Halloween special: 10 grossest things at the vet’s

This is a Halloween special, so this is not for the faint of heart. You have been warned…

E collar
Some people think that vets and techs are so lucky because they get to cuddle with cute puppies and kittens all day. While this is sometimes true, there is also the less glamorous part of our job: dealing with smells and sights that can make the toughest of the toughest sick to their stomach…

Is your stomach ready to take a tour of the 10 grossest things we see or smell at vet hospitals?  Then read on…

1. Maggots

Maggots are certainly one thing that can make my very toughest nurses physically sick. Some of them can’t even look at them.

The little squirmy, flesh-eating fly babies hatch out of eggs laid by flies in open wounds or near body orifices. They show up quickly and can smell terrible because the flesh they live off is usually dead or dying…

2. Proptosed eye

A proptosed eye is when an eye literally pops out of its socket. It is usually still connected by the strong optic nerve, but it is quite a horrifying scene. The most commonly affected breeds are those with bulgy eyes.

3. Cuterebra

Cuterebra is a type of bot fly which can travel through an animal’s body, then burrow just under the skin until it  is ready to turn into its adult form. It then comes out of the skin and flies away. And the wonderful circle of life continues… Cuterebra requires a quick surgery to be removed.

4. Open wounds

Open wounds and broken legs can be really nasty after a pet gets hit by a car. One of the worst wounds is called a “degloving injury,” because the skin is literally peeled back or off of the underlying muscle.

Broken legs are very common in our surgery world, however the really disturbing ones are ones that are literally twisted or rotated completely or that is hanging and flopping around.

5. Dehiscence

You know how most vets recommend confinement and a plastic cone (aka E collar – see picture above) after surgery? Well it’s not to torture your pet! It is to prevent them from licking and chewing at the incision and to prevent failure of the surgery. One of the grossest complications after belly surgery is called dehiscence, which at worst could cause the intestines to end up on your favorite carpet…

6. Anal glands

Anal gland fluid is an incredibly foul smelling liquid which vets and technicians empty multiple times a day. We are probably all familiar with the smell, but it never fails to shock you with it’s intensity and foulness when you walk into a room after a dog had their anal glands expressed, and even worse, some patients will release them on their own when they are excited or worked up and it shoots, sometimes onto someone’s skin or clothes!

7. Parasites

Pets can have multiple “external” parasites on their skin and in their ears. Ear mites, fleas and ticks sound gross enough as it is… but it’s even worse when you look at them under the microscope!

When blown up by the magnification of the microscope, these nasty multi-legged parasites look like mini-monsters!

8. HGE

HE or Hemorrhagic Gastro-Enteritis causes an impressive amount of stinky, bloody, jelly-like diarrhea. And it’s even nastier to clean! We’re not quite sure what causes it, and with proper care, it is typically self-limiting. This means that we typically achieve a happy outcome in the end.

9. Coprophagia

Yes… some of our beloved dogs have this nasty habit of eating poop. Dog poop, deer poop, rabbit poop, horse poop, cat poop, some are not even very discriminating…

And then some insist on giving us doggy kisses!  Let’s be serious!

10. Rotten mouth

Some pets have a mouth that is so rotten that you can smell them from the next room. Under a large build-up of tarter, bacteria, pus, infected bone and gingivitis are teeth that are sometimes so loose that we can pull them with our bare hands! Please believe your vets when they recommend a dental cleaning. Some dogs need one every few years, but some need a cleaning once a year, or sometimes even every 6 months.

This list is hardly exhaustive, but it gives you a brief overview of what sometimes happens behind the scene at your favorite veterinary clinic…

Until next time,

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

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Dr. Phil Zeltzman

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling veterinary surgeon in Pennsylvania & New Jersey. An award-winning author, he loves to share his adventures in practice along with information about vet medicine and surgery that can really help your pets. Dr. Zeltzman specializes in orthopedic, neurologic, cancer, and soft tissue surgeries for dogs, cats, and small exotics. By working with local family vets, he offers the best surgical care, safest anesthesia, and utmost pain management to all his patients. Sign up to get an email when he updates his blog, and follow him on Facebook, too!