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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.

Although I’ve mentioned my black Lab mix Shadow before, I diverge from many large animal vets in that I do not bring my dog on farm calls with me. Shadow is, in human terms, an introvert and, in canine behavioral terms, fear aggressive. As such, she sometimes does not play well with others.

To illustrate this point, I’ll relate the one and only time Shadow accompanied me on a call. 

Late on a Saturday night a few springs ago, I went to see a Standardbred foal with a fever that just would not break despite medication and TLC already given by the owner. Feeling sorry for myself driving alone in the truck on a moonless Saturday night, I invited Shadow to come along, much to her surprise and delight.

After cautiously climbing into the cab, Shadow sat in the passenger’s seat, snout out the window in the breeze. Everything was going great until we arrived at the farm.

Let me interject just for a moment to elaborate on Shadow’s temperament. Shadow does not like strangers, strange environments, strange noises, strange smells, or any strange feelings she may get from any of the above. Given that she was about to encounter a strange one of everything at this appointment, I recognize now that I wasn’t thinking clearly when I invited her in the first place.

As soon as I pulled up to the barn, the owner came out to greet me. At the sight of a stranger approaching the truck in the dark, Shadow exploded with a barrage of barks, snarls, and growls. As I closed the automatic window on the passenger side, I almost caught her nose. Then, as the owner came around to the driver’s side to avoid the snarling creature, Shadow decided to release her anal glands. In my truck. With me in it. With the windows closed.

Let me interject once more to explain canine anal glands for those unfamiliar. For some annoying evolutionary reason, dogs have glands located at their rear end. These glands contain a vile, horrible, brown liquid that smells so bad, it’s indescribable. Saying it smells like rotten fish covered in skunk is being conservative at best, but it at least gives you some idea of how dismayed I was to be in a closed vehicle at the time of anal gland ejection. Dogs sometimes express their anal glands when they are scared. Shadow has been known to do so at numerous scary points in her life, such as when my best friend comes to visit the house, the vacuum cleaner is running, or the pizza delivery person comes to the door — all very scary times, indeed.

I quickly found myself in the middle of a stink bomb of monumental proportions and leaped from the truck as fast as I could, coughing, sputtering, and seething. NEVER, I promised myself, would Shadow be invited for a ride-along again. EVER. However, the rest of the visit went without a hitch and the foal’s temperature was soon brought under control with IV fluids, antibiotics, and pain medication. Then Shadow and I were on our way back home.

I am a bit jealous of farm vets who own a dog that is actually reasonable during appointments, but I’ve seen plenty of calls that go wrong in spite of a reasonable canine companion. For example, the vet dog that wanders off to roll in fresh cow manure, or the vet dog that chases the client’s horse, or the vet dog that gets in a fight with the client’s dog, or the vet dog that almost gets left behind and at the last minute leaps into the truck … and reeks of skunk.

All of these situations arise from a dog, well, just being a dog, and it makes me wonder if really, shouldn’t these dogs just be left at the office? I’m sure not every client is ecstatic about a random canine wandering their farm, especially if there are young lambs, goat kids, or crias around. But on the other hand, the hours on the road can be long for a farm vet and if small animal clinics can have an “office cat,” well then why can’t I have my “truck dog”?

For now, at least, this debate is a moot point. Shadow is no longer invited on any calls with me. Let’s just say it took a really long time to get the smell out of my truck.

Dr. Anna O’Brien

Image: Sheeva1 / via Shutterstock

Comments  3

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  • saracoptic mange
    12/07/2012 05:58am

    is there a positive test or is it diagnosed by visual only
    if proven positive are there cures?
    anti biotics vary from one type of mange to another
    do you have some help on this problem,
    my dog penny 9 year old boxer, is having a rough time initialy diagnosed with cushings, then under active thyroid .now semi paralized rear end. has a rash of pustules down the middle of her back from nose to tail
    i am using the pdsa local, they just want to put her down. i love my dog and i am heartbroken just even thinking about it
    seeing the news about parralized dogs having treatment does give some comfort .even though it will be many years before it will be widely available
    thanks for you being there
    ray greening

  • Saturday Night
    12/07/2012 06:49am

    You really know how to have a good time on a Saturday night. :-)

  • Nervous dog
    12/07/2012 03:49pm

    I am glad to know that there is a dog is this world even more stressed out than my sheltie! He is actually pretty well-behaved "in public" unless a garbage truck goes by...then he turns into a maniac. However, he accompanies me to work at my feed store every day and after four years, still barks at everyone he does not know extremely well. The only reason I get away with having him here is that he is very intelligent and EXTREMELY food motivated, so I simply have him do a few tricks when someone comes in. He has quite a repetoire, (hope I spelled that correctly) and people will stop in and ask for a perfomance.
    If he's in the car, he barks at anyone who approaches, and it is the same if someone comes to the house.
    I do take him to Rally and Obedience trials, and the biggest problem he has is that he gets so nervous, he wants to practially RUN through the course. He will occasionally hit a jump because he takes off too early...in Rally, at least, I can say "Easy" as he heads to the jump, which will usually slow him down. Once, we showed down the road from where a Civil War reenactment was taking place and he had one go where the cannons fired the whole time. The poor guy was in a total panic and was practically running circles around me, but he's very obedient and we managed to perform every station and get a qualifying score. He also gets scared if it is windy and the rally signs flap a bit.
    When I have to walk a course, he throws a fit because I have to leave him; if I leave him with my husband, he hangs onto my leg with his legs and grabs my jeans with his teeth. In a crate, he pitches a fit, which is really embarrassing. He IS crate trained.
    Oddly enough, I have no trouble with his long sits and downs for obedience, even when I leave the ring, and when he earned his CD, I was able to teach him to stand for examination. Outside the ring (or class) he would never allow a stranger to touch him that way.
    Even a simple walk is scary. I have several different routes and a few of them make him nervous. He will actually try to turn down the road he prefers, and on the ones he does not like, he is quite anxious.
    This is a dog who has always had a good home and was socialized from the beginning. Imagine if he'd actually had any bad experiences!

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