I've been spending a lot of time at the vet's office lately. Between Emma the Tailless Wonder Cat's diabetes getting all out of whack again and one of the pads on Seka's toes not healing properly after her corn surgery at the end of May, one might get the impression that I could have Munchhausen Syndrome the number of times I've been in the vet's office in the past two weeks.
It made me realize the profound difference of waiting room etiquette at the vet and when you are at your regular doctor's office. First off, people tend to want to talk to you when you are waiting to see the vet. Even people who just stop in off the street to pick up cat food or meds. People want to ask you about your sick cat that you are holding in your lap while all you can think about is why there are 25 people in the waiting area all who signed in claiming they had an appointment at 3:00 - just like you did.
So, I figure I can be somewhat polite and answer a few of the questions as vaguely as possible - "Her name is Emma... She's 12... Yes, she's a very good cat... She isn't feeling well... I hope she doesn't die either."
As the other waiting patients talk about their overweight cattle dogs and the screaming children who are there with their new 8 week old puppy, attempt to pet every cranky animal in sight, I started thinking about what if I started a similar conversation while waiting to see a human doctor. Just think about it. You're waiting to see your physician, feeling like garbage, and someone in the waiting room strikes up a conversation with you asking about what you were in for, how you felt, what kind of fever you were running, if the food was coming out of one end or both, if you were worried about dying when you walked in today.
It sounds absurd doesn't it? But it really isn't any different. It is polite to tell someone that you think their animal is cute, ask their name/age/breed, but that's really about it. When Seka and Roxy are at the vet I always get a lot of questions about their former lives as racers, and I'm happy to talk up the breed, but to me that's totally different than discussing medical history and/or issues.
There are veterinary privacy practices that prevents your vet from discussing your pet's medical history or problems with another patient. This is a lot like HIPAA laws for humans. But this doesn't prevent people from having bad manners, it just stops the vets from telling everyone how "Billy Smith" let his cattle dog become 25 lbs overweight and it caused him to have 2 slipped disks in his back.
So, maybe vets should have a sign in the lobby reminding people of what good manners in the veterinary waiting room look like. My suggestion for number one on the list would be "do not discuss death with other waiting patients."