6 Things Your Vet Wants You to Know (But Won't Tell You)

  • 01 of 07

    Things Your Vet Wants You to Know (But Won't Tell You)

    veterinarian talking to dog owner
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    Working in veterinary medicine can be truly rewarding. However, it can sometimes be a thankless, stressful job. Your veterinarian wants to help you and your pet, but sometimes things get in the way. Whether it's clients running late for appointments (that sets our whole day off schedule) or the loss of a beloved patient (and we love all of our patients), working in this field can take a toll. 

    We really appreciate it when clients bring us home-baked cookies or send us thank you notes. These gestures really make us feel great (though they are never expected or considered necessary). However, if you really want to show your vet how awesome she is, you can take a moment to see things from her perspective.

    Here's what your vet want you to know but would probably not actually tell you.

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  • 02 of 07

    Communication is Key

    veterinarian, dog, pet owner
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    The only way the relationship between you and your vet can work is if you communicate effectively. Honesty is the best policy. Don't worry, we won't judge you if you waited a little too long to bring your dog in for itchy ears, or if you miss some doses of medication. What's important is that you give us the facts:

    How many doses of medication were really missed?

    How many days has the problem actually been going on?

    When did you first notice the tumor (we know it didn't get that big overnight)?

    What are you actually feeding your pet and how much. 

    The reason we need to know the truth is not so we can judge you. It's because we need all the details in order to make the best recommendations for your pet. 

    Please ask questions. Tell us if you don't understand something so we can better explain it. Say something if you think you can't follow through on the instructions we give you. 

    Make your expectations clear. Tell us what you need. If you have time constraints or financial restrictions, we will do our best to work with you. If something happens that makes you unhappy, please let us know right away so we can try to fix it. 

    At the end of the day, what we really want is for your pet to be healthy and you to be happy.

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  • 03 of 07

    It's Not All About the Money (But Sometimes It Is)

    two dogs play tug of war over money
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    Money can be a touchy subject, especially when it's associated with the emotional bond we share with our pets. Veterinary costs can really add up, especially when pets are sick. There is also a general assumption that vet care is expensive. The truth is, you're probably paying less than those services are truly worth. Owning a dog is going to cost you money. Here's what you need to know before you assume you are being overcharged by your vet:

    1. Vets are not in it for the money. If they were all about money, they would have become human doctors or dentists. It's extremely difficult to get into vet school, and the program is very challenging. Then, they graduate, become DVMs and make a fraction of what MDs make out of school. By the way, the veterinary staff also makes a fraction of what their human medicine equivalents make. 
    2. Veterinary medicine is a business. A certain amount of profit is needed to keep the business thriving. Even not-for-profit vet facilities need to cover their expenses and have a certain amount of money left over to keep the practice going. 
    3. Many vets wish they could give away services. They care about pets and their owners and sympathize with your financial situation. But they can't just give things away for free. Please don't try to take advantage of your vet's big heart. Your vet likely answers to the practice owner and can get into trouble for frequent or heavy discounts. If your vet is the practice owner, it's even worse, because she knows the impact discounts and "freebies" have on her business. She cares about her staff, patients, and clients. Therefore, she wants to keep the business running successfully so everyone can benefit. 
    4. If your vet knows your financial concerns ahead of time, she will do her best to work within your budget. However, there's only so much we can do when you have a very sick pet and only enough money to cover the exam. Tests and treatments will be needed, and these cost money.
    5. Bottom line: You are paying for a professional, just like you would pay a lawyer or physician. And you probably should be paying more.

    The best thing you can do is to plan ahead for unexpected vet expenses. Communicate with your vet about financial limitations. Recognize the value of quality veterinary medicine.

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  • 04 of 07

    Please Let Our Staff Help You

    veterinarian and staff at animal clinic with dog
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    When you have questions or concerns about your pet's health, your first thought is to contact your trusted veterinarian to discuss it. This is great! Your vet wants you to reach out for help. However, this is why your vet has a skilled, knowledgeable support staff. Your vet is busy seeing scheduled appointments, something I'm sure you can appreciate. After all, if you set an appointment and were paying for that time, you would want the vet to be fully engaged and available to you during the whole appointment.

    If you call and demand to speak directly to your vet, you may need to wait until the end of the day for your vet to call you back. Instead, your vet's office might have a staff member available to talk to you right away. Why not discuss your concerns with the veterinary technician first? Let him be a liaison between you and the vet in order to get you answers faster. The tech might have an answer for you right away because he has been trained by the vet about her recommendations. Or, he might need to talk to the vet and get back to you with the vet's specific answers. He can also help expedite a call back from the vet herself.

    Every support staff member has been trained to act according to the veterinarian's preferences. They are acting as agents of the vets and they are there to help you. Please treat them with respect and communicate with them clearly. Trust me, if you are rude to the staff, your vet will find out.

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  • 05 of 07

    We Hope You Take Our Advice

    veterinarian and dog owner with labrador retriever
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    When your veterinarian gives you advice or recommends something, it is coming from years of education and experience. If you decide to skip routine exams, to suddenly stop a medication, or otherwise disregard your vet's advice, you're doing two things: putting your pet in harm's way and degrading the relationship you have with your vet.

    If you turn to "Dr. Google" and go against your vet's advice, you may put your dog in danger. It's important to be an advocate for your pet, so naturally you will do your own research (probably online). We know you're going to do this, we only hope you get good information. Make sure that you are choosing websites that offer reliable, factual veterinary information.

    Sure, you might also want to seek advice from friends, family, neighbors, breeders, groomers and so on. However, it's important to remember that these people are speaking from their own experiences, and not necessarily from a place of formal education and well-rounded experience. 

    If your vet makes a recommendation that you are unable or unwilling to take, speak up! Your vet will try to help you find a solution that really works for you. Don't turn to potentially unreliable sources, take bad advice, then go back to your vet to "fix it." For example: Don't take off the e-collar because a friend said it was fine for her own dog, then get mad at us when you dog chews at the surgery site. (That happens all the time.)

    Here's the point: If you really can't trust your current vet, find a new vet. Don't look elsewhere for replacement vet advice.

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  • 06 of 07

    We Care… Sometimes Too Much

    veterinarian hugging dog

    It's fair to say that everyone who works in the veterinary industry has a deep love of animals. We spend our days treating pets and their owners with love and compassion. 

    We hold owners' hands while their beloved pets are euthanized.

    We stroke the soft muzzles of dying animals and cradle them in our arms as they pass on.

    We present bad news to pet owners with empathy and help them make some of the most difficult decisions.

    We watch animals experience pain and confusion and do our best to comfort them.

    We maintain our composure in the face of distressed clients, even when they are angry at us.

    We also take home pets that have been abandoned, sometimes overstretching our own means. Veterinary professionals are very likely to take in three-legged, one-eyed pets with chronic conditions. These pets need frequent medications, special diets, and personalized care. But we take them in without a second thought.

    All of these situations can affect us on the deepest of levels. Some of us cry at the loss of patients; some get frustrated when we cannot help a patient or client; some get angry when things don't go well; some bury the emotions and develop issues later on. Suicide and depression rates are high among veterinary professionals. Most of us will suffer from compassion fatigue and burnout at some point in our careers. 

    Compassion fatigue is the result of chronic stress experienced by those who care for and assist traumatized animals or people. It may also be referred to as Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder, or STSD. Symptoms are similar to those of PTSD and can seriously impact a person's emotional and physical well-being. Compassion fatigue is a very real condition that affects those working in veterinary medicine, human health care, firefighting, law enforcement, social work, counseling and more. 

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  • 07 of 07

    We Are Not Miracle Workers (But We Wish We Were)

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    Medicine not an exact science. This applies to veterinary medicine too. Plus, our patients can't even talk to us about their symptoms. Vets need to be highly intuitive and objective. They must rely upon research and testing, put together all of the facts, then use a touch of educated guesswork in order to figure out what is going on with a patient and how to treat it. Of course, pets and their diseases don't read the textbooks, so some cases can get pretty difficult.

    We wish there were magic wands and magic bullets, but alas, there are none. Miracles happen, but not very often. Sometimes vets need to refer you to a specialist. Sometimes your vet cannot help your pet except to offer a painless end to suffering. Sometimes vets even make mistakes, but of course they do their best to avoid that.

    Please be patient with your veterinarian and her staff. They went through a lot of education, training and experience to be there for you and your pet. Everything they do is for the well-being of you and your pet.