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Sometimes, You Just Need To Follow the Directions

Posted December 18, 2014 in My Dog's Veterinarian

Dr. Ernie Ward explains why it's important to heed your veterinarian's advice. For more from Dr. Ward, find him on Facebook or at

“But Rebel was fine. Why should I give him the pills once he’s better? I don’t understand why he’s sick again.”

If I’ve heard that excuse once, I’ve heard it a thousand times during the past 21 years of veterinary practice. And I still don’t get it.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t believe my clients mean any harm. I understand that administering a pet pills and potions can be challenging at times. The sooner you can stop the better for everyone. But don’t stop before you’re supposed to.

Garfield was a kitty with bathroom problems. By bathroom problems, I mean chronic diarrhea. Smudges on the sofa; runs on the rugs; piles on the plush. After a series of tests, I made a diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). One of the first steps I take when treating IBD is changing diet. By changing diet, I mean feeding a different food. Maybe I didn’t communicate it clearly enough.

“She’s no better, maybe even worse.” I felt immediately welcome. “That fancy, expensive diet didn’t do a thing.” The temperature in the room raised a degree or ten. 

The thing about dietary trials is you have to give them time to work. Changing diets for eight weeks is typically a good start. Garfield should’ve been on the special diet for four weeks by this time.

“I had to give that food to my neighbor after a week because it obviously wasn’t helping.” So she only gave the food for a week? “Of course! Since then I’ve been trying every food I could find at the grocery store.”
Shoot me now. Drive hot pokers in my eyes. Anything to get me out of this exam room. All I could think of was how much time I’d spent explaining why we change protein sources, how the ingredients in many foods are the triggers for IBD, the need to stick with a therapeutic diet for a month to see if it would help. All forgotten after a week. But my day was about to get better.

“My neighbor told me her cat got better after six months of doing nothing. I think that’s what I’ll do.”

She’d somehow forgotten that her cat’s diarrhea had gotten progressively worse over the

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Ernie has more than 20 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a well-known veterinarian, media personality and author. He is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.