Looking for answers in all the wrong places

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Feb 01, 2012

Last Thursday was particularly frustrating, and it all started with Mr. and Mrs. Knoyd and their dog Gasper.

"We think he's been poisoned, Doc," Mr. Knoyd said. "Perry is right!" Mrs. Knoyd chimed in. "Some of our neighbors don't like Gasper. They think he's nasty."

After one glance at Gasper, two things were apparent. First of all, the neighbors were right. Secondly, the pooch was in congestive heart failure again, and not suffering from poisoning. A look at his record revealed that the Knoyds hadn't refilled his prescriptions for diuretics and heart medication.

Mrs. Knoyd expressed her concern over the possible seriousness of his condition, but let me know right away that she would not hear of leaving him in the hospital. "How do we know he will be okay if we leave him here? We have a friend who left her dog with a vet, overnight, and it died. Besides we left Gasper here for a day when he was neutered 12 years ago, and he's been nasty ever since. We think someone hurt him when he was here. Can't you just give him stronger pills than last time?"

I sent them home with a poor prognosis along with a written prescription that they would probably never get filled. Moments later, I walked into a very different situation. It was an office with Mr. Whichway and his dogs, Trial and Error. It seems he had become thoroughly frustrated in his attempts to control the dogs' rash problem. His explanation went something like this: "We've been treating this skin condition for two years, and nothing seems to make it any better. So, I thought I'd come to you for another opinion."

When I asked how many other veterinarians had treated the dogs, the truth came out. "You're the first one, Doc," he said. "The first thing we did was that we sent away for itch lotion that we saw advertised in the back of Hunt'n N' Shoot'n Magazine. When that failed, we asked the girl at Pup-Pup-Pet Supply for advice. She gave us a shampoo to use. That didn't work either. Then, we wrote a letter to Pet-Care Polly in the newspaper. She said that the dogs needed raw eggs in their diet. They loved the eggs, but the rash is still there. Finally, we asked our neighbor what to do. He used to work for a vet. He said that it could be diabetes. So, we started giving him extra sugar, but it didn't help. I was thinking that maybe you'd have an idea that we haven't tried."

The problem turned out to be a relatively simple flea allergy that I felt could be easily controlled. Mr. Whichway was so happy that he promised to consult me earlier next timeā€”not necessarily first, mind you, but I would be moved up in the order.

Frustration number three came toward the end of the day. It came in the form of Wanda Miracle, who was accompanied by her cat Squinty. Seeking an answer to Squinty's eye problem, she had been going from one veterinarian to another for six weeks. "We hope you can help us, Doctor," she said, as she began giving me the cat's history. "This problem just won't go away. One vet gave me eye drops, but this cat just won't let me put them in its eyes. And don't tell me to keep his eyes clean because he won't even let me touch his face at all. By the way, I can't give him pills either. Another vet recommended that he could keep him in the hospital for a while and treat him there, but I can't afford that. I can't hide pills in his food, or he won't eat. Can't you suggest a way to treat him so that no one will have to touch him or give him medicine?

Unfortunately, I was unable to meet her needs any better than those whom she had seen before.

Later that night, I called my friend Arnie to tell him about the three frustrating clients of the day, one who can do things, but doesn't follow sound advice; one who follows any bonehead advice and will do anything; and one who can't (or won't) do anything at all.

"Sometimes," I told him, "I feel like I'd like to put them in a blender."

"I get what you mean," he said. "If you could, it would be nice to homogenize those extremes into one reasonable personality type."

"That's not it at all, Arnie," I said. "I just mean that sometimes I feel like shoving them into a blender."

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

For a complete list of articles by Dr. Obenski, visit http://dvm360.com/obenski.