Cliche’s of the Veterinary Fashion

According to the astonishingly advertisement full Webster’s Dictionary website (there is something to be said for ad-free actual book dictionaries) the term cliché is 1: a trite phrase or expression; also : the idea expressed by it 2: a hackneyed theme, characterization, or situation.

I asked my DVM friends and contacts on Facebook to help me comprise a list of such expressions we encounter in our day-to-day interactions with clients.  Statements that clients utter, that seem unique to them, but have been heard so many times by us that we sometimes want to bash our head into the wall at the mere thought of having to utter the same reply or explanation for the hundred thousandth time.

I know that from the clients point of view (based on my experiences with human docs), they are usually nervous and a) trying to be funny b) trying to understand why something happened c) may be embarrassed for not noticing something  d) want to help provide that final, critical piece of the diagnostic puzzle or, sorry, e) in some cases maybe just a hint of doubt at our intellectual capabilities.

Anyhow, my Facebook DVM friends (and even one groomer) happily contributed a veritable flood of clichés and even some weird comments that I’ve never heard but will add at the end as honorable mentions on another blog since this one has run super-long.

Here they are in no particular order:

1. “But my dog/cat only eats hard food” this is usually uttered incredulously when we tell the client their pet has dental disease.  My response is always, “if you ate cereal every meal, every day and never brushed your teeth, ever, what do you think your teeth would look like?” A variation is the “but I had her teeth cleaned two years ago”, unfortunately without some kind of home tooth care (brushing, chews, water additives) , the dental cleanings will not last terribly long.

2. “My pet only eats (insert teeny-tiny amount of pet food) per day, and that’s it.”  This generally comes from the owner of an obese pet.  The dog or cat didn’t get fat by magic.  This leads to an exhaustive exploration into where the extra calories could be coming from.  We are not going to arrest you for overfeeding your pet, just come clean with the beggin’ strips and waffles so we can help your dog not get diabetes, pancreatitis, respiratory problems, joint disease or any of the other issues that plague overweight pets.

3. “You should name a wing after me/my pet”.  “I’m paying for your unborn child’s college”, “I should have my own reserved parking spot” and many variations thereof.  It might have been funny the first time we heard it, way back when.  After God knows how many times since then (often coming from clients who really don’t spend much money at the practice), not so much.

4. “But he’s been eating the same food his whole life”.  I get that one when I mention the possibility that a pet has food allergies. Unfortunately, food allergy can develop at any time in the pets life (and humans as I am now very sad that I’m allergic to shrimp. An allergy that developed over the last few years).

5.  “He can’t have allergies, he never goes out”.  This is in reference to pollen allergies.  There are dogs that have litter boxes and never go out, I know.  However, unless you live in a bubble, no HEPA or 3M filtration system will filter all of the allergens out of the air.  I suppose if you had one of those air lock systems like the one they had on ET, when he was sick. That could possibly keep out all the pollen.  Furthermore, pets can develop allergies to house dust, which is pretty much inescapable (unless you live in that clear plastic prison they kept Magneto in at the beginning of the second X-Men movie).

6. “He can’t get heartworms, he never goes out”.  Mosquitoes carry heartworms and they do possess the uncanny super power of flying through doors and coming inside.  Usually they buzz really loudly around my head when I’m trying to sleep.  The dog can still get heartworms.  Maybe the cat too, but it depends on what expert/drug company you listen too.

7. “I swear this (basketball sized tumor) wasn’t there yesterday” or “the cat just lost half his body weight since Sunday”.  I’m a busy working mom, I totally get how things can get missed.  I understand that you might feel guilty that you missed it.  However, these things are biologically impossible and I just don’t want to argue with you about it (and I don’t, I usually just nod my head, unless it becomes relevant to contradict the owner).

8. “He can’t be dehydrated, he’s drinking water”.  I often get this from kidney failure patients.  When the kidneys are failing, there is a malfunction in the pets ability to take the water they drink and put it where it needs to be in the pets body.  They just pee it all out.  The output outpaces the intake, and they get dehydrated.  Same thing happens when they have vomiting and diarrhea (only they are excreting the excess water out different orifices).

9. “He won’t bite, he’s all talk”,  “He won’t bite, he just nips”, “He likes to kiss with his teeth”.  In our business, a growling dog is the equivalent of talking about bombs to the TSA officer at the airport.  It will be taken seriously.  Our patients are animals, they are in a very stressful environment, they’re scared and they are not going to act like they normally do at home. They are in fight or flight mode.  I don’t care if the grandkids climb all over your rottweiler at home all day long.  I’m going to muzzle it.  For my safety and my staffs (and the clients too).  I can’t even count the number of clients I’ve seen injured (we’re talking about 911 calls and arterial blood spewing all over the place) by pets who “would never bite”.  We absolutely don’t hold it against them, we understand they are scared. We do get mad when you don’t let us muzzle them.  I have refused service to clients who don’t let me muzzle their pet.  I’m not going to be disfigured just to prove a point.

10. “My dog has a bone stuck in its throat”.  More often than not the patient has tracheobronchitis or kennel cough.

11.  “My dog has ear mites, can’t you just give it some ear mite medicine?” Probably one in every 20 dogs I see for this actually has mites.  Mites are contagious, they must have contact with another dog to get it (I usually see it in new puppies or stray dogs).  Generally dogs have either a yeast or bacterial otitis as opposed to mites. We have to see the patient and perform a cytology of the ear discharge to diagnose this so we can treat appropriately.

12. “My dog needs a bordello shot to be groomed”.  It’s bordetella.  (sorry, but we are laughing at you on the inside…we know you’re trying, but it’s still funny. I picture a dog in little lacy maroon and black satin bustier. Does that make me weird?) A variation is the portobello shot.

13. “My dog needs some of that doggy Advil stuff, what’s it called Rohypnol?”  No, it’s Rimadyl, not the date-rape drug.  OK, I don’t get that one very often but it’s funny so I included it.

14. From an non-DVM friend:  “I’ve never missed a dose of heartworm preventative, ever”.  I think the National Heartowm Society puts the percent compliance on giving heartworm preventative around 50% nationally.  I freely admit I am often late giving it.  I know there are perfectly perfect people out there who remember it every month.  I strongly suspect some of you could be lying.

15. “He hates (men, women, black people, Asians, people with hats, etc) he must have been abused by a man/woman/person wearing a cowboy hat/etc.”  Yes, it’s possible your dog suffered abuse, but another possiblity is that he or she wasn’t socialized proplerly.  The socialization window is between 8-12 weeks of age, this is where the dog gets a sense of what is safe and familiar vs what is dangerous and scary.  Generally, whatever he’s exposed to is safe and what he doesn’t encounter is scary.  Thus, a dog raised by white women, could potentially grow up to be scared of black men.  Or men in general. Or men in cowboy hats. Or women in cowboy hats.  Obviously the variables are infinite.  I worked so hard to socialize Mia, but she went nuts once over a big overweight dude in a hat at the beach (apparently I don’t know enough large men who wear hats to expose her to between 8 and 12 weeks).  A lot of this is also just the personality of the dog.  A big goofy lab is going to be more tolerant of scary experiences than a little fearful chihuahua even with proper socialization.

16. “I rescued my pet”.  I think this is more of just a pet peeve (no pun intended har har).  I have come to terms with the fact that the pet was “rescued” from doggie death row.  However, in my (and some of my DVM associates) minds, the term should be reserved for actual “rescues” as in: I “rescued” my dog from a raging flood or burning building, and the term”adopted”  should refer to obtaining a shelter dog.  It’s minor I know.

Well that’s it for now.  Sorry for the long post, but I think that covers most of it.  Anyone have any to add?

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3 thoughts on “Cliche’s of the Veterinary Fashion

  1. How about “she can’t be pregnant, he’s her brother/father/uncle/son”. Animals don’t have sexual taboos but a lot of folks never think about that. Also: the word “spaded”.
    Great post!

  2. What about, “No, he can’t have arthritis. He never cries out in pain!” Really? Do you think your dog is going to scream out with every step?

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