In the middle of a full list of consultations, jam-packed with – what I’d call – normal jobs, one of the veterinary nurses thrust a dove in front of me. “What do you think this is?” she asked.
I moved my head back and moved the dove away – in the manner of anyone over the age of 45 in need of an appointment with the opticians – so I could focus on the swollen thing attached to the dove, just above its right eye.
I quickly decided it was a tick. I’d never seen a tick on a bird before and I thought they were solely a parasite of mammals with deer, hedgehogs, sheep, dogs and people being their standard targets. But apparently not. They can obviously attach to feathered surfaces too.
The tick was swiftly removed and skewered on a hypodermic needle, to be displayed to anyone who wanted to see it, a bit like ruthless kings did with the heads of their enemies in times gone by. Of course, everyone wanted to peer at the horrible parasite because everyone dislikes ticks and nobody else had seen a tick on a bird before either.
It prompted an exchange of tick-type stories. There were various accounts of hedgehogs with too many ticks to count and a kitten with the pesky parasites that had become as fat and swollen as chickpeas.
My favourite tick anecdote involved a worried lady who presented herself bashfully at the practice without an appointment one Saturday. She was very worried about a tick, just like the one above the dove’s eye.
After a brief introduction, the lady, without a dog on a lead or a cat in a basket, bent over, pulled down her trousers and displayed a large engorged tick attached to her rump.
“Can you remove this for me please?” came her strangled-sounding request as she doubled over.
Luckily for me, another nurse was on hand to do the deed and another patient – albeit not a veterinary one – was cured. A human rather than an animal, but it didn’t really matter. A tick is a tick in the end. On the subject of humans seeking the help and advice of the vet, there was a concerned conversation on the phone recently.
The elderly owner had, accidentally and inexplicably, taken her Dachshund’s heart medication tablets. Veterinary omni-competence can only go so far, and we quickly directed the unfortunate, and now light-headed owner, whose veins must have been dilating as we spoke, to the on-duty GP.
Had it been the other way round, I would have been able to help. It is a common occurrence to get a panicked phone call to say that the dog has eaten the owner’s tablets.
The two favourites are ibuprofen – which is serious and necessitates instigation of emergency emesis to ensure the toxic drugs don’t get absorbed – and contraceptive pills, which don’t cause any harm to the dog but cause a lot of consternation to the owner.
But while the effect of canine heart medication on a human was well out of my sphere of knowledge, I did need to add one thing.
“Once you’re feeling better,” I advised, “you should come and collect more tablets for the dog. It’s really important she gets them all.”
Luckily, all four individuals ended up fine: the dove flew away; the lady’s rump was swiftly ticked off; the Dachshund owner was absolutely fine and the little sausage dog received a new supply of her canine medication.