Working in veterinary medicine can be truly rewarding. However, it can sometimes be a thankless, stressful job. Your veterinarian wants to help you and your pet, but sometimes things get in the way. Whether it’s clients running late for appointments (that gets the whole day off-schedule) or the loss of a beloved patient, working in this field can take a toll.
Vets and their staff really appreciate it when clients bring home-baked cookies or send thank you notes. These gestures feel very rewarding (though they are never expected or considered necessary). However, if you really want to show your vet how awesome she is, you can take a moment to see things from her perspective.
There are a few things your vet wants you to know but would probably not actually tell you.
1. Communication Is Key
The only way the relationship between you and your vet can work is in the event that you communicate effectively. Honesty is the best policy. Don’t worry, you won’t be judged if you waited a little too long to bring your dog in for itchy ears, or in the event that you miss some doses of medication. What’s important is that you give your vet the facts:
- How many doses of medication were actually missed?
- How many days has the problem really been going on?
- When did you first notice the tumor? (The vet knows it didn’t get that big overnight.)
- What are you truly feeding your pet and how much?
The reason vets need to know the truth is not to judge you. It’s because they need all the details in order to make the best recommendations for your pet.
Please ask questions. Tell your vet if you don’t understand something so she can better explain it. Say something if you believe you can’t follow through on the instructions.
Make your expectations clear. Tell your vet what you need. Should you have time constraints or financial restrictions, your vet will do your best to work with you. If something happens that makes you unhappy, please let the vet or staff know right away so they can try to fix it.
At the end of the day, what vets and their teams really want is for your pet to be healthy and for you to be happy.
2. It’s Not All About the Money (But Sometimes It Is)
Money can be a touchy subject, especially when it’s associated with the emotional bond we share with our pets. Veterinary costs can really add up when pets are sick. There is also a general assumption that vet care is expensive.
The truth is, you’re probably paying less than those services are truly worth. Owning a dog is going to cost you money.
Here’s what you need to know before you assume you are being overcharged by your vet:
- Vets are not in it just for the money. It’s extremely difficult to get into vet school, and the program is very challenging. Then, they graduate, become DVMs and make a fraction of what MDs make out of school. By the way, the veterinary staff also makes a fraction of what their human medicine equivalents make.
- Veterinary medicine is a business. A certain level of profit is needed to keep the business thriving. Even not-for-income vet facilities need to cover their expenses and have a particular amount of money left over to keep the practice going.
- Many vets wish they could give away services. They care about pets and their owners and sympathize with your financial situation. But they can’t just give things away for free. Please don’t try to take advantage of your vet’s big heart. Your vet likely answers to the practice owner and will get into trouble for frequent or heavy discounts. If your vet is the practice owner, it’s even worse, because she knows the impact discounts and “freebies” have on her business. She cares about her staff, patients, and clients. Therefore, she wants to keep the business running successfully so everyone can benefit.
- If your vet knows your financial concerns ahead of time, they will do their best to work within your budget. However, there’s only so much the vet can do when you have a very sick pet and only enough money to cover the exam. Tests and treatments will be needed, and these cost money.
- The bottom line: You are paying for a professional, just like you would pay a lawyer or physician. And you probably should be paying more.
The best thing you can do is to plan ahead for unexpected vet expenses. Communicate with your vet about financial limitations. Recognize the value of quality veterinary medicine.
3. Please Let the Staff Help You
When you have questions or concerns about your pet’s health, your first thought would be to contact your veterinarian to discuss it. This great! Your vet wants you to reach out for help. However, for thwill be reason your vet has skilled, knowledgeable support staff. Your vet will be busy seeing scheduled appointments. After all, if you set an appointment and were paying for that time, you would want the vet to be fully engaged and available to you during the whole appointment.
If you call and demand to speak directly to your vet, you may need to wait until the end of the day for your vet to call you back. Instead, your veterinarian’s office might have a staff member available to talk to you right away. Why not discuss your concerns with the veterinary technician first?
Let the vet tech be considered a liaison between you and the vet in order to get answers faster. The tech might have an answer for you right away because he has been trained by the vet about their recommendations. Or, the tech might need to talk to the vet and get back to you with the vet’s specific answers. They can also help expedite a call back from the vet.
Every support staff member has been trained to act according to the veterinarian’s preferences. They are acting as agents of the vets and they are there to help you. Please treat them with respect and communicate with them clearly.
4. Vets Hope You Take Their Advice
When your veterinarian gives you advice or recommends something, it is coming from years of education and experience. If you decide to skip routine exams, to suddenly stop a medication, or otherwise disregard your vet’s advice, you’re doing two things: putting your pet in harm’s way and degrading the relationship you have with your vet.
If you turn to “Dr. Google” and go against your vet’s advice, you may put your dog in danger. It’s important to be an advocate for your pet, so naturally, you will do your own research (probably online). Vets know you’re moveing to do this, they only hope you get accurate information.
Make sure that you are choosing websites that offer reliable, factual veterinary information. Understand that websites offer general advice that may or may not apply to your pet’s current situation.
Sure, you might also want to seek advice from friends, family, neighbors, breeders, groomers and so on. However, it is critical to remember that these people are speaking from their own experiences, and not necessarily from a place of formal education and well-rounded experience.
If your vet makes a recommendation that you are unable or unwilling to take, speak up! Your vet will try to help you find a solution that really works for you. Don’t turn to potentially unreliable sources, take bad advice, then go back to your vet to “fix it.” For example: Don’t take off the e-collar because a friend said it was fine for her own dog, then get mad at your vet when your dog chews at the surgery site. (This kind of thing happens all the time.)
Here’s the point: If you really can’t trust your current vet, look for a new veterinarian. Don’t look elsewhere for replacement vet advice.
5. Vets Care. Sometimes They Care Too Much
It’s fair to say that everyone who works in the veterinary industry has a deep love of animals. They spend their days treating pets and their owners with love and compassion. They hold owners’ hands while their beloved pets are euthanized. They stroke the soft muzzles of dying animals and cradle them in loving arms as they pass on. They give bad news to pet owners with empathy and help them make some of the most difficult decisions. They watch animals experience pain and confusion and do their best to comfort them. They maintain composure in the face of distressed clients, even when they are angry.
Vets and their staff members also take home pets that have been abandoned, sometimes overstretching their very own means. Veterinary professionals are very likely to take in three-legged, one-eyed pets with chronic conditions. These pets need frequent medications, special diets, and personalized care. However they take the animals in without a second thought.
All of these situations can affect us on the deepest of levels. Some cry at the loss of patients; some get frustrated when they cannot help a patient or client; some get angry when things don’t go well; some bury the emotions and develop issues later on. Suicide and depression rates are very high among veterinary professionals.
Most veterinary professionals will suffer from compassion fatigue and burnout at some point in their careers. Compassion fatigue is the result of chronic stress experienced by those who care for and assist traumatized animals or people. It may also be referred to as Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder, or STSD.
Symptoms are similar to those of PTSD and can seriously impact a person’s emotional and physical well-being. Compassion fatigue is a very real condition that affects those employed in veterinary medicine, human health care, firefighting, law enforcement, social work, counseling, and more.
6. Vets Are Not Miracle Workers (But They Wish They Were)
Medicine is not an exact science. This applies to veterinary medicine too. Plus, patients can’t even speak to vets about their symptoms. Vets need to be highly intuitive and objective.
They must rely upon research and testing, put together all of the facts, then use a touch of educated guesswork in order to figure out what is going on with an individual and how to treat it. Of course, pets and their diseases don’t read the textbooks, so some cases can get pretty difficult.
Vets wish there were magic wands and magic bullets, but alas, there are none. Miracles happen, but not very often. Sometimes your vet may need to refer you to a specialist. Sometimes your vet cannot help a pet except to offer a painless end to suffering. Sometimes vets even make mistakes, but of course, they do their best to avoid that.
Please be patient with your veterinarian and her team. They all went through lots of education, training, and experience to be there for you and your pet. Everything they do is for the well-becoming of you as well as your pet.