This Vet Is Worming His Way Around Your Cat

, , , , | Healthy | May 17, 2019

(I set up an appointment for my cat to get his annual exam and vaccines at the vet clinic that my boyfriend and I have been taking him to since we first brought him home at three months old. He is now two-and-a-half years old, meaning with all his kitten appointments — booster shots, sterilization, etc. — we have taken him in a total of seven times prior to this. Up until this point, we have always seen the same vet, and our cat is very comfortable with her, often purring through his appointments. The day before the appointment, I get a phone call:)

Receptionist: “Hi, [My Name]! I’m calling to confirm [Cat]’s appointment for tomorrow at [time two-and-a-half hours later than the appointment was scheduled for].”

Me: “Um, I scheduled that appointment for [appointment time].”

Receptionist: “We don’t have any slots available at [time]. We can try to fit you in between appointments, but I can’t guarantee time for a full exam and vaccines.”

Me: “I scheduled this appointment weeks ago, even picking a later date, because [time] worked best with my boyfriend’s schedule and he’s the only one who drives. There’s no way you can give me the time my appointment was scheduled for?”

Receptionist: “I have it in my system that your appointment was scheduled for [two-and-a-half hours later].”

Me: “Whatever, I’ll take it, I guess. I want to stress though that I would never have picked an appointment that late; there’s no way this error was on my end.”

Receptionist: “Okay, well, don’t forget to bring in a fecal sample.”

Me: “Fecal sample? We’ve never had to bring a fecal sample before.”

Receptionist: “It’s a standard part of every annual physical.”

Me: “It’s not going to cost anything extra, is it? I just moved two weeks ago, and it cost more than I’d thought, so my money’s pretty tight for the rest of the month. I can’t afford to pay anymore than what I am for the physical and vaccines.”

Receptionist: “It’s a standard part of every physical; don’t worry.”

(Luckily, my boyfriend is able to move some things around so I don’t have to take the cat on the bus to get to the appointment. We get to the appointment and discover that the vet our cat has seen since his very first appointment is not the vet he will be seeing this time. The vet who examines our cat seems incredibly underqualified, and much more concerned about selling us products we do not need than about the health and wellbeing of our cat. It’s worth noting here that while he is technically a Domestic Short Hair, we’re reasonably certain our cat has some Bengal in him, due to his size. He measures around three feet long, which is double the average length for a DSH. After weighing our cat:)

Vet: “He weighs 15 pounds!”

Me: “Well, he is pretty big, so that’s not too surprising; that’s only a couple pounds more than I thought.”

Vet: “He needs to lose weight! He should be an eight-pound cat! What are you guys feeding him?!” *looking at boyfriend*

Boyfriend: “He lives with her, so she can answer that better than I can.”

Me: “Up until two weeks ago he was on [Brand] dry food, which I found gave him that little bit of pudge on his tummy, but he only gained about a pound or two. I would have changed his food, but my old roommate had a cat with a really sensitive stomach, and her cat couldn’t handle the food we had [Cat] on. When I moved I changed him to [Cetter Crand], and he’s been doing a lot better on it. He also gets one can of wet food each night, but we don’t have a strict brand for that; it’s just to make sure he gets enough water, since he’s pretty bad at drinking enough.”

Vet: “Do you free-feed him?”

Boyfriend: “Yeah, we always have.”

Me: “It’s monitored free-feeding, though, now. My old roommate like to truly free-feed, but I always make sure to track how much he’s eating. He always has food in his bowl, but I measure it and make sure he’s only getting two servings of dry food, and his one serving of wet food.”

Vet: “You need to stop free-feeding. He only needs three servings of food a day.”

Me: “As I said, I measure his food. He’s always been a grazer, though, so putting him on a feeding schedule won’t work, because he only eats a few bites at a time. It takes him anywhere from 8 to 12 hours to empty his bowl.”

Vet: “Well, it might be hard at first, but eventually he’ll learn that if he doesn’t eat when the food goes out, he won’t eat at all.”

Me: “No, I’m not doing that to my cat. He’s not that pudgy, and aside from that, I just adopted a second cat, and she also free-feeds. It’s working really well, considering she needs a smaller serving size, and quite frankly, they both undereat anyway.”

(The vet then spends another ten minutes scolding us for letting our cat get so “horrifically overweight,” and trying to sell us a specialty diet food that is way out of our price range. She finally gives up when my boyfriend and I start getting snappy with her.)

Vet: “Okay, how has [Cat]’s behaviour been lately?”

Me: “As I mentioned a few minutes ago, I just adopted a second cat three days ago, so right now they’re having their territory and dominance disputes. Before that, though, there was nothing out of the ordinary.”

Vet: *reaches into cupboard and pulls out a spray bottle* “You should try this; it’s a synthetic pheromone that mimics the one mother cats let off to calm down kittens. It can help with the fighting if the cats aren’t getting along.”

Me: “Thanks, but I’m not going to bother right now. I don’t really have the money for that, and it’s only been three days. When [Cat] was introduced to my old roommate’s cats, it took him about a week to adjust. If it goes on longer than that, then we’ll look into it.”

(The vet then spends another five minutes trying to pressure us into buying the spray, and implying that the two cats should be best friends by this point.)

Vet: “Have you had [Cat] treated for fleas?”

Me: “Yes! Because I was moving, and my old roommate was having someone take my room, who has her own cat, we treated all the cats in the apartment over the two weeks before I left. His last treatment was the day before I left, and that should have prevented him from getting anything during the move, as well.”

Vet: “You did just bring a new cat home, though. Was she treated?”

Me: “Yes, the shelter treated her shortly before we adopted her. I also looked her over a couple times to be sure.”

Vet: “Well, they should each be treated at least one more time before winter. I can do a course of [High-End Brand] treatment for [astronomically high price], if you want to set an appointment for that.”

Me: “No, thank you. They’re both indoor cats and only go outside on the leash occasionally in the summer. When they do, I give them a preventative OTC treatment from [Pet Store], and I check them to be safe. I also do a couple preventative treatments if they haven’t gone outside, just in case something makes it into the building, because he sometimes runs into the hallway.”

(Cue more selling pressure, and scolding. By the time that finishes, we are half an hour into the appointment, and the only part of the exam she’s done is weighing the cat. She finally starts the rest of the exam, and we notice right away that she isn’t handling our cat properly at all. She has made no effort to get him comfortable with her; instead she is flipping between being overly hesitant and grabbing him roughly. He starts to get defensive, trying to jump off the table, and even baring his teeth at her, which is incredibly out of character. He’s a very social, non-aggressive cat, usually. I try to comfort him.)

Vet: “Stay out of the way.” *shoos me back*

(The vet skips half his exam, refusing to go near his mouth or paws, and not offering us any information on his health. When the exam finishes and the vaccination is completed, it is time to pay for the visit. The total was much higher than we anticipated, even with estimating higher than last year’s physical and vaccination.)

Me: “Why is it so much?”

Receptionist: “That’s because the fecal sample is an additional charge.”

Me: “You mean the fecal sample I was told was ‘standard for an annual exam,’ and led to believe was included in the price? It’s only a few dollars less than the exam was!”

(At this point, our cat was angry, stressed, and trying to claw his way out of his carrier, so we swallowed our anger and paid in the interest of getting our cat home as quickly as possible. It took me 20 minutes to convince my boyfriend — who hadn’t been able to make any of the previous vet appointments — that that is not how they usually go, and that the old vet would have been done the exam in the time this one spend scolding us and trying to sell us things. It took an additional 20 minutes to calm our cat down. The fecal test results came back the next day and I was informed it was ringworm, then given information that contradicted that diagnosis. I took both of our cats to a different vet a few days later, and upon explaining to the new vet what happened, he was appalled. He took extra care to make sure both cats were comfortable, especially before going near their tummies. When he received the fecal test results from the first clinic, I was informed it was actually roundworm and had probably come from one of the other cats at the shelter. I had them treated immediately and confirmed with the veterinarian that had we treated them for the original diagnosis, it would have done nothing to help, as ringworm is a fungal infection, whereas roundworm is a parasite. Ultimately, it worked out for the best, because we found a vet who truly cares about the wellbeing of our cats. And the cats, for the record, are best friends now, no synthetic pheromone spray needed.)

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Doesn’t Have An Eye For This Job

, , , | Healthy | May 8, 2019

My friends found a kitten when stuck in traffic a few years ago. He had a very badly infected eye, and after adopting him we opted to have it removed; the lid was stitched shut over the socket, and apart from some minor depth perception issues it never bothered him in the slightest in the three years he lived afterward. He was famous among friends, family, and neighbours for being the one-eyed tabby cat, so it was pretty obviously gone.

We always saw the same vet for every appointment and surgery, until his last yearly checkup and vaccinations. The vet we saw was either newly-trained or inexperienced, but fairly competent at what she did because that cat was never as quiet during a check-up!

Everything was going fine; weight was optimal, good overall condition, no unusual lumps or bumps, clean ears and teeth, right eye perfect… and then she tried to open his sewn-shut eyelid.

She was very apologetic to humans and cat alike upon realising her mistake. He was used to kids poking at him, but it still makes me giggle to think of her not noticing his one distinguishing feature.

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Insults Are Free!

, , , , , , | Healthy | May 8, 2019

I am a relatively new veterinarian. Often, we will get a case come in as ADR — Ain’t Doing Right — which is to say they are acting a bit off, but not always obvious what is wrong. I have an ADR older golden retriever come in with Mom and Son. They give the history: the dog has been losing weight, not eating well, lethargic, and having dark stools for a few weeks. This dog also has a history of ear problems. The last time we saw the dog was over two years ago. They have limited funds, so I try to work on a step-by-step diagnostic to try to get the most information before determining if more diagnostics are needed.

Starting with the physical exam: the dog is severely muscle wasted, lethargic — as they said — and dehydrated, and he has a new heart murmur. After discussing with Mom, we decide to start with bloodwork. It comes up with some very mild liver changes, but nothing too noteworthy. We are at the upper point of their budget, so I discuss my next recommendation of chest x-rays and what we would do depending on what we found, quoting them the costs for everything before anything is performed. They agree to the x-rays, and unfortunately, the x-rays show possible heart enlargement, but again nothing too exciting. So, they agree to try a heart medication, subcutaneous fluids, and an anti-emetic and see how the dog responds. It’s worth noting there were additional tests I would have liked to do, but I didn’t want to stretch their budget too much further.

A few days later, the dog isn’t improving on the heart meds, so I recommend an abdominal ultrasound — at a different vet — to better evaluate the gastrointestinal tract and surrounding organs. Unfortunately, the ultrasound looks like liver cancer, which I am very surprised by given how mild the blood work was.

I receive a request to contact the Father when I return to work the day after the ultrasound. I give him a call back, assuming he wants to discuss further treatment and prognosis. Boy, was I wrong.

Turns out he just wants to spend ten minutes telling me I am a crook, only in it for the money, and don’t care about animals. He continues to tell me that I took advantage of his wife and his upset son, and had them spend more money than they were willing. He rails that the dog was coming in for an ear infection, and I had them do a bunch of unnecessary tests. Any time I try to interject, either to explain my findings and recommendations as he wasn’t there, or to confirm what he thinks happened at the appointment, he simply talks over me, stating he doesn’t care what justifications I have and that “[he] is onto [my] game.” It continues until I am crying against the wall and finally have permission from the practice owner to hang up on him.

The fun part: he calls right back to have my receptionist tell me I am an a**hole. I still have to talk to his (much nicer) wife to answer her questions, and I almost can’t bring myself to do it. As of now, I refuse to discuss anything further with the Father.

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His Advice Is Neutral At Best

, , , , , , | Healthy | May 6, 2019

(We have had our cat, Fritz, since he was a tiny kitten, and he’s always seen the same vet. One day, when Fritz is around eight years old, he starts spraying urine against furniture instead of going in his box. Knowing that this could be a symptom of something serious – besides being annoying and gross – I promptly make an appointment for him to see his vet.)

Vet: “Well, we’ve examined his urine for crystals, and he doesn’t have any. That can mean only one thing.” *stares at me accusingly*

Me: *after an expectant pause* “Yes?”

Vet: “You need to get him neutered. Honestly, I don’t know why you haven’t done so yet. He’s eight years old; he should have been neutered years ago.”

Me: “But–”

Vet: “No, I’m serious. This sort of spraying activity is very common in an unneutered male, and–”

Me: “But he is neutered.”

Vet: “What?”

Me: “In fact, you’re the one who did it. We had it done right after we got him from the Humane Society. It should be in his file.”

Vet: *looks at the start of the file* “Oh.”

Me: “So, something else must be causing this behaviour, right?”

Vet: *still processing the fact that he was wrong about Fritz not being fixed* “Well… are there any new cats in the neighbourhood?”

Me: “Come to think of it, yes. Our neighbour across the back lane just got a new cat. Fritz sometimes sees him through the window and hisses at him.”

Vet: “Well, there you go.” *looks at me triumphantly*

Me: “Um, what do you mean?”

Vet: “Fritz is antagonized by that new cat. He’s spraying to assert his dominance in his own home.”

Me: “Okay, so… What do I do?”

Vet: “Do? There’s nothing you can do. Apart from moving, that is!” *laughs*

(Very helpful. I started looking for a new vet after that.)

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Sick As A Dog

, , , , , | Healthy | April 30, 2019

(My roommate works outside of the city, about an hour’s drive away. She decides that she wants to get a dog, and the other two roommates and I agree to help take care of it during the day when she’s away. On Monday, the dog is having some stomach trouble. We watch her closely but determine that she needs to go to the vet on Wednesday. My roommate contacts the vet to let them know that I will be bringing the dog by. I drop the dog off, and then return a few hours later when called to pick her up.)

Me: “Hello, I’m here to pick up [Dog] on behalf of [Roommate].”

Front Desk: “Great! She’ll need to take these pills for nausea.” *hands me the pills, and brings the dog out on a leash*

Me: “Has she had the pill for today? Is there anything I can or cannot feed it to her with?”

Front Desk: “I didn’t handle her case; let me get the vet.” *goes to the back, then returns a few minutes later* “I’m sorry, but the vet is with another patient right now. I’ll pull up her file, instead.” *pulls up the file on the computer* “It says that you need to keep an eye on her.”

Me: “What do you mean by ‘keep an eye on her’? What do I need to watch for? And does it say anything about the pill or the foods she shouldn’t have?”

Front Desk: “I can’t tell you that for privacy reasons. The vet has contacted your roommate; you’ll need to talk to her.”

Me: “My roommate is at work right now and might not be able to respond to calls or texts for a few hours. Could you at least let me know what I need to watch for over the next four hours until she’s home?”

Front Desk: “I can’t tell you about anything else on her file for privacy reasons.”

(Frustrated, I take the dog and start walking to my car. I realize that I have no way of knowing if she’ll be able to handle the ride home without an accident, as the vet hasn’t given me any information about what’s wrong or what they’ve given the dog. I turn around, go back into the clinic, and hand the leash back to the woman at the front desk.)

Me: “Here’s [Dog] back. Without knowing any more than I did when I brought her here, I don’t feel comfortable taking her home. I don’t know what she’s had, how to care for her, or what will happen when we get home. Frankly, I don’t know why you’re even releasing her to me if you don’t feel that I have the right to that information. You’ll need to contact [Roommate] to come and get her, if you can get a hold of her at work.”

(I texted my roommate to give her a heads up about the situation, including the name of the woman that I had dealt with at the front desk. Thankfully, she felt I’d made the right move leaving the dog at the clinic and was able to pick her up after work. She also contacted the clinic to express her anger about how they had handled everything, and had my name along with our other roommates’ added to the account.)

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