The Pet Examiner
By Grif Haber, D.V.M. 

     I would venture to wager that most (both) of my loyal readers are unaware that the practice of Small Animal Medicine is in fact a very seasonal business.  We vets are very busy in the summer and less busy in the winter.  "But why?" you might inquire.  Okay, I'll tell you both. 


     Summer, bless its little heart, is the season for allergies, fleas, ticks, nice green delicious grass to eat and vomit, outdoor barbecues with table scraps to upset stomachs, summer haircuts, and family vacations that don't include ALL of the family.   

     Summer is also the season of LOVE for my kitty patients.  Did either of you know that cats almost always have their litters of kittens from spring through fall?  Did you know that the amount of DAYLIGHT to which girl cats are exposed regulates their heat cycle?  Yep.  There is a very small gland in their brain called the pineal gland, which is in charge of all that stuff.  So, when the days get longer, little girl kitties come into heat, making little boy kitties very happy.  Interesting, huh?  Wait until you hear this!  The Pineal gland also regulates when CHICKENS LAY EGGS! 

     "Please don't stop!  Tell us more!" 


     In order to convince his chickens to lay eggs all year around, the crafty chicken farmer will adjust the lights in the hen house so that it is summer all year!  Those of you who have actually never had the opportunity to know a chicken on a personal level might not realize that there are very few chickens in the field of brain surgery.  Though a few of the "slower learning chickens" do drop out of medical school, and some have been elected to serve in the Tennessee House of Representatives.  Folks, it's not that hard to fool a chicken, and that's why we have plenty of Grade A Extra Large ones to eat even in February. 



     A few weeks ago I made one of my infrequent journeys out of my exam room to the far end of our reception desk and noticed the cute little display given to us by our Hills Prescription Diet representative.  The display is intended to illustrate the benefits of a new diet designed to improve the brain function of my senior pooch patients suffering from Canine Cognitive Disease (senility).  On the display there are two small dog brains which are made of a soft spongy material not unlike that meat-like something always served at banquets and weddings.  One brain is normal size, the other is obviously shrunken. 

     (Note to the associate who attached the "Dr. Haber" label to the shrunken sponge brain: I know who you are, and I'm coming for you.) 

     The diet is called B/d (brain diet, get it?).  It is a blend of antioxidants and other nutrients including vitamins E, and C, L-Carnitine, Lipoic Acid and DHA and EPA fatty acids.  Hills says it helps fight the signs of brain aging and age-related behavioral changes and can improve the learning ability of older dogs. 

     It seems that the diet has caused some noticeable improvement in some of my senior patients and I am thinking about eating it myself.  My wife tells me that the bagel and veggie spread diet that I eat for lunch every day doesn't seem to be keeping my brain from shrinking.  My wife is usually right. 



     Those of you who take your pets to veterinarians have undoubtedly noticed that the posterior end of your pet is of special interest to its doctor, especially that particular orifice directly under Poochie's or Fluff's tail.  You know the one.  It's usually the first place we vets home in on.  There's fingers and things going in, there's unmentionable stuff coming out, there's squeezing going on, there's smells that, eons ago, rendered extinct entire species of giant reptiles.  That place is busier than the Coliseum on a crisp Sunday afternoon in October. 

     The fact is there's just tons of information that your pet's doctor is able to gather, so to speak, from that part of your pet's body.  We can tell if there are evil parasites lurking somewhere in your pet.  We can tell if there are pathogenic bacteria making it sick, or if your pet's liver or pancreas isn't functioning properly. 

     In my opinion, vets should just come right out and say it.  "We love poopers!"

     There I said it. 

     As a matter of fact, due both to the invention of the inexpensive pocket calculator, and the fact that I'm not eating B/d and my brain is shrunken, I have calculated approximately how much time I have spent in the immediate vicinity of cat and dog poopers during the thirty-year course of my veterinary career.  This is the point in the column where I'm sure my children are groaning, "Dad, you're pathetic."  Regardless, here is the way it computes. 

     I estimate that I examine, on average, twenty posteriors a day, for say, six seconds per posterior. This is not a place where you want to hang out too long.  That's two minutes a day, five days a week or ten minutes a week.  That tallies right at 520 minutes a year, multiplied by thirty years equals 15,600 minutes or 260 hours.  Put in work weeks, that equals a grand total of SIX AND A HALF WEEKS of my life spent in or about a dog or cat rectum. 

     Some cynics might say that I would have enjoyed myself more, perhaps, if I had spent those six and a half weeks lying on a breezy beach somewhere in the Caribbean, under a swaying palm, drinking a frozen fruity beverage decorated by a colorful paper umbrella.  Perhaps they would ask that, if it were possible, would I trade back those weeks in time for that lounge chair by the ocean? 

     No, I would not.  Not a chance. 

     That's my story and I'm sticking to it.