February 21, 2011
10 Things Your Veterinarian Wishes You Knew
1. Euthanizing sick or injured pets is not the hardest part of my job. The hardest part of my job is seeing pets whose owners donít take good care of them, so they suffer unnecessarily from preventable or fixable problems.
2. Please donít give your pets medication that wasnít prescribed for them by a veterinarian. Medications that are safe for humans may not be safe for pets. That includes herbs and vitamin supplements. Call your vet and ask!
3. When I make a recommendation for your pet, I am more than happy to explain why. It doesnít bother me a bit when you ask ďWhat is the benefit of this procedure? Are there alternatives?Ē Educating you is part of my job, but I canít answer your questions if you donít ask them.
4. Unless your breeder, your chiropractor, or the cashier at the pet supply store has a veterinary license, he or she should not be giving medical advice for your pet. And, shockingly, a lot of the medical advice you can find on the Internet is untrue. It takes years of full-time education to qualify as a veterinarian. Owning a lot of dogs, or letting them make babies in the backyard isnít enough.
5. Breeding dogs is a complicated and messy business. It requires a lot of knowledge to do correctly, and you probably will not make much money at it. If you are really unlucky, it will cost a lot of money and heartache. If you want to try it anyway, learn about the process first so that you are prepared for every possibility. We hate taking phone calls in the middle of the night from someone whose Chihuahua is in labor, who thinks she may be having a problem, and who canít afford to let us help.
6. Compared to human medicine, veterinary medicine is a bargain. Thatís partly because we donít pay legions of insurance processors and malpractice lawyers like our counterparts in human medicine, and because we and our staff donít earn as much as MDs and RNs. But itís also because we are always looking for ways to make care more efficient and less expensive. We have to, or nobody could afford to take care of their pets. People who have health insurance usually donít realize how much their own medical care costs.
7. We wish we could take care of animals for free. Unfortunately, veterinary school wasnít free, our staff needs to make a living, and youíd be amazed what it costs to equip and supply a veterinary clinic. That means that we have to charge you, or weíll go out of business. The reason we donít offer payment plans is that people who have promised to make payments in the past never made them.
8. It drives me crazy to see morbidly obese dogs whose owners insist, ďYes, but heís happy.Ē Really, heíd be happier if he were in good body condition so he could run and play without gasping for breath, without his joints hurting. He just doesnít understand the connection between overeating and his physical misery. Try giving just half a treat instead of a whole one; I bet he still loves it.
9. If your dog is yelping at my office, odds are good that he is frightened, not in pain. I go slowly and gently, but that doesnít help a dog thatís panicking before I even enter the room. A well-socialized dog that is accustomed to being handled wonít be bothered by a trip to the vet. However, if your dog is terrified of strangers, bites you whenever you try to touch his feet, and has never been required to do anything he doesnít want to do, he wonít like coming to see me.
10. I really did become a veterinarian because I love animals. A friendly dog can always put a smile on my face, and I think cats are natureís masterpieces. I like people, too, but for some reason I donít feel the same need to scratch their ears and give them smooches.
Megan Tremelling, DVM
Dr. Tremelling practices emergency and critical care medicine at Lakeshore Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Hospital in Port Washington. Her family is owned by a Rough Collie, two cats and a cockatiel.