Sometimes I don’t think physicians, or as I call them, “real doctors” (RDs) have a clue how easy their jobs are compared to veterinarians.
For example, with the possible exception of pediatricians and possibly psychiatrists, how many of them have to worry about being bitten, scratched, urinated and defecated on, kicked, knocked down, or having a patient escape from them? They generally don’t need assistants to hold their patients down so they can examine and treat them.
And why do real doctors get a pass for not knowing everything that is wrong with a patient in a fifteen minute appointment? Whereas veterinarians are expected to diagnose and treat everything from kidney failure to scabies—in dogs, cats, birds, guinea pigs, ferrets, hamsters, horses, etc.—while trying not to injure or get injured by our patient (and for a modest fee, I might add), real doctors farm out their patients to “specialists.” Therefore if I am at my orthopedic doctor for knee pain, he will not check out the rash I have on my arm, necessitating another trip to another specialist. Neither will my eye doctor examine my teeth. As if that isn’t frustrating enough, there are specialties within specialties. I once had to wait with my father after a follow-up with the ophthalmologist who performed his cataract surgery for another four hours to see the ophthalmologist who could lance his eyelid sty. Seriously? I mean I wouldn’t necessarily expect the cataract doctor to lance my father’s hemorrhoids (even if he did go to medical school and supposedly studied all that stuff), but couldn’t a cataract specialist lance a simple sty?
In addition, real doctors don’t ever have to mess with lab work. They send you to a lab where they don’t have to get personally involved in order to have blood drawn or urine testing. It’s not like us veterinarians trying to extract a half-teaspoon of blood from the moving target cat who is all claws and teeth, only to get a nasty-gram from the lab stating, “insufficient sample.” I challenge the R.D.’s to get a blood sample from a parakeet or an IV catheter into a half pound kitten. Hah! I can do it! And have you ever seen a real doctor following his patient around with a urine cup hoping to get a sample?
R.D.’s are also fortunate in that they only have to know the anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology for one species. Veterinarians have to remember not to give penicillin to guinea pigs, ivermectin to turtles, or Tylenol to cats. We also have to know that rabbits and horses can’t vomit, birds’ blood sugar is much higher than mammals, and dogs don’t have clavicles. Oh sure, R.D’s have to know demographic trends, such as African Americans are more likely to have sickle-cell anemia than Caucasians, Asians have a high incidence of diabetes, and most prostate cancer occurs in males. But big deal. Veterinarians also have to know the trend within species, such as sighthounds are more sensitive to certain anesthetics, small dogs generally have more mitral valve disease than large dogs, and splenic cancer is more common in large dogs. Parakeets, as opposed to African Gray parrots, do not feather pick for behavioral reasons, and malaria is common in tropical penguins. Persian cats are more at risk for polycystic kidney disease than the general cat population. I could go on, but you get the drift.
It would have been much easier for me to go to medical school than veterinary school, as the ratio of acceptance for qualified applicants was 1:3 for medical school, versus 1:8 for veterinary school. But then I would have to work on people. And we all know people are gross. Sometimes while treating my patient, I’m glad I’m not the owner’s doctor. Plus people carry contagious illnesses. If I had to treat germy, coughing, sneezing, vomiting, bleeding, icky skin lesions, or infectious disease patients, I would have to wear a Hazmat suit. And with all the bodily fluids I frequently find myself covered in from my patients, I am thankful my patients are not human. Animal blood, urine, vomit, and feces are one thing. Human is quite another. Besides, where people are concerned, I’m not all that compassionate with stupidity. I’ve watched Untold Stories of the ER and frankly, if I were the treating physician, I’m afraid I might just let some of the idiots die and remove them from the gene pool.
You know, all things considered, I think I’m happier doing what I’m doing, even with all the challenges. Sometimes I even get a healthy, snuggly puppy or kitten patient to make my day. The R.D.’s can have the yucky humans. Besides, as I’ve always maintained, real doctors treat more than one species.