The Right Veterinarian?

Some years ago, Zeus had a TPLO surgery on one of his back knee (rupture of the cruciate ligament) and my pup had a plaque with six screws. He would never have passed anymore the security check at any airport! I had a great surgeon. But he “forgot” to tell me was that most likely the second knee will give up at one point too, most likely within a year from the first surgery.

One day, I was walking Zeus, and he suddenly collapsed, and did not want to move anymore. Of course, I was at least a mile away from my truck and the C& O Canal was desert that morning. Amazing what you can do when you have no choice. I carried my boy all the way to the truck. You know it’s always when you need help that you can’t get any. My cell had no connection. Anyway, we made it to my vet who was not there but his colleague was. As soon as he took an X-ray, he came back with the appropriate expression on his face, telling me: Sorry, Dominique, Zeus has bone cancer!” And that was it. Adding “that there was not much to do” and wishing me good luck! Immediately, I got an appointment from another vet for a second opinion. Zeus was the gentlest dog I had ever had. As soon as the vet came to the exam room, Zeus started growling. Zeus never growled in his life! The vet told me that he would have to put a muzzle on him. I stood up, and told him that was not going to be necessary, that my dog knew something about him that I was not aware of, and I left.

As a matter of fact, Zeus did not have cancer, but just had the other cruciate ligament torn, and had the second TPLO surgery.

My point in telling you this story: trust your animal first!

HOW TO LOOK FOR A VETERINARIAN?

If you are not happy with your veterinarian, or if you just move to a new area, one of the best ways to find a good veterinarian is to go to emergency hospitals – locally owned – not the ones owned by big chains! They know the local vets, and they would tell you where to go.

You can also ask friends, groomers, dog walkers, but I would go first with the emergency places.

I am not really keen of reviews online since the vets can remove the reviews they don’t like. I once wrote a review about a local vet saying that I would not even let him take care of a mouse! The review was gone in no time.

You have now a list of veterinarians to choose from, and now – exactly like when you chose a boarding place for your pet – go and meet with them!

They cannot refuse to give you a tour of their facilities. Here are a few tips on what to look for:

  • Is the facility clean? Well managed?
  • How many veterinarians do they have?
  • Can they take your pet the same day in case of an emergency?
  • How is the staff? If animals are around, look how they are handled, how professional are caring the staff is.
  • Ask what kind of equipment they have? (XRays, EKG, ultrasound? Blood work? Etc..)
  • Do they do some “in house” tests or do they send everything out?
  • Do they give any discount for multiple pets (Look who is talking! LOL)
  • If it’s a one vet practice, ask what happens during vacation time and where he refers his clients.
  • How do they deal with pain management.
  • Do they offer monitored overnights stays, in case of illnesses or where to they refer you to.

Once, you did that, you might still have more than one veterinarian that you like. The next step would be to make an appointment to introduce your furry kid, and see how he or she interacts with your animal. Trust your animal too, especially if he or she is as easy going as Zeus was.

Veterinarians are just human beings. They are no Gods there, and they just don’t know every thing. That’s why specialists are there. I always make sure that my vet understands that I do not expect him to know everything, but I do expect him to tell me when he doesn’t know, and then I go to an internist or a specialist. This is really important. You are putting your pet in the hands of someone you need to trust and trust their ability to make you take the right decisions.

HOW TO BE A RESPONSIBLE PET OWNER AND CLIENT

As a pet owner, you have the responsibility to take your pet for their annual checkup, not only when they are sick.

If you have an emergency during business hours, always call to make sure you can bring your pet. Do not take it for granted. If they can’t see you, ask them to refer you to an emergency place.

When you are at the vet, make sure you keep your cat crated and your dog on a leash. There is nothing more annoying than dogs having too much space in the waiting room and being too nosy around other pets waiting too.

Keep copies of all their records. If you ever need to take your pet to an emergency on a weekend, you will have their history with you, because our furry kids sure don’t read the memo saying “no emergencies at night or on weekends.”

Always watch out for any change in their behavior, or gain of weight or any sudden change.

Do not expect your vet to give you a diagnosis over the phone. And if you have an emergency, go to an emergency or to your vet, but do not start posting on the net: “My dog face is swollen, what should I do?” I just saw that one recently on a board.

HOW TO BREAK UP WITH YOUR VETERINARIAN

This is such a hard decision to take since your vet is the memory of your pet’s life. It’s never fun to start all over again. Believe me on that one. I had to do it more than once.

If you are not satisfied about a specific issue or billing, communication is a must. Try to resolve it instead of just leaving.

If it’s something which interferes with the well-being of your animal, then go! And just go back to the top of my post!

BE A RESPONSIBLE PET PARENT

Do not be afraid to ask questions to your vet, and if you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to say it!

No matter who your vet is, when there is a big issue, I will always go for a second opinion.

When your pet is diagnosed with a specific illness, do some research on the net. No vet will ever have time to educate you on a specific disease in a few minutes. The more you know about it, the better your chances are to fight the disease that illness, and to be able to understand what is happening to your pet.

Learn about “stuff” that your vet won’t have time to educate you about. That’s when the internet and Zeus Corner come!

Research specific topics like illnesses common in our area: Lyme to name one. Learn the history of Lyme, how it happens, why. This is a touchy subject for me since I lost one of my dogs to Lyme Nephritis last year. I did not do my homework; I thought my dog was protected, when, as a matter of fact, he was not.

Food is a big issue too, and it will be another topic for my blog soon. Do not expect too much from your vet in the 15 minutes that he will spend with your pet.

Keep yourself informed of the new drugs, the new discoveries in veterinary medicine, the new treatments, and read my blog! Read our vet, Leslie’s blog, and stay aware of your pet behavior. They cannot talk but they have a way to show when something is wrong. 

READ THE NOTICES FOR ANY MEDS YOU GIVE TO YOUR ANIMAL.

I know it’s silly but it took me several years to realize for instance that “Heartguard” needs to be chewed. You can forget about it when you have labs! They swallow; chewing is not in their vocabulary, so I have to crush it in order to be effective.

Not long ago, I was ready a notice for a tick and flea repellent, and most people, including me, would have believed that the repellent lasts for a month, but for that specific one, if you read the small letters, it says that it keeps fleas away for a month, but ticks away for only two weeks.

Always ask your vet for a specific med that you have to administer to your pet if it’s needs to be chewed. For instance, when they have a stomach ache, so many times I gave them a Pepcid. But if the Pepcid you have are chewable tablets, it will not help at all if your pet swallows it without crushing it.

Our furry kids entrust us with their lives, and the least we can do is to give us the best shot at a healthy life. My little one, Sammie, might not see it that way as I type this, since he just had surgery, and has to wear an E-Collar. But yes, buddy, this is the best I can do for you right now!

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