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Read Between The Lines

, , , , , , | Healthy | October 10, 2021

It is against the law to prescribe medications to a pet that has not been examined by the doctor. I’m one of the more senior technicians at the clinic and have just clocked in for the swing shift when one of the doctors comes up to me and hands me a bottle of liquid medicine and a dispenser.

Doctor: “I’m so glad you’re here. In the lobby is a Mrs. [Pet Owner]. Some jerk left a cardboard box with a litter of eight puppies on her driveway last night. She can barely afford her one dog, much less eight, so she was going to take them to the shelter today, but overnight they started having diarrhea, and we all know what the local shelter does to sick puppies. So, she has called ahead and gotten prices and she decided she can afford an exam and a puppy diarrhea panel for two of the puppies. We had her just bring in one puppy so that she would still have money for treating it. [New Hire] was helping me with this one, but I don’t think she is ready to do this kind of discharge talk. Can you do it?”

Me: “Sure, what am I telling her?”

Doctor: “Let her know the puppy has [parasite], and it is incredibly unlikely that the rest of the litter doesn’t. So for his size, he’ll need 1mL of this every day for three days. We’re sending her 30mLs; the extra is for spillage. You understand exactly what I mean by ‘spillage’?”

Me: “You really have to ask?”

I go up to the lobby and put the charges in the computer and call the owner up to the counter. 

Me: “Good news! It isn’t parvo. It is [parasite] and that is easy to treat. The rest of the litter likely has it as well, so we don’t need to do the tests on them. You just have to give this liquid once a day for three days.”

I demonstrate how to use the dispenser to measure the dose.

Owner: “Oh, that is great. So, how much is it?”

I tell her the price and her face falls.

Owner: “Oh, dear. That is a very expensive medication.”

Me: “Not really. You see, you only need to give him 1mL a day, and we are sending home quite a bit more than that so if you accidentally spill some you still have plenty.”

Owner: “I don’t think I could possibly spill that much. Can you send home less? I need to save up to bring the others in to get exams and medication for them.”

Me: “Well, yes, we do need to do exams on the other puppies in order to send home any medication with their names on it, but we want to make absolutely sure that, no matter what, this little guy has plenty. Just in case you drop some, or it sticks to the side of the dispenser.”

Owner: “But I won’t drop any, and I really doubt that much is going to stick to the dispenser.”

Me: “We are sending you extra so that if you accidentally grab the wrong puppy and give one of his siblings a dose instead, you will still have plenty of medication.”

Owner: “Oh, no, he has very different markings from the rest; I wouldn’t make that mistake.”

Me: “I really don’t know how else I can explain this. Um…”

Owner: “Explain what?! That you think I’m a clumsy idiot that will waste more of the medication than I actually use?!”

Another client who is waiting in the lobby comes up to the counter.

Man: “Excuse me, miss. I couldn’t help but overhear. Am I allowed to say what I think you are not allowed to say?”

Me: “Sir, as long as you aren’t threatening or being vulgar, I am not legally required to stop you from saying anything.”

Man: “Excellent!” *Turns to the puppies’ owner* “You said you have other dogs, right? They are sending you enough medicine for all of them, but legally, they can’t say that is what they are doing. So, pay for the medication, take it home, and ‘spill’ it down the other dogs’ throats. I’m assuming they are all the same size and therefore should get the same dose.” *Turns back to me* “That’s right, right?”

Me: “Nobody who works here would ever tell you to administer medication to an animal it was not prescribed to. That would be illegal. But yes, if we were to send home medication for the other puppies, they would be getting the same dose.”

Owner: “Oh, wow. Oh, gosh, thank you so much. I’m going to write a review telling everyone how awesome you are to do this for me.”

Man: “NO, YOU ARE NOT! They are bending the law pretty far for you and your dogs. You can talk about how nice they are, how caring the doctor was, and how they found a treatment plan within your budget, but you will most certainly not say anything about them sending home medication for an animal they didn’t examine.”

Owner: “Oh, right. That makes sense. Thank you all so much!” *Pays and leaves*

Me: “Thanks for helping with that.”

Man: “Not a problem. I didn’t want the poor dogs to suffer from foolish human disease.”

The puppies all recovered and we helped the owner find good homes for all of them. We still see the six that stayed in the area regularly for vaccines and checkups.