This was a bit of a difficult piece to write. Veterinarians in general don’t want to be perceived as complainers. We love our jobs and feel privileged to care for animals and the people who love them every day. But there are things that we would love to tell you if you asked us that would maybe help us work better together for the well-being of your pet. I asked some of my closest veterinarian friends for help on this, so consider it something of a consensus piece.
Obviously, pets can’t talk, so much of our training centers around asking the right questions of the pet parent to get an idea of what they have observed and then performing a complete physical examination to learn what we can from the animal’s body. You can learn a lot from these sources, but many times these clues only point us in the direction we should head and don’t give us a definitive answer.
Performing diagnostic tests such as blood and urine tests, X-rays and fecal parasite tests can be expensive. But when your pet is giving very vague signs that something is wrong and nothing is obvious, testing is necessary to help get started figuring out what is wrong and how to effectively treat it.
Dogs can get into things, including your dirty underwear, your weed stash, bottles of medication and the bathroom trash can. Trust me: If your dog is sick and you know that he may have consumed something that would bring you a bit of embarrassment to admit, we will not judge you.
Veterinarians would rather know any information that will help us help your dog. And often, time is of the essence; so if you think your dog may have consumed something that could potentially be making him sick, tell us. It very well could save his life.
One of the things that sucks the life out of veterinarians is when they find themselves in an adversarial relationship with pet parents. Honestly, we aren’t trying to rip you off, and we really want to help your pet. If we propose a lot of testing and treatments that are expensive and you don’t have that much money, it’s OK. Just tell us and we’ll work with you to try to find a solution that you can afford and that will help your pet. We have the same goals: to help your pet. So let’s work together instead of being adversaries.
For many of us, the dream to become a veterinarian started when we were just little animal-loving kids. Because there are only around 30 veterinary schools in the country, many, many people who want to become veterinarians never get the chance to do so. And those of us who do often finish our veterinary educations with several hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt and go into jobs making one-quarter of the salaries of our human doctor counterparts.
Occasionally, I will hear people voice the opinion that veterinary care costs more than human medical care. This is just plain wrong, and the truth is that people don’t really see what medical care for themselves costs because most of them have some type of insurance that pays for at least a portion of the cost. Veterinarians would love to take care of every animal for free, but in order to feed our families, pay our staff and keep our clinic doors open for you, we have to charge money for what we do.
Giving medications to your pet that you would take yourself without a second thought makes it harder to take appropriate care of your pet. The best example of this is when pet parents give human pain relievers to their dogs. These medications are not only unsafe in relatively small doses and in some cases not really effective, they complicate our ability to give pain medications that will actually help the dog and do it with minimal or no side effects.
And while we’re on the topic: Coconut oil is not a miracle cure. Coconut oil is a healthy fat with an excellent fatty acid profile, but that crusty, itchy spot on your dog’s back that you keep rubbing it on? It’s not really helping. It may keep it moisturized and make it look a little better, but it’s not really treating anything, and you’re just prolonging diagnosis and definitive treatment.
There is a wealth of information available on the internet these days — and some of it is even true! Sometimes, it seems that anyone who has been within 10 feet of a dog considers themselves to be an expert and is willing to provide what may or may not be accurate information to pet parents in search of help.
With resources like PetCoach available to all pet parents, there’s no need to post a message on your Facebook wall when your dog is vomiting, soliciting advice from friends far and wide about what you should do. At PetCoach, you can ask a veterinarian a specific question about your individual pet and you can count on the information being reliable, accurate and specific to your dog’s situation.
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