In one of my former favorite medical television dramas, the head doctor’s favorite saying was “everybody lies” and he said it at least once an episode. I am a little different from this doctor; I like talking to clients, and I don’t think everybody lies. But an awful lot of the time, there are errors of omission–owners just don’t know when something may be significant. This has been one of the funniest and most frustrating components of vet med.
Once I sat with a client whose dog wasn’t responding to a food trial diet; the dog was supposed to eat only the special dog food and have absolutely nothing else. I grilled the client to make sure the dog was not receiving treats at home or from anyone else, that the dog wasn’t stealing food from the garbage or counters, and that there was absolutely no way for the dog to get any food other than the special dog food. The poor owner was finally getting annoyed with the line of questioning, but I just wanted to make sure that the dog did not have access to another food.
I went back to the vet in charge of the case, and we came up with a new plan, assuming the dog had a different condition than what we had originally diagnosed. When we went back to speak with the client, he casually mentioned that his dog was a little overweight because she kept eating from his other dog’s food dish. His other dog was not being fed the special diet.
When I am in a situation like this, I always think of my television doctor and smile a little. It is not true that “everybody lies,” but there are sure a lot of grey areas.