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Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

Welcome to My Office

I’d like to take some time to take you all on a tour of my office. Being a large animal ambulatory vet, I’m on the road about 98 percent of the time.

Occasionally, simple appointments such as a blood draw or suture removal will come into the office — if it’s a small goat or lamb or alpaca — but the meat and potatoes of my clinical work is done out at the farm. For the most part, large animal vets are the only remaining doctors in this country that regularly make house calls.

Since I’m so infrequently in the office, my truck bears the responsibility of keeping me safe, comfy, and prepared for most anything that I will encounter on a veterinary basis. It does some of these things better than others.

You see, I have a love/hate relationship with my truck. A blue and white Ford F250 that already had 90,000 miles on it when I started using it, it has virtually no shocks, and as a result, when I hit the smallest pothole at anything faster than 10 mph, I’m sent flying into the ceiling. But the heater works wonderfully. I’ve also spilled countless cups of soda on the seats and you can’t tell. Please don’t tell my boss about that.

I’ve broken the inside door handle three times because the door sticks, forcing me to yank on the handle to open it. I’ve had some of the rivets on the side of the body get pulled right off when the metal lining that covers them gets caught on over-grown bushes. I’ve had cats dive-bomb me in it, and I’ve hidden behind it when a Texas Longhorn cow became irate with me in the middle of a field. We’ve had good times and bad times.

Twice I’ve run out of gas because the fuel gauge doesn’t work anymore. And since I have an irrational fear that I will drive over the side of a bridge and not be able to escape, I bought a small device that can crack the window, made specifically for such an underwater emergency. It was only ten bucks. Don’t act like you’ve never thought about that.

The large white vet box on the back is what really holds all the goodies. Other vets’ trucks and what they hold fascinate me. Everyone has a different organizational method and every vet varies on what they carry or deem important. My box has compartments at the back and on both sides. I carry a step stool that allows me access to the far-reaches of every corner because this baby is packed.

On one side is a large cooler, holding my vaccines and other medications that require refrigeration. Being an older unit, mine does not have its own refrigerator. Every time I lament this fact to my boss, I am berated with stories about how when she started, she used a Subaru station wagon that had a manual transmission, so she would have to drive, look at the map, talk on the phone, eat her lunch, and shift all at the same time. She also says she had to walk uphill to school both ways.

On the other side of the unit, I carry my bulkier meds like horse dewormers and calf milk replacers, and about twenty bottles of different types of IV fluids. In the back are my injectible medications, along with supplies like syringes, needles, bandage materials, gloves, surgical scrub, and tools like surgical packs, dehorners, a calf jack, halters, and rope. Lots of rope. In the cab behind the seat sits my paper work, along with some nasogastric tubes, my rubber boots, and an extra set of clothes.

I find it amusing that people are actually interested in my vet truck. During appointments, I’ll catch clients peering curiously into the depths of the vet box, asking me questions like, so do you actually know where everything is in this thing? (Yes.) Or, what’s the mileage on this thing? (12 mpg. Yikes, I know.) Or, what’s that? (Referring to just about anything in there.)

Truth be told, this truck is my world. It has to be. The tailgate is sometimes a surgical suite (I’ve castrated cats on it), and also a cafeteria where I eat my lunch. It is a diagnostic lab and a pharmacy. It is a place to dispose of biohazards and a location where I hold sterile surgical tools. This dichotomous place requires to me be efficient, carrying only what I use and using only what I carry. Truly, the only thing missing is a cappuccino maker. Well, second only to a new set of shocks.

Dr. Anna O’Brien

Image: Blue Ford Pickup by Tyler / via Flickr

Comments  3

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  • On The Road Again
    04/13/2012 06:01am

    I've often wondered how a mobile vet with limited space would determine what instruments and medications to have "on hand". Do you have a standard list of items or do you stock up depending on the appointments and what the owner has stated?

    No rocks can be thrown about the age or condition of your vehicle. My car turned 20 this year and has 170K miles on it. Yup, just replaced tires, brakes, rotors and lower ball joints, but my personal property tax will still be $30 this year.

    "She also says she had to walk uphill to school both ways." Did she also kill a grizzly bear with her loose leaf notebook? :-)

    Great post. What a fun glimpse into your life!

  • 04/13/2012 12:58pm

    "And since I have an irrational fear that I will drive over the side of a bridge and not be able to escape, I bought a small device that can crack the window, made specifically for such an underwater emergency. It was only ten bucks. Don’t act like you’ve never thought about that."

    Dude, Mythbusters totally proved that the little window cracking/seatbelt cutting device is your best bet in an underwater car. Don't feel at all irrational :)

  • One more thing
    04/22/2012 11:55am

    On occasion I run into large animal vets with my work(utility co). So one day the vet was just sitting in his truck waiting for the farmer when I pulled in. A huge pack of farm dogs were all around his truck. I hopped out and walked over to his truck. He looked at me as if I was crazy. It was then I showed him that I never enter a farm without my dog treats. He laughed and went about his business. He was a young guy so I imagine he hasn't had to deal with ten dogs circling before. But it was amusing. You have a tough job but if your like me who hates being in a office this is a perfect solution. BTW they do make 12volt coffee makers that plug into cigarette lighters!!!! I have a 12volt food warmer that is awesome......

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