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Welcome to our new series from the Wonderful Dr. Barry Baum, Chief of Staff at Center-Sinai Animal Hospital in Los Angeles.  If you have a question for our Virtuoso Vet, he'd love to see it.  And he will answer all that he can.  Just use the form that follows below, beneath the column. Please note: If you feel the condition of your pet is critical, Dr. Baum suggests you contact your local vet ASAP!

For previous questions and answers, see the buttons under this week's article.



NOTE:  While most columns are answers to reader queries, from time to time we will be posting a column penned by Dr. Baum in answer to a number of queries or observations from his practice, such as the column below.


Providing Your Veterinarian with Simple Observations of a Pet’s Unusual Behavior or Symptoms, Rather than an Interpretation of What They Mean, Will Help Your Pet’s Physician Diagnose and Treat Your Pet Faster, More Effectively, and at less Cost to You! 

My human clients are often the single most important ingredient in helping me to identify and treat their pets’ maladies.  However, there are times when the owners may inadvertently be the cause for conducting unnecessary, and sometimes costly, diagnostic procedures, or even delaying urgent testing and treatment by unintentionally furnishing misleading information. 

Ways You Can Help Your Pet’s Veterinarian Treat Your Pet Most Quickly And Effectively 

Because patients themselves cannot tell the doctor the circumstances of their injuries, nor the onset and progression of their symptoms, the history their owners provide is especially vital.  Can you imagine not telling your doctor where and when it hurts, or that the steak tartar you ate twelve hours ago had a funny smell?  Well, the more keenly you are able to observe, the more accurate the information you will be able to supply.   

A good observer should be able to provide most of the following types of information.   

§ When did the problem start and what is the progression of the problem?

§    Is the problem getting worse, getting better, or staying the same?  

§ When does the problem occur - during the night, day; after exercise or when first getting started? 

§    Has there been a change in appetite or in water consumption? 

§    Have the bathroom habits changed in frequency or volume?

§    Is there any observable difficulty in performing the elimination bodily  functions?

§    Is there a relationship between the problem and the time of eating – does it occur during or after eating? 

§    Are there any special circumstances going on in the environment? 

§    Does the pet have any idiosyncratic behavior? 

§ Can you observe any cause and effect relationship? 

 Help Your Veterinarian Help You.  Be A Good Observer And A Good Reporter When You Are Asked 

And you might pay attention to how your vet asks your questions.  A good questioner should never ask leading questions - they should always be neutral and offer you several ways to express your answer.  For example, I would never ask a client, "Is your pet drinking more water?”  Try, if you are asked a leading type of question such as this, to think and answer in objective terms. I would ask if you had noticed any change, either up or down, in the amount of water that was being consumed.  (I have learned over the years that often clients want to be so helpful, that in their stressed emotional state, they will agree to every question asked.)   

The Potential Dangers Of Misinterpretation Rather Than Straight Reporting 

The most important basic to keep in mind is to report your observations, not your interpretation of what you think you saw.  Many times, these "diagnoses" are only red herrings that serve to delay the recognition of real symptoms.  In some situations, this can be quite serious, and can even lead to death. The typical example below illustrates this point.

The client, the owner of a male or neutered male cat, observes his cat making repeated visits to the litter box.  The cat is also straining to go, crying out and yet depositing nothing into the litter.  This client, when describing the problem to the receptionist, often states his interpretation: that the cat is in trouble because it is constipated.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, the real reason for the straining is linked to an inability to urinate.  And this is a result of an obstruction of the urethra caused by a collection of small grain-like stones that form in the bladder and become adhere to each other on their way out.  Time is really of the essence in treating these cases, as any delay in the treatment to relieve the obstruction can lead to rupture of the bladder, uremic poisoning and death. 

Always Try To Bring In Samples 

If you've noticed a change in urinary frequency or volume, it makes good sense to bring in a urine specimen for analysis.  Most people don't realize that a complete urinalysis can be done on less than one teaspoon of urine.  Collection techniques like the use of plastic litter for cats, and the use of flat pans strategically placed in a timely manner under your dog, make obtaining a sample more realistic.  My champion collector was an elderly lady who trained her cat to supply a urine specimen directly into tin foil any time she crumpled it behind him.  It was quite a sight!  

A Final Note For You, Your Pet And Your Pocketbook 

Obviously, each bodily system has its unique situations and nuances.  The more able you are to stick to straight observation, the easier it is for your veterinarian to be of help.  Your pet will benefit medically, and your wallet will benefit financially.




Do you have a question for our Virtuoso Vet?  Just fill out the form below. Dr. Baum will answer as many of your questions as possible.  For Your Pet's Health: Please contact your local vet if you feel your pet is having an emergency to insure getting attention in time to meet his/her needs.

*We never sell your private information, and post only with your permission, to help other visitors with similar questions. Please see privacy policy pertaining to and

If you are lucky enough to live in Los Angeles when you need a really good vet, you can call
 to set up an appointment with Dr. Baum or another of the highly skilled staff at
Center-Sinai Veterinary Hospital.  The number is 310-559-3770.

Check out the new site! Your questions and answers appear there, with up-to-date links on our site, too, and more pet care information and special features! Just close the window after visiting, or hit your browser's back button to return to InasPawprints.

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