With my stethoscope on my head and ready to use, I pulled the dog in closer and began to listen to her heart. As a very playful dog, she wasn’t willing to sit still for any lengthy amount of time and kept trying to pull away. As I slid my stethoscope around on her thorax, I could hear her heart along with the scratches from her thick wiry hair coat. Again, I could tell she was itching to grab her toys because she wanted to play, but I was able to maintain a good hold on her and hear all of the heart sounds I needed to practice.
As veterinary students, we are required to know and develop many different skill sets. Unfortunately, with the way school works, there often isn’t a lot of hands-on time to practice with live animals. To get that practice, I often resort to using my own pets as test subjects (well, in this case I used my roommate’s dog).
As you would expect, most of the time, these animals are not exactly willing participants. At home, I end up catching one of my cats, only to have them manage to escape after I take a quick pulse or listen to a few heart sounds. Then I grab another one, and they try to break free as well. The same can be said of the large animal species I work with at a goat and alpaca farm. In fact, those animals are even less cooperative. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to touch an alpaca for more than half a second, which is all the time it takes for them to realize I’ve made contact and to get it in gear and flee.
Even though they definitely don’t like it, these animals are helping me practice the techniques I’m learning in school. As a result, I will be a better vet and student in the future and more capable of performing procedures on other animals when I’m out in practice.