Human/Animal Bond

Veterinary Guilty Pleasures

The number one guilty pleasure is popping something icky

Published: May 01, 2017

We all have guilty pleasures that just put some zing in our day. For some of us, it’s a great parking space or pointlessly but therapeutically popping bubble wrap you found on the porch. Sometimes that guilty pleasure stems from your job, so for veterinarians there’s clearly deep and abiding love of puppies, kittens, dog kisses, and head boops, but what else?

Let this client who hobnobs with many, many veterinarians at her job share their guilty pleasures with you. Sure, there’s always the basic stuff, “helping people,” “helping pets,” “being a doctor.” But akin to popping bubble wrap, there’s always something special for every doctor that’s more than just thumping tails on an exam room door or a kitty showing the secret cat nod of approval: slowing closing their eyes in your presence.

It appears from my research that the number one guilty pleasure of veterinarians is popping something icky on a patient, which usually involves pus or other gunk that bodies make when something goes a bit awry...which is when we go to the veterinarian.

Some people, who shall remain nameless, take such deep pleasure in popping high-end zits that they end up doing it professionally. It’s like popping bubble wrap, except someone besides you feels better afterwards, although maybe not for a while. As a client, that came as a total surprise to me. I don’t blame veterinarians for not mentioning it to the general public but secrets like this will come out eventually ― particularly when members of the Veterinary Information Network (VIN, the parent company of VetzInsight), affectionately called VINners, discuss on a message board what just makes their day.

FYI, abscesses are little pockets of infection caught under the skin. Merriam-Webster calls the gunk underneath that pocket “a thick, opaque, usually yellowish-white, fluid matter that is formed as part of an inflammatory response typically associated with an infection … (or) bacteria.” You and I call it pus, and I swear vets have a thing for popping anything containing it, even in or through places you wouldn’t expect. <tossing my cookies now>

What do I like, they ask each other?

A nice ripe cat abscess.

Lancing an abscess when my receptionist is nearby - it makes her gag, used to be able to get her to vomit. It's my daily goal to get her to see something gross. Last time I opened a lump post-removal and it was apparently a very large cyst that exploded on her.

I love cat abscesses and pyometras (pyometra is derived from Latin, “pyo” meaning pus and “metra” meaning uterus. Not technically an abscess but has far more gunk than a zit, so it gets extra popping pleasure points).

Flushing pus out of a nose after taking out a rotten tooth.... you KNOW you've done a good thing.

 There is other stuff in the body that can be popped or pulled out even if it’s not pus.

Pulling out lipomas in surgery that remain a perfectly intact glob of fat.

Popping lipomas or adenomas (benign lumps) in cat ears.

Popping a big rotten painful [tooth] out that has clearly been waiting forever to go.

Expressing a sebaceous cyst and the cystic lining pops out too.

Getting that huge plug of hair out of the ear in one pull (I sometimes think my hearing improves).

Pulling nasopharyngeal polyps on cats. I love that weird sucking-tearing sound, and the fact that the cat who went under anesthesia having trouble breathing and often not eating well wakes up starving and able to breathe!

Pulling out the tufts of hair is also a secret pleasure of mine and a not-so-secret annoyance to my staff.

I even had a guinea pig patient whose owner brought him in a few times so I could pick his sebaceous cyst wax.

Apparently there is no joy in Mudville unless something gooey and rather disgusting can be separated from a body, or at least not as much joy as there could be. I understand it, seeing as how I am compelled to eradicate my pets’ eye boogers.

But popping and lancing are quite far from the only fun veterinarians have during the day. SO much fun relates to patient attitude!

Angry kitties make me giggle.

Goofy pit bulls.

Love the feisty kitten visits, and big doofy shelter-mix dogs that are all smiles and wags in their appointments.

Love sedating grumpy cats with kitty magic and cuddling them while they're all limp and cute.

Having the animal that the owners have never been able to take to a vet sit there wagging and taking treats from my hand and they are soooo shocked that the dog is behaving.

Kitties at the naughty stage and playing hockey with a needle cap.

Parrots that complain at you in English.

Dogs who wake up from anesthesia wagging their tail.

Dogs who spend the entire exam belly up for tummy rubs.

Cleaning a dog's ears and having them grunt in pleasure.

Having dogs drag the owner in to see us.

Big dogs who sit on my lap like the pitty that plunked down on me the other day while palpating his belly.

Post-neuter pups who show me their incision sites by rolling on their backs.

Cats who plow into a plate of wet food after surgery. Even better if they get said wet food all over their faces.

Parasites come under the category of “entities that shouldn’t be there but are anyway,” and need to be banished. Veterinarians know how much suffering they cause, and some take a gleeful response to nailing them.

Demodex. Seriously, I don't know why, but I love the GOTCHA YOU LITTLE BASTARD feeling when I see them on a slide.

Plus, there are bonus points for seeing one or several parasites moving under the microscope.

Anything crawling on a glass slide.

Bonus points if kids came to the visit because I always try and show them the ear mites.

Ear mite slides. I love watching the ear mites have a party!

Finding scabies on a skin scrape on an animal that's been treated for allergies for three months. I seriously run around the clinic saying I'm the champion of the world!

Don’t think for a minute that clients are not part of these pleasures, even though we aren’t necessarily guilty ones.

Client education. I love explaining things to people and vast majority of people really appreciate it.

I love letting kids listen to their pet's heartbeat with my stethoscope - blows their MINDS!

Helping people through the end of life of their beloved pet.

Grateful clients - even just a "Thanks, doc" - makes my day!

The moment when I feel myself really start to connect with an owner… always makes me a little teary eyed in the room because it reminds me that this isn't just a job about animals but their humans as well.

Making owners I know well laugh for good reasons during the appointment.

Getting the thank-you card that gets dragged out on a bad day.

Realizing that the three-year-old I gave a coloring book and Silly Putty to during an office visit fifteen years ago is now in with a pet of his/her own.

Plus, there’s all those miscellaneous fun things that really can’t be confined to a category: the joyous, happy, fleeting moments that are the stuff of life.

Getting pummeled by a big dog and slurped with kisses!!!

Scrubs. Love wearing scrubs. Makes me feel like Superman. Or Batman, depending on the client.

Still get a thrill draping my stethoscope around my neck before each shift.

Playing "guess the GI foreign body" with the staff, then finding out who was right during the surgery.

My geriatric patients on walk-abouts in the treatment area, wandering into the doctors' office for extra pets.

Trimming ancient cat toenails; flaking off the old stuff and finding another 0.5 cm of nail to trim.

Shaving down really matted animals under sedation. There is something soothing about the clippers and satisfying about making something really gross turn into something really clean.

Surgical incisions that look like I wasn't even there.

How cool is it that despite 20 years in the field that I can still find stuff that I've never seen before?! Who gets to do that in their line of work? Other doctors, yeah, but their patients aren't nearly as cool as ours so we win.

First, dentals. I know, I know, I'm weird...but there's just something so fundamentally satisfying about cleaning up a train wreck mouth. I think I was meant to be a dentist in another life, but I enjoy the rest of general practice too much to give that up to focus on teeth exclusively. Second, clients who bring us yummy food to the clinic. I'm a simple man - if you feed me good food you've just made a friend for life. If I wasn't a dentist in a past life, I was probably a Golden Retriever.

It’s like the unwritten lost volume of James Herriot: All Things Hairy and Gross. These are some of the things that get veterinarians out of bed and populate their dreams. (Well, all that stuff, plus the knowledge of helping pets and their people.) As a client, I’m glad we have veterinarians to do all that icky stuff as I’m just not up to it. I'm squeamish and get light headed when internal body parts try to go outside for a walk. I wasn't kidding about tossing my cookies. I'd rather sit in a corner and pop pus-less bubble wrap.

1 Comment

Ronnie Schenkein
May 8, 2017

My staff and I enjoy taking bets on how many puppies there will be before starting a c-section.  Also, there are some pretty cool bladder stones from time to time! 

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