Safety First: Bites and Mites Are Not a Vet's Best Friend
Recently, a vet in my area was mauled so badly (by a Rottweiler) he hasn’t been back to work in months. I’ve been told he may never practice medicine again.
I don’t generally regard my profession as dangerous—and certainly not life threatening. After all, these are dogs and cats, not lions, tigers, and bears. I’d venture to guess that a UPS driver is at greater risk (have you seen those people drive?).
But dogs and cats can be vicious at times. My real fear is not so much Fluffy’s bite—but Fluffy’s bite after she’s bitten her owner. Talk about high risk: a hypodermic injection of whatever her owner’s got. This is yet another reason I never went into human medicine: cats and dogs can’t [easily] give me anything deadly that I can’t be vaccinated against.
Bites are, however, by far the most common injury on the job. I get bitten about once a year, on average. I’ve only had to go to the hospital twice. And I’ve been working in this field since I was ten years old. That’s a great average. Most vets fare about the same.
Equine vets and exotic animal vets can’t say the same. In these specialties, if you have to be hospitalized usually it’s due to a nasty kick or in the event of some serious dental interaction. Cats and dogs are usually limited in their attacks in the controlled environment of an animal hospital; you generally won’t be set upon by a pack of pit bulls, for example.
The more annoying safety issues are the ones I really hate. Last year I developed an ugly red ringworm patch about an inch in diameter—on my face. Have you ever had ringworm? Let me just say that it doesn’t go away with a mere one or two weeks of treatment. No. This fungal infection saw me through Halloween, Thanksgiving, and New Years. It was gone by Valentine’s Day. Not that I cared by then; the damage had been done. What’s a date after you’ve had a huge, raw patch of skin adjacent to your mouth for the better part of four months?
And how about mange? I get sarcoptic (red) mange about three times a year. Itchy, scaly little bumps that coalesce at your watchband and bra line. Pretty.
But there’s nothing worse than sitting down for a nice meal at an upscale Italian restaurant and having your date (who, incidentally, you’ve only been dating for about two weeks) ask what the heck is climbing up your cleavage (a tick, in this case). Very sexy.
Yes, the profession is challenging and sometimes even perilous—sometimes more to my social life than to my physical well-being. It’s often hard to explain where all the scars and scratches come from, not to mention the bugs. But it’s one hell of a lot more fun than sitting behind a desk or the wheel of a delivery truck. So I’ll just take my chances.