Where did I go wrong? Veterinary terminology: Sometimes the meaning can go awry

Where did I go wrong? Veterinary terminology: Sometimes the meaning can go awry

Misinterpretation of 'botzofer,' 'foreign bodies' can sully communication
Sep 01, 2005

The lettering on the door said Department of Anesthesiology, Hal O'Thane, DVM. Duey Hafta didn't even bother to read it. He had been knocking on every door in the veterinary school trying to find a botzofer. His patience had worn thin by this point. He felt as though he had asked a million people so far, and none of them seemed to know where the botzofer was or, for that matter, what it was.

Dr. O'Thane didn't know for sure, either, but he had a pretty good idea. You see, Mr. Hafta was a veterinary student with a reputation for shirking responsibility. He was famous for whining over every little assignment. So, it stood to reason that someone was playing a joke on him. This wouldn't sit well with the dean of the school. The university had outlawed any form of hazing back in 1978. This botzofer thing bore a striking similarity to a snipe hunt or a quest for a left-handed smoke shifter.

Dr. O'Thane took Duey over to Dean Highcollar's office where he was asked to explain what was going on. The situation, as it turns out, was not very complicated. Dr. Hoofpincer, one of the clinicians in the equine medicine department, had simply told Duey to get the botzofer. Not being willing to admit that he was unfamiliar with the term, Duey set off on his futile quest.

Soon, the three of them headed for the equine clinic, each with a different motivation. Duey was going under orders. He didn't really want to be present when the situation hit the fan. Dr. O'Thane tagged along simply out of curiosity. Dean Highcollar, on the other hand, was a man on a mission. He would straighten out Dr. Hoofpincer in no uncertain terms. The message would be clear. Childish buffoonery such as this would not be tolerated in his school.

The dean was all set to shoot from the hip when they arrived, but Dr. Hoofpincer beat him to the draw. "Duey, where the heck have you been?" she asked. "This mare has been tied up here in the treatment room for more than an hour. Didn't I tell you to get the botts off her?"

Dr. O'Thane laughed like a hyena.

Duey was confused, and the dean was speechless. A few years after the incident, I met Dr. Hoofpincer in Arizona, and she told me the story. It serves as a good illustration of veterinary terminology gone awry.

Allow me another example. Mrs. Obtuse had taken her dog, Corncob, to see my friend Arnie. The pooch had been vomiting for two days and was getting weak. When told that there was a palpable abdominal foreign body, she balked at the diagnosis. "Don't be ridiculous, doctor," she protested. "There is no way he could have a foreign body; he has never even been out of the country."

These incidents come to mind because of a phone call I got last month from an old friend of mine. It seems that he was treating a poodle for a routine hot spot on its back end when the owners questioned him about the origin of the disease. He began by mentioning that fleas could be at fault. This, of course, set the owners off on a long tirade of "flea-nial". They mentioned that it would be impossible for the dog to have fleas because they have a fence around their yard.

Undaunted, our colleague continued to list other causes. Things went smoothly until he mentioned that the problems could be caused by trouble with the anal sacs.

The dog's owners clearly became angered and literally stormed out of the office.

What did he say to cause such a reaction? The situation did not become clear until two days later when a letter arrived from the disgruntled clients. They requested copies of their dog's record so that they could go to another veterinarian. It seems that they could not trust anyone who would suspect that their dog had "anal ..."