By Dr. Casey Beck
I’d like to say it was my first year of veterinary school but I’ll be honest and admit I was actually a second year veterinary student when this event occurred. Like any good veterinary technician (now working her way through vet school) I had already seen and learned a lot about the profession and all the different types of cases that come through the doors, especially since my experience was mostly obtained in the emergency clinic near my undergraduate college.
Like most vet students I acquired a very sweet and happy 1 year old mixed breed dog during my first year of study in the Caribbean. These dogs were fondly called “island dogs” in Grenada and were known for being robust, healthy and sturdy companions. He was of course still a puppy and very good at chewing up or taking apart almost anything in my apartment. Through long hours of study he often would distract me by eating a pair of headphones or barking incessantly at the feral cats outside running through our yard. This particular day when I heard him making a strange noise from the living room I was sure he had yet again gotten into something or torn apart my favorite pair of running shoes.
When I entered the living room I was surprised to find that nothing had actually been destroyed but rather my adorable little guy seemed to be struggling to breathe, coughing and gagging like something was stuck in his throat! I immediately yelled to my medical school boyfriend at the time, “Quick, quick, help! Carib is choking!!” I was so worried I believe I was actually shaking! I frantically tried to think of what to do and who to call when my boyfriend entered the room, calmly staring at my hacking dog and said, “You know, I bet he just has kennel cough”.
Now I hate to admit this, especially since my boyfriend and I were in constant debate about whose profession was more challenging and interesting, but he unfortunately was right. Carib had acquired kennel cough, (infectious tracheobronchitis), from the neighbor’s puppy. This particular playmate was just diagnosed with kennel cough the week prior. D’uh!! Slap on the head. So much for being the straight-A, very knowledgeable veterinary student!
Like my concerned pet owners that I see every day, I experienced firsthand that rush of distress and fear that my pet was sick and I needed to get him help. I felt helpless. No matter if the problem is life threatening or more subtly just a minor concern, as veterinarians we can honestly always understand our pet owners stress and concern when they don’t know if their pets are seriously sick or not. As always, it’s better to have us tell you “it’s nothing to worry about” than to hear us say “we wish we had seen your pet sooner.” Though I do have to admit, I still probably would not ask a medical student boyfriend his opinion on the matter!