February 28, 2013

You gotta LOVE your veterinarian

by winecountrydog Tilin Corgi, with Mum

Furriends, doo you LOVE your vet? Doo you give your vet big paw hugs every Valentine's Day?

Ourwoofselves always get excited to see our primary vet. She is somebuddy special who
  • gives us fresh food noms when we have an appointment;
  • handles us gently whilst examinin' us all over with grrreat focus;
  • supports our homemade diet lifestyle with lots of info;
  • talks to Mum about wellness strategies, 'specially fresh foods and smart supplements;
  • looks for alternatives to symptom-management pharma drugs;
  • knows many "gentle interventions" (like acupuncture, Class IV laser, diet change);
  • is open to "second opinion" consultations and will offer referrals;
  • encourages pet wellness exams for disease prevention and early detection.
Are you feelin' da love for your vet yet? . . . If not, furhaps you and your human carer/owner should be lookin' to meet other vets.

Woof to da wise from myself (left) and Jackie Nippers: Doo not stop lookin' till you find "Dr. Wonderful."

In her book Speaking for Spot, which helps human carers be good advocates for dog health, veterinary internist specialist Dr. Nancy Kay talks about "finding Dr. Wonderful":
"Dog people tend to believe -- at least initially -- that all veterinarians are wonderful! . . . Interestingly, people seem to be far less skeptical of their veterinarian's capabilities and intentions than they are of their own physician's. Speaking as a vet, I wish we all deserved such extraordinary benefit of the doubt, but this just isn't the case. . . ."

And 'ere is wot Mum (aka winecountrydogma) sez:

"I'm surprised by the number of people who say 'I don't like our vet' or 'We try not to go to him unless we absolutely have to.' I'm even more surprised when they tell me they keep going back. I'd rather not patronize vets who don't inspire confidence, who can't communicate clearly or keep a clean clinic, or who charge unreasonable fees.

Over the years, I've been a 'patient advocate' -- someone who helps make medical decisions for friends and family -- on behalf of both human and animal patients, often in life-threatening or end-of-life situations. Early on I learned how much a patient's care quality, and often the outcome of the case, depends on not only the skills and insights of the medical practitioner but also on the quality of communication between the practitioner and the patient or advocate.

"We shouldn't have blind trust or be passive healthcare consumers. Trust has to be earned, right? It's built on consistent, clear communication, and solidified by good outcomes. As vet clients, we've got to talk to vets. We've got to be accurate about providing pet health info and to be up-front if we're unable to follow through with certain treatments because of financial or other constraints. We should be voicing our concerns, asking questions, and asking for resources to learn more about health conditions. And then, in return, I believe we have a right to expect vets to listen and respond thoroughly.

"Unfortunately, I learned about several bad vets the hard way. (For example, there was the PennHIP-certified vet in Santa Rosa who misdiagnosed my dog's signs of vertebral disc disease as a knee problem. The next vet who examined the dog saw no knee problem.) So I'm telling you from experience, it's important not to bestow trust by default. Please don't go along with a new-to-you vet's diagnosis or treatment plan of a serious pet illness, or allow that vet to do a serious procedure or initiate a harsh drug prescription, without getting a second opinion.

"It's worth it to find a vet you'll adore -- not because the vet is a charmer, but because of the vet's skill, experience, talent, open-mindedness, and genuine curiosity and caring. Everyone deserves a Dr. Wonderful. When you find a vet who seems wonderful, build that relationship by taking your dog or cat in for a semi-annual or yearly wellness exam. And if Dr. Wonderful doesn't practice nearby, make the drive! You can still go to a vet closer to home for very minor or routine issues.

"On the flip side, I've seen some pet owners who expect too much from pet doctors. How can any general practice veterinarian cover all the bases? She or he simply can't. So let's not set up a veterinarian to 'play God' and then demonize the entire veterinary profession when the vet fails to be omniscient.

"I'm very grateful for good veterinarians. They work hard at what they do, they put up with a lot from 'difficult' clients, and they witness a fair amount of horror while doing it. Have you ever thought about the horror that vets see? It's one thing to see ill pets, it's another to see animals morbidly obese, injured, emaciated, or even tortured due to neglect, ignorance, or abuse. Somehow the good vets continue on, conscientiously helping. I give my heartfelt thanks to them.

"I'm always interested in hearing about good vets in my region -- including places I travel to -- and I also like finding out about vets doing integrative medicine and research around the world. A regional list should include 'second opinion' vets and good vet ER clinics. I'm forever asking around about well-liked vets at pet supply stores, dog parks, groomers, and rescue orgs. 

I'll continue to grow my list of "Doctors Wonderful." On it are a gifted orthopedic surgeon and some general practice vets who provide integrative care, including wellness through fresh food diets and education about preventive healthcare strategies."

Paw-note: If you have got Dr. Kay's book Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy Healthy Longer Life, you doo know why ourwoofselves call it essential fur today's dog owner. . . . Ourselves still sad that Dr. Kay left our area, but furriends in the Carolinas of Southeastern U.S. must be arfully happy to have her services.

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