One day, as I was examining a handsome, good-natured Scottie, its owner gave me a worried look.
"I just found out my dog's father died of cancer," the owner said. "My dog will be at high risk of dying of the same cancer,
Dr. Hilary Petit
"What kind of cancer?" I asked.
"Testicular," the owner said.
"Well, as your dog is neutered and no longer has testicles, I think we're fairly safe on that one."
Now, I get that people come to us because we have expertise they lack. I also get it that they're often anxious and may not
be thinking clearly. But there are times when I have to wonder what's going on in a client's mind.
QUESTIONS ABOUT SEX (NO, NOT THAT KIND)
I've been called on many times to determine a pet's gender. This should be fairly obvious in the case of dogs, although it's
sometimes still a great mystery to the owner. When it comes to cats, I'll be the first to admit they can be of ambiguous gender
to the inexperienced eye, especially in early kittenhood. After a time, however, even the most modest masculinity becomes
apparent—but not to everyone.
One client brought in two cats—both intact males—and thought one was female. I wondered how the owner identified one cat but
couldn't apply the same observational skills to the other. Even more curious is why it was the longhaired cat that was correctly
identified rather than the shorthaired cat with testicles the size of kumquats.
These things secretly amuse me, although I don't let on to my clients.
IT'S ALREADY TOO LATE, BUT THEY WONDER …
Not all failures in common sense are funny. At 3:15 a.m., a client anxiously explained to me over the phone that his dog had
lymphoma and was on large doses of prednisone.
"He's been panting all night," the worried owner said. "Do you think he could be in pain?"
"Maybe," I said, "but panting is a common side effect of prednisone."
"Oh—the doctors at the other practice told me that," the owner said, apparently just now remembering that fact. "But just
in case he's in pain, can I give him a Motrin?"
"No, we don't give Motrin to dogs, especially not to dogs on steroids. Dangerous drug interactions can occur."
"Oh!" the owner exclaimed. "I already did."
Dude, if you were going to wake me at 3 a.m. anyway, why not do it before you give your dog a toxic drug combination? Please wake the veterinarian before you poison your dog.
THIS COULDN'T WAIT?
If your cat died several weeks ago and you still have questions, I'd be happy to answer them as best I can. However, can you
call me during business hours instead of in the middle of the night, since there's no longer anything I can do to help your
cat? And if it's 6 a.m. on a Sunday, please don't page me to find out if your dog is due for vaccines. I don't have your chart
(and those of our other 10,000 clients) memorized—or at home with me. Silly me.
If I'm seeing your puppy because it has diarrhea, and you've brought along a carton with 17 different kinds of treats you
give your puppy every day, we will be very happy to see what you're feeding. However, if the doctor tells you your puppy has
diarrhea because you're overfeeding treats, perhaps it would be better to stop shoveling those treats into the puppy's mouth
by the handful even as the doctor tells you not to. Just a thought.
Dr. Hilary Petit is an associate at Wasilla Veterinary Clinic in Wasilla, Alaska, where she practices on cats, dogs, exotics, and the occasional
reindeer. Please send questions or comments to email@example.com