I am a pediatrician and I am a mom. But I never really understood what parents feel like when their kids get sick until I got a dog. It’s not that pediatricians don’t worry about our kids. We definitely do, but we worry about weird rare stuff you’ve never heard of. But we do have the ability to deal with the basics of our kids’ illnesses.
Getting a dog has changed all that for me. For the first time I have a small creature I love, without real expertise in how illnesses work in that creature.
Right now our six-month-old dog is vomiting and losing weight, and she’s totally freaking me out. I know it’s not an emergency because she is also still eating and drinking. She is also playful and active. But I am definitely taking her to the vet tomorrow. And when I do, I want to do all the things that parents do to pediatricians that drive us crazy.
When I get to the vet tomorrow, I want to tell her a long story of all the reasons I thought my dog was having her symptoms. I want to share my theories of why she was throwing up and why this made me put off taking her to the vet for a week. I would also like to tell her all about my google searches and what they told me. I just want her to know that I’m a good dog mommy and then I wasn’t neglecting my puppy.
But as a doctor I know that if I do that, I’m just going to make her job harder. She’ll get distracted by all those extra details as she tries to get to the information she really needs. And what information does the vet need? Just the facts ma’am.
Here’s what the vet is going to want to know: When did the problem start? What are the symptoms and how frequently are they happening? What is her general energy? Is she eating, drinking, peeing and pooping?
The vet is going to want to know that her vomiting started after my dog ate the entire wooden handle of a toy trowel. She’ll want to know that her emesis was full of chewed up wood splinters. And the vet will also want to know that a couple of days later the dog got into some grapes, which are toxic for dogs. She’ll even wanna know that we are pretty sure she only ate five grapes, all of which she brought up undigested later.
But what the vet is not going to want to know is all the extra information that she doesn’t need. I may want to tell her my day-to-day thinking about my dog, and everything all my friends suggested about taking care of her. But I know that will only distract and confuse her.
So I guess the take-home point is that I know what it’s like to be worried about whether your little loved one is really sick or not.
And the other take-home is that the next time you work with your kid’s doctor, try to stick to the facts. It’ll help your doctor get to a diagnosis more quickly and give them more time to reassure you. And isn’t that what we all really want from our doctors? A little reassurance.