houston veterinarian office

Communicating with Your Veterinarian

Talking to your vet can be stressful. You may already upset because your pet is sick and medical information can be complicated and confusing, and it’s hard not to worry about the bill.

But you may not realize it can be frustrating for your vet as well. Nowadays, a lot of pet owners have done their own research online. Sometimes the information they get is good, sometimes it’s not and sometimes it’s good information but doesn’t apply to the current situation.

How to Make Google Part of the Team

All good veterinarians want clients to be well-informed, but online information can be a mixed bag, and you should think about how you present it as well as interpret it.

For veterinarians, some of us may feel threatened by a client who comes in with a stack of print-outs, but even if it doesn’t throw us for a loop, the hand-outs should initiate a dialogue not dictate it or be the conclusion. 

Most veterinarians will respond better if you approach it as, ‘This is what I found; what do you think of it?’ That certaionly works better than coming in and stating online research has let you make a diagnosis.

It’s easy to go online and find a list of symptoms that correspond exactly to those your pet has (we do this for ourselves when looking up human illnesses). Things like vomiting and diarrhea are caused by dozens of things. So it’s important to know this and let you veterinarian do best -help you and your pet. 

Be Ready to Explain Why

One of the most frustrating things for a veterinarian, which can lead to communication issues (which ultimately affect your pet’s treatment)  is a pet owner that is dead set against a certain approach without giving a clear reason. If you explain why you feel adamant about something, then your veterinarian has an opportunity to understand where you’re coming from and try to find a solution that feels comfortable to you but can also address your companion animal’s needs. 

If a previous pet was made sick by a certain medication, or a certain behavioral solution just won’t work for your family, or you don’t think you can realistically follow through with a certain treatment, don’t just say no; say why, so the vet can find a workaround.

Maybe It’s Not You

When you and your vet disagree, it’s a fine balance. While you know your own pet best, you also need to have an open mind. Your veterinarian also has valuable medical experience and training.

That said,  you know your pet. If you think your pet’s not right, your pet’s not right. Even if your vet says everything looks fine and you know something is still wrong, don’t be afraid to ask what to do next.

It’s not wrong to say, “I know that’s what your tests found but I know something’s wrong. What else can we can do? Trust yourself to speak up and advocate for your pet. Early in illness, standard tests may not pick up issues. More advanced, specific or follow up testing may be needed.

A vet who is confident should still be respectful and should be able to present you with information that reassures you. If you remain unconvinced, hopefully your veterinarian will ask what they can do to make you feel more reassured. This may include providing you with literature on a topic that’s applicable. 

If these discussions consistently don’t go well, it may be time to look for another vet. Sometimes the problem may just be different communication styles, but don’t downplay the importance of that in a relationship with any medical professional. 

Money Talks

It’s hard to talk about money with your vet, but no matter how much you love your pet, few of us have unlimited funds, so don’t be afraid to bring it up. Many vets, after examining your pet, will be happy to provide you with an estimate for your visit. Don’t be afraid to ask. 

While financial concerns are real, most vets are not rich, and that while the best solutions aren’t always the most expensive ones, you need to be realistic about what you get for your money. For instance, you want the best anesthesia protocol, but that costs money; that machine costs $50,000, the drugs cost thousands and then you need good staff to help. Your veterinarian pays a premium for equipment, drugs and staff. And the old saying, you get what you pay for, often applies. If you want the best care, you have to enable your veterinarian to pay for the service they’re providing.

By understanding the realities faced by you and your veterinarian, you can help facilitate a good dialogue that helps your veterinarian help you (and your pet). Veterinarians don’t pick this field to get rich, we pick the field because we’re passionate about what we do. Sure, we want to lead comfortable lives after 8-12 years of advanced education and debt but we’re not shooting for the moon. Most of us are motivated by working with animals to promote better health

About the author: Hilary Granson

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