Why chatting is a vet’s job too

Updated November 29, 2020

Those who know us know how much we enjoy chatting about your pets. What you may not know is how useful it can be.

Here are two examples from one week last month. Just two of many.

Charlie’s Itchy Ears

Charlie is a working dog who spends most of his time on a sheep property. When he started shaking his head his owner thought “here we go again: another grass seed” and brought him to us.

Sheepdogs do get a lot of grass seed trouble, as you can imagine. Funny thing was, despite the head shaking, when we looked, the ears were normal. They were certainly itchy so I gave an anti inflammatory injection and suggested we monitor the situation due to there being no visible causes.

As I was cleaning up we started chatting about Charlie. He’s half working dog, half pet and spends time with the kids at home. He just loves the new ferret.

Wait a minute… New ferret? Not many people know that most ferrets have ear mite infestations when they are sold. Although intimate contact is unlikely between dogs and ferrets, if it happened the ear mites could spread.

Just how much contact was there between the ferret and the dog? Well, it turned out that they snuggle up together and play rough games. Who would have guessed? It’s a first for me.

Armed with the knowledge, we checked the ferret shortly afterwards (that’s him at the start) and confirmed he did indeed have ear mites. We added an ear mite treatment for all in-contact animals. And things are now good.

(By the way, catching an illness from a new animal isn’t just a veterinary problem; it can happen to you. If you ever come down with a fever and flu-like symptoms after getting a pet parrot, make sure you tell your doctor about the bird. They’ll be unlikely to think about psittacosis without it.)

Cherry’s Mouth Ulcers

When Cherry the cat came for her annual checkup recently, we noticed she had mouth ulcers. Investigation proved them to be a common disease with an unpronounceable name: eosinophilic granuloma complex.

Sometimes this disease is cortisone-responsive, and sometimes it takes more complex drugs to treat it. As Cherry is not great at taking pills, I prescribed prednisolone in liquid form as a sensible first treatment trial.

At her recheck a month later, there was no improvement. So we planned to start Cherry on the second-line treatment, which is both more expensive and requires more care in its use.

The day Cherry’s owner came to pick up the new medicine, it was a busy time at our front desk. Despite this, I chatted with her about the treatment so far, and what was expected in the future. At one point she commented, “we felt so silly going though all that struggle just to give one drop of the old medicine”.

Wait a minute… One drop? We delved deeper and found an unexpected confusion: I had written ‘give one dropper’ on the label but I was unaware that the medicine no longer came supplied with it’s dropper. The owner had purchased one which was very different to be one I had used in the past.

Both of us felt a bit silly and I think we both apologised to each other. A new plan was made to give the full dose of the old medication and not try the new one. Lo and behold, I saw Cherry last week and she’s responded well.

Closing The Gap

The communication gap between vets and pet owners is always too wide, and it’s too easy for each of us to fail to bridge it. These stories show examples of information struggling to cross in each direction.

It might seem lucky to have found the crucial clues but in reality, with community vet care, we get to know a lot about your pets’ lives, and yours as well. Factors in the wider environment can have a profound effect on your pet’s health and wellbeing. That’s why you should feel free to tell us even the things that might be irrelevant.

If we were in more of a hurry, those little clues would have been lost forever. And your pets would have been the ones to suffer.

OK we admit it, we love chatting with animal people. It’s just nice that it’s more than a fun thing to do.

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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.