You might not realize what a vital role you play in solving your pet’s health problems.  See, I can squeeze, bend, and peer into your pet while he is in my exam room, but those findings can’t give me the whole picture without the story you brought from home.  Maybe your pet only seems abnormal when he’s pooping or sleeping or running at top speed, all behaviors he is unlikely to demonstrate inside my building. Maybe your pet is afraid of doctors and planning to feign a healthy appearance while in our presence.  Perhaps he’s so fearful that a meaningful examination of him will jeopardize his safety (or ours).  Lab tests aren’t the answer either, in part because there are hundreds of them.  Without someplace to start, I can’t even know which ones to select for your pet.

We’ve spent our whole careers trying to repair patients that cannot describe the details of their discomforts, so we’ve learned to absorb every piece of information we can get.  We’re listening to everything you say, so please, tell us everything.  Does he go up the stairs without trouble, but refuses to go down?  A useful clue.  Was he squawking and hopping like his leg was broken one minute, then running around normally the next?  That means something to me.  

I need to know what you have done to him at home.  Are you actually using flea preventative on him?  I need to know what brand.  Are you feeding him dog food, or letting him eat leftovers?  Have you genuinely been giving him the heartworm pills you bought?  Did you start giving him some antique antibiotic capsules from the summer of 2010?  I need to know the truth, and not what you think is going to earn you an award for Pet Owner of the Year.  I don’t know of any veterinarian’s office that gives those out anyway.

Please, you have to help me understand exactly what was done at the other animal hospital.  When you come in saying that “they gave him an injection” and ask me to repeat it, a new crop of gray hairs springs out of my scalp.  When you’ve come seeking answers about his years of messy stools, please don’t tell me that “they already tested him for everything.”  That is going to give me a roaring case of GI distress myself.  You will need to request a copy of that file, refer to your notes, or be prepared to wait while I call up their office.  If you didn’t bring detailed records, I’ll be forced to start over.  Your time with the previous vet will be wasted. 

Finally, you will need to address some awkward-seeming topics.  What did you see?  I doubt you will be able to produce a word for feces that I have not already heard.  You won’t be able to disgust me with your story about how it looked.  I am not going to laugh when I hear you utter the words “lady parts.”  So fire away.  Tell me everything.

Dr. M.S. Regan