As animal owners we all interact with veterinarians on a regular basis. We (hopefully) choose someone that we feel comfortable with, but more importantly that our ANIMALS can feel comfortable. I've been taking my animals to the same hospital that my in-laws brought their dogs to for decades. Within that same hospital I have seen different veterinarians for emergencies, or last minute appointments. But I try to build a relationship of trust and affection between my dogs and their regular veterinarian. I've had wonderful experiences. For awhile when Beau first arrived, he and Gonzo were seeing different veterinarians. However, I was so tickled at the affection Beau's vet felt for him and vice versa that I quickly had him treat both boys.
Veterinarians have VERY complicated jobs. They work with multiple species but their clients are unable to vocalize symptoms or pains. Imagine caring for a patient that has claws, hooves, or teeth and doesn’t understand you are trying to make them feel better? Working in animal bodywork, I have a lot of contact with veterinarians, and some I even call friends. So, with this unique perspective I offer the following insight:
We are taking our animals to the clinic or hospital (or barn calls) for wellness visits, vaccinations, and often illness because we don’t have the training or technology available to treat them ourselves. So the best thing we can do is to LISTEN to what our vet is saying, and trust they know more than we do. Put down your phone, answer questions in detail, and make sure you understand what you are being told.
Make sure you ask questions so you get a clear picture. Don’t think you will be annoying or look stupid. If you don’t understand what your vet is telling you, ask. Trust me they would rather you have all the necessary information then misunderstand.
Be on Time
When you are scheduling your appointment you are allotted a specified time frame. If you are late, the amount of time spent with your vet will be shortened. Your veterinarian has other clients and it is not fair to them if you were stuck in traffic or couldn’t get out of the house on time. These things can and do happen- just don’t expect extra time at the clinic.
I can say for myself that being late is my biggest pet peeve. If I am going to be more than 10 minutes late, I call and reschedule my vet appointments out of courtesy. Sure it's an inconvenience for everyone. But I feel the alternative is the ruder option.
Keep your children at home
My boys love going to the veterinarian's office. But for many animals this can be a huge stressor. Having your children there not only distracts you from the appointment, but can cause chaos and additional stress to your animal. Animals under stress often react poorly and can result in the veterinarian, veterinary technician, or even your pet to be injured.
I'm not saying I've never brought my children (see above). Usually it is because there caregiver was sick last minute, and I hate to do it. But whenever I make my appointments I always try to do so when my children are in school or with a caregiver. This cannot always be the case, of course. Just don't make it a regular occurrence.
Your animal is the patient, not you
Veterinarians are legally responsible for your animal's health, not yours. We get very protective of our animals, as we should be. But remember you chose your vet to help your animal. Trust that they have your animal’s best interests in mind. If you don’t feel comfortable with your vet or feel like you are not receiving the best care, get another opinion. But always treat your veterinarian with the utmost respect. Their clients don’t often “say” thank you, so it means a lot coming from you.
Read your discharge instructions
Okay your appointment is over, the surgery (or procedure) is complete. Now what? Your veterinarian will give you written discharge instructions outlining things like medication, wound cleaning, exercise regime, etc. These instructions contain important information for follow up care of your pet. Please read them and keep them available for review as they will often answer your questions, and are necessary to your pet's health.
Make sure you take what you have learned at your vet appointment and follow up! Take what they say, or have provided in the discharge information, and perform it at home. It's not enough to keep the discharge instructions, you have to follow through with them. You sought veterinary advice to improve the wellness and health of your animal. So what is the point of doing that if you aren’t going to follow through on what they prescribe? Your veterinarian and your pet are counting on you.
At the end of the day you and your animal need to be happy with your veterinarian. But a relationship works BOTH WAYS. Wouldn't it be nice if your veterinarian looked forward to your visits? I know that I'm doing what I can to not only make my vet's job easier, but that he also looks forward to when my dogs have appointments. After all, I'm not his patient so why make his job harder?
About the author: Heather Wallace is an Certified Equine and Canine Sports Massage Therapist, Aromatherapist, and co-owner of Bridle & Bone Wellness LLC. She is the writer and editor for her equestrian, canine, and wellness blog Bridle & Bone. The best thing that she can imagine is having a career working with and improving the quality of life for horses and dogs.