Compassion is a beautiful thing, but sometimes, upon close observation of my veterinary clients' behavior, its true meaning eludes me. Why? Because I can't for the life of me walk in some of my clients' shoes when it comes to the following five stressful topic zones:

1. Fat pet persistence

I can understand how pets can get fat. Really, I can. I just can't understand how they can stay that way. How hard is it to get a dog, in particular, to lose weight? Safe weight loss is achievable by all breeds in the canine camp. For felines I know it's tougher. But when the vet says she's overweight already, how is it that year after year she continues to come back fatter and fatter?

Discuss ...

2. Theft of services

They'd never walk into a department store and steal a pair of jeans, but given half a chance, some people will happily steal my services. Usually it happens in the guise of the "I-forgot-my-wallet" form of non-payment (and so you know, keeping pets hostage until owners pay is considered poor form in most communities). But I've seen it take on many forms, including my favorite example: the Amex payment cancellation. "Because I never authorized that blood transfusion." Yeah, right.

3. Dental denial

This one takes on many forms. The "I'm-afraid-of-anesthesia" version I can understand. But I start to get really unsympathetic when the pet's mouth resembles a gaping wound more than it does an entryway to the digestive tract.

4. Muzzle-it! (not)

"OMG she does NOT need a muzzle!"

"Dr. 'X' never had to use a muzzle."

"She is not aggressive at all."

"That was a smile, not a snarl."

"That's just how she talks."

And my clients might be right on all counts. But if I take out a muzzle, it's because I prefer to keep all my digits, thank you very much.

5. Skinny pet phobias

This one is a corollary to number one, but I include it last because it's my biggest pet peeve of all. When owners of chronically on-the-thin-side (but otherwise perfectly normal) pets complain bitterly about their inability to get their pets to gain weight, I confess I'm never very helpful. I tell them to consider themselves lucky, and I tell those who keep flapping their lips about their pet's weight to shut up and enjoy the extra years of comfort their pets will enjoy relative to those pets whose excess poundage will doubtless lead to more troubles than a lifetime of leanness ever would.

Yes, I know I would be a much better veterinarian if I could muster more compassion for my clients' POVs. So I do try. For example, I use my Hispanic origins to wrap my head around the cultural issues surrounding feeding and eating, I remind myself that everyone's values are informed by a variety of complex variables I may never be privy to, and I acknowledge these differences in the exam room so as to educe some honest reflection and rational thinking when needed.

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: "George...looking confused" by play4smee