It’s All in the Family, Veterinarian-Style

Ever since I became a vet, my pet-crazy family calls me all the time with any manner of animal questions. The truth? I love it.

My family knows they can call me day or night with any questions they have about their pets. By: pbekesi

My family is nuts for animals. Nuts!

We always had bunches of them around the house. Animals, animals, wonderful animals. The amount of animals was crazy…and so is my family. Crazy for animals and the joy they bring to the household.

What did I grow up with? Completely untrained dogs. Parrots on the kitchen table. Canaries singing. A nasty poodle growling if I moved the wrong way. “Don’t upset Pepe,” my grandmother would say if I moved my feet under the kitchen table. I learned early on that the dog was much more important than I was.

Cats came later, though I can’t divulge just how many. And lovebirds, chinchillas, cockatiels, more rodents of all shapes and sizes. Again, the entire family loved animals.

Then what happens? One family member decides to be a veterinarian (that would be me). Do not pass Go. Certainly do not collect any Monopoly money. Give it all up and go to veterinary school and become the veterinary advice channel for the entire family.

My family kept all sorts of animals when I was growing up — even chinchillas. By: danielderrick

Dispensing Veterinary Advice Globally

From Florida to California to Boston to Maryland to New York City to Washington, D.C. to the Adirondacks — there have even been European calls as well — if my family has an animal question, they call me.

Diagnosing their animal worries over the phone is not always easy, but I love it. Why? Because my family cares about their animals. And they all made me what I am today.

Here’s a sampling of my family members’ questions regarding their pets:

  • “Deb, can you bring me Heartgard when you visit next time?”
  • “My dog just got in a bad fight, but do I have to go to the vet tonight?”
  • “I want to rescue this pit bull, but do you think it’s a good idea?”
  • “One of my cats is peeing someplace, but I’m not sure which one it is.”
  • “My bird just pulled out a feather, and he’s bleeding.”
  • “My dog ate all the Heartgard you sent me. Is that OK? Oh, and can you send me more?”

Family members, as you must know, have no boundaries. This is as it should be. They do not use my hospital phone to call — they call me directly. They call me at any hour if they think they are having (or might be having) a pet crisis.

They call about anything that just might float through their fabulous, wonderful animal-loving brains at any time of day. And now, having said this, I will try to block them all from reading this so they don’t get offended.

Passing Down a Love of Animals

If they do read this, I want to tell them I feel honored to help them — even at 3 in the morning. You know why? Because they gave me my love of animals.

Check out these other multi-pet households — and the friendships found within:

I was brought up in a culture that cuddled, petted, romped, cleaned bird cages and laughed when wall-to-wall carpets were ruined by dog pee. My own mother giggled when our new puppy “waxed” the kitchen floor with Potato Buds and Elmer’s Glue (why the instant potato product and glue were in the same low cabinet still baffles me). The puppy was fine — just a bit sticky.

Kids who don’t get to experience the joy of pets are missing something in life. Almost every minute of my childhood was spent with some wonderful creature: a beautiful parakeet, an insane Irish Setter, a rescued cat. Thank you, my nutty family, for giving me the courage to think I could actually grow up and treat these magnificent animals.

And thanks to my grandmother, who probably loved animals the most. Even after I was a practicing veterinarian, she would still send me clippings about the best way to treat fleas. She understood I had a degree in animal medicine, but she still thought I could learn a thing or two from her tried-and-true Reader’s Digest.


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS, and was last updated Oct. 13, 2018.

Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD

View posts by Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD
Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, is a small animal and exotics veterinarian who has split her time between a veterinary practice in Pelham, Massachusetts, and her studio in New York City. Dr. Lichtenberg is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine with 30 years of experience. Her special interests are soft tissue surgery and oncology.

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