The Pioneer Spirit

This months’ column is dedicated to all the folks out there who are “do-it-yourself” when it comes to veterinary medicine. Down at Main Street Vet, we lovingly call this the “The Pioneer Spirit.”

Ryan Ehlinger optimized

Dr. Ryan Ehlinger of Main Street Animal Hospital

We have literally seen it all when it comes to people treating their pets for various illnesses at home. While we love the frugal get-your-hands-dirty mindset, we can’t say we always love the results! So without further adieu, here are some funny stories from the trenches involving the do-it-yourselfers.
Many years ago back in New England I was working with an owner that had a mean little terrier cross named Felix that she adopted on a family trip to Puerto Rico. Felix came to Connecticut and unfortunately brought canine distemper with him. He was one of the 50 percent of dogs that survive distemper infection and went on to lead a pretty normal first-world dog life, except for having chronic problems with his anal glands.
One day, my client Elaine showed up with Felix. She had a very large bandage over her right forearm, and held Felix under her left arm looking quite forlorn. I asked her what happened with her arm. She told me she was tired of paying for expressing Felix’s anal glands. Then, she went online and watched a how-to-video. She bought some gloves and some lube. But when she went to do the job “I put my finger in there and that crazy dog turned around and bit me three times!”
It turned out Felix had an anal gland abscess, so both Felix and Elaine got to take their antibiotics together for a few weeks.
A few summers ago, we had a client bring in a German Shepherd from Lockwood that had a pretty nasty rattlesnake bite. It had been going on a few days as the dog had ran away and came back with a terrible looking right hind leg. He was septic and dying. His leg was black as shoe leather and swollen up like an elephant leg.
We managed to nurse him back to health over several days of hospitalization and intense nursing care. We were all so happy to see him recovered and looking well, except for the remaining scar tissue. When the owner came in, rather than being ecstatic that his dog was alive and doing well, he was upset about the bill.
I told him it could be worse; he could have a large bill and a dead dog!  We laughed about that a bit. He then proceeded to tell me about how he treated his other dog’s wounds. The dog had a large laceration over a foot in length from a run-in with a hefty boar on his property. He was worried the vet bill would be too much, so he put duct tape around the dog and then proceeded to pour hydrogen peroxide over the wounds twice a day for several weeks. At the end he said he took the duct tape off and it was “like new.”
Obviously, we don’t endorse the duct tape approach to veterinary medicine, but that story certainly won the Pioneer Spirit Award for 2016!
Dr. Ehlinger is the owner of the Main Street Small Animal Hospital in Templeton, a full service animal hospital serving the North County of San Luis Obispo since 1988. Visit or call 805-434-2002 for more information,