Musings of a Veterinarian

The Shortest Distance Between Two Owners Is a Straight Talk

June 09, 2010 By: Dr. K Category: For Vets, General

The diversity of my appointment schedule never ceases to amaze me. From the blissfully smooth to the guilt-inducing no-money client, I fluctuate between joy and stress throughout my day. One hair-pulling situation involves the disabled pet owner of two small fluffy dogs who routinely appoints her caregiver the task of bringing the aging beasts to me for exams. Following the visit, I then call the owner to discuss my findings, diagnosis, and plan. I’m struck with minor annoyance by having to repeat the entire appointment over the phone but can understand the owner’s absence.

The real trouble arose when I realized the owner and caregiver have a palpable distrust of each other. The caregiver revealed the owner doesn’t want her present at the exams. The owner called before an appointment to ask that I not tell the caregiver too much. The caregiver tells me the owner fails to give medications as prescribed and refuses to follow recommendations. The owner assured me she gave the medication and the dog is still no better. I’ve found myself in the middle of a owner/caregiver/dog triangle and needed to find the fastest way to the best outcome for my patients.

I’m tasked with placing the dogs’ health at the forefront while still adhering to the wishes of their owner. Now, I’m no fool and realize owners lie to me about giving medications, diets, and who knows what else on a regular basis. I rarely have foreknowledge of the impending lie. I tend to believe the caregiver’s story¬† because there is no rational reason for her to lie about the owner lying. The owner, with her impaired faculties, probably believes admitting to her lack of compliance will result in relinquishment of her pets. Despite this, I refused to cut some back-exam-room-deal with the caregiver to reach the treatment plan these dogs need. The owner has exclusive right to chose as long as she adheres to anti-cruelty statutes. So instead, I’ve employed my straight talker tactic.

I asked the owner pointed questions about completing courses of antibiotics and reasons she wished to pursue XYZ courses of action. We spoke candidly about quality of life and her ability to provide adequate medical care to her pets. I built trust and after we had a rapport, I reiterated the importance of all the things we discussed and planned. I cannot control whether she does them or not which is a lesson in patience and understanding only time teaches.

And I haven’t forgotten to document, document, document!

Anyone else out there find themselves in a similar situation? How did you handle it?

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