Vet Tails Excerpt


As a new graduate it can often be challenging earning the respect of some clients who want only to see the most experienced vet. Mrs Hubert, a challenging lady to please, arrived at the practice with her cat Sam who she said vomited occasionally and just didn’t seem to be himself. She asked to see Rose but was very disappointed to find out that it was Rose’s day off and she would have to settle for one of us younger vets. The receptionist explained that all of the vets followed the same approach and that she need not worry. This was true as us junior vets mainly followed Rose’s wise approach and occasionally added in some things of value.


Mrs H was one of those clients who preferred to avoid spending money wherever she could and looking back at Sam’s history it was clear that she had declined investigation into these ongoing problems of Sam’s several times previously.


I listened patiently to what she had to report and then proceeded to examine Sam. I heard a heart murmur and so started to explain to Mrs H what this was and that in older cats it is often due to hyperthyroidism, a condition in older cats where their thyroid is overactive, to which she announced, “That’s amazing, that’s what Rose said.” I continued to examine Sam and felt that he had thickened intestines which could be suggestive of ongoing gut problems which may be due to something like inflammatory bowel disease when she interrupted me and exclaimed, “That’s brilliant, that’s exactly what Rose said! Do you speak to each other?”


I managed to convince her that it was time to have some diagnostic work done on Sam and try to get to the bottom of his problems which we ultimately did. Giving Sam a greater quality of life was fabulous but in this case my triumph was managing to get Mrs H. to step up and allow us to do our job which impressed my boss!


There are occasions in veterinary practice when wives won’t make any decisions about spending money on their animals without first consulting the “Man of the house”. My boss Rose used to coach us on how to handle these situations with care and would outline the importance of only speaking to either Mr or Mrs, and only when it comes to their pet as inevitably there is a disagreement and it was best for us to stay out of it!


One night at the practice my colleague Beth examined a little cat, Spotty, who wasn’t well. Her owner, Mr Kemp wanted Beth to find out what was wrong and to fix her without spending any more than ninety dollars and to phone if there was any further expense. Beth attempted to do just that, but when she needed to find out if she could run an additional blood test she spoke Mrs who wouldn’t let Beth go-ahead until she had the go ahead from Mr, as if anything went wrong Mrs would be in trouble.


Beth eventually diagnosed that Spotty had cystitis (bladder inflammation, a common condition that we find in cats) and sent the kitty home on a few tablets, one of which was a drug similar to valium in a very low dose of one eighth of a tablet to keep her calm and help to relieve the discomfort of her bladder.


A couple of days later, Spotty returned. I examined her and was baffled… she was dehydrated and pretty flat, but otherwise I found nothing else wrong. I offered Mr K a few options of further diagnostics to help establish what was wrong but he was insistent that he had already spent too much money and only allowed us to provide basic supportive care, which included some fluid therapy to rehydrate her and keep her in hospital for the day for further monitoring, but that was all.


The end of the day came and Mr K came to collect Spotty, who had perked up remarkably. We explained that we didn’t know what was wrong with her but she was now normal and should be fine. He fished her tablets out of his pocket and said, “Should we still be giving her these…“, pointing at the medication that Beth had previously dispensed to help keep Spotty calm that had a valium-type effect “…a half of one of these twice a day?”


Beth and I looked at each other, everything now made sense… Spotty had been so overdosed on the valium-type drug that she hadn’t been eating or drinking and so she’d become dehydrated. We explained this to Mr K who couldn’t believe it as he and his wife had argued about this. He said that it was one eighth of a tablet as per the label instructions while she had said that it must be one eighth of all of the tablets in the bag (we gave her 4) and of course he listened to his wife’s brilliant logic and dosed the cat…. Yeah, right!!!


One of the many perks of being a vet is that our patients generally don’t talk back. However, a vet friend of mine told me once of a parrot that she had examined and as she turned around after examining the bird she heard it say, “Bugger off !”