How Did You Not Notice?


Today, a dog presented to my clinic for being unable to defecate (depending on the client, that might be phrased as: pooping, taking a shit, making a poo-poo, doing his business, having a BM ... really, a never-ending list). The owner was un/surprisingly unhelpful in providing any extra information as to duration (weeks? months?), or whether the dog had recently had any diarrhea ("I don't know -- he just goes out to the yard".... Ok, then, so no barefoot barbecues at that guy's house...).


Ever the diagnostician, immediately a number of things go through my mind: Perhaps it's something stuck in the bum (a stick trying to come out, or even, once a sewing needle which had remarkably made its way all the way to the anus before causing a problem).



Or impacted anal glands making defecation too painful. Or spinal pain (ditto). Maybe it's not even constipation but diarrhea, which can look very similar, especially if all you see is a little dog hunched up in the yard and nothing coming out -- either it's too hard & won't come out, or it's too soft and the little puddle of liquid has already come out but to the dog seems there should be more.


The first thing is to do, of course, is look. "Let's just pop your dog up on the exam table," at which point the owner plunks the fluffy little furball, ... err, Pomeranian ... on the table. I turn the dog so his rump is facing me, lift his tail and ... Voilà! Right in front of my eyes, there's a matted ball of hair and feces about the size of my fist (not joking) stuck to this dog's anus.

I let go and allow the dog to retuck his tail and regain a bit of dignity while I ask the owner, "So you really don't know what's causing the problem, then?" The husband and wife both shake their heads, baffled. 

I explain, "He has a ball of feces stuck to the hair around his bum. It's quite large, did you not notice? Perhaps the smell?..." Same baffled head-shaking. 

Another example: A limping ShihTzu. The owner says he tried to look for the source of the problem, but the dog kept pulling his foot away. So he brought the dog in for me to look at it. This dog weighs all of about 5kg. And he was a nice dog, didn't even try to kill me once! Admittedly, the feet are massively overgrown with fur (Late for the grooming appointment this month, according to the owner), so it's a bit hard to see. But once I set the dog on a table under even indirect lighting, I see, straightaway, that two of the massively overgrown toenails

have crossed over each other and are stuck in that position. 


Ouch. And also, it took far longer than one month for those nails to grow like that. (And, by the way? I'm not a fucking idiot. It's just more time and energy than I have today to call you out on your bullshit.)



... These are the sorts of things in veterinary medicine I will never understand. Why don't people just look?**  I mean, I get that a Pomeranian is a mighty fuzzy & fluffy little dog, 



but it hardly takes a rocket scientist to lift up the tail and have a bit of a peek. -- Or looking at a dog's paw: So what if they don't want you to look? Aren't you the "mom" or "dad" of the dog? Especially a dog that's only as big as a sack of flour? Just tell them you're going to look ... and look! I'm sure, as a child, I was just as obstinate as some of these pets are, but my parents would just sit on me until they'd pulled the splinter from the bottom of my foot or took my medicine or whatever else was wrong had been corrected.



Sometimes I feel embarrassed about taking these people's money, but most of the time I just think they're wimps. Or liars. Or both. Sometimes I think they do know what's wrong but prefer to feign ignorance.


Rest assured, as a veterinarian, I have little respect for someone who's afraid of their own dog. [Cat-owners may get a by on this one --some of those little bastards can be vicious!] I mean, if they don't have control over their dog, then how am I supposed to do? 



I also feel sorry for the dog. Dogs love to live in an orderly universe, which means someone has to be in charge, and if it's not the owner then the dog figures, Oh well, I guess it'll have to be me! -- And that's just more fun than I or any other veterinarian can shake a stick at, trying to eke out even a smidgen of cooperation from pets who are Alpha-King of their own household. 



But that's a whole different topic, saved for another day. My point today is: Look. It's not that hard. Just do a bit of work. I (and most other veterinarians) understand that veterinary care costs money, sometimes a lot of money. So you may not be able to do everything available to help your pet live its happiest healthiest life. But even the poorest clients I've ever met have a hairbrush or comb and a pair of nail clippers to hand. And if you aren't even doing that much (i.e., providing 100% no-cost home care) for them, then right from the get-go, you've already lost my respect and sympathy.

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(** -- Disabled & elderly people excepted, though even those folks sometimes run rings around the young and able-bodied, so you youngsters should feel doubly ashamed of yourselves.)

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