The persnickety side of veterinary medicine

dvm360dvm360 June 2021
Volume 56

One veterinarian recalls a time that involved a fact-checking banker, his poodle, and a whole lot of fractions and strange laughter.

 monica /

monica /

Persnickety is a word I’ve come to know quite well. The dictionary defines it as “placing too much emphasis on trivial or minor details,” and in my 20 years of practicing veterinary medicine, I’ve learned that my personal definition of “trivial details” has changed.

Clients and their lists

I have quoted the life cycle of heartworm and the pathogenesis of navicular disease so often that I am bored to death with it. However, this is not that type of minor detail that drives me nuts. It’s the client who comes in with a list. Oh my, how I hate lists. When I see a client pull one out, I know there is about to be a 20-minute question-and-answer session. How can I compete with their fact-checked list of Dr Google’s advice?

The list-bearing poodle-owning banker

I had a list-bearing banker walk through the doors reeking of persnickety. I dispensed some antibiotic tablets to be given to his poodle twice a day. He called me the very next day and said, “Yes, ah Dr Brock, ah, I was just calling with a question on the dosing of the antibiotic you sent home with my poodle yesterday. I hate to be a stickler, but according to the dosage schedule on the manufacturer’s website, Missy should be getting 13/32 of a tablet twice a day, and I believe you had us giving half of a tablet.”

Are you kidding me?! This guy got on the internet, found the manufacturing website, got the dosage schedule, calculated the dose, and came up with a fraction of a tablet with the number 13 and 32 in it?

At first, I was going to try and justify my “overdosage” by using a big medical diatribe and trumping his Google research with my education. However, I opted to play along instead and told him to hang on a minute as I recalculated the dose.

Calculating a ruse

After pretending to recalculate the dose, I told the fact-checking owner he was correct and that he needed to break each tablet into 32 equally sized portions and give the dog 13 of those portions twice a day. I then apologized for being off in my calculation and that the slight overdose was not dangerous to the dog in any way.

There was a long pause. I wasn’t sure what was going through his mind, but I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the result. What prompts a person to hang on to such a detail? Had he not even considered for a minute the absurdity of such a calculation? Did he just call and show me how “smart” he was or did he think I was an idiot that could not calculate a dose?

Who gets the last laugh?

Instead of admitting defeat, the banker asked, “how would one go about breaking up one of those small tablets into 32 equal portions?”

“I have no idea. Maybe you should just break it in half and pretend 6/32 of the thing flaked off when it broke,” I replied.

This made him laugh. He laughed and laughed until I began to get uncomfortable. Finally, after what seemed like a solid 2 minutes of fake laughter, he said, “I guess that brings us right back to where we started. Wow, I guess that is why I am a banker and not a doctor, huh.”

Right as he began another round of strange laughter, I thought to myself, “You got that right you persnickety sounding rascal.” Then it hit me. I had just spent 10 minutes on the phone placing too much emphasis on trivial details. Maybe we ALL can be a little persnickety.

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