Wanna know what I spend my time doing...day after day? It’s pretty simple really. The hard part’s the talking, explaining, teaching, cajoling, reasoning, recruiting, empathizing, etc. The rest? It’s mostly a breeze.
That’s because veterinary patients tend to observe the 80/20 rule. 80% of our “problem” cases are routine. The remaining 20? Complex cases with complex solutions. Bloats, diabetics, Addisonians, Cushingoids, liver shunts, FIP, heartworms, etc.
That’s not to say our routine cases aren’t potentially complex. In fact, they typically are when you get down to the nitty-gritty of the underlying process. But they’re so common that the accepted steps to follow as we unravel their solutions are relatively obvious for the experienced.
Because I was recently asked by a reporter to discuss the most common pet problems I see, I got a little curious about the actual stats behind my daily work. The results surprised me, since I had no idea how much time and energy I’d been dedicating to my patients’ individual disease processes.
For your consideration (and edification), here are my stats for the past month (a relatively normal one as far as I can tell):
1. Allergic skin disease
The biggest surprise was the amount of time I dedicate daily to skin disease. While allergies are huge here in South Florida, year-round, I was shocked to discover that almost a full 25% of my [non-well pet] appointments are dedicated, exclusively, to the evaluation of allergic skin disease.
Forget spays and neuters and other basics––their volume pales in comparison to the itchy pets among us. Flea allergies, food allergies, inhalant allergies, etc. are my bread and butter, it would seem.
2. Other skin disease
Add the allergic pets to the other [not necessarily allergic] skin cases I see and you might start to wonder why I didn’t specialize in dermatology: Demodectic mange, anal gland abscesses, ear infections (though, strictly speaking, most are allergic in nature, too), non-specific hair loss, sarcoptic mange, ear mites, fur mites, ringworm, etc.
Diarrhea, with or without vomiting as an additional symptom, is the next most common cause for pet visits to our place. Extra soft stools, runny or bloody stuff is wickedly widespread. And, in case you’re wondering, Mondays are the day for these. Barbecue, anyone?
4. Urinary tract disease
Cats made up the bulk of my urinary tract issues with their lower urinary tract diseases (blocked boys) and idiopathic cystitis (ouchy bladders), but leaky dogs and chronic renal failure (in both dogs and cats) were significantly represented, as well.
5. Dental disease
It was a little tough to quantify this one only because so many of my patients in for something else get flagged for dental issues, too. In many cases they don’t make appointments until after it’s too late, but my busy “routine dentistry” schedule proves there’s still a hefty interest in prevention.
6. ADR (“ain’t doing right”)
This is a harder one to claim as “routine” because a significant percentage of the time my ADR cases turn into something more sinister than simple sniffles and common kennel cough.
Limping cats and dogs is definitely routine. “Can’t get up” is another variation. But most of the time, it’s a simple sprain or strain. Next up in frequency? The dreaded osteoarthritis.
8. Lumps and bumps
So many tumors...so little time.
Limping cats usually fall into this category, as do all those cat bite abscesses I see. Evidence of inter-dog and predatory aggression also makes its way. Interesting how most of my pet bite patients are repeat offenders. you’d think it would eventually make sense to keep the cat inside, right?
10. Simple Trauma
Lots of simple traumas here in Miami, where every day of the year is another opportunity for going out and getting hurt––just a little. Fractured claws, small lacerations, fence wounds and bleeding tails are everywhere. And let’s not even begin to factor in the “hit-by-cars” and “fell-off-the-roofs.”
Think that’s enough solid work to make a reporter happy?