DVM degree just doesn't cut it

DVM degree just doesn't cut it

Feb 01, 2001

In 1972, Dr. Birdseye had just graduated from veterinary school and entered the world of private practice. He was brimming with both enthusiasm for his profession and confidence in his abilities.

Like many new graduates, he had the tendency to feel defensive when a client questioned his judgement concerning their pet's diagnosis or treatment. After all, hadn't he just completed seven years of scientific study? His brain was crammed full with the latest knowledge in the veterinary field. Surely, there was no one whose abilities were more up to date.

The last thing he needed was a client like Mrs. Fullovit. Somewhere among her friends, her encyclopedia, the newspaper pet care column and her own imagination, she always managed to find a reason to question the doctor's judgement.

When they first met, she had a puppy that was suffering from a severe case of distemper. He gave her a grave prognosis which fell on deaf ears. It seemed that her World Book Encyclopedia said that distemper was easily curable through the use of immune serum. She stomped off in search of a more competent veterinarian.

Over the years since then, she has been in his office many times. In fact, Dr. Birdseye's clinic has become a regular stop on her schedule of rotating through every veterinary office in town. Each problem with any of her pets winds up requiring several opinions before she is satisfied with an answer.

When her dog, Scratchy, had a rash, she went to six different veterinary hospitals. The first five wanted to use cortisone. She knew from the newspaper pet care column that cortisone was no good so she kept rotating hospitals. The sixth vet fixed the dog without cortisone. He used something called prednisone. Whatever that is, it sure did the job.

When Gimpy, the tomcat, came home limping, several foolish veterinarians told her that the leg was merely infected and that there was no fracture. One had actually taken X-rays and failed to see the break. Finally, she found a clinic where the doctor agreed that a splint would do no harm as long as Gimpy continued to take his antibiotics.

Due to these instances, as well as many others, all the veterinarians in town soon became accustomed to her occasional visits and notorious lack of cooperation. That is why Dr. Birdseye was so surprised the last time she was in to see him. Her cat, Snowball, was very sick. His emaciation and anemia led to a tentative diagnosis of feline leukemia. This was quickly confirmed with a blood test and led to a very poor prognosis. That's when the surprise came. Even though this was the cat's first visit to a veterinarian for this particular problem, she decided to seek no other opinions.

"I've been reading about this disease, Doctor," she said. "I'm afraid that the only thing to do might be to put Snowball to sleep. Could we do it today and get it over with?"

He agreed that it was a logical course of action.

"Also, Doctor, could you hold him in the freezer at your clinic for me until the final arrangements are made? I'd feel uncomfortable having him in the one at home."

And so, a case that ordinarily would have taken two weeks of visits to veterinarians seemed to be resolved in one day.

A week later, Mrs. Fullovit was on the phone inquiring about the final arrangements for Snowball. First of all, she had a question.

"Do you think the virus is dead yet, Doctor?" I have read that freezing kills the virus but I don't remember how long it takes. I don't want to thaw Snowball until the infection is gone.

You guessed it. She was off on the road from clinic to clinic again, in search of a veterinarian who could perform a simple procedure like properly thawing a frozen cat back to life. She hauled Snowball to four more hospitals.

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