9 Ways This Vet Can Have a Bad Day (And It’s Never the Pets’ Fault)

Cat at Vet
Dr. Patty Khuly says that many vets hate it when their clients accuse them of performing unnecessary dental care.

It’s true. For all the wonders our profession offers, veterinarians can have bad days too. But the worst aren’t always all about tackling euthanasia, pet loss or grief. These are tough subjects, to be sure, but they’re to be expected in our line of work. In fact, all animal subjects are. Perhaps not surprisingly, the more effective stressors happen when pet owners and veterinarians collide. Human interactions, after all, can be way more stressful than those with any other species of animal I’ve ever met.

When Good Days Go Bad

Yes, I’ll confess: Some pet owners really get my goat (and I’ve got two of these at home to compare them to). These are the ones whose gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands can make me and my staff members consider crawling into the cages with our patients. (You know who these people are. They're probably not your favorites, either.)

In a veterinary setting, this human kind of stress takes on very specific forms. And though I know that anyone reading Vetstreet in their free time is unlikely to commit any of the bad-day-inducing acts I list below, I offer them here for your amusement (and by way of inviting your commiseration too). In no particular order:

1. “You’re telling me this free pet is going to cost me how much to fix?” Sigh. This line of argument is one I refer to as “the free pet lament.” It’s especially stressful to veterinarians like me because whenever I’m treated to it, I’m forced to confront the reality that some pet owners value their pets even less than they value my services. And that’s a downer.

2. “I don’t understand why she’s so sick. It’s completely unacceptable for her to have diabetes. Do something!” As anyone who’s ever suffered with a chronic illness (or any illness, really) can attest, there’s quite a bit of personal frustration to contend with. It’s only natural that we shake our fists in anger and grief.

In these cases (and they happen often), pet owners will sometimes lash out at us, their veterinarians, in response to their pets’ misery. And while I understand the sentiment, it’s completely unfair and highly counterproductive to accuse the vet. After all, diseases are not my personal doing and I’m already trying as hard as I can to fix them!

3. “No, he’s not fat, and I’m personally offended that you would say so.” While I understand why someone would be testy about the use of such foul language in a veterinary exam room, this particular three-letter word has its place. I’m really just trying to help them realize the crucial ramifications of this problem.

4. “But I've had dogs my entire life and none has ever needed all this expensive dentistry.” Need I explain why this grievance grates like nails on a chalkboard? Veterinarians like me hate being accused of trying to take advantage of our clients by offering "unnecessary" services.

Just because veterinary medicine is more discerning about dental health than ever before doesn’t mean I’m trying to rake you over the coals. We’re simply better at what we do now that we realize how damaging dental disease can be to a pet’s overall well-being. In fact, I’m proud of being a better dentist than I ever thought I’d have to be!


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