Here is a statement you probably thought you would never hear as an honest admission: Being a Doctor has its advantages. It gets people’s attention and garners a high level of respect, whether you deserve it or not. It is also not an assurance that people won’t be … for lack of a better term…jerks.
Recently, I was asked to consult on a very interesting case. A young dog was exhibiting pain in his left elbow. He did not have a history of injury and was young enough that osteoarthritis was a very low probability. In the process of diagnosing and treatment of his ailment, he began exhibiting the same symptoms in his right elbow. He was diagnosed with an autoimmune arthritic condition and referred to a veterinary rheumatologist for further evaluation and treatment. The owner of the dog declined the referral and opted to treat the dog himself, contrary to the advice of his veterinarian. The reason for this decision? Because he is a physician. Let’s call him Dr. Doctor
By his assessment, Dr. Doctor explained because he is a physician and because the same condition occurs in people he is at least, if not more qualified than a veterinarian to treat and manage his pet’s condition. He did so, as is his option, and disaster ensued. The pet’s condition worsened and he began to have side effects from Dr. Doctor’s treatment regime. At this point, I was introduced to the case.
Through the process of examining the pet, reviewing his diagnostic tests, and a very long conversation with Dr. Doctor, I came to this not so startling and obvious
conclusion: his treatment plan and execution was just bad and wrong. He couldn’t understand why the dog was not getting better and in fact getting worse. He exclaimed, “I don’t understand why this didn’t work. I am a physician.” To which I replied, “Yes, but you are not a veterinarian.”
People tend to think of their dogs and cats as children. That can be problematic in many ways, especially when it comes to medical treatment. At this point, I will state the obvious: The physiology of dogs and cats is different from that of humans. They can react differently to drugs and treatments than humans. The unfortunate experience of Dr. Doctor’s dog is proof the practice of medicine is an art. You have to be very observant of your treatment and diagnostic practices because they never seem to work exactly the same way in any two animals. It has been my experience that my patients have not read the same medical text as I, so they don’t know they are supposed to respond positively to all my treatments. Also, any time you are treating your own pet or the pet of someone you are very close too, it is unavoidable and inevitable you will lose perspective. In Dr. Doctor’s case, I think his choice was a matter of ego. We all know ego can be a killer, figuratively and literally.
With the intervention of good veterinary medical care, the dog is now well on the mend and Dr. Doctor has learned a valuable lession. He is still a bit persnickety towards me due to my blunt response to his failed medical treatment. He suggests I could have been a bit less blunt in sharing my disapproval of his choice and I agree. I re-elucidated my disapproval: “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it is raining!”
Dr. Pierre Bland is the owner of Dr. Bland’s Vet House Calls. He can be reached at 954-673-8579 or at doctorblandvet.com.