it when it doesn’t. After all, without our lab equipment, we can’t diagnose illnesses and maintain patient wellness. 

I love our lab equipment...when it works.

The hardest lesson I learned this week was that no matter how much you want to save the world, oftentimes the world has other plans. One of our vets was in an extremely optimistic mood when it came to two unanticipated exploratory surgeries. I had checked both patients in as appointments, and the doctor determined both required immediate surgeries. One had a hard mass on the right side of his abdomen, and we were hoping it was his spleen or something equally operable. The doctor went into surgery with hope, and unfortunately discovered that the dog’s entire right kidney was enveloped in a large, football shaped mass that grew against the spine. His disappointment was furthered by the next patient that hadn’t been eating and was vomiting. They were hoping for an obstruction, but what they found was an abscessed mass which necessitated the dog be euthanized on the table. My heart goes out to the owners when things like this happen, but I try to help them take comfort in the knowledge that they did everything they could to make their animals well, and so did our dedicated doctors. When sad outcomes occur in quick succession, it’s difficult to find the silver lining and the mood in the hospital can become sour, and we have to remind ourselves why we’re in this field. Our deep love for animals pulls us through and helps us come to work everyday.

Puppies help, too.


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