Friday, February 6, 2009


People seek second opinions on their pet mostly for three reasons-they had a bad experience at their previous vet, they don't believe the diagnosis (even if it's correct), or they are not confident in the previous vet's diagnostic and/or treatment plan. Today I had option number three. A very nice young man had an appointment for another opinion on his very nice, seemingly well cared for 8 year old Boxer with a cough. The original vet did not take any x-rays and so that's the first thing we did today after the exam. Since Boxers are prone to heart disease I was hoping that's all we would find, after all he didn't cough at all during the exam and had only slightly irregular lung sounds. Sadly that is not what we found. The radiograph showed his lungs were literally full of cancer-metastatic lesions from a tumor elsewhere in the body we couldn't easily find. Sadly, I've had recent practice giving this news to an owner-the radiograph could have been a carbon copy of the one I took of our friend Monty from the Portuguese Water Blog. I felt terrible for the dog and the nice young man who cried and asked how long his dog had to live. With the answer being only a few weeks to maybe a few months I thought about how lucky I was to have a 14 year old dog in relatively good health and how I've never been faced with the sudden and unexpected news that a beloved pet was suddenly afflicted with a rapidly terminal disease. On the other hand when I see a 17 year old pet who has received almost no health care in its life I feel like I deserve to have my dog live until he's 20.

I guess the bottom line is that good care won't prevent all bad diseases-sometimes you need a little luck as well. And sometimes my job entails making people cry, whether it be owners, staff, or even myself. I'm used to giving bad news and performing euthanasias ( I performed two today, in addition to giving the Boxer owner bad news...). It's just part of the job. Sometimes though, it's good to still cry during some of them-makes me realize I haven't gotten too used to them. I don't think anyone who is never saddened or affected by the loss of a patient can continue to be a good veterinarian.

Hopefully tomorrow will bring puppies and kittens and healthy young pets!


Sara said...

My first vet (she's retired now) had a really close bond with my dog and myself. We had spent a lot of time together after my dog had suffered horrible wounds from a dog attack.

Seeing her tears, along with the vet tech's, when I made the decision to euthanize him, years later, helped me know I was making the right decision.

Who knows how many pets she had to euthanize over the 30+ years she was a vet. So, when she cried at Munchkin's it meant a lot.

Diana said...

Jobs can be hard. I use to work at a childrens hospital. There were days when I went home and thought, "All I did today was torture everyone". I held this kid down for a cut down, I held that kid down for a spinal tab and the next kid had to be cathed. Ugh, it was a horrible feeling. I hated those days. Heres to better days! Diana

Ricky the Sheltie said...

Sorry you had such a sad day - I had a similar experience as Sara with a cat that got cancer at the age of @7 and after 6 months of pred had to be put down. It was horrible but comforting when I was with my vet who was wonderful and the tech who cried with me and my husband.

Thanks for all you do to help pet owners out there - in good outcomes and bad!

Sue said...

It helps the grieving owner to feel that the vet is also saddened by the terrible experience they're going thru.

The card you all sent with little personal notes about Monty was much appreciated, even though I wasn't able to read it right away.

I also hope today is full of silly puppies and kittens with no bad news.