There is a common misconception that vets work shifts.
The reality is that we work on average 70 hours a week. We do on call, nights and weekends as a routine as well as the normal day hours. We do not work shifts. We work all the time.
To give you a little taster here is a diary of my weekend on call. Remember I have worked a normal week prior to starting my weekend on call, and I will work a normal week afterward. I finished work on friday at 7pm, I finished work at 6.30 pm today (monday) after my on call weekend. There are two of us covering the weekend, during the week there would be nine.
8 am: Arrive at work, check the inpatients and call owners. I discuss treatment plans for the day, only the last client wants to talk for ever and ever but I need to start consulting soon....
9am- 11.30 am I consult, during this time I take an X-ray, a blood sample, vaccinate various animals, discuss lamenesses and admit a Bulldog for a C-section.
11.30 am: I start the C-section. Meanwhile a collapsed dog arrives, my colleague is resuscitating this but it dies. He then sees another collapsed dog (only it's actually ok) He has to head straight to the branch surgery to consult immediately, he will be late. We normally do this together but I have to continue with my C-section. He sees nine people, I deliver nine puppies.
1.30 pm I phone the Bulldog owner and ask her to come and collect the bitch and puppies. She tells me she wants to have a spot of lunch first. Lucky for some, I still havent eaten and nor have the nurses who are tending to her dog.
1.45 pm I drink a glass of water and get on with anaesthetising and X-raying a dog who turns out to have and infection in his intervertebral disc.
2.30 pm- 4.30pm, I consult again.
4.30 pm I manage to have lunch, a piece of toast. I am told a lame cat is coming down.
5pm I see three further emergencies.
7pm I go home.
10 pm I am called to be told an old cat that has had a fit is coming down to the surgery.
'I'll be there straight away.' I tell the nurses.
What I actually say is 'For fucks sake! With a bit of luck it will be decrepid and dying of renal failure and they'll want it put to sleep!'
When I arrive I find the cat is a pretty cool old fella who looks great for his age and is much loved, he's also absolutely fine now.
10.45 pm I contemplate what a bitch I am.
11pm I go to bed.
I arrive 9 am and check inpatients
10 am- 12pm I consult again, seeing 'urgent cases'. Ranging from diarrhoea to cystitis.
The day continues much the same, with the addition of a seventy five kilo Mastiff that requires an emergency hysterectomy as a result of an infected uterus, various non emergencies (a fractured nail and a bee sting) and two pigeons and one hedgehog deposited at the front door by members of the public. All of which look like they've been through a washing machine.
My last call out is at 9pm that night to see a not very lame dog who has been 'shivering' and is absolutely fine when he arrives.
This was actually a pretty quiet weekend for me in comparison to the norm.
European working time directive you say....what's that?
This morning I performed a caesarian section on a Bulldog.
Bulldogs can't mate, nor can they give birth naturally. They spend their whole lives suboptimally oxygenated because their airways are half the size they should be and the shape of their faces don't help either. In fact they are the commonest breed to suffer from cancer of the cells on the heart responsible for sampling the oxygen content of the blood or a chemodectoma, simply because these cells have to work overtime. They also suffer bad skin as a result of their wrinkles and orthopaedic problems due to their bendy legs.
A third of the litter I delivered had congenital defects including cleft pallate and hernias, these died shortly after birth or were euthanased. I advised the breeder not to breed again from this bitch but I know she will be back because the veterinary profession has facilitated the perpetuation of such problems by medical intervention. Quite simply if it were down to mother nature they would not be here.
A recent programme by the BBC highlighted the plight of pedigree dogs. This has caused mild hysteria amongst Cavalier King Charles owners, but personally I think the Cavalier has it pretty easy compared to the Bulldog. Syringomyelia is not that common amongst the breed and although they suffer with faulty heart valves we can often help with medication, at least for a while.
The Bulldog is buggered right from day one.
'This little puppy is quite snuffly.' The nurse tells me from across the theatre as I am stitching up the bitch.
'Yep, and so he will be for the rest of his life.' I reply.
Pretty much nothing will stop these breeders, until now.
Thankfully Britain's recession appears to be slowing the trade as people are reluctant to spend a thousand pounds on a dog that's also going to need a hefty insurance policy.