Sunday, June 27, 2010

Close Call

Before I start, an apology for taking so long to update my blog. As I wrote last we made a pretty big move and now I am working in Canada. It has been quite a change in many ways, but now that I am a little more settled I will try to record some of my new interesting experiences.

Disclaimer: If you are in any way prone to a weak stomach this story is not for you... read at your own risk.

A few weeks ago I was told that a guy was bringing in a cat for a euthanasia in the afternoon. As a veterinarian this can be one of the more challenging aspects of our work. It is generally an emotional event where the range is somewhere in the surprised, upset, sad, really sad, heartbreaking, and then the occasional relief and feel better to be able to end prolonged suffering. This particular euthanasia was for me a brand new emotional experience...and it was not good.

The owners arrived with the cat laying prostrate on a blanket and I surmised immediately that this was a particularly bad situation. The cat was so emaciated that it appeared to be a skeleton covered with hair. The face of the cat looked something like this. The nose was completely crusted over with some type of bodily fluid. Both eyes were stuck shut and the left eye was draining what could only be described as a small river of pus. As a result of the dried nasal discharge/dried pus from the eyes the the cat was gasping for each breath.

The back half of the cat was a different color from the front as it was completely covered with dried, caked on feces. The cat was so weak it could hardly lift its head with each gasp so I immediately took the cat from the owner and went in the back to put the poor thing out of its extreme suffering.

Normally we sedate the cat first before attempting to do an intravenous injection of euthanasia solution, but this cat was so weak and so dehydrated that we decided to just go directly for the intra-cardiac injection. I grabbed one of the other doctors and asked for his assistance to inject while I held the cat. For a normal restraint to perform the injection you hold the scruff of the neck in one hand (just like a mama cat would) and with the other hand you hold the back legs of the cat so that it can't reach up to dig its claws in.

When I closed my grip on the neck I felt my fingers sink right through the skin! I jumped back and sat down against the wall because I was so grossed out. The other vet thought that the cat had bit me. I said "No, look at the neck" He finished the injection to complete the euthanasia as the cat was too weak to even respond then reached up to investigate the neck. Once again he thought wrong as he had assumed I had pulled out a big chunk of hair. He started to pull on the hair and pulled off a piece of skin about three inches long! That was the closest I have come to vomiting for a veterinary related reason.

Needless to say as soon as I had calmed down for a minute I went and had an interview with the two owners to ascertain that there were no other animals in their appalling "care". The most disgusting thing was that their excuse for not taking care of the animal...including bringing it in for euthanasia earlier was a lack of money. Normally I am very respectful and sensitive to financial constraints on treatment of veterinary patients but this disgusting neglect could have been prevented for the cost of lunch for two at most restaurants.