This Veterinarian’s Top Ten “Dirtiest” Jobs

Dr. Patty Khuly

veterinary dirty jobs

Remember the show, Dirty Jobs? During its many years on the air, this popular TV program advanced a variety of animal occupations as perfect examples of filthy work. Not once, however, did it commiserate with the plight of the average companion animal veterinarian.

With this obvious oversight in mind, I offer the following list as evidence that even the most boring brand of veterinary medicine (the dog and cat kind I practice) deserves at least one episode should they ever elect to bring it back.

(Caution: Do NOT select this exact moment to eat your breakfast.)

#1 Expressing anal glands

Best to start with the smelliest one so as to get it out of the way, right? This here’s among the dirtiest of jobs I’m required to perform on a regular basis. The smell alone is enough to put you off food for a good while.

#2 Cleaning cages

If you think ten years of higher education qualifies me for a life free of menial tasks like this one, you’d be wrong… way wrong.

#3 Scooping poop… and vomit… and…

See #2.

#4 Collecting urine

There are many ways to skin a cat, they say. So, too, are there many methods of collecting urine in a clinical setting. But none, sadly, spares you from the distinct possibility of getting splashed.

#5 Trimming toenails

Here’s where I confess my abhorrence for trimming toenails. While it’s in no way my dirtiest job in terms of filth itself, I absolutely dread the task. And delegating claw detail to my staff is no better.

No, it’s not because we’ve got better things to do and can’t be bothered with the lowly pedicure. It’s more that we can’t stand the extreme stress it tends to incite –– not to mention the possibility of pain (more so when the near-inevitable struggle ensues).

#6 Stool sampling

As if it wasn’t enough to have to go directly to the source to collect those nasty stool samples, we also have to smear the stuff onto a slide and observe it… closely.

#7 Tick plucking

Now, normally I don’t complain about ticks. They’re fairly innocuous as individuals, after all. But when there are a thousand of them, removing them qualifies as a seriously nasty business.

#8 Ear cleaning

Just so you know, I’m not talking about just any ears. When I say cleaning ears is a dirty job, I’m referring to the infected kind most pet lovers are unlikely to have much contact with. That is, unless they happen to have owned a pet whose ear disease created conditions so sickening they can probably still conjure the sight and smell of them many years later.

#9 Abscess treatment

There’s nothing more disgusting than draining a large quantity of bloody puss from a rotting pocket of flesh. Well… almost nothing…

#10 Maggot picking

Like #9… only grosser. Because there’s nothing more foul than removing maggots from a festering wound. Hence, why it’s last on my list of stomach-turning feats veterinarians are wont to perform with appalling regularity.

Okay, now you can finish your breakfast. Enjoy!

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