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Don't lie about sleeping dogs

It's important to tell veterinarians the whole truth about pets' health, even if it reflects badly on the owner

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AMERICAN President George Washington once said, "I cannot tell a lie." It's not a statement we'd believe if it came from a modern politician. But as we chastise modern elected officials for their occasional fibs, we forget that we might stretch the truth, too.

Sometimes, these lies are told to our veterinarians.

It's not surprising, when you consider what many of us tell our doctors.

When questioned about how often we exercise, some answer: "I faithfully exercise every week for at least four hours." We forget to explain that the exercise involves four hours of driving a golf cart while sipping beer -- slightly different from the woman who runs four hours a week.

I'm not sure why we stretch the truth to our veterinarians, but I've done it myself. Once, I told my vet my sick pup's condition had not worsened because that's what I thought. I was wrong. Within a day of the visit, the problem did get worse and I had to fess up. In essence, I was lying to myself. It was an embarrassing but good experience. It taught me not to play home veterinarian, because the last time I checked, no certificate in veterinary medical graced my wall.

My wall doesn't have a psychology diploma, either. So, I can only guess why others fib to medical personnel. I suspect, however, we stretch the truth because we don't want to appear to be bad owners. Others likely want to avoid appearing dumb. Then there's also the possibility that owners don't want to hear bad news.

One veterinarian explained, "Owners, understandably, do not tell the whole truth when they fear being condemned, such as for feeding people food to their dog, for not getting vaccines every year, or for giving their pets large bones to chew."

Whatever the reason for telling a tall tale, the results are what's important.

Some of these lies can affect our pets' overall health. The entire picture has to be accurately presented to medical personnel for them to accurately diagnose and treat their patients -- human or animal.

Recently, I asked the Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association to chat with some local veterinarians about the common lies we tell them. That's right, it's not a shock to them that we're sometimes untruthful.

How do they know? When they advise you that your 25-pound cat needs to go on a diet and you say, "But I never feed him too much," vets suspect they are not getting the whole story.

They also know that we're not brushing our dog's teeth daily when they bend over and need a gas mask to avoid the smell of our pups' mouth.

When you go to your appointments, it's important to be entirely honest, especially when the following questions are asked:

  • What do you feed your pet and how much?
  • How much exercise does your pet get?
  • Does your pet go outside or not, and or have contact with other animals?
  • Are there problems with bathroom habits or house-training?
  • Does your pet have problems with vomiting/diarrhea/coughing/sneezing/ itching/scratching, etc?
  • Do you know or suspect your pet has ingested an illicit substance?
  • Do you know or suspect that your pet has been abused?
  • Has your pet been given any medications? This applies to using human or over-the-counter meds, old meds or previously prescribed meds.

Vets also need to know to what lengths people are able to go (financially) in caring for their pet.

Hidden in the list was the illicitsubstance question. I can imagine someone being embarrassed to fess up to that one. If you make the odd pan of marijuana-infused brownies, it's none of my business (except that it saddens me to know someone's ruining perfectly good chocolate). The vet doesn't care either, unless your pet shared your drugs.

One veterinarian noted: "Other than in cases of animal abuse or neglect (whether intentional or not), which should be reported or investigated appropriately, I am not going to tell on a client."

Vets agree: "It is not our position to judge the client, only to help the pet as best they can. We need to know as much accurate information as possible in order to arrive at a proper diagnosis and/or to provide an effective treatment."

It seems veterinarians feel Washington was right: honest really is the best policy.

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