Build A Trusting Relationship With Your Veterinarian

By Deb Haines

The Veterinarian job is a lot harder than it looks.

It is emotional, humbling, challenging, most will probably not make a fortune. They will, however, belong to a group of highly trained professionals that have the ability to make a real difference in the lives of animals and people.

When people think of what it’s like to be a veterinarian, what comes to mind is typically a work environment filled with cute animals, a hefty paycheck, and of course the occasional difficult time when it comes to things like euthanasia. But many don’t realize how difficult the job actually can be, not to mention the intensive process of becoming a vet in the first place.

The mixture of a high stress work environment, a lack of work life balance, and dealing with emotionally difficult tasks such as euthanasia almost daily, it is common to find some veterinarians are struggling to find happiness at work. Some U.S studies have found that about 1 in 10 veterinarians struggle with mental health issues such as depressions and 1 in 5 have contemplated suicide.

For a veterinarian, there is nothing worse than seeing a client unable to afford treatment for their pet and as a result when things get worse, having to put down an animal that could have been treated early on. Not only is it sad to see a pet pass away, but handling the owner’s reaction is also very tough. It’d make sense that a vet might seem cold when it comes to the process because it’s their job to be clinical and professional.

Being a veterinarian is a lot more than playing with puppies and kittens all day. It’s far from that. To all you wonderful veterinarians and soon to be veterinarians: we appreciate you, please keep up the amazing work!

Your Commitment As A Client

As a patient, you have a responsibility to hold up your end of the ongoing conversation with your personal doctor; as a pet owner you need to do your part to work with your veterinarian and your pet. The best relationship is one built on mutual respect and trust. And while you and your veterinarian won’t always agree, your pet won’t suffer as a result if you truly are working within the framework of a partnership.

Set an appointment with the veterinarian you have chosen when nothing is noticeably wrong with your pet. Have my list of questions written out on a piece of paper to bring with you to the vet. With so much going on in the room, you will be focused on your pet. It is easy to forget important questions. I suggest you take five minutes the night before your appointment and make a list. Remember to ask questions when you do not understand. Your vet should always be happy to answer any and all questions, and this should include the staff out front.They are always happy and willing to help you. You want to establish this type of relationship with your vet.

Take money off the table … for a moment. Trust me your veterinarian knows money is an issue. Money is always an issue, even in good economic times. But when you tell your pet’s doctor that no matter what the problem is you can only spend a certain amount on treatment, you are at best limiting the discussion of treatment options and at worst limiting the odds of your pet’s survival. It’s not wrong to pass on treatments you cannot afford. It is wrong not to allow yourself to know about them.

Ask about all the options … for discussion, at least. Again, you need all the information you can get to make the best decision for you and your pet. Even if you’re not ever going to approve an MRI, radiation treatment or a total hip replacement, you deserve to know if they’re available or advisable. It’s not about putting yourself in a position to feel guilty about saying no, if you choose to; it’s about having the knowledge to make the best possible decision. Knowledge is power, and your best decisions will be made if you have all the information you can get. And yes, that includes seeking second opinions and doing your own research with good pet-care books and reputable Internet sites.

One Size Fits All

Veterinary medicine is not (and should not be) one size fits all. Your pet is different from everyone else’s pet. Maybe she’s smaller or more sensitive to certain foods or more adventurous outdoors. Whatever the case, what she needs isn’t going to be the same as what your neighbor’s pet needs. Great vets understand that everything from vaccination schedules to surgical procedures to holistic therapies are flexible, and treat them as such. The treatment(s) you choose for your pet should reflect your own wishes and lifestyle, and they should be totally unique to you.

Whether starting from scratch and adopting a new pet or simply moving to a new city or state, there comes a point when every pet owner has to choose a veterinarian. For some people, finding the perfect vet is as simple as searching the internet for the nearest office. For others, there are more factors to consider: the veterinarian, the support staff, cost of services and the location of the veterinary office, to name a few. It’s up to you to weigh all the factors and decide which are most important to you. Perhaps you have a cat or dog who does not tolerate long car rides; therefore, finding a veterinary office that is close to home might take precedence. Many owners will be willing to travel a little farther for a veterinarian they like and trust will make good decisions for their pet. The friendliness of the staff and comfort level of the office are also important considerations. While it’s true that most pets don’t love going to see the veterinarian, you want to make sure to give your pet the most pleasant experience possible.

You Just Don’t Feel Comfortable

Some dogs and cats seem to have a sixth sense about people? That’s a real thing, and humans have it too. Some vets and patients simply aren’t a match! That’s okay, and it doesn’t mean anyone’s done anything wrong. If you just never click with your pet’s vet – maybe your rapport isn’t natural, their tone never set right with you, or your pet never warmed to them – it’s a good idea to mix things up. The perfect vet for you isn’t necessarily the perfect vet for someone else, and that’s the great thing about having options. Never, ever stick with a vet you don’t like just because they’re close, they’re cheap, or they’re convenient. That’s not enough!

Your pet is family which is why choosing a veterinarian feels so personal. It’s like inviting someone new into the family…it’s natural to wonder whether you’re making the right choice! Our best advice is to give a new vet time to get to know your pet (and for your pet to get to know them) but to always, always trust your gut. You know best.

If you feel your pet’s needs aren’t being addressed, or if you find yourself constantly second-guessing or questioning your veterinarian’s recommendations, it might be best for you to consider another doctor for your pet. It doesn’t mean that your current vet is necessarily giving you misleading or bad advice. You might simply get along better with another provider who does things a little differently, and that’s totally fine.

Tips for Maintaining a Positive Relationship with Your Vet

Maintaining a good relationship with your veterinarian is a two-way street, and it’s important to do your part as well. Schedule regular appointments in advance, and do your best to be on time. If you have to cancel or reschedule an appointment, call the office and give as much notice as possible. Treat the staff at your veterinary clinic with the same courtesy you would give your own doctor.

As is the case with your own doctor’s office, every veterinary clinic is going to run behind sometimes. If you really detest waiting, schedule early appointments and try to avoid Mondays and Saturdays, which generally tend to be busier days filled with emergencies. Whenever possible, leave young children and any other family members or additional pets that are not critical to the appointment at home. The fewer people in the exam room, the easier it is for your veterinarian to address all of your concerns and focus on your pet.

Keep in mind that there is a lot more going on behind the scenes at a veterinary clinic than most clients realize. Many veterinarians are often managing multiple sick or hospitalized patients and dealing with emergencies on top of seeing regular appointments. Remember, too, that we all have bad days and mistakes can happen, even with the most well-intentioned veterinarians. If you feel that a major error or oversight has occurred, talk to your veterinarian or the clinic manager and give them the opportunity to rectify the situation.

Lastly, if you have specific concerns or requests for your pet, don’t be afraid to speak up! Many veterinarians understand that maintaining a good veterinary-client-patient relationship means keeping pets and their owners happy, and they are willing to take the necessary steps to make it happen. As long as your requests are reasonable and safe for the health of your pet, your veterinarian will likely be on board. As is the case with any relationship, communication is key.

Even if your pet isn’t sick, getting an annual exam is important to make sure there’s nothing serious going on that you’re just unaware of.

You are an advocate for your pet, and your veterinarian is too. yes vets won’t deny that there can be friction between vets and pet owners. But they absolutely believe that if you allow your veterinarian to do there job of recommending treatment options, and you do yours in making the best, most well-informed decisions about those options, your pet will get the very best care.

And that’s what we all want, isn’t it?

The Vet Corner Groups are run solely by volunteers. If you would like to support the groups, please feel free to make a donation to the running costs of the groups and websites. We thank you for your kindness!

© 2014-2022 Rural Veterinary Outreach. All Rights Reserved.