Tag Archives: Cat

The Cat Charmer and the Messy Chef

There’s a game I remember from childhood parties at my grandmother’s house. A tempting bar of chocolate was set on an table in the middle of a ring of children. Each child had to throw a pair of dice and if you got two sixes, you had a chance to go to the table and eat the chocolate. Before you could do so, however, you first had to put on a large pair of mittens followed by a woolly hat and scarf. Then, and only then, could you go and attack the chocolate, which you had to eat with a knife and fork, but woe betide you if another child threw two sixes before the process was complete. I was reminded of that game this week in the dental room. Whenever we are using the ultrasonic descaler, we put on protective gloves and a face mask and normally this takes seconds.

However, for some reason, the latest batch of masks are different from normal. Rather than elastic which slides easily behind your ears, these have individual ties, one set at the top and one at the bottom. Twice this week, one of my colleagues has come to me and asked, ‘Could you just begin this dental for me?’ and both times I have found myself putting on the latex gloves first (as I have always done in the past) and then went to put on the mask and found myself fiddling around for ages, trying to tie the bows at top and bottom. It sounds easy, but what with trying to get both tight enough so that the thing doesn’t slide off, and with my hair getting woven in, all hindered somewhat by the tight gloves which seemed specially designed for hair tanglage, I was inexorably reminded of the chocolate game as I wondered frustratedly whether the colleague in question would return before I had even managed to don the protective clothing.

I seem to have spent a lot of time in the dental room this week (not all of it getting myself tied in knots). Dagny called me in yesterday as she had decided the dog she was working on needed to go on a drip. Irene came to help me to put in the i/v catheter and both of them watched with some sympathy as I doused the leg in alcohol and then started doing the traditional ‘my fingers are nipping’ dance where you jig around the room shaking your hand where the alcohol has entered a wound.

‘Is it sore?’ Dagny asked (in Norwegian you understand).

‘Yes,’ I gazed down at both thumbs which were stinging horribly. ‘I must have a hole.’ It took me a minute or two to register that both Irene and Dagny were laughing at me, and a moment longer to realise what I had said. Of course we have been in this position before, only in English and with the roles reversed. Existing in a language that isn’t your mother tongue really does lead to a lot of faux pas.

With their laughter still ringing in my ears, I set up the drip and hung it up on a hook on the wall and Dagny said something to me. Thinking it was something about getting the drip into place, I failed to turn round to look at her… only to hear a few seconds later,

‘Ahem. Sarah.’ It was that tone. The one that lets me know I have missed something. I turned round… and realised that as I had hung up the drip bag, I had inadvertently turned the spotlight out. Dagny was trying to work in the dark. Fortunately she just laughed at my expression and carried on. At least she was using the light as it was meant to be used. Later in the day, in a moment of confusion, Wivek pulled the light fitting into position against a cats jaw. This would have all been very well if she was needing more light, but as she was trying to take an x-ray at the time, it was somewhat ineffective.

The cat in question was a beautiful cat called Laila. Earlier I had gone into Wivek’s consulting room to help with her sedation. It can be difficult to get cats out of their baskets when you want to examine them, but I was amused to see that Wivek, in a continuation of last week’s singing, decided that the way to charm Laila from her cage was by chanting her name very tunefully over and over. It was at least partially successful. Laila’s head appeared as she looked outside to see who it was who was singing so beautifully. Poor Laila. It must have felt a bit like the Siren’s song: irresistibly sweet, but concluding with an injection that sent her to sleep. Though whether those who were seduced by the real Sirens woke up with beautifully clean teeth, no-one will ever know.

Marita too was thinking of a change in direction this week as she stood in theatre, removing some tumours from a dog. She had discovered the pleasure of removing lipomas (fatty lumps) from under the skin by ‘dissecting’ bluntly using her fingers. It’s amazing how efficiently a lipoma can be removed as they are usually well defined and ‘shell-out’ quite easily.

‘I feel like a messy chef,’ she commented idly as she ran her fingers around the mass. She didn’t seem particularly amused when I suggested that after she was finished, she could use the lumps to make meatballs.

This week’s picture is of Dagny suturing a puppy’s eye. The unlucky pup had been scratched by an angry cat and as you can see in the picture, Dagny used the microscope to carry out the repair to the cornea using tiny suture material that was about the same thickness as a human hair. After stitching up the breach, Dagny clipped a section of the conjunctiva and sutured a flap over the damaged area both to protect it, and to carry blood to the area, which has no natural blood supply. The flap will be left in place for at least six weeks. Dagny’s final act was to inject some fluid into the front of the eye to make up for that which had leaked out. The whole process was utterly fascinating. Best of all though, without such care, the pup would have definitely lost one of her eyes. Hopefully this operation will give her a chance to grow up with both.

Specialist eye instruments (tiny scissors and forceps)
Specialist eye instruments (tiny scissors and forceps)

 

Miss Direction

It seems that last week in the clinic, I missed out on the exciting moment when one of our feline patients did the wall of death around consulting room A. Most of the cats here seem very reasonable, but apparently this one was half wild. It’s amazing how  much damage can be done by one cat on a dedicated shelf bombing mission. Fortunately Dagny’s arm was long enough to reach in to its hiding place behind the fridge and inject it with enough anaesthetic to calm it down.

Hair raising anaesthesia was also the order of the day earlier this week when one of the patients I was monitoring stopped breathing near the beginning of its operation. Of course with gas anaesthesia, it is straightforward enough to carry out assisted breathing, indeed on our anaesthesia course, the lecturer quite casually mentioned that it didn’t really matter whether the animal breathed itself or not as it was easy to respirate. I guess it happens often enough that it must eventually become almost routine. It has happened a few times and every single time it has been fine, but I still find myself checking and rechecking the equipment and assessing the animal in every way possible, whilst trying to look perfectly calm. Having been the surgeon in that situation, I know how disconcerting it is trying to operate and wondering all the time whether the animal is okay, and whether you should be doing something  to help. Trust is very important in those circumstances. Jacqueline has been incredibly calm before in that situation. Indeed when I asked her if everything was okay, she looked at me as if there was nothing untoward going on at all. My nerves are not as steely as hers though and I was profoundly happy when the dog woke up perfectly normally at the end of the operation.

On Wednesday I went in for my own hospital appointment. It seems that with tonsillectomy, there is a risk of post-operative bleeding and as I am attending a wedding in Scotland on the 24th May, I won’t be able to have my operation next week. They have rebooked it for Wednesday 27th May, just two days after I return. As I live an hour away from the hospital, they will be keeping me in overnight. Just as well as Charlie will be in Spain at the time. I’m glad now that I don’t have to wait any longer.

I was reminded the other night by a conversation with Wivek just how difficult it can be to get an accurate picture over the telephone and how confusing it can be when the owner has already made a diagnosis. It was Marita who was on call and Wivek was helping when they had a call from a client who told them that her bitch had a prolapsed uterus. In twenty or so years of veterinary practice, I have never seen such a thing in a dog. Plenty of cows, a couple of sheep and a very occasional pig, but never in a dog. Of course, such a conversation usually causes that lightning strike in your brain. How on earth will I deal with that? In that frozen state, it can be difficult to rationalise. So busy working out what you are going to have to do that alternative thought is banished. The reality is often that the owner hasn’t got things quite right, (in this case it turned out that the bitch had a polyp in her vagina) but I am sure I have a few extra grey hairs from this phenomenon.

Very occasionally the owner turns out to be correct. The one day old puppy I once saw with its liver hanging out really was just that. A proud moment for me when that dog reached six months of age. But more often, with hindsight, it is possible to look back and laugh, though obviously not in front of the client. Great tact was called for on the day when the owner rushed her dog into the clinic on an autumn day in Glasgow with a wound on the back leg which the lady thought had become infected.

‘It’s the wound on her leg. It’s gone all yellow.’ Dramatic hand to forehead. ‘Oh I can’t bear to look.’ Bending over the dog to inspect its leg, I was initially surprised by just how yellow it was until I realised that actually the dog must have sat down on a fallen leaf which had stuck to the slightly sticky wound. Another occasion, another panicky phone call.

‘My dog’s broken its leg. There’s a piece of bone hanging out,’ and then once again those portentous words, ‘Oh I can’t bear to look.’ On that occasion it was part of a stick of rock that was stuck to the leg. Quite how the owner had missed the fact that her dog was using its broken limb without even limping still passes me by.

My favourite story however is the apocryphal tale of the PDSA client who came into the clinic very angry. They had bought an expensive Rottweiler puppy and it wasn’t growing. It was left to the rather bemused vet to explain that the reason that the puppy was not making much progress was because it was actually a guinea pig. Somehow I have never been able to convince myself that story was true, even though I have been assured that it did really happen. Still it’s a great story, and there is just enough possibility in there to make it wonderfully tantalising. You really do need a great deal of tact to be a vet.

Today’s picture is Tiger who is in for a vaccination and is looking very fine at the great age of 16 years and 9 months.

 

 

 

Twice as Scary

I’ve been feeling much better this week. So much so that a few minutes ago, I found myself dancing around my kitchen eating a slice of leftover barbecued haggis (yes you did read that correctly –  it’s delicious). The working week started well with an unexpected hug from Dagny. She told me how glad she was to see me and asked whether I had received my final pathology report on my tonsils, which I had. I was able to assure her that everything had come back clear.

I had a moment of quiet confusion when I walked into the kennel room and saw Dagny again, apparently on her hands and knees cleaning out one of the kennels. When she heard me coming, she pulled her head out of the kennel and smiled infectiously. It wasn’t Dagny at all, but a young girl who looked so like her I knew it must be her daughter. She said ‘Hi’ and a few minutes later, Dagny introduced us.

‘This is my Sara’ she said. ‘She’s here to help clean.’

Irene arrived at about the same time and as there were no operations, she, Sara and I set out on a mission to give the clinic a full spring clean. Having cleaned out one of the consulting rooms, right down to the bookshelves and inside the cupboards, we were feeling quite pleased with ourselves when Dagny came in to see how we were doing. Having admired most of the room, she came to a standstill in front of a pin board in the corner, where a random-looking set of dosage sheets of all shapes and colours were hanging in squinty profusion.

‘You could tidy this up,’ she suggested. I stared at it. Amazing how invisible things become to my eyes when I am used to seeing them. No wonder my house is never perfectly tidy.

IMG_5480The most amusing moment with Sara came when Jan-Arne arrived. By this time, Irene and she were outside cleaning the windows. Jan-Arne walked into the prep room, where Dagny was working on the computer. His eyes opened wide, he shook his head and slowly raised a shaking hand to point.

‘But you’re out there,’ he said. The confusion in his voice was comical.

‘Do we really look so much alike?’ Dagny asked a few minutes later, when Sara was back in the room.

‘Mostly from behind,’ Irene assured her, and took a photograph to demonstrate.

Twice as scary

My brain was functioning much better with the Norwegian this week. I find it astonishing though, how often I still can’t understand the entries made when the patients are being booked in. Considering how many times I see animals with the same or similar conditions, I find this mildly disconcerting, but mostly amusing. At least when it’s written down, I can ask before I come face to face with the client.

‘Har vært is slåsskamp’ (has been in a fight) was straightforward enough.  Can you beat the wonderful word slåsskamp? Kamp translates as match (as in football). Somehow for me then, slåss (rough pronunciation sloss) just sounds like a competition where the combatants are sloshing away at each other. That doesn’t make sense? Somehow in my brain it just works.

The next appointment was more confusing. ‘Hull i huden på hodet etter fjerning av hårsekk.’

‘Hull i huden på hodet’ (hole in the skin on the head) was straightforward enough. But ‘fjerning av hårsekk’? ‘Fjerning’ means removal but what on earth was a hair-sac? Somehow my mind was imagining a hole filled with fluff. Really though, it was logical, and thanks to google translate I was able to find out that it was actually a hair follicle.

The next case, ‘Sår etter bet’. Well I still don’t know what ‘bet’ means but I guessed correctly that this was a cat bite abscess andl I managed well enough. The hole in the skin after the hair follicle incident, was actually a gaping gap between the dog’s eyes following the emptying of a cyst. Generally when a cyst has burst, unless it is recurring, it is best just to clean out the hole and then leave it to heal. I do sometimes still find the ‘I know it looks awful, but we really don’t need to do anything,’ conversation harder in Norwegian than English. It’s far more noticeable to me when I have to translate everything, that people often repeat information in slightly different ways. There is a lot of speaking which could realistically be compressed into a very few words. This isn’t in any way a criticism. Indeed consulting here makes me realise that back in the UK, faced with an owner who was obviously confused about what I was telling them, I would re-explain in a different form. In Norwegian, that is more difficult as I tend to run out of words. Having explained to the owner that despite the fact that there was quite a large hole in the skin on her dog’s face, it would heal best if left alone, I could tell she was still unconvinced. Luckily, a quick conversation with Dagny allowed me to go back into the room and assure her that my boss agreed with me. Amazing the things I have to resort to, but at least it worked. Still, it’s cheering that consulting on cases with your colleagues is so encouraged here, that Dagny never batted an eyelid when I asked her about something as simple as a sebaceous cyst. It makes for a great working environment when everybody works as a team.