The Stinky Side Of The Business

There are a lot of reasons why it’s great to be a veterinarian. I’ve shared many of them in my stories from The Wild Side. There are times, however, being a veterinarian has its drawbacks. The obvious includes receiving a bite wound, lamenting a critically ill patient that passed away, and smelling poop all day but not finding the source of the odor until you check you white coat pocket and find a cute morsel of stool nestled between your calculator and business card (yuck!). Actually the hazards of the veterinary profession are numerous and some of these stories must be told.

Joe and Nancy brought their cute miniature dachshund Lucy in for an annual exam. The appointment went well as we updated Lucy’s vaccinations, drew a blood sample for heart-worm testing and submitted a stool sample for parasite detection. The topics of diet, dental care and proper shampooing proved simple enough, but then Joe and Nancy asked about an odd behavior that Lucy displayed for over one week.

“Doc, Lucy started to do something quite adorable” said Joe. “She would sit on the carpet and scoot forward on her rear. Sometimes she would go in circles and it’s just the funniest thing.”

Nancy simply rolled her eyes as most wives do when there’s something amiss with their husband’s story. “Joe, it’s actually not that cute. In fact, I think something’s bothering Lucy back there. What do you think, Doc?”

“Well, although it may look cute, dogs that scoot across the floor usually have an issue with their anal glands. The anal glands are located on the right and left of the anus. Sometimes these glands get plugged up or infected and the dogs resort to scooting. We’ll need to squeeze them to empty the contents, and if the discharge looks infected, Lucy will need antibiotics.”

“Doc, can we learn how to squeeze the glands?” asked Joe.

“Yes, I can show you how to do it.”

I applauded Joe’s enthusiasm but knew it came from a place of ignorance, since the process is actually quite disgusting.

“First, you need to put on a pair of gloves so that your fingers don’t get slathered with the putrid fluid from the anal gland. Gently insert your finger into the anus and take hold of the swollen gland at either side. Apply even pressure and milk the gland of its contents.”

It was at this time that I noticed the stark expressions on Joe and Nancy’s face.

“Joe, we’re not doing this!” exclaimed Nancy.

With Nancy’s words still lingering in the air, I noticed a stream of anal gland juice flying through the air and heading directly for my face. It was just like in the movies, as everything seemed to move in slow motion. I turned just in time as the brownish fluid hit my right cheek, just missing my mouth. Whew, that was close. As I cleaned the discharge from my face and commented on the burning itch that arose at the point of impact, I could tell that Joe was having second thoughts about expressing Lucy’s anal glands on his own. I guess any squeezing in the future will be done by our staff – lucky us.

Being a veterinarian is definitely not for the faint of heart. It is a labor of love, and so many perils are simply overlooked. Anal gland juice on your face however, is not one of those easily forgotten. Still, the rewards are well worth the risks.

I guess sometimes you’ve got to get dirty, especially if you work on the wild side.

Pet tips: If your dog or cat constantly licks their rear or scoots along the floor, make an appointment to see your veterinarian. Anal gland problems can be serious.

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