Post-Seminar Syndrome has Dr. O re-examining old habits


Exuding his usual charm, Pucker greeted me from his perch atop the exam table.

Exuding his usual charm, Pucker greeted me from his perch atop the exam table.

The circular tail gyrations at one end seemed to be at odds with the menacing growl emanating from the other.

A long-time patient of mine, Pucker has many of the qualities of a fine physical specimen. His head, tail, weight and coat are beautifully proportioned; that is, they would be if his skeleton had kept up. Unfortunately, his bones are too short. The end result being that he looks like a furry alligator with a short tail. (If he were to develop the temperament of an alligator, that would be an improvement.)

Medically speaking, he has been prone to problems with his skin, which is covered with more wrinkles than a cerebral cortex. (Something that Pucker seems to lack. His ears and feet are prone to infections and his back is bad. To make a long story short, Pucker is a Bassett Hound.

On this particular occasion, I was able to get close enough to see that his semi-annual bout of eczema was right on schedule. All I had to do was to administer an injection to stop the itching and the pooch would be on his way. I reached for a vial of Corto-depa-zone.

The record clearly showed that the same treatment had worked wonderfully six times in the past four years. Pucker's owner, Lotta Vets, had always been very pleased. Before coming to me four years ago, she had been to several of my local colleagues. Sometimes, the dog's coat would look a little better, but the itch never stopped. All she wanted me to do was stop the scratching. I had succeeded then, and all I had to do now was to administer the same treatment.

Then, right in the middle of the office call, I became disabled. It happened somewhere between my examination of the patient and the administration of the miracle Corto-depa-zone injection.

I was suffering from a malady which is peculiar to the veterinary profession. A malady which most of us have experienced. Worst of all, my problem was self-inflicted.

You see, in January, I had attended a continuing education seminar. Instead of being held someplace conveniently close to home where I could enjoy the single digit temperatures as well as the stresses of being near my practice, the meeting was held about a zillion miles away on a tropical island in the West Indies. However, I wasn't about to let that stop me. So, being dedicated as I am to continuing education, I decided to go, even if it meant having to spend a week in some tropical paradise far from the joys of shoveling snow.

Much to my surprise, I attended all 24 hours of available lectures. In fact, my time was divided between stuffing knowledge into my head and stuffing food into the rest of me.

It was at some indefinite point that week that I was stricken with the bug. The precise moment that it happened is unimportant because, as it happens in all cases, the symptoms did not appear until I was back in my office. Once I began to see office calls, it became painfully obvious that I was showing signs of an affliction that I call Post Seminar Syndrome.

At one time or another, we have all experienced it. You spend a few hours in the presence of an Ivory Tower-type lecture and, the next thing you know, you are using a more scientific vocabulary, running more lab tests and, most obvious of all, using less cortisone.

Since Pucker was in my office just two days after my return from the meeting, I found myself facing a difficult choice. Would it be the usual blast of cortisone? Or, should I opt for the scientific approach with its battery of tests, its variable short-range prognosis and its lack of quick fix, client-pleasing, itch-stopping results?

Would it be better to wrestle with my conscience over the quick shot of steroids or wrestle with a sawed-off itch alligator while we tried to run tests on him?

My symptoms cleared up very quickly and so did the dog's.

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

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