Bad things come in threes

These pet owners seemed to suffer from 'the exact same thing'
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Mar 01, 2006

Mr. and Mrs. Lunkhead showed up at my office one day last month. It was their first visit. It didn't take me long to hope it would also be their last. Their cat, Goner, looked about half dead.

"He's been like this for about a week, Doc," Mr. Lunkhead said. "He just lays there and doesn't move. How do you think this happened?"

I explained that Goner was near death. His vital signs were so bad that it might be impossible to get him healthy enough to even make a definitive diagnosis. That caused Mr. Lunkhead to share some important observations that he had made.

"You know, Doctor, our dog died from the exact same thing. He sat motionless for about a week before he died too. What do you think it is?"

(It sounded like two similar cases of owner neglect to me.)

I asked if the dog or the cat had shown any symptoms.



"No, they both just lost weight for a few months, stopped eating and eventually died." He added, "I sure hope you can get to the bottom of this. Haven't you ever seen anything like this before?"

When I told him that I had, I knew what his next questions would be.

"What was it Doc? Whatever you saw before was probably the same thing that killed my dog. I sure hope you can save Goner. He has the exact same thing." (His logic seemed quite reasonable. No, wait! That was his opinion.)

Of course, when we discussed what it might take to save the cat, the Lunkheads decided that they didn't want to put their "best friend" through all that trouble and expense. (They were real humanitarians.)

But in the end, it turned out that they were right. Goner and their dog did share the exact same medical condition. In fact, they shared several. Both had kicked the bucket, bit the dust and bought the farm.

Following euthanasia, they vowed never to get another pet, saying that "It is too bad when you lose them." I wanted to thank them on behalf of the entire animal kingdom.

Of course, they wanted to know if Goner's body could be donated to a university for research to help treat other animals who get the exact same thing. I told them that I didn't think so.

Just as they left, a call came in from Mrs. Ditto.

"I have good news doctor," she said. "I figured out what's wrong with Sniffy. My neighbor's cat had the exact same thing. (Here we go again.) He was drinking a lot of water and losing weight. It turned out that he had diabetes. Doesn't that sound like what Sniffy has?

I didn't see any similarity at all. Her cat had a sinus condition secondary to being hit by a car three years ago. There were no other symptoms. I was forced to tell her that her theory, much like the neighbor's cat, did not hold water.

Knowing that bad things seem to come in threes, I half expected it when Abe Toose walked in the door minutes later. He wanted to let me know that those prescription foods that we sell are a rip off. He found the exact same thing at the supermarket for a lot less money. "I read the ingredients on the back of the can, and the supermarket foods have a lot of the same ingredients as that expensive stuff you sell," he said.

I never argue. I simply explained that there were important differences. Unbelievably, he saw things my way and vowed to keep his cat on the proper food. His decision made me feel good. I felt secure in the knowledge that, by doing so, he would avoid experiencing the exact same thing as the Lunkheads.

Dr. Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.