The laws of cranky clients and snarling pets in your veterinary clinic


If a veterinary client is nice and pays cash, her pet will die. If the pet is vicious and the owner's check bounces, he will live forever.

As you undoubtedly know, there are certain truisms of veterinary practice that cannot be denied. They are rules such as these:

> There's no correlation between the amount of talking a client does and the amount of useful information you get out of it.

> Ninety percent of the aggravation comes from 10 percent of the people.

Along the same lines, I'd like to share with you "Dr. O's Laws of Prognosis."


Law No. 1: The prognosis varies depending on how nice the owners and pets are. If the veterinary clients are your age, friendly, seem like the kind of people you would like to invite over for dinner, own a friendly lovable golden retriever and always pay cash, the prognosis is poor. Ear mites will turn into chronic otitis. Roundworms will cause an intussusception. The case will send you scrambling to a textbook to look for an elusive and exotic diagnosis. You won't be able to make things right and these clients will wind up consulting another veterinarian.

On the other hand, if the clients are rude, offensive, smell bad, bounce checks and own a vicious, untrained finger removal machine who keeps a week's worth of stool stored up internally just to deposit it on your waiting room floor, the dog will live forever and the client will never go anywhere else.

Law No. 2: The prognosis varies inversely with the visibility of the pet and the frequency you see the owner. Suppose that you treat two dogs for similar fractures. The pooch belonging to a shut-in will heal nicely while being confined to the five-acre back yard.

However, the dog that belongs to your neighbor who keeps him on a chain in his front yard right next to your hospital where everyone can see him will never heal. A non-union will probably develop, leading to a lifetime, which will be 20 years minimum, of three-legged lameness with muscle atrophy. The hair on the limb will never grow back and the incision will drain. You can offer to re-operate, but he won't accept your offer even if it's at no charge. Nonetheless, he will take every opportunity to mention, "Old Tripod still isn't right, Doc."

Law No. 3: Dr. O's law of supply and demand. Simply stated, this law states that when you need something, it won't be there. This can apply to drugs, equipment or even people. For example, one day last week I was doing a tedious bit of surgery that wasn't going well at all. My staff members kept interrupting my train of thought with typical questions.

"Dr. O, can Mrs. Foamlips have more medication for Tigger?"

"Dr. O, there's a man on the phone who wants to know if you'll give a donation to the retired shoe salesmen's association."

"Dr. O, do you have just a few minutes to come out front and watch a man demonstrate a new air freshener machine for the waiting room?"

At some point along the line, I ran out of suture material and sponges simultaneously and ... you guessed it! Assistance was nowhere within shouting distance. I would have had a better chance of getting help if I were stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Finally, I had to resort to a tactic that always brings them running. I simply said, "Hey! Whose box of donuts is this back here?"

Dr. Michael Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.

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