Picking apart the grapevine

Horror stories about vets and those expensive surgeries
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Feb 01, 2009




My receptionist had a certain look on her face. Her expression said, "You're gonna love this one." Her voice said, "The lady on Line 1 needs to talk to you. She says it's very important."

I held out my hand for the patient record. It was empty.

"Oh, there's no record, Doc. The lady has never been here before. Besides, she refused to give her name." (This ought to be interesting.)

"Hello, this is Dr. Obenski," I began. "Who am I speaking with?"

"I'd rather not say, Doctor," was the reply. "But I have an important question for you. What would you say if I told you that my vet prescribed the wrong medicine for my dog?"

It was an easy question to answer. "Why are you calling me?"

"I'll tell you, Doctor," she continued. "I took my dog Logjam to my veterinarian, and he gave me a tube of Lube-a-Cat Gel to use at home. Isn't that dangerous — using cat medicine on a dog?"

I knew better than to comment on a case that I knew nothing about, but I was able to assure her that I have never seen a clinical case of Lube-a-Cat Gel toxicity.

"I wish I could believe you," she continued. "But I know how you vets like to cover for each other. My neighbor, Mrs. Switchboard, told me that she heard through the grapevine about other mistakes Logjam's doctor has made."

"I'm sorry," I said. "I haven't really kept up with the latest developments in electronic gizmos. You say that she heard these things through the grapevine. Is that something like a Blackberry?"

I guess my remark sounded a little sarcastic. That's OK. It was meant to be. It didn't matter, though, because it went right over her head.

"You just don't understand, Doctor. What I'm telling you is that she got the scoop on what you veterinarians are getting away with."

"Why did she need a scoop?" I asked. "Did her dog poop in the wrong place?"

"Doctor, I just don't think you see what I'm driving at," she said.

Gee, I thought I was holding up my end of the conversation pretty well, considering that I had no idea what we were talking about, who we were talking about or, for that matter, who I was speaking with. I wanted to ask, "Who's on first?" Then she would say, "I don't know," thereby giving me the opportunity to ask, "Second base?" But I figured she was too young to understand what that was all about.

"There's more," she continued. "Another neighbor of mine, Mr. Hearsay, gave me the scuttlebut on things he thinks his vet did wrong."

"If Mr. Hearsay has the scuttlebut, he should have his anal glands checked." Again I was sarcastic, and it went right over her head.

"This is no laughing matter," she continued. "Everybody I talk to seems to have some sort of horror story about their vet. Wait until I tell you what my friend, Mrs. Dispatch, heard about her friend's cats. Apparently, the two cats, Igneous and Marbles, had trouble peeing. Their doctor recommended that they both needed an expensive operation. Does that sound fair to you?"

Now we were getting somewhere.

"Blocked cats often need surgery," I told her. "I don't like to comment on a case without knowing all the details. However, I'll make an exception this one time. I think that whoever operated on those cats was absolutely right and probably saved their lives."

You see, I didn't tell her, but I remembered doing those two operations myself.

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