Kids Save the Day...
Laura Westfall, DVM, will never forget the day an eight-year-old boy helped her solve a pet’s medical case. She was working part-time at a veterinary clinic in New York about 10 years ago when a child and his father brought in their dog, a mixed breed pet that was not acting like himself after swimming in the family’s pond.
After giving the dog an examination, Westfall suggested diagnostic tests to identify the root of the problem when the child asked her what the thing was at the back of his dog’s throat.
Westfall thought the boy was referring to the dog’s uvula, a small piece of tissue and muscle at the back of the throat that keeps food from blocking the breathing passages.
After offering the textbook definition, Westfall kneeled down to the dog’s level and peered into his mouth along with the child. That’s when she saw what he was referring to: A large stick bouncing in and out of view at the back of the dog’s throat.
“It’s amazing what can be right in front of your face, and you miss it,” Westfall admitted. “The boy was standing at eye level so he could see it bobbing up and down, and when I got down to his [height] level I saw it too.” Although Westfall doesn’t remember the name of the dog or the child, she will never forget the lesson they taught her.
“Never discount the information provided by children in the exam room,” she said. “It may be the most valuable information for solving the case. Kids pay attention to their pets, and frequently give a completely different history than the parents. I always look right at the kids when I ask questions, and I listen very carefully to their answers.”