Our clients are often amazed by the sophistication of the services we provide.
Comparisons are made with the surgeries, diagnostics and actual care provided in human medical facilities, and the similarities are striking.
An oft-repeated, only half-joking, comment is that the care their pets received was better than what they had experienced themselves.
When prescribing medications for my patients, clients also are surprised that they are dispensed from places like Walgreens. It is true that physiologically, dogs and cats are very similar to people. We share many of the same diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Dogs are referred to as man’s best friend, so perhaps it’s fitting that, like a man, male dogs experience prostate enlargement under the influence of testosterone. Castration will prevent this, along with certain other male behaviors.
Indeed, many conditions in animals are diagnosed and treated in exactly the same manner as in their human counterparts. But, to assume such commonality exists among all conditions can be a serious mistake, as I (Henri Bianucci) came to appreciate on one stress-filled afternoon, shortly after having started my practice.
Carla was a recently retired thoracic surgeon who had moved to Charleston seeking a change of life. She had two large, rambunctious Labrador retrievers, and they were as sweet as they were undisciplined. The only member of the family who kept them in line was Artie, a 15-pound Dachshund, who had more personality per pound than just about any dog I have ever seen.
Whenever Carla came to my clinic, she would enter with all three dogs, none of them on a leash. Bounding ahead of the pack was always Artie.
With a giant smile and ears flapping in the breeze, Artie would come bounding through the clinic. My annoyance at these dogs running wild about the place was tempered by the sheer joy that Artie’s exuberance would bring to all who saw him.
I first met Carla when one of her Labs required surgical stabilization of an injured ankle. I subsequently treated these dogs for a few other conditions, and had slowly gained Carla’s complete trust and loyalty. This would prove to be a mixed blessing.
On a day when disaster struck, due to her naturally strong personality and medical training, Carla immediately began calling the shots.
Artie, who was never on a leash, had dashed into the street and was run over. Carla called from her vet’s office and told me what had happened. She went on to say that he had blood in his abdomen. I learned that the accident had happened about an hour before and that Artie was still alert and responsive. She expressed her fear of continued bleeding, and supported this worry by conveying the fact that human liver injuries will seldom stop bleeding on their own. She wanted an immediate emergency abdominal exploratory surgery.
I told her that if the bleeding were serious enough to require surgery, Artie would likely look worse. I recommended monitoring and support, and only perform surgery if his condition worsened.
She asserted that she would rather have a negative exploratory surgery than a dead dog, and she demanded that we move forward. Being new to the field, I yielded to her, and agreed to explore his abdomen and look for a bleed.
Artie was taken to surgery, and as I opened his belly, I could see that the liver was indeed lacerated, but the bleeding had stopped. I touched the affected area, and a slight bleed resumed. I was sure this would stop on its own, but I was now committed.
I felt compelled to remove that lacerated liver lobe, but as I began, a second disaster struck. Artie went into cardiac arrest. I performed compressions on his heart but to no avail. So, I cut a hole through his diaphragm and began to massage his heart. This went on for 20 minutes, and all I could think was that I had known that this bleeding would have stopped on its own. Indeed, there was no active bleeding until after I opened up the abdomen. I had no business in that abdomen, and I felt like an idiot for having been talked into it. I had no business being there at all.
After working furiously, we finally got Artie’s heart running again. His recovery was nothing short of remarkable. After all of that, he was discharged the next day looking none the worse for wear.
In Carla’s eyes, my status was now at an all-time high. From that day on, whenever I saw Carla, she would introduce me to anyone who would listen as the vet who saved Artie. I knew better: Artie was alive only in spite of me.
This taught me the value, actually the absolute necessity, of having the strength to follow my convictions and knowledge base. Just as importantly, I experienced firsthand the perils of indiscriminately applying human medical principals to the practice of veterinary medicine.
Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.