Time to listen
Experience has taught me over the years that an owner’s instinct is not to be overlooked, even if clinical checks are to the contrary.
Now this may sound obvious but with so much information available online nowadays, owners can have a tendency to either over diagnose or sometimes look for the most complicated and unusual diagnosis as it is only human nature to worry and problem solve!
We, as Vets, have all been in the position when an owner comes into the surgery with their pet that’s “just not right”. They can’t identify exactly what the problem is but they just feel something’s wrong. You examine the animal and find all is well. What next? Send them home, tell them not to worry and stop googling? Sometimes it is the correct decision to just monitor the situation for a few days and reassess in which time symptoms may have appeared or everything has hopefully returned to normal.
My feeling is that owners know their own pets well, often very well; sometimes they have lived together day in, day out for over a decade. I think offering some further investigation is justified, whether it is a simple blood test or imaging. This may be enough to put my and owners minds at rest. This was highlighted to me only a few weeks ago.
It was a Wednesday evening and my last appointment of the day. The dog had been sick twice over the last few days; this was not particularly unusual as he was a Labrador, and a Labrador that scavenged. However it was his behaviour that worried the owners, he just would not settle and he would not eat.
I examined him but could not find anything abnormal. His tummy was relaxed with no obvious pain. His temperature was normal. His gum colour was normal. His heart rate not elevated. It seemed reasonable to give an anti-sickness injection and see him again in the morning. However the owners felt his behaviour was very out of character and we x-rayed his abdomen that evening. The x-ray showed a foreign body visible in his intestines. He was taken immediately to surgery where we removed a 2 inch triangular shard of bone. This piece of sharp bone had already started to cut through and perforate his intestines. We had to repair a 3inch laceration in his small intestine.
Had we waited until the next day the perforation would have led to septic peritonitis and he probably would have had only a 20% chance of survival. Thanks mainly to the owner’s diligence and our prompt intervention, he went onto make a full recovery.
Rarely are cases quite so hinged on a decision but this again just highlights to me that owners really do know their own pets and it is naïve (or foolish) to ignore them.
We look forward to seeing many of you at the Sherborne Country Fair this year. We are once again the Official Show Veterinarians but will also be sponsoring several categories in the Dog Ring. Fingers crossed for fine weather!
December 17, 2019
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