Diarrhea and the Veterinary Technician

Posted: Mar 25, 2013
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I think they plan it this way. I think the pets have a city-wide meeting and plot and plan to all eat the same desiccated cat poop, chew on the same squirrel carcass, roll in the same dead seagull on the coast, and then show up at DoveLewis together to unleash their diarrhea upon us.

It always happens that way. We know it; bad things happen in threes. 3 dog mauls, 3 GDVs, 3 pyothorax cats (the last one will always be a devil cat), 3 HGEs. I’m not talking the little Chihuahua HGEs. I’m talking the big kids. I can smell it now…

HGE diarrhea on a towel in a veterinary hospital cage

I had this experience the last ICU overnight I was privileged (suckered?) enough to work. Although this time the diarrhea gods threw us a curve. All different reasons for mess, but mess still the same. It started with a long-haired kitty, in the hospital for vomiting and diarrhea. Doing much better, handling NE tube feeding well, vitals good, looking perky, but she refused to use her litterbox. On top of that, she refused to move from her wet and smelly bed. Every couple of hours she had to get hauled out and bathed. This was no wipe-down with a damp towel, this was “I fear urine scald. You’re getting a scrubbing.” Thank goodness this patient was assigned to my fellow technician (that’s a good feeling) and I only had to help with half the baths.

Next up? HGE. This patient was one of those ‘coffee table’ dogs. Long skinny legs, square, flat, obese back. If this poor old dog could stand for longer than a minute, you could rest a dinner plate and wine glass on his back and watch the latest Downton Abbey episode. He was old and arthritic to start with, and of course of the long-haired variety. He had a hard time getting away from the evil exiting his hind end and also needed frequent rescue and bathing. Did I mention he didn’t appreciate our efforts and thanked us with his teeth? And this fellow HATED the hard floors. Refused to walk. He possessed the ability, but not the will. So even when he did “get that feeling” he wouldn’t hustle down the hallway to do it outside. It took a Herculean effort to get him to the bathing area. Thankfully he wasn’t assigned in my group of patients either (dodged that bullet) but with the “you see it you clean it” support that technicians have for each other, I hauled that dog out many, MANY times.

Bloody HGE diarrhea on veterinary hospital floor

Lastly, completing the smelly trifecta was a seizure dog. This poor guy seizured in the car the entire way to the hospital and needed anesthesia to stop the seizures. Then came the phenobarbitol loading and the transfer to ICU. He snored in blissful sleep for about 45 minutes, swam around in confused mania for a minute (successfully balling up his bed into the back corner) and then let loose with a tidal wave of pudding-like disgusting. Neither myself nor my fellow technician were in the right place to see this and prevent what happened next, and we will forever wish that we were. In the same instant it was leaving his body, this “not quite all there on a good day but tonight my brain is a bit jumbled” dog literally swam through cups of his own diarrhea. And then rested his head in it. I heard gagging. From the technician. For in a cruel twist of fate this was also her assigned patient. And of course, he weighed in at 60+ pounds and needed to be carried to the raised sink to be hosed off.

Seizure dog patient in DoveLewis ICU

My fellow technician, myself, and even all of the patients made it through the night. We created loads of laundry that should have been incinerated due to the smell. We used gallons of water and baby shampoo. I can still smell A&D ointment late at night when I can’t sleep. But I’m also smiling. Maybe even laughing. I get paid for this. I can say that without a doubt, I made a difference on that shift. I didn’t catch a new heart murmur, or perform life-saving anesthesia, or hold a client’s hand as they made a tough decision. I cleaned up poop and lots of it. But to those patients, I made their night a little better. Isn’t that all that counts?

Golden retreiver patient in DoveLewis ICU with tail bandageDachshund patient in DoveLewis ICU hooked up to ECG monitor