Veterinary care sure is expensive, isn’t it? Even more so when we sabotage taking care of our own pet.
Do you think that’s crazy? You think no one would undermine the approach they just paid the highest dollar for? Well . . . Have you ever:
* Were you told to rest your dog crate, but then gave in and let it out because it was barking all the time?
* Told the vet there was absolutely no change in diet – but do you forget that the new bark box wasn’t filled with new goodies until Tuesday that the dog devoured?
* Do you choose not to use that ointment the vet gave you because your dog kept licking it?
* Cut the number of ear cleanings in half because your dog hated them so much?
Owners often spend a lot of time researching veterinarians to make sure they see the best practitioners to make sure they please their dogs. It’s a shame when these same owners don’t realize that the success of this veterinary work is sometimes in their own hands! Even the best veterinarian in the world cannot help a dog whose owner hasn’t given the veterinarian the full picture, didn’t fully understand the veterinarian’s instructions, or changed their home treatment plan.
In contrast, an incredibly prepared, attentive, and conscientious customer can help you get much better value out of any veterinarian trip. Here’s how:
* GET YOUR STORY STRAIGHT FIRST. At the vet there is a lot of seaming and cutting. “Um, let’s see, maybe it was last Thursday when I first felt this knot because I remember Aunt Sally visiting – no, wait, that was the kitten’s knot …” This leads to uncertainty to a tangled (and more expensive) route to diagnosis.
Before you go to the vet, take out a pen and pad of paper. Ask yourself any questions you know well that the vet will ask you, such as:
• What happened?
• When exactly did it start? Has it got better or worse since the beginning?
• Has it ever happened before?
• Could he have gotten into something?
• Other changes?
• How is his behavior different?
• Is there anything new in your routine?
• To travel?
• Any new foods? This includes not only the main food, but also any treats or foods that family members give the dog.
• Do other pets at home have similar symptoms?
• And so on.
If you go to an emergency clinic and see a veterinarian who is unfamiliar with your dog’s history, write down the exact name of any current medication because “Well it’s an oval and I’m supposed to give it twice a day” isn’t especially helpful. Or bring the bottle with you!
In the heat of the moment, when one presses for answers, it is easy to forget things. That’s okay! Just plan ahead; Before the appointment, write down the important things. Bring your notes and give the vet a clear and precise picture of what is happening.
* LISTEN TO THIS EXPENSIVE NOTE. Once you’ve given the vet this overview, it’s time to stop talking and listening. Listen to heavy. A lot of trouble arises because people find they come home from the vet and think, “Wait, what did she say?” Then they guess.
Sometimes the vet’s heads turn in worry, making information difficult to take in. Even so, you usually have three shots: the first is when the vet speaks to you; The second is when the discharge nurse goes through the instructions. and the third is when you look at what’s on the paper. Oddly enough, on all three of these occasions, people often have room, even if they pay so well for just that.
Do not do that. Even if you are stressed about your dog, this is the time to focus.
* CALL BACK IF YOU ARE CONFUSED. I’m on a number of dog-related Facebook groups. So I can tell you that it is very common to post something like this: “I went to the vet and they suggested X, Y and Z. That seems wrong to me. What do you all think “A cascade of advice follows from strangers on the internet, and often contradicts an actual veterinarian’s plan to examine the dog and take a detailed medical history.
If you are confused by something the vet said, or if you actually disagree and plan not to take the advice, tell the vet right away! That way, she has a chance to either convince you or come up with an alternative plan.
Perhaps you haven’t thought of things you wanted to ask until you were on your way home or after you got home. Do not worry! Call the veterinary clinic and ask for clarification. A good veterinarian will greatly prefer it The Conversation, instead of keeping the dog she sent out with a great treatment plan away from what he needs. Keep in mind that your veterinarian will likely not be available if you call. Just leave a detailed message so he can call you back with a reply.
* DO NOT IMPROVE. The vet won’t give you any extra instructions, just for fun. If he says to give the medication on an empty stomach, don’t decide it is okay to do it with meals as it will be convenient for you. Yes, this steroid dosage chart is sure to be complicated – three, then two, then one, then every other day – but don’t decide that “no one can keep up with it” and develop your own simpler system. And if it wasn’t me 15 years ago, your dog’s mild fracture took four months to heal, instead of six weeks because it seemed impossible to stop them from playing with the rest of the pack.
I know this stuff is heavy, and you don’t have time for all of that extra, uncomfortable dog stuff. Plus, the dog hates everything that makes it worse. It feels better to skip it, I know. Not!
Help your veterinarian help your dog
Instructions are important. These details may not seem important to you, but I have a little reminder for you: you don’t know enough to know why they are important. The vet does and that’s why you pay her.
Of course, there will always be frustrating issues – like diagnostic tests that don’t give an answer or treatments that don’t help. There’s nothing you can do about it, but being a great customer can help you get the most out of every dollar you spend and help your dog get better, faster.
The Post Are you wasting money at the vet? first appeared in the Whole Dog Journal.