Ten Ways To Have A Good Relationship

With Your Veterinarian

Choosing the Right Veterinarian For Your Pet

 

 

Ron Hines DVM PhD

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Select A Veterinarian Whose Personality You Like

The best way to choose a veterinarian is the same way you would select a friend, a church or a club – pay them a visit.

Call ahead, don’t bring your pet, but tell the staff you would like to drop by and introduce yourself. Yellow pages ads mean nothing – generally the larger the yellow page add, the less individual attention you are likely to get.

For a start, ask some of your pet-loving friends which veterinarians they recommend. If you don’t have enough pet-owning friends or are new to the areas, then call your humane society or a few local kennels and catteries.

As a rule, veterinarians pull their clients from within a five-mile radius. If price is a concern to you, select veterinarians practicing in a blue-collar area. Call up the veterinarian’s office midweek and ask to introduce yourself on the telephone or in person. If you are told that “Dr. Bones is in surgery” ask for him/her to call you back when they can.

As a group, veterinarians tend to be outgoing, sympathetic people who like animals and like to please. But there are a few of us – particularly in specialized, board-certified or academic fields – who have weak inter-personal skills.

However, inter-personal skills have nothing to do with professional skills - these folks can be highly competent in their specialty. A typical compassionate general practice veterinarian will stand within three feet of you, give you considerable eye contact, and address you and your pet by name.

The veterinarian should smile, be upbeat and stroke your pet. During a routine office call, the vet should not act in a hurry or attempt to speed up the exam. If he or she does, you should probably seek a less busy practice.

Lack of some of these attributes can be due to the burnout many veterinarians experience after twenty or thirty years in their profession. After twenty or thirty years of tending to other peoples pet problems, some of us put up protective walls between us and clients.

What Does The Reception Area Look Like?

Condition of the office is also a good clue to your veterinarian’s priorities. Are the rooms clean and free from odor? Are instruments and equipment arranged methodically or laying about helter skelter? While your waiting in the reception room, notice the items on display. Is your vet active in social and community organizations? Is he or she a local science fair judge? Plaques from the Better Business Bureau, the local veterinary association and a notice that payment is due upon examination are not encouraging signs.

What Kind Of Staff Does The Veterinarian (s) Employ?

Veterinarians tend to select staff similar in temperament to themselves. If you do not like the receptionist’s attitude you will probably not like the veterinarian's either. As you enter the establishment, does the receptionist look up at you, smile and ask how she can help you? While you wait, notice her telephone skills and demeanor. Too many auxiliary staff often means that the veterinarian is trying to maximize the number of clients seen in a day. In that case you will find yourself spending very little time in actual conversation with the veterinarian.

How Up-To-Date Is This Veterinarian?

The mark of a good veterinarian is that person's willingness to listen, learn and adapt. This requires adding to their skills and changing techniques as new discoveries are made in veterinary medicine. Your veterinarian needs current reference books to fall back on when difficult cases arrive. Veterinary medicine today is a vast, complex field - to vast for any individual to keep everything they will need in their mind. The most complete reference books on the diseases of dogs and cats available in 2012 are Clinical Veterinary Advisor by Dr. Etienne Côté. and Ettinger's Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine. (see the books) Progressive veterinary hospitals ought to have them (well-worn from use) . If you find that your veterinarian uses it, feel reassured that your veterinarian understands this and attempts to practice the best medicine possible.

How Can I Keep A Good Relationship?

See The Veterinarian Yearly Or More Frequently If required

Using your veterinary hospital as an emergency room leaves little time to make friends and have pleasant experiences. Set an appointment with the veterinarian you choose for a routine physical examination when nothing is noticeably wrong with your pet. Engage the vet in conversation until you get to know his/her style with you and your pets.

Bring in a single pet:

It is hard for your veterinarian to concentrate on more than one animal at a time. When you contemplate purchasing a pet – insist that the seller allow you to have your veterinarian do a prepurchase examination before you loose your heart to a particular animal. Nothing upsets me so, as to have to tell the new owners of a pet bad news about its health or temperament. Usually, by the time clients bring me their new pet, there is no turning back - the pet is already a family member. If I find something seriously wrong, it leaves me and the owners feeling so guilty.

Have The Right Family Member Come In:

Nothing makes for more miscommunication and veterinary frustration than one member of the family noticing a problem and a different, uninformed member of the family presenting the pet to the vet. Remember, the pet cannot talk. We rely heavily on the signs and symptoms that you tell us about. It is not uncommon for a husband to bring in their pet to tell me it is limping but their wife didn’t tell them which leg it was.

Set A Morning Appointment:

We all fatigue during the day as we go about examining animals. If you want a thorough, considered examination for your pet, do not come in as a late afternoon appointment. And don’t make a Saturday appointment – Saturdays are always hectic at animal hospitals. Monday is not much better because all the emergencies of the weekend are waiting at the vet’s front door.

Make A List Of Your Questions:

I find that appointments go smoothly when owners have made a list of the questions they wanted to ask their veterinarian. This is also helpful if only one spouse of a couple can accompany the pet but they both have questions. It is quite exasperating to explain a problem in detail to one member of the family only to be called an hour later by the spouse requesting I repeat everything that was just explained.

Confine The Discussion To A Single Major Problem:

It is quite rare that major unrelated problems occur simultaneously in a pet or a person. If you present a shopping list of problems that concern you, you are probably not visiting your veterinarian frequently enough. A common dialogue goes like this: “Doc, I brought Peaches in because she is lame in her left rear leg, hasn’t been eating well the last few months, has a bald spot on her right shoulder and scoots. What do you think’s bothering her?” To make an accurate diagnosis a veterinarian has to focus. Presenting multiple, unrelated problems all at one time make focusing very difficult for your veterinarian.

Ask Questions When You Do Not Understand:

Some excellent veterinarians are better explainers than others. If you do not have many questions when a veterinarian is finished telling you what he/she thinks is wrong with your pet then your are either very well informed about veterinary medicine or you have not considered the problem enough. This goes for most medical conditions that pets suffer from – not simple things like a splinter or fishhook. Some common questions you might ask are "is this a common or a rare condition?" "What do you think caused it?" "Is this a serious condition?" "What is the likely outcome?" Ask to read through some articles that the veterinarian has on the subject.

Discuss Cost:

Because few owners have pet health insurance, the cost of veterinary care can be high for an average family. Although this may be changing , ask the veterinarian or their assistant to give you an expected estimate of the cost of the procedure or treatment. Be sure to inquire as to the cost of follow-up visits and as to who bears the cost of extra supplies or treatment that might later be required.

Less financially-oriented veterinarians often offer “package deals”. This does not mean they are any less competent or reputable – just poorer businessmen. If the procedure is not immediate and life-threatening, you may choose to inquire at a number of veterinary hospitals – prices are often quite arbitrary and vary greatly between facilities depending on their location in the community. Independent veterinarians often have greater leeway in setting prices than chains of corporate practices.

Veterinary State Boards often insist that the services of a specialist be mentioned or suggested by all veterinarians. That may be a wise idea or an over-reaction. There is little need to consult a specialist if he/she has no techniques available to cure or stabilize your pet. Referral can open options for your pet that your regular veterinarian does not have. But it can also be a way of avoiding having to give you bad news.

Be Nice:

You get more butterflies with honey than vinegar. I know you are perturbed when your pet is ill. But try to be polite and courteous with the veterinarian and the staff. They are there because they want to help you. You will never know how important a thoughtful note; a bouquet of flowers or box of chocolates can be to the veterinarian and their staff. It makes our day. You will become the apple of our eye and get superb treatment when your pet needs it.

Tell Your Friends About The Great Vet You Have Discovered:

Very few veterinarians in the United States have as many clients as they would like. Nothing will make your veterinarian happier than for a valued client to recommend him/her to their friends. And be sure to mention it to the veterinarian.

Keep Informed

The vast majority of pet owners in the US love and trust their veterinarian. When stress occurs between you and your veterinarian, it is usually due to situations that are not, specifically, your veterinarian's fault. Most often, these situations occur because of inadequate, direct, communication between you and your veterinarian and their staff or unrealistic expectations. Either of you can be at fault for that.

You must accept that a cure is not always possible. Veterinarians work very hard. Their staff tend to love the Boss and be very protect his/her time. Practices are very hectic when emergencies arise or when too many patients have been booked. When this occurs, the staff has been known to:

a) Give you too much medical advice that you really need to hear directly from your veterinarian.

b) Assume too many policy decisions and responsibilities that should be made directly by your veterinarian

c) Not accurately note enough items on your pet's records.

d) Not provide you with the proper forms

e) Not provide you with enough aftercare instructions.

f) Not relay all important information from your vet to you

g) Under stress, caring staff may be falsely perceived to be rude, defensive, short or condescending

If you politely let your veterinarian know when any of these things have happened, they should not happen again. The veterinarian that you are looking for is out there. But you will have to put some effort into finding the right one.