I’m at the feed store once every week or so. Standing in line behind the same counter at which I bought my first pair of riding boots and my first leather halter, I should be feeling contentedly nostalgic. Instead I spend my time explaining...

...why a rottweiler should not receive the same dose of Ivomec as a Maltese (and that no, a quarter teaspoon measure is not good enough).

...that Frontline will not prevent mange.

...why the equine paste dewormer is not always the same thing as a dog dewormer (and that it will not “cure” diarrhea).

...when the vaccines they’re buying for their littler of puppies are normally administered.

I could go on with my list. That’s because the feed store staff is a busy bunch. They’ll go through a few laconic explanations but they have no patience for completely useless first-timers (of which they seem to get a lot). That’s why it’s almost always the “helpful” guy next to the clueless in line who starts to spew some pseudo-veterinary horseshit that you can either 1) ignore or 2) step up and correct.

I always choose door number two, to either the relief or amusement of the staff (their expressions would never inform me which).

Without throwing out the veterinary card (not unless “helpful” guy contradicts me), I try to set them straight. I figure it’s community service. Or maybe just therapy for me (because otherwise I’d be upset all day wondering whether that Yorkie’s vomiting problem will worsen despite whopping doses of injectable B vitamins intended for those of the bovine persuasion).

But it’s not the feed store’s fault. I don’t hold it against them for offering dewormers, vaccines, flea products and vitamin supplements. Not when it’s legal. Not when they’re careful not to play doctor.

Indeed, I’ve never heard the staff say anything inappropriate or overstep their legal bounds with respect to the dosing or efficacy of these items in pets. Still, it irks to see the confused hoards come to save a buck when it’s obvious they have no business dosing their own pets with out having done their homework.

But then, one cursory glance at almost any internet pet forum will reveal the tip of the same iceberg that drives the minions to seek inexpensive care wherever they can get it.

Most veterinarians decry feed store veterinary medicine as unethical, borderline illegal trade in goods for which a pet owner’s ignorance can lead directly to deadly consequences. And, yes, I’ve seen those cases too. But mostly, even the clueless manage not to kill their pets. Somehow.