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Common veterinary mistakes, mishaps and stress May 7, 2009

Posted by thedolittlevet in Humour.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Mishaps occur frequently in the veterinary profession. As with other walks of life, nothing is perfect and errors can occur. Below are a list of some of the more common mistakes that happen in our daily lives as a vet:

Anal gland expression – A common complaint of pet owners is the discomfort (leading to’ scooting’ of the backside) caused by blocked anal glands in their pets. This is easily relieved by squeezing the glands to empty the secretion. As most pet owners can testify, the result is a foul fishy smelly liquid being released. Unfortunately, as the glands are squeezed, it is not uncommon for the secretion to come out with some force and shoot into the vet or innocent bystanders’ (often a nurse!) face…. delightful as you can imagine!

Steady, then aim and fire!

Steady, then aim and fire!

Viscous injection problems – Certain injectable drugs such as antibiotics, heartworm prevention and euthanasia medication can be quite viscous (thick) fluids. Sometimes, when injecting, the drug refuses to pass through the needle and causes an “explosion” of fluid everywhere (except into the patient!). This is most embarrassing during a euthanasia consultation, where you always hope everything runs smoothly to avoid causing any further distress to pet owners.

More injection problems…..in and then out again – Sometimes, drugs and fluids can also be injected into skin of a pet but then come straight out the other side – occasionally, soaking the owner! This was made famous in the UK on television by celebrity vet Trude Mostue when giving a vaccination.

Struggling to find a vein – This can happen when either placing an intravenous catheter to administer fluids or taking a blood sample. Sometimes, by “jabbing” in a needle numerous times, it appears as if we are giving an acupuncture session!  This can be stressful especially, if the owner is present during our attempts and asking if we’ve finished yet! The pet being held properly and not obese, makes it a lot easier!

What neck vein???

What neck vein???

Giving the wrong vaccination– It has been known for vets to accidentally give a cat vaccine to a dog and vice versa. Fortunately, this doesn’t normally lead to any serious adverse reactions apart from not giving the necessary protection intended.

Escaping pets and then trying to capture them – Aggressive cats and scared birds are the most common creatures that try to desperately escape during a visit to the vet clinic. Angry cats in particular can take a long time to catch – leading to numerous  injuries to veterinary staff!

Catch me if you can (or dare)!

Catch me if you can (or dare)!

Spaying a male cat – In the UK, flank spays (ovariohysterectomies where the incision is made on one side of the cat) are regarded as the routine technique. It has been known for vets to accidentally attempt a spay on a male cat. Obviously, after not being able to find a uterus/ovaries in the abdomen during surgery – they later realise to their dismay that there are 2 testicles at the rear end of the cat!

Biting hamsters – These little creatures (especially Syrian hamsters) have a nasty little bite on them. Naturally being a prey species, they are often terrified when being handled and understandably defend themselves by biting. The problem is that their sharp needle like teeth really hurt and vets have been known to drop or “flick” these little furry pets leading to nasty injuries, like paralysis or even death?

Looks innocent?

Looks innocent?

Misidentifying  species or sex – Some pets, especially small ones can be very difficult (e.g. very young kittens) or impossible (birds unless using DNA or endoscopy) to identify their sex – often leading to owners giving inappropriate names! Certain exotic species can give us even more problems with their identification. How many vets can correctly differentiate between a Marginated and Russian tortoise? Worse still, we don’t always correctly identify all dog or cat breeds! Do you know what a Hovawart looks like?

Which species???

Which species???

Forgetting the owner or pet – We see many pets and owners with common problems everyday. Obviously, we often can remember regular clients who have been coming in for many years. However, if we see someone outside of work, who comes in less frequently, it is not easy to recall their exact pet and the problem last week. This can cause difficulties if they start talking to you about their pet. We can either bluff our way through the conversation or be honest and say, we don’t remember their pet (which probably won’t go down too well!). I have known of one vet forgetting he euthanased their pet a few months earlier and then asking at a later date, how the pet was getting on!!



1. Janet Tobiassen DVM - May 8, 2009

Good article, Doc DolittleVet. Truth and humor.

2. richard walters - May 8, 2009

having worked in the human hospital field for 25 yrs now i can say that the patients are really different but the things done to the animals have been done to humans and i know i did them !nyu medical center new york

thedolittlevet - May 8, 2009

I can imagine human doctors have even more amusing stories to recollect. I know that often for human operations, the limbs of patients that are about to undergo surgery are often highlighted LEFT and RIGHT as it has been known for mistakes to occur!

3. Jaime Merrifield,DVM (jmedvm) - May 8, 2009

Loved reading (and recalling!)EVERY one of these!My worst (funniest now)moments were during my very first job as a new graduate veterinarian in rural PA. I saw everyting from show roosters,cows,horses,kittens,puppies,ferrets,you name it and was often very tired from on call work for a week at a time. I often would fake my way around not knowing people (I only remembered the animals!)by saying “So, how’s my friend doing?” when meeeting clients outside work. It worked OK until the day I met a dairy farmer a week after euthanizing one of his best cows…….sigh

thedolittlevet - May 8, 2009

Glad to know that the problems vets experience are the same throughout the world! I remember when I used to work with large animals, the accidents were often a lot more messy and physically painful for the vets! I still am amazed at how contaminated cattle surgery can be with very few complications.

4. mizzy bindz - October 21, 2009

okay not much help but……..at least u tried?yeah…………..it sucked

5. mizzy bindz - October 21, 2009

lol hahahahahahaha

6. mizzy bindz - October 21, 2009


7. mizzy bindz - October 21, 2009

= ( laugh with me

8. Great Swiss Mountain Dog - December 1, 2009

We have been through similar stories with my Great Swiss puppies recently. When you take more of them to the vet at the same time, they can drive him crazy 🙂

9. trinity - August 3, 2010

Your examples are true. There have been a couple times when the vet had trouble diagnosing our dog’s problem..but things just happen and people are only human.

10. regretavet - May 6, 2014

I’d be scared to go to the vet because of these reasons and MANY MANY more, http://www.facebook.com/regretavet

11. Ken Silvers - December 27, 2014

Those who cannot become doctors, those who can become veterinarians.

12. Anonymous - August 20, 2015

And those that can’t become either, sit in their pajamas at 3 in the afternoon making comments on the internet

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