Someone asked me the other day what I wanted for Christmas. Rather than limit this question to my personal “like to have, but would never buy for myself” list, I thought I would take this opportunity to describe my extensive wish list as a veterinarian.
Easier diagnosis: Diagnosing conditions in animals can be hard. If I got my wish, all patients would arrive at our clinics with nice signs around their necks clearly naming their problem.
For example: “I have heart failure” for a weak, lethargic dog, or “the heel of my right front hoof is very sore” for a chronically lame horse.
Because our patients can’t talk to us, except those feisty, vocabulary spouting birds, we have to rely on our clinical examination, including heart rate, gum colour, temperature, pain when touched, diagnostic tests such as X-rays, blood work and most importantly, information provided from the client.
Which leads me to my next wish.
Histories: All clients will have a complete record of the who, what, when, where and why in terms of their animal’s problems, including dates. This might not be realistic in all settings, but behaviour provides us important clues about what is wrong.
Most of our domestic animals are derived from prey species, which means threatening situations, such as a visit to a veterinary clinic, causes them to mask weaknesses at all cost. In these settings, what was obviously wrong at home mysteriously goes away at the clinic.
We learn so much about the animal by listening to the owner and asking questions about what the animal was like before we see it. Keep this in mind when chatting with your vet. You have to speak for your animal and describe what is going on to the best of your ability.
Unlimited budget: We spend years studying to become veterinarians, so we usually know the steps to take to find out the diagnosis. However, finances often limit us to the most practical options.
I fully recognize this is a normal and realistic reality of practice, but most of us don’t often get to send for the fancy tests, despite our accumulated textbooks of knowledge.
For Christmas, I’d like an unlimited budget to “work up” those interesting cases, find all the answers and provide the “gold standard” of care taught in veterinary school.
Timely illness: Animals would not get sick between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7 a.m., eliminating the need for us to be on emergency call.
Disease eradication: Some diseases would simply disappear on Christmas Day. I would get an official notice from the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association letting me know that my least favourite diseases to deal with, including rabies, cancer and feedlot pneumonia in beef cattle, were eradicated.
I’d especially wish for elimination of those diseases that are really hard for me to deal with as a pathologist-in-training. No more disease of the brain or spinal cord, and cattle would cease to miscarry.
Fur repellent: All my clothes would miraculously repel horse, cat, dog and other critter fur.
Fur on clothing is a real hazard of the profession and it would be nice for those times when we venture out in public for our career choice not to be immediately obvious.
North Pole vet: Santa would hire me to be his official veterinarian.
How neat would it be to travel the world in one night with the jolly man in the red suit? I’m sure there’s plenty to do, after all: reindeer need veterinary care just as much as our more typical domestic species.
I can just imagine how useful I’d be.
Christmas Eve would be a flurry of activity, including suturing the occasional small cuts, monitoring recovery time from the vigorous cross-Pacific run and ensuring all their vaccines are up to date. I could also confirm that the multitude of cross-border paperwork was in order.
As well, I might take a small biopsy of Rudolph’s nose to understand why it glows.