Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Impossible veterinary questions to answer with a straight face

Many vets in the world can testify to this simple fact - that many of us like our animals more than we like most people.

Many vets in general practice, like me, often come across questions from the owners of these animals, that are impossible to answer simply, or in many cases, absolutely impossible to answer without being rude or insensitive to the feelings of the owner.

Other times, it is hard to answer without bursting out with a hearty laugh.  And then there are the times, where you have to leave the room, and shake your head, try to find a brick wall, and go ... "really, are they for real?"
Want a hint on how to deal with this?
Count to ten and smile!

One of my many flaws is that I often can't hide many of these "looks" ... such as contempt, anger, frustration, sadness.... when the only expression I  should  be wearing, and like to wear is a genuine smile, greeting a beautiful pet, and meeting the ones who love them so much. 

It has taken me 25 years to compile this list, and some are borrowed from the experiences of my colleagues.  So here are some impossible,  some funny, some embarrassing questions vets often get asked.
(Be warned, there are some sexual references)

I don't know how she got pregnant.  She doesn't see any other male dogs, except her brother.

        This is a common one in many vet hospitals, as I have heard this comment myself, and it comes up on vet forums too.   Some people genuinely believe, or perhaps, refuse to understand, that our pets will "do the deed" with siblings when the urge arises. 

So, if you own a female and male, whether related or not, and you DO NOT want offspring, then you either need to separate them when the female is in heat (about 4 weeks to be safe)  or get one of them permanently desexed.

How do I get rid of grass fleas?

     Another variation of this is "My dog/cat does not have fleas, we only have grass fleas".   Obviously, related to the lino and carpet fleas too - strange that they all look alike.
I can't get rid of the laminate fleas that jumped into my ear!

I have experienced the wall of jumping baby fleas that seem to fly out of the grass too when I have entered a heavily infested property (my fathers' house after my bad  tenant moved out springs to mind).

I don't think I have ever succeeded in convincing the pet owners that "grass fleas" do not exist as a species, but are actually cat flea eggs which are hatching all at once.

Old George- well, he came in as a stray,
but still, he was neglected by so many
until he was found on the side of the road

My pet didn't need a vet until now,  (16 years later) it's been perfectly healthy

    This kind of statement makes me very angry, not only at the owner, but at  myself as a vet.  My profession (or me, if I was the last vet this pet saw), failed to educate the owner of the importance of regular check ups for their pet. Animals are very effective at hiding their diseases.  They will still eat with infected,  rotting teeth, they will still walk even though their joints ache.

 There are so many pets who are euthenased at old age, who have suffered from many skin, joints and dental problems, that were easily treatable and manageable if identified early, and treated regularly.


How did my dog get dental disease/brown teeth/broken tooth?

It is a sad fact that 85% of pets, three years of age or older, will have some form of dental disease.

But the people who ask this question, often don't do any dental care for their pets at all, other than the occasional bone for the dog. And then they are surprised, even though they do nothing to prevent disease, that their pet is diagnosed with this very common problem.

A puppy with a broken baby tooth as a result of
chewing bones.
Brushing a pet's teeth is still the gold standard of home care, yet some pet owners are dumbfounded that our pet's teeth need to be brushed.  Last time I went to the dentist, he didn't ask me to chew on a bone to keep them healthy, so I don't ask my dog's to do that either.

As I said earlier, 85% of our older pets will get dental disease, so active steps need to be taken to slow the disease progression. 

Why many pet  suffer from  dental disease,  depends on their genetics, their immune system, their diet (to a degree), and of course, what home care you are giving them.  You can't control some of these factors, but you can control what you are doing.

If you need some advice or help on how to keep your pet's mouth healthy, we offer FREE dental checks all year round, but if you are elsewhere ask your local vet. I am sure they will be very willing to help you.

I feed it (this much) of the purple bag that is on the top shelf in the supermarket - is that enough? Its the expensive/cheap one the only one they like.

    This happens commonly enough to make me realise something.  Some people think that all pet foods are the same, as they think all spot ons are the same.  So, they then hunt around for the cheapest price of one or the other. 
A typical food feeding guide.

All pet foods (and flea products, and vets, for that matter), are not created equal.  The most expensive doesn't necessarily mean it is the best food for that pet at that time either.  As a vet, what food I may recommend for one pet, may not be the same I would recommend for another.

Every bag of food has its own "caloric content" - if you had a cup of each brand of food, each of them will have a different energy value.  You have to look at the "feeding guide" on the side of the packet to get a rough idea of how much to feed - although that would require the use of a proper measuring cup, and not the usual "I fill the bowl half way up" or "I just give it two handfuls like this" (with hands cupped together.

You're hurting my pet (when I go to touch them and they make a little squeal)

     No vet likes to be accused of not caring (because we do deeply), and of hurting an animal we love so much (as we love all animals).  Sometimes, though, we need to do things that pet's may not like, such as giving them a worm tablet, or clipping their nails.

My dog's "red rocket" is out, and is stuck

It always amuses me the different phrases that are used to describe the sexual organs.  But for those of you who don't know, "red rocket" is the same as "lipstick" is the same as the dogs penis.
I said "red rocket" not "speeding rabbit"!

Now, some dogs like to masturbate, and when they do, their "red rocket" comes out of the prepuce, engorges, the glans all swell, and it can't retract back where it came from.  It can happen in desexed as well as undesexed dogs.

This phone call comes in around once a year, and sometimes, it comes from a senior citizen.  Irrespective of age, the advice is to get plenty of lubrication (such as KY gel), and gently massage the penis back in. 

You try describing the treatment  politely to a senior citizen.

The last time I had this conversation with someone, was on a Saturday night, I was in  Sydney (on George Street to be exact). I was there for a vet conference. It would've sounded like a strange conversation if you only heard my end of it.

It's all the vets fault that my pet ....

Yup, its my fault your pet got bitten by a bee
when you took it to the park yesterday. 
Has Ear mites -  I remember this phone call from many years ago.  This woman rang me up after hours, but she lived an hour away from us.  She had just applied a dog brand supermarket bought flea stuff on her cat, and wondered why her cat was now shaking and seizuring.  But she wouldn't ring her own vet (apparently 5 minutes away), because he had given her cat ear mites when he had examined its ears.

Developed Luxating patellar - Not one of my situations, but there was a case in the US where a pet owner blamed the vet for causing the patellar to luxate when she performed her full examination.  She didn't cause it, but he didn't see it like that.

Got An infected wound - this was a wound that was located on the side of the chest, far away from the desexing wound (the dog had surgery 4 weeks earlier), that looked like a dog bite wound (the owner had another dog).  The owner was claiming it was the vet's fault, as a result of negligence from the desexing, and thus should pay for surgery and treatment. 

Yup, I hear that.  Its a bronchitis... cough again so I can tell
you the bacteria ..... good coughing, its Streptococcus. let me see.. yes,
with Bordetella too.  Cough Cough..... Sensitive to
Penicillin.  Keep on coughing so I can tell you how
long to use the antibiotics for! 

And then the phone calls...

My pet has been sick for 4 weeks and losing weight, what can I do?

I am just ringing up for some advice...

I don't know if I should be worried or not but my dog/cat hasn't eaten for 3 days and is losing weight.

My dog is coughing... I'll put it up to the phone.... you hear it?  What could it be?

Ah, well.  Do you think you would deal with this any differently or better than I would?  Ya gotta love people - our animals do, and they tend to be good judges of character.

Thanks for reading the mad vets blog.  I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.