Every day in a veterinary clinic brings new challenges and opportunities— and a variety of clients and pets with personalities each unique as the next. Some days you feel you don’t know what will walk through the door. Here are true stories of some of the most interesting, embarrassing, relatable encounters that veterinary teams have ever been part of.
“A gentleman brought in an older Basset hound one day, and he was in his overalls, boots and no shirt. He wanted her to be checked for ticks, but as I was bringing her into the back, he followed, asking if I could check him for ticks, too. I was mortified, and the only polite thing I could think of saying is that because we’re a veterinary clinic, we treat things with tails, so unfortunately I couldn’t help.”
— JULIE E., CVT
“Someone brought in a male and a female kitten for vaccinations, and we were discussing the importance of spaying and neutering the kittens. The client couldn’t understand why we would need to spay and neuter her kittens because they were brother and sister and “They’d never do that!” I had to explain that in the animal world, cats don’t know they’re brother and sister, so yes, they will mate. She ended up getting her kittens fixed.”
— J.H., VETERINARY TECHNICIAN
“I answered a call from a panicked client who was worried about his dog. He noticed his dog had lumps, and he was freaking out that it might be cancer in the lymph nodes. I asked him to bring in his dog right away. When we started examining the dog I quickly realized the problem and had to explain that when male dogs get excited, the bulbus glandis swells. The client, who couldn’t have been much older than 18 at the time, was embarrassed and turned beet red, and I’m sure my face was pretty red, too.”
— KATI R., CVT
“I used to work at a clinic in which we would have a specific client come in like clockwork and weigh bags of rawhide chews on the dog scale. He would purchase the one that weighed the most because he thought he was getting the better deal.”
— NICOLE T., VETERINARY TECHNICIAN
“One morning we had three newly diagnosed diabetic cats come into our clinic. We ran blood work on them all, and for one of the cats the results came back with a blood glucose value of 750, the highest our machine would read. By all accounts this cat shouldn’t have been alive. I told the owner this and all he had to say was, “Oh, I thought he was walking funny.”
— M.C., VETERINARY TECHNICIAN
“We had a client come in one time who wanted to learn how to express anal glands because she didn’t think it was worth the money to bring her dog in every four to six weeks to have them expressed. Just as the doctor was squeezing the gland, the client bent over to see what he was doing, and she was sprayed with all the liquid. It ended up on her face, in her hair and all over her shirt. Needless to say, she thought it was well worth the trip into the office ever six weeks after that.”
— ANONYMOUS, VETERINARY TECHNICIAN
“Several clients would, at first, turn down a distemper vaccine because they liked their dog’s temperament. For some, it took quite a bit of educating and reassurance that a distemper vaccine wouldn’t actually change their dog’s temperament.”
— J.D., CVT
“An upset cat owner called the clinic. She was very panicky, scared that she would have to give her cat up for adoption. The problem was that the cat just recently started to dart out the back door at every opportunity and was howling all day to get out. The cat even jumped on her back and sprung off her shoulders to get outside, and brought her a dead bird (to her horror).
“After a very long conversation, I discovered it was an adult cat, no history of doing this before, had been spayed, had never marked her territory in the house, nor had there been other cats coming and going in their yard. At this point she is sobbing, telling me she doesn’t want to adopt her cat out but she may have no choice because she wants to leave her main door open so she can see her beautiful garden with bird feeders and flowers, which she planted so her cat could have something to watch from the inside.
“It took 25 minutes to get to the real reason for the change of behavior, and I didn’t want to upset her further, so I politely explained how cats hunt and bring back presents. It had never crossed her mind.”
— MARIA O., CVT
“An older eccentric woman came in to have her Bichon Frise puppies vaccinated against distemper. She requested the distemper vaccine ‘with no corona’ and to be warmed up in the microwave first because her puppies were sensitive.”
— SARAH S., CVT
“While working at a 24-hour clinic we would receive the strangest phone calls.
“A woman called crying, stating she was stuck in the bathroom and her cat wouldn’t let her out. Turns out she had rescued a pregnant, semiferal cat.
“There wasn’t much I could do over the phone, so we discussed ways to trap the cat in the bathroom instead of her so she could check on the newborn kittens to ensure they were in a safe place and not in the rafters of her basement, the cat’s favorite hiding spot.
“The caller calmed down and we were able to work on a basic plan, with the promise that if she still couldn’t get out of the bathroom safely she would call animal services or the fire department to rescue her.”
— TARA W., VETERINARY ASSISTANT AND RECEPTIONIST
Stephanie Duncan is the communication coordinator at the Veterinary Hospitals Association, a cooperative based in South St. Paul, Minn.
Originally published in the August 2016 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today!