On a recent Monday I received a phone call from Moonshadow`s dad. He was exasperated that no one had called him regarding his kitty’s bloodwork results from the week before.


Umm…what bloodwork?


According to the file it was clear that I had offered bloodwork as preanesthetic screening for the emergency dental procedure Moonshadow`s advanced periodontal disease warranted. Before leaving for a solo vacation, this client’s wife assured him she had taken care of his favorite cat’s healthcare. Dad, a dentist and devoted father to Moonshadow was seriously concerned. Mom could have cared less—she declined all bloodwork and seemed to ignore the urgency Moonshadow`s oral condition demanded. It was all in the record.


So when he called I was compelled to tactfully explain his wife’s role in the failure to deliver necessary care. He sheepishly apologized and promised to call back when he’d conferred with his wife.


Wife calls back, suggesting I’d misinterpreted her; she had thought I’d understood she wanted the kitty properly cared for.


But you specifically mentioned that you wanted to speak with your husband before undertaking such an expensive procedure. And you were there the whole time and you knew we hadn’t taken any blood.


Given this sequence of events, where exactly did the alleged misunderstanding take place?


Clearly, this owner was using me to shield her from her husband’s disapproval the decisions she made on their cat’s behalf. Not my problem. Keep me out of it. Let’s just focus on getting Moonshadow the care she needs.


It’s sad that this is why veterinarians need to keep such careful records of client interactions. It’s hard enough to maintain detailed records of a pet’s condition. When we also have to record the intricacies of a client’s communication with us it makes everything that much more difficult.


But the real point is this: clients who own pets together need to maintain a united front if they’re to advocate appropriately for their pets. This goes without saying. Yet I’m faced with almost daily reminders of how dysfunctional families can be when it comes to their pet’s care.


Not only do I get called out on things the parties have disagreed on (as in Moonshadow`s case) but, more commonly, I have to witness disagreements in which I am relegated to the role of de facto referee.


Last week, my boyfriend (also a vet) had a referee experience with a couple arguing over whether or not to hospitalize a pet with respiratory problems. Finally, he just laid it out on the table: Look, this is your pet. I make the recommendations. You make the decisions. That’s the way it is. Figure it out and let me know when you decide.


I’d like to be able to be so forthright as to say: leave me out of it! It’s hard enough to treat the pets without also having to play therapist to your clients.


Ultimately, it’s the pets that lose when clients can’t keep it together. Moonshadow`s owners are finding that out the hard way.