• Dr Nadine Hamilton

A day in the life of....

This article was written by Dr Andy Pieris, Veterinarian - Casuarina Seaside Vet, and re-shared with permission.

If you’re reading this you probably have a pet, love pets or are thinking about getting a pet ...

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to spend a day in the shoes of one of the most dedicated pet lovers ?

Enter ... myself. Through this blog I’d like to enlighten you on the real truths behind cats and dogs.

Starting our day, it usually goes something like this: A bustling waiting room- three dogs with their owners being admitted for elective surgery. One having a tumour removed from her hind limb, another a bouncing puppy unknowingly about to get his manlihood taken away from him and a gracious queen cat overlooking the whole chaotic situation with distaste. For she has much more important window sills to be melting into than being at a vet clinic with these ridiculous others but, she’s having her teeth scaled today and we all know how much we detest the dentist. Let alone the vet. Their admission nurse takes the owners through a series of questions (please note a cat is never owned, she owns you) such as current medications, current weight, fasting status, prior anaesthetic complications? The checklist allows us to be well prepared for the respective surgeries.

All the while, we have done rounds of hospital patients. Much like a doctor would attend his patients in the human hospital.

Consultations form the morning and here we listen to concerned owners, examine the animal, run diagnostics, problem solve, form a plan and begin treatment on your pet. Between having a brief hug of a very fluffy retriever puppy and smiling at the sheer satisfaction of a previously inappetent patient now ravenously devouring his first meal for 3 days. This is where we have to compartmentalise our time. Devote 100% attention to owners and help your pet on the road to recovery. Not always easy in a 15 minute allocated time frame. We see vomiting dogs, feverish cats, critically sick, tiny puppies whose blood sugars are dropping to cancer patients who have finally given up their battle fought. All of this and it’s only 11 am.

Time to start surgery on those admitted patients from earlier. A few final checks and we are ready to cut. They have already had their sedation and are calmly waiting their turn on the surgical list. It always surprises me how well the patients cope in a hospital situation. So brave, unknowing what’s ahead, we can always learn from our furred friends. Those little lives in our hands. We have to do our best, each and every time.

The tumour removal goes well but a tricky one as the tumour is located in an area of the body which is always mobile and we have to remove enough skin around the tumour to ensure that the whole mass is excised and then some. As it’s a malignant one and any microscopic spread will have devastating effects on the animal. Three layers of stitches and 200g lighter, this patient is now in recovery with her nurse. Did I mention that prior to this the same patient also had chest X-rays and an ultrasound to detect any tumour spread elsewhere in the body. This all forms part of our day.

The puppies desexing throws a curve ball.. literally. What we thought was a straightforward, routine procedure isn’t. Toby only has one testicle descended. Which means the other one is within the abdomen or inguinal ring or groin. The testicle has to be found and removed, if it’s not then it can become cancerous and cause huge issues for this puppy later on. It’s located after a painstaking 30 minutes and the procedure continues as usual. This little guy is going to to be more painful than originally planned so extra pain relief is already on board for a smooth wake up.

Much to Savannah, the beautiful Himalayan’s disgust, she has had to wait her turn. That’s because a ‘dirty’ procedure such as a dental scale and polish is the final procedure on our surgical list. It releases the most bacteria it is performed in a different part of the hospital to our surgeries to maintain utmost cleanliness and sterility for our ‘clean’ surgeries such as desexings, abdominal surgery and orthopaedics. She recovers well also but her surgical plan is a little different as she is a ‘flat faced’ breed, a brachycephalic, so she will receive masked oxygen pre and post surgery as these pets lack a normal upper airway which means a higher anaesthetic risk.

A write up of all the procedures we have done and it actually looks like today we will get to have lunch. Wait. We spoke too soon. The phone rings and a dog has just been hit by a car on the main road, they are on their way and will be here in 5 minutes. Rushed straight out the back, this patient is fighting for his life. Hit at speed, a quick assessment of massive wounds, there is no time to wonder how this little dog is still be with us. Immediate and extremely strong pain relief through an IV line begins alongside resuscitative fluids, oxygen and a team of nurses and vets ensuring an open airway, breathing and circulation. His heart stops after 20 minutes, just when things were looking ok. Cardiac compressions begin and emergency medications given, taking turns between breathing for him and cardiac stimulation everyone is on deck .. but it’s lost. All of it. Blood, sweat and tears and the outcome no one wanted. The team take a moment, staring wide eyed as our efforts were still not enough. The internal injuries were too severe to be conducive with life.. A boy has just lost his best friend, a family has lost their fifth member, a widow has had her final link broken to a loved one already passed.... I bear the news to the hopeful faces. I then try to quietly recover the strength to face and embrace the afternoon of excited new owners or anxious, sleep deprived mums eager to get a fix for their extremely itchy dog.

And that’s just a day as a small animal vet .. our bigger, stronger brothers in the large animal world of cattle, horses, goats and sheep face even more challenges day and night.. I know, I was one but let’s save that for another time.

What motivates us to keep coming back day after day to face the extreme roller coaster of unknowns? That innate passion for what we do. The genuine love and care for all animals subconsciously engraved in our minds from an early age. If you’ve ever breathed in the smell of a horse in a cold, silent morning you know what I’m talking about. It stays with you forever. I finally get home and feel the simple pleasure of a warm meal and maybe a glass of wine tonight, definitely a glass of wine tonight. We as vets know that we have done our best. I didn’t choose this career, compassion and dedication channeled this career to me and I am so grateful to do what I love. Dr Andy