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10 White Lies Veterinarians Tell Clients

Patty Khuly, DVM
Updated: October 13, 2020
Published: August 03, 2015
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White Lies

By Victoria Heuer


Pet owners come in all shapes and sizes. Some are prepared and gracious when they bring their pets in to see the vet, while others are clueless and self-entitled, as any of us who visit dog parks know first-hand. Most pet owners fall somewhere in between, so if you recognize yourself in any of these veterinary sarcasms, take notes for your next visit so that you and your pet won’t be the next clients from H-E-double-toothpicks.


Taken from the petMD Classics archives, the original list was created by Dr. Patty Khuly, DVM, who surveyed some of her veterinary friends to get an idea of their most common reasons to fib to clients. 

“She’s not fat, she’s just Rubenesque.”


What it really means: If your veterinarian is telling you that your pet is “Rubenesque,” she or he is probably not saying that your pet is like a beautifully plump woman in a Renaissance painting by Peter Paul Reubens. More than likely, your vet is trying to avoid telling you that your pet is morbidly obese.



Obesity in Cats and What to do About an Overweight Cat

“You might want to cut down on his food just a tad.”


What it really means: This is a white lie that is masking as a suggestion. What your vet is really saying is that your pet is morbidly obese, and you might want to take that statement as an order rather than a suggestion if you want to preserve your pet’s health.



Long-term Effects of Obesity on Pets

"That muzzle? We just use them because we like to be careful here..."


"’s really no reflection on her personality."


What it really means: Okay, it really is a reflection on her personality. We don't trust your assurances that "she wouldn't hurt a fly" and we are not going to risk our own skin to find out. 



Muzzle It! The Nuanced Politics of Bite Prevention in Pets

Top 10 Pet Owner Excuses for Aggression in Dogs

The "Why" of Fear Related Aggression

“She’s not stinky, she smells just like a spring breeze.”


What it really means: Your dog smells “like a Golden retriever after a summer downpour.”


Have you ever hugged a dog after it has come in from the rain? Unless you were born anosmatic, you know that odeur de chien mouillé (i.e, wet dog odor) is not a pleasant scent. Shampoo does not do a lot to mask the smell, and in fact can make it even worse if you are in the habit of shampooing your dog too often. In addition, your vet can tell a lot about your dog’s health from its natural smell, so leave the bathing for after the visit to the vet.



To Shampoo or Not to Shampoo Your Dog? That Is the Question

Does Your Dog Smell Like… Dog?


"Oops! Don’t worry! The bleeding tends to stop pretty quickly…"


What it really means: Oh, shoot. I really wish you hadn't been here to see that bit of clumsiness. But I will make everything better and he really will be okay—I promise!



Top Ten Stupid Vet Tricks: Pet Healthcare Confessions From The Front Lines

"She’s not so dirty. Dogs and cats get mats like this all the time in their fur."


What it really means: You're either going to have to keep your dog shaved down, learn how to brush him properly, or see a groomer regularly, because mats are not cute. They're gross. 



Brushing and Coat Care: A How-To Guide for Puppies (and Dogs)

Curb the Fur in Seven Simple Steps

"These grungy ears? That’s OK, I don’t mind cleaning them."


What it really means: Seriously though, are we going to find skeletons under all this dirt? 



6 Tips for Treating Ear Infections in Dogs and Cats

How To... Clean a Pet's Ears

“Don’t worry, we’ll pick it up; it happens all the time.”


What it really means: Accidents happen… “though usually not on the walls and all over the technician.” Try not to feel bad about it though. They see sick pets all the time, so they aren’t too surprised when it happens.



Vomiting in Dogs

How to Stop Diarrhea in Dogs

“You want me to check his anal glands? Sure—I’d love to!”


What it really means: Sure, it’s your vet’s job to check and try to fix everything, but your vet enjoys palpating anal glands about as much as you would enjoy it. Which is to say, not much.



Anal Sacs Problems in Dogs (and Cats)

How To ... Express a Dog's Anal Glands

"You forgot your credit card? Don’t worry—we trust you."


What it really means: Bringing your pet in to see the doctor without being prepared to pay for the visit and the medications is more than a small annoyance. Running a medical practice costs money—and no small amount, either. Even the most thoughtful, long-time clients can forget that they owe money to their doctors. So even if your pet really needs those meds, if your veterinarian insists on you paying up front for the visit and medication, keep in mind that your vet has bills to pay, too. 



The Cost of Vet Care

When Clients Don't Pay Their Vets, It Really Hurts

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