Choosing the
right vet for
you and your
pet
Choosing the right vet for you and your pet
copyright (c) 2021 Frania Shelley-Grielen.  All rights reserved.

When it comes to choosing a veterinarian for your pet you are also deciding on a
professional and a practice that you can feel good about working with.  Here's how

to make sure the vet you select is the right one for you and your pet:

  • Ask other like minded pet owners which vets they prefer and which they
    do not and why. The Humane Society of the United States and PetFinder.com
    suggest asking around for recommendations and opinions on local vets. Every
    vet has a different approach as well as different strengths and weaknesses.
    Identify what you need in a veterinarian: do they need to treat a variety of
    companion animals or be a dog or cat specialist? Is being open to and able to
    practice complimentary medicine important? What size facility do you need;
    small and personable or up to the minute with the latest technology?

  • Are the offices clean? Is the front office staff helpful or off-putting and
    intimidating? Establishing a caring relationship for your pet starts with each
    individual you or your pet interacts with being both respectful and
    compassionate towards the both of you. PetFinder.com offers additional
    questions on the office and staff: "Do they acknowledge you when you walk in
    or are you ignored? What is the overall appearance of the clinic? Is it clean?
    Odor free? What is the attitude of the staff toward the other clients who may
    be present? How about to those on the other end of the phone line? You can
    learn a lot by just observing".

  • Ask for a tour of the entire facility, including the back.  PetFinder.com
    has additional tips: "It is also legitimate to request a tour at a time that is
    mutually convenient. There may be times of the day when a tour is not
    advisable but your request should be granted at some point". On your tour do
    pay extra attention to the condition of the areas not normally in public view;
    they should stand up to the same scrutiny the front office does.

  • Is appropriate time dedicated to each visit? Do technicians and doctors
    take the time to begin a relationship with you as the authority on your
    pet before commencing an exam? An initial conversation should be with
    you, your concerns for your pet and inquiry made into your pets temperament
    and prior vet experiences. For instance, you should be asked about your pets
    health concerns, reason for your visit and how your pet should best be
    handled. Remember, you are the advocate for your animal. Your pet cannot
    speak-you are their voice.

  • Is the veterinarian (and the technicians) good listeners and willing to
    answer questions? CompendiumVet.com urges vets to utilize the ask-tell-ask
    technique:  "This approach is based on the notion that client education
    requires identifying what the client already knows and building on that
    knowledge, it shows that you are willing to listen to and negotiate the clients
    agenda".

  • Any professional approaching your animal should first address the pet
    by name and offer a soft touch before anything else. And if your pet is shy
    or fearful, handling should always be done with you present in order to offer
    additional assurance to your animal. Your presence is comforting in a stressful
    situation. Animals associate most vet visits with intrusive pokes, prods and
    painful injections from strangers (all in the name of health but still uncomfort-
    able). Keeping surroundings as familiar as possible will also mitigate anxiety
    for your pet, a worn article of your clothing placed in your pet carrier will
    help to ease fretfulness. The American Association of Feline Practitioners
    suggests: "With respectful handling, even fearful cats are often calmer and
    easier to work with if at least part of the examination is done within the
    bottom half of the carrier" (the one the cat came to the practice in).

  • Avoids taking your pet to "the back" -Are you present for routine
    procedures: vaccines, blood draws, etc., or are these done in the back
    room? Be extremely wary of the practice keen to whisk your pet away for
    routine procedures. While this may be easier for personnel working with your
    pet remember that pets at a veterinary practice are often fearful of procedures
    and past experiences. Your presence and oversight is necessary for the welfare
    of your animal. (I have heard from some vets that when an owner is present
    technicians are often gentler in their handling or "under restrain" the pet they
    are working with.)  A 2017 study found that signs of stress dogs exhibited at
    the vet office included increased heart rate and lip licking, these signs were
    reduced significantly when their owners were present, petting and talking to
    them. In addition to lowering heart rates, owner presence lessened the
    number of attempts to jump off the exam table.  According to the study:
    "owner—dog interactions improve the well-being of dogs during a veterinary
    examination."

    The American Association of Feline Practitioners advises vets that performing
    these procedures in the exam room "can comfort the client and remove the
    fear of the mysterious “back room.”  When you remove the cat from the
    examination room, your client wonders, “What is being done to poor Fluffy
    that couldn’t be done here?” This anxiety worsens if they can hear “yowls”
    from their cat or even sounds from dogs and other cats that are also in the
    “back.” Always offer to have the client leave the room if they seem uneasy
    or uncomfortable, as many are happy to do so. It is better for the client to
    leave the room than to increase the cat’s stress moving them to the “back,”
    as it can take 10 minutes for a cat to acclimate to a new environment."

    You would not send another family member in your care off for a vaccination
    without your hand to hold or your presence in the room. You have the right to
    ask these procedures be done in front of you; competent, caring professionals
    will be willing to work with you and your pet. Of course, if you cannot stand
    the sight of blood or faint at the sight of a needle, please look away and do not
    act as if the sky is falling because it isn't.

  • Does the vet explain procedures, medications, vaccinations, etc.
    and get your permission before commencing treatment? Make sure you
    are clear on and have agreed to what the plan of care is before it is underway.
    Vaccinations are always less taxing on your pet when spread over a course of
    visits and vet costs add up, find out what is a priority and what can wait if
    your budget is too tight.

  • If your pet need be hospitalized, does the practice permit visits? The
    College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State University advocates visiting as
    often as the clinic allows.  Make sure the clinic does.  Being hospitalized is
    extremely stressful for your animal; visiting will offer the comfort so
    necessary in supporting your pet during recovery time and healing.

  • Make sure the vet provides a thorough physical exam:  Some vets will
    skip steps to get to the next patient or because they are fearful of handling an
    animal.  There are nine basic steps for the exam.  Know them so you can make
    sure they are provided:

    1) The technician or vet if there is no tech will first take blood pressure,
    temperature, and respiratory rate.  The next part of this step is to evaluate
    the animal's movement in the room or off the table before touching them.

    2) Examine eyes, ears, nose and throat.  Along with a visual exam of all, this
    includes opening the pet's mouth to look inside the mouth and along teeth and
    gums, depressing gums and using an instrument to examine the inside of the
    ears.

    3) Examine the heart and lungs by listening through a stethoscope.

    4) Palpate or touch the abdomen. Palpate kidneys, liver, spleen, internal
    lymph nodes, and intestines.

    5) Perform an exam of the muscles and skeleton to check for abnormal
    walking patterns and deformities.  Palpate all joints, and perform an
    orthopedic examination to check knees and other joints for cracking
    or swelling.

    6) Palpate all lymph nodes.

    7) Check the covering of the body- the fur and skin by looking for
    abnormalities and dehydration (done by tenting or lightly holding the
    skin together for a second on the upper back).

    8) For intact male dogs and older males dogs only: a rectal exam and
    palpation of animal glands should be performed. Cats should not receive
    a rectal examination unless they have been x rayed or have ultra sounds
    showing prostate enlargement.

    9) Perform a basic neurologic examination to test how aware the pet is at
    judging objects in space.  Dr. Douglas Mader after discussing how a thorough
    vet exam is the cornerstone of vet medicine, suggests: "Dropping a cotton ball
    and watching the patient follow its movement is an excellent way to evaluate
    vision and tracking."

  • Not every practice will be a match. Do vote with your feet and make sure
    a complete set of your pets records go with you.  If things are not right, do try
    and communicate this to your vet.  Sometimes differences cannot be resolved
    but often simple clear communication is key; the Humane Society writes: "If
    you feel that your veterinarian isn't meeting your needs as a client or the
    needs of your pet as a patient, it may be time to find a new one.  But some-
    times simple misunderstandings cause conflicts, which you and your vet
    can resolve by talking things out and looking for solutions".

  • Make sure the vet you choose is able to establish rapport and respect
    with you.  CompendiumVet.com advises vets: A great deal of communication
    in small animal practice involves providing information, although this does
    not mean that communication should be largely one-way.  As your pets
    guardian you are the expert on your pet, your careful observation, knowledge
    and experience of your companion animal should be relied on as valued
    information from your vet.  According to the Humane Society: You're doing
    more than searching for a medical expert.  You're looking for someone to meet
    your needs and those of your pet, a doctor who has people as well as animal
    skills".

With time, some groundwork and a bit of luck you are can find the best partner in
caring for your pets health.

References
Csoltova. E., Martineau, M., Boissy,  A., Gilbert, C. (2017). Behavioral and physiological reactions
in dogs to a veterinary examination: Owner-dog interactions improve canine well-being.
Physiology & Behavior, 1(177) 270-281.

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permission of the author. Email inquiries to info@animalbehaviorist.us
Make sure to choose the right vet for both you and your pet
Christopher Furlong
"Establishing a caring relation-
ship for your pet starts with
each individual you or your pet
interacts with being both
respectful and compassionate
towards the both of you."
Request an individual consultation
A good vet asks first before performing a procedure on your pet
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
"Make sure the vet provides a
thorough physical exam:  Some
vets will skip steps to get to the
next patient or because they are
fearful of handling an animal.  
There are nine basic steps for
the exam.  Know them so you
can make sure they are provided"
Know the steps to a vet exam so you can make sure your vet does them all
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
info@animalbehaviorist.us
212-722-2509 / 646-228-7813

Website copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
"Are you present for routine
procedures: vaccines, blood
draws, etc., or are these done in
the back room? Be extremely
wary of the practice keen to
whisk your pet away for routine
procedures. While this may be
easier for personnel working
with your pet remember that
pets at a veterinary practice are
often fearful of procedures and
past experiences. Your presence
and oversight is necessary for
the welfare of your animal."


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