My stepfather is a retired thoracic surgeon. Like clockwork, he meets quite a few strangers at parties each year who — upon hearing his profession — ask him countless questions about their health concerns, or a procedure they once had or are about to have.
Even though he’d probably much rather return to his Cobb salad, my stepfather patiently listens to the list of symptoms — and he will try to give his opinion when appropriate.
But most of the time, it’s pretty obvious that this dinner guest would be better off getting a proper diagnosis in his or her doctor’s office. And so my stepfather will gently guide the conversation in that direction, encouraging the stranger (now friend) to make an appointment to alleviate any concerns.
Sometimes, at these same parties, a former patient will recognize him — and rush over and declare that my stepfather saved his life ten years ago. These are very heartfelt moments to witness, especially when the patient’s spouse or adult child stands nearby with enormous gratitude in their eyes.
I feel the same way about the veterinarians who have cared for my cats over the years. I lived with an asthmatic cat for a long time, and she often “chose” holidays, weekends or late nights to head into crisis mode. I know that the regular care (and emergency care) she received during her lifetime made a huge difference in the span of her life and, more importantly, the quality of her life.
As the executive editor of this publication, I am considered the “cat expert” among my family and friends. Now, I probably do know more about cat care and behavior problems than the average person on the street.
But when I offer an opinion based on my own experience — or the reading that I do on a regular basis — it does not take the place of a consultation with your veterinarian. I believe that I can frequently guide a cat-owning friend in the right direction, but ultimately the advice will always encourage an appointment for a veterinary exam.
The same must be emphasized to the readers of Catnip. Each month, we receive numerous letters from concerned cat owners about the health and behavior issues of their beloved pets. It would be wonderful if we could answer each letter and solve the problem. But even for the highly-trained veterinarians at Tufts, it is impossible for them to diagnose animals without seeing them in person.
So don’t delay! If you are concerned about your cat’s health, make an appointment with your trusted veterinarian. Don’t rely on a friend’s opinion or what you read online. Nothing can take the place of a hands-on consultation.