Sunday, February 27, 2011

don't do it yourself

Last night, a very nice couple came into the ER with their cute young labrador.  She had a freshly acquired skin laceration, which was relatively small.  These are the fun, easily fixable cases that (nearly) always have a good outcome.

All seemed normal, until the client reveals to me that they had tried to "sew it up" themselves at home.  They had applied some topical anesthetic and used a needle and some suture (acquired from his workplace, a human medical facility), but his cute, wiggly dog wouldn't hold still.  Not to mention the fact that he had not cleaned out the wound or removed any of the contaminating hair from the area, did not have sterile instruments, or any sort of surgical training.

Thankfully they allowed me to sedate their dog, provide pain control, and close the wound surgically and appropriately.  They didn't seem to realize that next time, they should skip the do-it-yourself routine and just come straight to a veterinarian.

Another client, whom I had never met previously, requested several times for me to let them treat their dog at home with IV fluids and IV medications.  As much as I want to help my clients and make them happy, my job is to be the pet's advocate, and as the veterinary oath states, "above all, do no harm."  Most of the medications, even simple intravenous fluids, that I provide on a daily basis can be harmful, even deadly, if used inappropriately.  The wrong rate of administration, lack of careful monitoring, giving the wrong dose of a drug or hundreds of other mistakes are the potential pitfalls of an inexperienced person trying to do my job at home.  That's not a standard of care I'm willing to participate in.  (Veterinarians who take their patients home at night is a completely different situation and my previous comments are in regards to laypersons or those without veterinary medical education).

Dogs are not small humans in fur coats.  There's hundreds of stories of well-meaning humans, especially in the medical field, trying to treat their pets at home and failing miserably.  Just because you've watched someone else do it, you've seen it on TV, or you do it on a different species, doesn't mean you should try this at home.


  1. Just wait 'til you see one of these a week or so later, when the maggots start to hatch. People are clueless.

  2. Oh wow! I totally can't imagine trying to sew up a wound by myself - on a human or a pet! Yikes... what are people thinking? -Tammy