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AS a recent graduate, a little knowledge is, despite the best efforts of my vet school's fine clinicians, at best what I have.
The ‘Baader-Meinhof phenomenon’ is a phrase used to describe when you learn a new piece of information – a new word or an unfamiliar name, for example – and suddenly you begin to see it everywhere. This is certainly the case at vet school – coming off rotations and suddenly noticing conditions that you had been previously blind to.
The small dog you pass in the street that, just for a few seconds, hops with one leg out to the side: probably best get his patella checked. The westie that is having a good chew at its groin as you sit opposite its owner on the bus: chances are it has a degree of atopy. You're not looking for these problems – after all it's your day off. But suddenly you notice them everywhere.
What's more, you don't even have to see these cases in person. That Youtube video that a friend innocently sent to you of a cat that pants like a dog: ‘Don't just film him, please take him to the vet!’ The photo of a new puppy with a funny, squishy face that you come across while scrolling through r/aww-Reddit: it will definitely need some sort of interventional surgery down the line. Even seeing Facebook photos of your aunt riding elephants in Thailand sends shivers down your spine, as you briefly reflect on the training regime these poor beasts have endured.
It is a curse that we have as a profession. We have been conditioned and intensively trained to seek out illness and spot early signs of degenerative conditions. We have met the specialists, watched the documentaries, and immersed ourselves in learning, all so that we can become well-informed vets. Unfortunately there is no off button.
So what are our options? Should we strive to make everyone in our lives as informed as we are? Where does the line get crossed between giving helpful advice and being preachy? Like much else in veterinary medicine, it requires a case-by-case approach. I shall certainly be getting down on my knees to play with the brachycephalic puppy, coddling it and showering it with love. If the owner directly asks my advice, to the best of my ability I will give a fair assessment of what health problems they can expect. If they don't, then as delicately as I can I will try to give them an idea of what to look out for in the future. Generally, they are glad to hear this information; however, some voice regret that they did not have it before they got the newest member of their family. And that can be tough.
I love what I do. I love the profession that I am so new to and love the education and opportunities I have been given. And yet part of me thinks ‘Wouldn't it be so much easier if only I was blissfully ignorant?’
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