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Day in the Life of an Emergency Vet

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6:00 a.m.

Its time to start the coffee. I wish I had an IV catheter in so I could take the caffeine IV. I pick out some green scrubs that look reasonably clean (Thought: better do laundry tonight.)

7:00 a.m.

I slug down a second cup of coffee to get amped up for the chaos I suspect is coming. My scrubs are a little wrinkled, so I do a quick ironing job with my hands. Jump on my bike and off to work.

7:30 a.m.

The day starts like any other shift: two black labs had ingested 250 tablets of methionine, a urine acidifier that helps some dogs with bladder stone problems.

The plastic container was chewed into a gnarly pulp, pockmarked with tooth marks. The two lab mates, Remington and Chester, wag their tails wildly as we check them out.

Which one had eaten the pills, or had they both indulged?

Two injections of apomorphine later, large volumes of green vomitus flow across the floor, with no tablets visible. Blood tests show no ill effects, so the culprits are discharged.

10:00 a.m.

Meanwhile, in Room 2, a pug named Lexi is trying to deliver her third puppy after a six hour ordeal that had resulted in one live puppy and one dead puppy.

In Room 1, a chocolate lab comes in after her owner found red urine on the floor. We collect some urine to take a look.

Another owner brings in his 15-year-old great Pyrenees, Valcor, for euthanasia. The owner cradles Valcor’s head, laying in the tree-shaded grass behind the hospital. I administer the euthanasia solution, and Valcor’s spirit slips heavenward. The owner talks about the dog’s joy in spending the last five years of his life running around 60 acres and guarding sheep. It’s challenging to change gears, but part of the job.

The urinalysis on the chocolate lab shows a urinary tract infection, so she goes home on antibiotics.

Coffee break time, but I only get a few gulps along with a few stale donuts. Unfortunately, some of the coffee spills on my scrubs, but blends with the vomited splash-up from the previous patient.

11:30 a.m.

In Room 2, Lexi is still having contractions, but starting to get exhausted. We give her an injection of oxytocin, to help with uterine contractions, and calcium, to help her depleted muscle stores.

An overweight Pomeranian comes in that has fallen off the couch, and is not using one of her back legs. X-Rays show a broken tibia — ouch. She is sent home on pain meds, with instructions to keep confined and get it fixed at their regular veterinarian.


12:00 p.m.

Cimarron, another chocolate lab, comes in with a gigantic swollen face. It is not painful, and most likely she has swallowed a bee and is having an allergic reaction. Ironically, she had come in two months earlier for exactly the same thing. Two injections later, she is out the door.

Four hours after her last puppy, Lexi is still having contractions in Room 2. It is time to give her some help. I am able to gently grasp the puppy’s head and ease her out of the birth canal, but vigorous resuscitation is unsuccessful. Lexi is fine, however, so she finally gets to go home to tend to her one surviving puppy.

I finish off the cold cup of coffee for lunch, and change into some new scrubs. They will not stay new for long, however.

3:00 p.m.

The empty exam room is promptly filled by Shiloh, a Springer Spaniel who was bitten by a rattlesnake. Two fang marks are on the inside of his front leg, swelling painfully. We see so many snake bites that is has almost become an assembly line procedure: IV catheter, pain meds, an injection of benadryl and IV fluids. A blood sample is drawn to look for tell-tale changes in red blood cells, and possible depletion of platelets, which are needed for clotting. After administration of antivenom, Shilo is set up to spend the night.

7:00 p.m.

Time flies by on busy shifts, and before I know it I am within an hour of being done. A few sick cats and a paralyzed lizard came in, and the shift ended with Piper, another lab, who had broken with bloody diarrhea. A fecal exam showed no parasites, so we started Piper on some medication and dietary adjustments. My scrubs get it once more, this time from the stool sample.

The next group of nurses and an overnight doctor arrived for rounds. As I jumped on my bike to head home, my light pulses through the darkness. It seems like my mind is pulsing too, overly caffeinated and re-living the crazy onslaught of cases from the day. I do some addition in my head and realize most of my patients did pretty well. Grateful for the opportunity to work in such a rewarding environment, I pedal onward, as dogs bark protectively at me from their yards.

Jon Geller is a veterinarian at the Fort Collins Veterinary Emergency and Rehabilitation Clinic.

The Coloradoan

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Fort Collins Veterinary Emergency and Rehabilitation Hospital

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816 S Lemay Ave Fort Collins, CO 80524

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