Monday, December 8, 2008

Occupational hazard?

My friend K, a brilliant vet, is currently in hospital on three different intravenous antibiotics following a dog bite she received almost nine days ago. The patient, a rottweiler, is trained as an attack dog but was not wearing a muzzle. The dog did not react as she approached him, from the side, but suddenly bit the middle finger on her left hand - leaving her with a painful, open communiuted fracture. She was given oral antibiotics but two days ago developed a draining sinus. Tomorrow she is scheduled for a general anaesthetic so the wound can be debrided. She will require weeks and weeks off work, and now her partner has to take time off work to change their baby because she can't do anything with this hideously infected and very sore finger. I went in to visit her today.

Aside from being bored (do animals get bored in hospital? few show signs if they do) and frustrated she is learning some interesting things you can only learn through experience: IV catheters are uncomfortable for the duration that they are in and the fluids feel very cold (its amazing that most animal patients tolerate them relatively well). The nursing staff initially covered the entire wound in plastic for fear of contamination - but this effectively placed a seal around the draining sinus, causing an increase in temperature and humidity and consequently pus - and pain. She since did what a lot of animals do and just removed the bandage (mind you she didn't eat it). People don't realise how dangerous, destructive and nasty dog bites can be. The owners in this case were frightened of their own dog but felt it was acceptable to bring to a vet without a muzzle on. This attitude is fairly common - people seem to assume that as vets we are somehow immune to the havoc animal bites can wreak, or we have some magical forcefield that protects us against being bitten. Others just think we're being a bit weak if we're worried about being by "an old dog with hardly any teeth" or "a little cat". As professionals we take care but that can't protect you against a bite for which there are no warning signs. Nothing can.