A Vet Plays Favorites: Her 5 Best Clients

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Which qualities will get you to the top of Dr. Patty Khuly's list as a favorite pet owner? She reveals them here.

While you might think of veterinary medicine as an animal business, there’s always a human being at the other end of the leash. And dealing with people can often be more challenging than their four-legged counterparts. But there are certain clients who rise to the top and make it easier for me to provide their pets with the best care. Here’s my list of favorite clients:

1. The open-minded client. A new feline patient had been suffering recurrent episodes of urinary obstruction during a recent move to the United States. While the family was now ostensibly well-settled into their new home, this kitty’s urethra did not agree. Things were not as they should be. 

So you understand, lower urinary tract disease in felines can be a complicated business. In many cases, episodes can recur when a patient suffers some sort of environmental stress. An international move, of course, qualifies as such. But even after things were back to normal, as far as the clients could tell, this cat was still suffering intermittently.

In spite of their testimony, I suspected that my patient was under a significant amount of stress. The owners, after all, were hovering over this cat night and day. Not only would they take turns watching over him, they’d also taken to waking him up in the middle of the night to make sure he hadn’t become obstructed. Poor thing probably couldn't get any rest. I’d be stressed out too! 

At that point, I recommended they take a close look at their behavior as pet owners. It wasn’t an easy topic to tackle but, I’m grateful to say, they took it well and made significant changes in their clucking and fussing. Our patient soon responded as if he’d never had a care in the world or a lower urinary tract about which to fret.

Owners receptive to our professional recommendations — especially when it comes to touchy topics — are less common than you might think.

2. The forgiving client. When a came to me with her very first dog, we made it successfully through his care, including all his eventual  geriatric issues. Because she was always congenial in her outlook and willing to consider new ideas, we worked well as a team, even when things were at their worst.

She took on two new dogs, and we continued down the same collaborative path. She later decided to take on two more dogs — rescues. Next came the bumpy part, during which our relationship suffered because of the death of one of the four pooches. How I handled her feelings was listed among the many grievances. 

So what’s to love about this client, you ask? I’ll cherish anyone who knows how to push my limits without pushing my buttons. What can I say? Anyone can be insensitive at times. And despite the potential acrimony, things ended up working out really well. She's been a client for 15 years now.

3. The collaborative client. Physicians make both the best and worst kinds of clients. They can either be know-it-all egomaniacs who want to tell me how to do my job, or they can be helpful human beings with whom I can exchange all kinds of ideas.

Take, for example, one of my favorites: She's a pediatric anesthesiologist. Add to that the fact that she is both naturally curious and open-minded, and it makes sense that we click.

4. The find-them-all client. We all know people who have a knack for finding strays in every nook and cranny in their neighborhood (and beyond). But, this guy has them all beat. I have no idea how he does it, but I suspect he goes out looking for the needy. It’s actually quite sweet, considering that he also gives them a good home.

5. The compliant client. I saved the best for last. Perhaps my most thoughtful, sensible (dare I say perfect?) pet owner is a young woman who has a thing for tortoiseshell cats.

She keeps all her appointments (and is punctual), delivers every drop of medication on schedule, has all her girls insured, and contacts me via Facebook whenever there is something amiss with her babies.

She really is perfect. I wish I could clone her!

Yes, interesting people who teach me a thing or two are among my favorite clients. More, please!

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