Sleepy dog

My Cuban mother is fond of a little truism she likes to trot out whenever I fail to resupply her dogs’ monthly heartworm and flea meds in a timely fashion: En casa de herrero, cuchillo de palo. It’s a saying about a blacksmith’s wooden knife that is the equivalent of “The cobbler’s son has no shoes.”

Now, I’m a dutiful daughter. But I have a way of forgetting things, such as my (and my mother’s) pets’ monthly preventives. Though I’ve industriously entered reminders into my smartphone, about half the time I still make it home without those little boxes in my bag. 

It’s not that my pets aren’t healthy, hale and salubriously fit. (Yes, even my obesity-prone goats and indolent kitties are trim and in the pink.) It has more to do with my occasional lapses when it comes to offering them the rigorous health care experience I demand for my other patients.

It’s Not Just You

Curious to see how a veterinarian’s personal foibles stack up against yours? Here’s where I fail.

1. Dental schedules. My pets are way behind on their dentals — months behind in all but two cases. And months can mean way more periodontal disease than you’d think. That is especially true for my Miniature Pinscher, Gaston. After all, smaller dogs are more prone to such troubles.

2. Enough exercise. Four of my dogs get as much exercise as they can handle. (The Bulldogs’ exercise is limited to short stints outdoors and only slightly longer sessions fetching toys in the air conditioning.) But Violet, my 16-month-old Malinois, could use more runs. The onset of the summer heat, however, means I’ve been lazier in my own outdoor exercise, too.

Luckily, my favorite local trainer is set to open a new indoor facility nearby, meaning exercise-intensive agility work is in Violet’s near future. And now that kayaking season is approaching, swimming will be on the menu, too.

3. The right stuff, foodwise. Sure, I feed them well. Trouble is, my French Bulldog, Vincent, and English Bulldog foster, Lulu, require careful attention on the dietary front due to their intense food allergies. (Their ears, feet and bellies suffer the itchy-scratchy-smellies if I’m not careful.)

Making sure they both stick to their limited-ingredient diets can be tough when the others drop their kibble and the stuff I add on top (veggies, legumes, cooked organ meats, etc.). Then there’s the food my 16-year-old son often drops on the floor in true teenaged-boy fashion. You’d think he’d be better than a toddler by now.

4. “Treating” them right, too. Homemade treats are my preference. That’s because I find most commercial treats to be packed with empty calories and inordinately expensive, to boot. Organ meat sauteed in butter then frozen or oven-desiccated are my faves. Think: little chicken heart-sickles and beef heart jerky. Yum! But I lag behind in my treat-prep schedule. Martha Stewart I am not.

5. Adventures in training. Keeping my dogs trained and happy isn’t just about a one-time puppy experience at a six-week class in basic manners. Group training classes should be a lifelong affair. After all, they have so much fun there.

6. Record keeping. This lapse is common to veterinarians who practice on their own pets (as most of us do). Though I employ specialists from time to time, I’m directly responsible for my own pets’ health care. And that means I’m also responsible for keeping up-to-date medical records.

Unfortunately, pet care in the way of at-home physical examinations; take-home products, medications and therapeutic diets; and even on-the-fly labwork don’t always get their due on paper. This veterinarian’s pets most certainly share the cobbler’s son’s lot on this one.

Take my Slumdog’s recent upper-respiratory infection, for example. Until I started writing this post, I’d forgotten to record anything on his computerized medical record save the antibiotics and nebulizing solutions I’d brought home. Not a good idea if I’m trying to track his lifetime health care experience. After all, I can’t be expected to remember everything several years from now when his past information might prove important.

7. Pet health insurance. I’m working on it, I swear, but not all of my pets are insured yet. I keep saying I’ll do it, and then I don’t. Maybe tomorrow. Which is what I say about my mom’s pets’ heartworm meds, too.

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