'Wallet lockjaw' found to be contagious

'Wallet lockjaw' found to be contagious

Clients have the disease, but veterinarians suffer ill effects of shallow pockets
Dec 01, 2002

Vera Stingy was so upset that she rushed one of her dogs over to see me after waiting just three days longer than she should have. (Usually, she waits until death is imminent.)

"I hope you can help us, Doctor," she said. "Please tell me what to do. You know how I am when it comes to my animals. I'll do anything. They are my precious babies."

I described my plan for diagnosis and treatment. I was even able to offer a relatively good prognosis. I knew, though, that I was wasting my breath. Her response was just what I expected it to be.

"A hundred and twenty dollars for a dog! You've got to be kidding! I can get a new dog for less than that!"

You see, Mrs. Stingy suffers from a disease that I call Wallet Lockjaw, also known as Chronic Pursitis. She is highly allergic to spending money. She did have some ideas, though, concerning ways to provide the needed medical attention for the pooch.

"Do you know anybody who might like to buy my dog?" she asked. "I'd be willing to give them a good price since he's sick. Then they could pay the vet bills to get him well again. Geezer is only 14 years old. I've heard that dogs can live to be 20. Besides, I think he's one quarter purebred."

I had some bad news for her. It seems that in my practice, we don't see a lot of demand for sick, elderly dogs.

She was undaunted. "What about you, doctor?" she asked. "You know his medical history. Couldn't you use another dog at home? Instead of paying me anything for him, you could treat my other animals for free."

I must admit that I was tempted. Tempted to laugh out loud, that is. Still, while turning down her generous offer, I managed to keep a straight face and let the conversation proceed to where I knew it was going.

"Well," she said. "I think I'll take him home and think about it for awhile. I'd hate to think that you are going to make me put him to sleep."

Then, after a 20 minute office visit, she actually asked, "Do we owe you anything for today, doctor?" (She did.)

Her case was not all that unusual. We all see examples of Wallet Lockjaw on a weekly, if not daily, basis. It is interesting to note that the client has the disease, but it is the veterinarian who suffers the ill effects. (Unfortunately, in this case, the pet suffers the most.) You may recall that last month I documented two other client diseases from which we suffer. They were "verbal diarrhea" and "information constipation."

Unfortunately, there are numerous other examples. For instance there is Mr. Video. He calls me several times a year with important observations concerning his cat's behavior. His last call went something like this:

"I think I'd better bring Kitty over to see you. There must be something wrong with him. When I got up this morning, I found that he had chewed up the phone cord. I think he was trying to tell me to call the vet."

The time before that, he was convinced that his cat was having migraines because it had refused to eat liver that day. (Of course, the cat had never eaten liver before, either.)

Mr. Video suffers from "Lassie Syndrome." He thinks that each pet gesture is a cryptic message in need of decoding. At any rate, his last visit was the worst ever. The very long phone call was followed by an even longer office call. As usual, I was unable to find anything wrong with his cat even though he was sure that "Kitty was trying to tell us something."

The real problem arose at the conclusion of the visit when Mr. Video himself began to exhibit a change of symptoms. It seems that his friend, Vera Stingy, told him that he should expect a discount if I fail to make a diagnosis. (Apparently, Wallet Lockjaw is contagious.)