Here’s a daily vet pet peeve worth chuckling about: What’s up with all those clients who take the opportunity to speak to their vet just as they’ve inserted the stethoscope’s plastic prongs into their ears?

Do they not realize they’re engaging in futile behavior (assuming the vet isn’t actually engaged by anything they might be saying)? Moreover, if these offenders believe their vet is actually internalizing their communication, doesn’t it stand to reason that their pet is getting less attention paid to a very crucial aspect of his physical examination?

It drives me batty! But it also makes me laugh. It’s a perfect example of how what we do is often viewed  more as magic than as science. I mean, what do you think we’re doing when we grab our stethoscopes? Meditating?

When I listen to your pet’s chest with a stethoscope, I’m trying to discern a dozen or more different things: rate, rhythm, clarity of sound, quality of sound, presence of a murmur, kind of murmur, synchronicity with the pulse, quality of the pulse as it correlates with the heartbeat, lung sounds, upper respiratory sounds, etcetera … I could go on for a while in this vein.

I’m really not falling asleep on the job while hugging your pet in my characteristic stethoscopic embrace, I’m actually trying to pay attention to something … really.

It’s funny, however, that even I once found myself starting a conversation with my son’s pediatrician just as he inserted his earpieces. I cut myself off just in time but had to giggle at myself for committing the same sin that both amuses and annoys me so when my own clients do it.

So maybe it’s not so much the belief in medical magic or a layperson’s lack of scientific know-how. Perhaps it’s just that we’re 21st century people for whom silence is deafening. Hmmmm…

Dr. Patty Khuly