Five years ago this January, I had my first child, James. He was beautifully healthy and apparently perfect child. Though I had been a veterinarian for 4 ½ years and veterinary school is the animal equivalent to medical school, it turns out I knew nothing about babies! So, like a diligent and concerned first time parent, I took James to his well-baby checkups. I relied on his pediatrician to tell me that he was growing, his heart was functioning normally, and his mental progression was normal.
At his one month check-up his pediatrician told us that something was wrong. We could have never known if it weren’t for his routine exam. Of course we went to the exams expecting everything to be fine. I do hundreds of exams on pets every year and get great joy out of telling families their pets are normal. That’s the point and that’s the way it’s supposed to go. But for us there was bad news instead of good.
Fortunately, James is now doing just fine. He had a growth plate in his head that had closed prematurely. His skull was growing abnormally as a result. The physicians at Seattle Children’s Hospital did major reconstructive surgery when he was just 4 months old. Eventually we would have recognized that he was having a problem but by then it may have been too late to fully correct.
The job of his pediatrician is to make sure everything is normal. She is trained to find problems early. Similarly, it is the job of your veterinarian to find problems early. Your pets communicate in very similar ways as infants. You may not recognize disease until it is advanced and irreversible. We try to find changes early. When there are no problems for your dogs and cats, we can tell you that too and give the peace of mind that every parent (to children and animals) desires.
Katy Green, DVM