Cerebral laminitis can be infectious with certain breeds of owners

Jul 01, 2008

Apparently Mrs. Basset was not in the mood to waste any time because she gave it to me with both barrels the moment I picked up the phone.

"Doctor, I am very disappointed with your services. Can you explain to me exactly why you never told me anything about anal glands? My dog, Wrinkles, is very lame. His front feet are swollen. My neighbor, Mr. Bull, said that it is probably a problem with anal glands. Needless to say, he was quite surprised when I told him that you never mentioned anything about that."

I looked at the dog's medical record. He had been to my office three weeks before with infections in both front feet. Based on Iona Basset's description of the dog, and giving her neighbor's opinion all the credit it deserved, I was able to come up with an accurate diagnosis over the telephone. Obviously, Mrs. Basset was suffering from a debilitating case of cerebral laminitis (lame brain).

As for her neighbor, Fuller Bull, you could grow mushrooms inside the guy's head (and we all know what mushrooms grow best on). To put it another way, he has a fertile mind.

Her harangue continued. "Mr. Bull has had dogs all his life, and he says that anal-gland infections can make a dog walk funny. He said that it is easy to clean those glands out at home, and that you should have explained to me how to do it."

What I did explain to her was that anyone who tried to do that to Wrinkles without at least two trained techs holding him would find herself on a quick trip to the emergency ward, if not the obituary page. She said that, with Mr. Bull's aid, she might try it anyway.

Her call left me wondering why some of my clients act that way. They will show skepticism over a very logical diagnosis and course of treatment, and then swallow any crackpot theory that comes from a friend, neighbor, co-worker or palm reader.

As it turned out, my next office call served as an illustration of the same tendencies. It was Jim Panzee with his cats Hookline and Sinker.

"Doc, I think the cats have diabetes," he said. "My girlfriend's aunt, Mrs. Grapevine, likes to keep in touch with all the neighborhood gossip. When she heard that my cats were sneezing, she suggested that it might be diabetes. It seems that one of her friends had a diabetic dog that caught a cold. So, by deductive reasoning, she figured that these boys might have the same thing." (He should have said defective reasoning.)

Now, I've known Jim Panzee for years. You couldn't teach him to peel a banana. He is so dense that light bends around him. However, he is a genius compared to Mrs. Grapevine. If he let her put in her two cents' worth, he grossly overpaid. (In fact, even if he gave her a penny for her thoughts, she would owe him change.)

It turned out, of course, that the cats had a simple upper respiratory virus that was treated easily. Unfortunately, my day continued to spiral out of control. Mrs. Bicker was in next with her dog, Granola. She had heard from her cousin, Mr. Fallacy, that you can't give a dog sugar because it causes lockjaw.

"How do you test for lockjaw, Doctor?" she asked. "Granola finishes my cereal every morning. Now, I'm very worried."

Even though I tried to tell her that there was no problem, she would have no part of my explanation. It seems that Mr. Fallacy was considered a definitive source of information because he worked for a veterinarian when he was in high school (in 1953). I was literally forced to prescribe a placebo.

The end of that day came none too soon. The next morning, I checked the obituary page. No Basset. No Bull. Apparently, they took my advice and didn't mess with Wrinkles' back end.

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