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
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?
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?
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?
the pet have any idiosyncratic behavior?
Can you observe any cause and effect
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
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
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