Monday, February 6, 2012

Sometimes the customer is right

Even in veterinary medicine.

Clients that self-diagnose their pets always drive veterinarians crazy. It's just a pet peeve, and I'm sure it occurs in every industry concerned with "repair." But sometimes, we need to make sure that our personal annoyances don't get in the way of listening when someone has something important to say.

Several months ago, a worried owner brought me a perfectly healthy, happy looking puppy named Trigger. She insisted that Trigger had swallowed a very hard rawhide and that it was stuck in his throat. Now, owners think this all the time - that their pet is choking on something. Half the time, it turns out to be a cough of some sort, other times, the pet is nauseated.

So I examined Trigger. He was bouncy and alert. He did not cough when I palpated his throat area. He was not nauseated. His abdomen didn't hurt when I palpated it. I questioned his owner as to why she thought he had swallowed it. Per her report, Trigger was gnawing on a 6 inch long, very hard rawhide. Seconds later, it was gone, nowhere to be found. Shortly afterwards, Trigger began to cough lightly and act uncomfortable.

I assured her that his physical exam was normal, and he showed no signs of having anything stuck in his throat. She seemed so concerned though that I told her we would be on the safe side and conduct some xrays.

So, we took xrays. I quickly glanced at them and said, "nope, no rawhide." Then I looked closer. Was there something? My technician looked at the films and laughed. "There's nothing there!" But still ... Something so faint. Artifact of positioning? Or rawhide?

I went back and forth with myself, then decided to give the puppy a mouthful of barium (a contrast agent that shows up bright white on xray). Sure enough, the contrast perfectly outlined a rawhide chew toy stuck half in/half out of the stomach! I couldn't believe it. Most normal dogs would be vomiting with the rawhide positioned as it was. This puppy felt fine.

3 hours later and a visit with the internist for endoscopy, and the rawhide was easily removed. It was an important reminder to listen to your clients. Sometimes they provide you with valuable information!

1 comment:

Kim said...

It's nice to hear a vet talk about listening to their clients...we're not all idiots (or at least not all of the time!). I correctly diagnosed my elderly dog with a paralyzed larynx and cushings disease prior to going to my vet...he was skeptical, but sadly I ended up being right.