The second most important person in your Norfolk's life is your veterinarian. How well does your vet know you and your dog? How well does he or she know our breed?
A new Norfolk owner with beginner's luck might make just the right medical connection through the breeder from whom the pup was purchased, or through an experienced mentor. But what if you don't know, or live within accessible distance from, a "Norfolk vet"?
Even before acquiring your pup, if possible seek out a local veterinarian of solid reputation among owners whose opinions you respect and whose dogs are maintained in tip-top health. Or, if you live near a large urban veterinary center or "teaching hospital," inquire whether their staff accepts private patients.
Make your dog's first visit a routine one -- for a checkup and immunizations. (Don't wait for an emergency!) Vets, like our own physicians, are extremely busy these days, but if you're whisked perfunctorily through your appointment, if communication seems difficult, if the doctor's attitude is one of disinterest or if the examining room and other facilities don't appear spotlessly clean, by all means look elsewhere. On the other hand, don't stroll in with a chip on your shoulder or an air of defiance or superiority. If the doctor's initial greeting is a cheerful "Aha! A Norwich [sic] Terrier!" realize that at least you're probably headed in the right direction, and proceed with an open mind.
Throughout my "Norfolk years," I've never met a vet who didn't readily warm to our breed. And, believe it or not, many - if not all - Norfolk somehow seem to put their best paw forward entering the doctor's office. The vet should of course want to know your dog's complete medical history and as much as possible about its environment, nutrition and daily routine.
One extremely important point to get across right away is that, despite its reputation as a "big dog in a small package," the Norfolk Terrier is relatively more sensitive to medications than various other breeds. Anesthetics head the list of drugs to be administered with caution. Knowing this should help in all surgical and dental procedures. Certain antibiotics and antiprotozoal medications also sometimes yield adverse reactions, even in appropriate dosages. And so-called standard immunizations, such as the leptospirosis component in the DHLPP, or 5-in-one, vaccine have been known to produce frighteningly unforeseen results. (Many breeders and vets now recommend foregoing the "lepto" part of DHLPP unless you live in a high-risk area for the disease.)
One grave health problem to be noted more often in aging Norfolk (but not unknown in youngsters) is heart murmur. Less serious, but not to be neglected, is irritable-bowel syndrome coupled with stress diarrhea. (The late Joan Read often called this condition "Norfolk nerves.")
Alert your vet to as many medical possibilities as you can, sharing as much information as possible about the strengths and weaknesses of our breed. If you're a breeder, communicate your goals and future plans. You may also want veterinary assistance in the more complex aspects of reproduction, such as ovulation timing and artificial insemination, if required. If your veterinarian isn't trained in these procedures, he or she should be able to refer you to a skilled specialist.
Be sure to find out how medical emergencies, such as accidents, are handled, especially after hours late at night, over weekends and on holidays. (When your vet is on vacation, will there be a "covering" doctor available at all times, at least within beeper range?) And what are the arrangements, if any, for house calls? For special problems, is your prospective vet affiliated with a nearby medical center or teaching institution, with specialists readily available? Will lab work (e.g., tissue and blood analyses) be handled in-house or through an outside facility? (The answer can sometimes affect the crucial time element and thereby the life of your pet.)
One final suggestion. If you anticipate future difficulties in meeting the costs of any unusually large medical bill, discuss this up front with your vet to determine whether he or she will allow partial payments on a regular and reasonable schedule. The questions raised here are intended to start you thinking as you seek your "Norfolk vet." Once you're off to a good beginning, more questions will occur to you. Don't be shy about asking them. Above all, follow your intuition and rely on the sound knowledge that you've already acquired about your dog and about our breed.
Nat Reid LaMar
ANTIC, September 1997
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