Top Ten Most Frustrating Disorders in Vet Medicine: One Veterinarian’s Short List

Dr. Patty Khuly

10 Most Frustrating Disorders

I got to thinking about this topic after answering the third email of the week on the subject of the saddle thrombus –– a devastating disease in cats. Turns out some veterinary issues are more likely to elicit email correspondence than others. Which is, more than likely, directly proportional to the degree of frustration their owners experience.

With that in mind, I scoured ten years worth of email archives to create a short list of diseases pet owners tend to send stressed out emails about. These, I concluded, must be the most frustrating disorders pet owners commonly confront:

#1 Saddle thrombus

Though, on average, I’m presented with only one or so saddle thrombus patient a year, this deadly disease manages to make its way into my email inbox with astonishing regularity. I believe it’s a testament to the terrible toll this sickness takes on an owner’s psyche that they feel the need to discuss it with someone other than their own veterinarian.

#2 Ear hematoma

There must be a hundred common ways to treat this frustrating problem. It happens when blood fills the spaces between the cartilages of a pet’s earflap, creating an annoying, balloon-like ear. Though not painful, it’s immensely irritating to most patients. The fact that it takes a long time and sometimes a variety of methods to resolve it makes it even more maddening (for veterinarians, too!).

#3 Obesity

You’d think it would be easy to explain to an owner that a fat pet needs fewer calories and more exercise, but you’d be wrong. This is one area for which owners need lots of explanation, support and patience from veterinarians. The endless questions actually led me to develop an app to help pet owners tackle this problem.

#4 Vocalization

When cats meow excessively and dogs bark non-stop, pet owners tend to get perturbed. And when they realize just how difficult it is to get them sorted out, they turn to the internet. Wish I had more to offer than, “You need to hire a competent behavior professional who can evaluate your pet and arrive at a positive plan of action while maintaining realistic expectations.”

#5 Anesthesia and sedation

It’s not a disorder, of course, but I get so many questions from angst-ridden pet owners on the subject of anesthesia and sedation (especially for routine procedures, travel, fireworks and storms!) that I often find myself overwhelmed. Luckily, I’ve written so much on these issues over the years that I’ve got plenty of original sources to reference in my replies.

#6 Inappropriate elimination

There’s perhaps nothing more annoyingly stressful than a dog or cat who won’t urinate and/or defecate where you think he should. The fact that there are as many individual permutations of this problem as there are patients makes this an especially troublesome condition for pet owners to manage.

#7 Aggression

Dominant behavior, “love biting,” predatory violence, inter-pet aggression, they’re all on the list of things that make pet owners stress –– for good reason!

#8 Noise phobia

During the summer, I get more emails on this than on any other issue. Whether it’s thunderstorms or fireworks in question, the anxiety of noise phobia is a fraught enough issue that dog owners, in particular, feel compelled to email me.

#9 Allergic skin disease

Any kind of skin disease where itchiness or hairlessness results is a common source of complaints and reasonable grounds for veterinary interrogation –– online or otherwise.

#10 Anal sacculitis

Also called “anal sacs,” these nasty little glands can cause significant discomfort when they become inflamed. This disease process, called “anal sacculitis,” has a way of yielding much in the way of electronic communication whenever it flares up:

“Apart from having them squeezed all the time, what should I do to keep my pet from leaking, licking and scooting? They just smell SO bad!”

Wish I had a good answer. Indeed, the fact that I don’t probably explains why I receive this kind of correspondence to begin with. After all, I’d be unlikely to receive questions like this one if other veterinarians had fared any better with the answers. It would seem that some disorders dog us all.

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