As a loving pet owner, I have felt the struggles of getting good medical care for my pets.  When it comes to visiting the veterinarian, some people feel that the vet’s office is another way to rob folks of their hard-earned money with all the “sales tactics” and “unnecessary treatments”.  Others are very grateful for their veterinarian and do nothing but sing high praises for all that their veterinarian has done for them.  I have spent some time surveying veterinarians and veterinary technicians and came up with an interesting list of facts and some good advice for us pet owners. Below are the 7 things that drive you veterinarian nuts, and solutions for what you can do to get the most out of your vet visit while you are there!

Item #1: My Breeder/Dog Trainer/Mother in Law says….

Veterinarians understand that most clients coming in are very scared when something happens with their pets. What is the first thing you do when you are in trouble and need advice? You go to the people you feel are experts in the subject, people you trust and have a good relationship with. Sometimes that is the breeder where you bought your pet from. Other times it is your dog trainer whom you see once a week. There is nothing wrong talking with others about problems that come up along the way, and certainly, there is nothing wrong with researching problems before consulting a professional in the matter. Just make sure to understand that the opinions of your close friends and family are not always the correct or most educated answer for the situation, so go to your veterinarian with an open mind.

I encourage everyone to spend the time to find a veterinarian they can trust and build a relationship with BEFORE you need one! Go in during your pet’s annual vaccine or wellness checkup and get to know the doctor and staff. Ask loved ones who/where they take their pets to. Check out reviews online, although caution with this one as with any type of reviews, only the really happy or really upset folks are going to write them, and there is always more to the story. Find a veterinarian you like and can trust before you need them. It is perfectly fine going to the veterinarian and asking questions and what their opinions are on the subject you have researched- that is what they are there for! Your veterinarian SHOULD take the time to answer any questions or concerns you have about your pet’s condition. And if you DON’T feel they have, or don’t trust their judgment on the matter, then find another veterinarian you can trust.

Item #2: What’s the cheapest? I can’t afford…

Veterinarians do understand that pet healthcare is not cheap. In the animal industry, you don’t have the luxury of pet insurance in the same way that humans get to use it. A quality veterinarian is always going to present their opinion on the best care option for your pet.  If you are faced with a hard financial decision, there is nothing wrong with asking “what’s the most important”, “can we take this in phases” or “what is a good plan B”? Even giving the veterinarian a budget number is helpful. It is not uncommon for a pet with a medical condition to easily see a cost of $500-$1000 for care, to start, especially if it involves surgery on the pet.  The recommended care all depends on the current condition of your pet, but also other factors such as age and disposition of the pet as those factors can influence how the pet can be treated. 

Recently, my 12-year-old Husky started limping on one of his rear legs. When I took him to the doctor, they confirmed that he tore some ligaments in his knee and the only way to fix the situation would be to either do surgery to repair the damage or just put my Husky on pain medications to help with the situation.  Regardless, the doctor recommended some bloodwork to check and make sure his internal organs were functioning OK and that he didn’t have any underlying issues that would affect him being on medication or going under anesthesia.  The bloodwork came back indicating that my Husky was in liver failure and that the doctor told me that they would not be comfortable putting him under anesthesia to do surgery and that the type of pain medication they wanted to prescribe initially would actually have caused the condition to worsen. If I had not done the bloodwork, I would have never known that he was having liver failure and likely he would not be with me today.  Next time you are financially concerned, ask the doctor what other care options you have available and what items you can put off doing at that moment.

Item #3: Waiting until you run out of your pet’s medication- before you call in a refill

One veterinarian on average sees 15-20 pets a day, if not more depending on emergencies that happen throughout the day.  If you wait until your pet is completely out of their medication before you call for a refill, chances are you might have to wait for that refill for a few days! Most veterinarians, like human doctors, inform clients that there could be a 42-78 hour wait before their refill is processed. This is because they need to review your pet’s medical chart to ensure the medication is still appropriate for your pets’ condition, there have not been any significant changes in symptoms or lifestyle since the last visit, and other factors.  Also, legally, a veterinarian cannot refill a pet’s medication if it has been over a year since your pet’s last visit. It is up to the veterinarian to make sure your pet is being closely monitored on that medication and to make sure the pet isn’t in danger of staying on the medication long term. All these factors are considered with medication refills, and that is why sometimes they do not happen the same day. Do yourself and your pet a favor, set a reminder or put a note on your calendar to call your veterinarian a week BEFORE you run out of medication for your pet. That way your pet doesn’t have the risk of skipping a dosage while you wait for that refill to be approved.

Item #4: Coconut Oil will just fix it, right?

There are a lot of articles discussing the benefits of using coconut oil in treating many medical conditions in pets. Therefore, a lot of pet owners are reaching to coconut oil for many different conditions in their pets. There is not a whole lot of scientific research to really prove that coconut oil is truly effective for some conditions in your pet, or that it may even be the best solution. However, some veterinarians are recommending the use of coconut oil in addition to medications for some conditions.   Once again, do your research and ask your veterinarian before using coconut oil or any natural supplements to treat a condition in your pet.

Item #5: Omitting facts or information about your pet’s condition

Pets are known to get into mischief- it’s part of their nature! A lot of times, if something smells good to them, given the opportunity they may eat it! Sometimes this leads to the pet eating very interesting things and then getting sick. Veterinarians are NOT here to judge us for what our pets may have gotten into, they are here to help us treat the pets! Never be embarrassed about what your pet gets into and never withhold information because you don’t want to be judged. Veterinarians have seen it all, and I guarantee someone else has experienced the same thing as you!

With many states legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, there has been an increase in the amount of exposure to pets. Marijuana is unsafe for pets and is not processed in pets the same way it is in humans. If marijuana is ingested, depending on how much was ingested and including ingesting edibles, this could lead to seizures or even death if the pet is not treated properly. If you take your pet to the vet because they ingested marijuana, or other drugs or alcohol, your veterinarian needs to know! Because if your vet does not have all the information, they could not successfully treat your pet, or they could cause further harm as something could counteract with what your pet got into! Time is of the essence and its important your veterinarian knows all the facts.

Item #6: You made an appointment for your pet to get vaccines. When you arrive, you inform the Vet that “by the way Fluffy has been vomiting for two weeks, he is limping on his left leg, his eye has been watering, and he won’t stop sneezing”.

Veterinarians try to plan their day by balancing out how many well pets they see versus sick pets. They always want to have time to see your pet if something suddenly comes up and your pet is sick. Furthermore, a veterinarian usually will not vaccinate a pet that is sick as this could cause further problems for the pet.  So, when making your pet’s appointment for wellness-related items and you know something else is going on, please make sure you inform them that you have other concerns besides just getting vaccinations. That way the veterinarian can allow for the correct amount of time to take care of your pet and answer your questions.

Item #7: The veterinarian has looked at a sick pet and is explaining what is wrong with the pet and the medical recommendations. The person who brought in the pet cannot make a medical decision and replies with “I have to call X, since it’s their pet” or “Can you call and explain to my husband what’s going on?” Now 2 hours have passed and a decision is still not made as the veterinarian is waiting on a decision from all parties involved.

The Veterinarian understands that you cannot always be the one bringing in your pet. Just make sure to let them know when you are making the appointment that you will not be there for the visit and what you would like them to do when it is time for them to talk about recommendations for care. That way, they don’t lose time talking to someone that cannot make the decisions for the pet. Even if the pet is yours, if it is looking like an expensive visit and you have someone else involved with making the decisions on what to do, make sure to let the veterinarian know so they can include them in the conversation from the beginning. That way you are saving everyone’s time when it comes time to decide what to do for your pet during the appointment.  To be prepared for the future, it is always a good idea to discuss emergency/sick visits and have a communication plan BEFORE you need to go to the vet.  That way you have an idea of how you will handle a time-sensitive situation, both financially and emotionally.  This can be something as simple as agreeing as a family that in a sick pet situation to not spend over a certain amount before consulting with the other person.

Getting the most out of EVERY vet visit

Ultimately, taking your pet to the vet can be a stressful experience, and veterinarians understand that more than anyone. By planning in advance on how you will handle your pet’s care in certain situations, you can maximize the time spent with the veterinarian and get the best understanding and care possible for you and your pet.  Be prepared for things to happen to your pet, as pets are unpredictable and full of mischief. By having a trusting relationship with the veterinarian and being prepared for what could happen, you will get a lot out of the visit and get the best experience possible for the situation!

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