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When your pet is the patient


Receptionist shares personal misstep.

I've been a receptionist at the Ellwood Animal Hospital in Ellwood City, Pa., for almost 11 years, and I've seen my share of pets with serious illnesses. Luckily, my own pets have been healthy—or so I thought. It wasn't until I brought my 13-year-old cat, Cleo (pictured left), into the practice to have a scratch on her eye examined that I discovered something was wrong. It had been a year since her last exam. Her weight was down considerably, so the doctor drew a complete blood count and ran a chemistry profile. I was shocked to find out Cleo had hyperthyroidism.

This is the cat with silky-soft orange fur, petite paws, and a pink nose that gets a new freckle every year. This is the cat who won't sit on my lap but will sit beside me for hours. I could go on. After all, I know everything about this cat. So how could I not have known something was wrong?

Treatment for Cleo's hyperthyroidism has been a roller coaster ride. It's given me a new perspective on our clients. It's easy to judge them from this side of the desk—to roll your eyes and wonder, "Why aren't they doing what's best for their pet?" But everyone faces a different situation. Our practice's hyperthyroidism protocol calls for sending cats with T4 levels as high as Cleo's for radioactive treatment. This wasn't an option for us because of the emotional and financial toll, as well as a mass in Cleo's chest that makes her a poor candidate. So I pursued a different path.

I really respect those clients who are the most compliant and keep their follow-up appointments—because now I'm one of them. I can't help but wonder whether things would be different if I'd become one of these clients sooner and we'd caught Cleo's illness sooner.

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