Dirty Jobs: One Veterinarian’s Vote For Her Profession’s Filth
There’s been a lot of horseplay in the media in recent years on the concept of truly disgusting professions. The mushroom farmer manure-slinger, the zero-gravity vomit quicker-picker-upper and the bed-pan disaster beneficiary, etc. … The Discovery Channel even has a popular show called Dirty Jobs to highlight the visual aspects of these revolting trades.
I’ve seen a few Dirty Jobs segments. With those in mind, I’d have to conclude that no profession rivals the average veterinarian’s for the variety of sickening, stenchy, potentially infectious crap we have to deal with.
Though some vets get it worse than others (take the hands-on shelter-worker), and some far less than others (the cardiologist, perhaps?), we’re all treated to a fair bit of repulsive fare.
To prove it, here’s my list of top-ten nasty "jobs" within the profession’s purview:
1. Maggot picking
This is the worst, so I’ll mention it first just to get it out of the way. In my opinion, wounds infected with maggots rival anything else I have to deal with. It’ll surely put you off rice for at least a month. (If you can stomach this one the nine that follow are fairly easygoing.)
2. Bovine reproductive examination
Ahhh … the full-arm rectal of vet school lore. We all have to do it, but I never really minded it. It’s better than standing bare-armed in a three-sided barn when the ten degree wind blows ... though it does take some getting used to.
3. Fecal material sampling
How many times a day do I stick something up a pet’s bum and then gently prise the stuff onto slides and into plastic containers? Ten? Twenty? Who knows, but it’s gross.
4. Dentistry for severe periodontal disease
Never underestimate the force with which the foulness of an oral cavity can hit you — across three masks, even. If you need further inducement to consider this the revolting job that it is, factor in the pus, blood and spray of bacterial filth contaminating the air around you. Goggles are a must lest you contract a new strain of especially aggressive pink eye.
5. Abscess lancing
Add in a Pseudomonas-type bacteria and even if the river of pus doesn’t get to you, the overpowering stench alone will be enough to make you toss your lunch.
6. Diarrhea cleaning
You know that book, "Everyone Poops"? Well, this is its veterinary corollary: Everyone cleans up s---. Even the vets (at least where I work).
7. Anal gland expression
Need I explain why this belongs on my top ten list?
8. Tick plucking
As if that alone isn’t challenging enough … did I ever tell you the story of one of my first dates with my boyfriend? Seated at a lecture (on CT scans, as I recall), he’d spied a tick crawling dangerously close to my cleavage. What he was doing looking there during a lecture is another story, but let it suffice to say this was not a bonding moment. (Well, it's been almost six years since then so maybe it was...)
Yep. I currently have mange. Again. ‘Nuff said.
10. Ear infection treatment
The up-close-and-personal-sticks-to-you-all-day aroma of ear infection is unmistakable. Try eating a nice home-cooked meal after that. Indian food, anyone?
And there are more, less routine insults to the senses … like necropsying a day-old dead dog, and the fulminating fluids we collect from thoraxes and abdomens. Today we drained about ten liters of foamy, bloody fluid from a dog’s abdomen. That’s a picture.
I rest my case. But I know you’ve got more, so I leave any others I might have missed up to you, my knowledgeable readers and fellow industry insiders. I promise to forward your comments to the people at "Dirty Jobs" along with this post.
Dr. Patty Khuly