Articles Index/Veterinary
Posted 05/20/04


There are few things in life that are more upsetting than to experience a health emergency ... human or animal ... and to suddenly realize that you don't know how to obtain the best care on the shortest notice. When it comes to our dogs, choosing a veterinarian is one of our most important, long-term decisions.

One of the best ways to avoid that feeling of panic during the middle of the night or on a long holiday weekend is to find out how your veterinarian deals with emergencies. Rarely are "general practice" veterinary clinics staffed 24 hours a day. This practice is cost-prohibitive and usually not necessary. But, does your veterinarian answer his or her own emergency calls? Will you be met at the clinic where you are familiar with the staff and the surroundings? Or, will you be referred to an all-night/weekend/holiday emergency clinic? This latter practice may make all the sense in the world. A well-staffed emergency clinic with the latest technology and doctors trained in critical care may be just what you need. But, do you know where you'd be referred? Do you know how to get there? Do you know how long it would take to make the drive? These are all questions that you should ask before you need to know as, in the face of a crisis, we are sometimes too rattled to fully comprehend what we're being told.

A "Breeder's" Vet

If you breed dogs, does your "regular" vet take an interest? For some unaccountable reason, some veterinarians seem to view breeders as the "enemy". Although most veterinarians are dedicated, knowledgeable and caring, the last thing in the world you want to deal with if your bitch needs a C-section or you have pups in distress is a doctor who knows less about the situation than you do!

One of the first things a novice breeder needs to find out, before the bitch is in season, is the cost of various pre-breeding tests, whether or not your doctor is familiar with various types of insemination, and what will happen if you have a middle of the night whelping crisis.

You also need to have a good enough relationship so that your veterinarian will let you be present when tails are docked, so that you (not the doctor, not some guideline in a book) can determine where the tails will be cut.

Owner's Responsibility

Any successful relationship is a two-way street, and your relationship with your "dog's doctor" is at least 50% your responsibility.

Much of what makes for a good doctor/client relationship lies directly in your hands. Ask yourself these questions

When I am making an appointment for routine services, do I wait until the last minute and then demand to be fit into the schedule?
Are all of my visits "emergencies" which necessitate that the staff come in early, work through lunch, or stay late?
Do I follow the doctor's instructions? Do I bring my dog back for a recheck appointment as requested, or at least telephone the clinic if I don't think a recheck is necessary?
Do I follow directions for the medications I am supposed to administer? If I don't understand the directions, do I ask questions?
If I pick up information that I think is relevant to my dog's care from the Internet, fellow dog owners or a book I'm reading on holistic care, do I present the information to my veterinarian in a reasonable, positive fashion to which he or she can respond professionally or do I go "Gotcha! I'm smarter than you are!"
When making an appointment for a vaccination, do I also tell the receptionist that my dog has been limping for a week and has a foul odor coming from her ears? Or, do I wait until I'm in the room with the veterinarian and then spring the surprise thus turning a scheduled 15 -minute appointment into a 45 minute session?
If I own multiple dogs, do I make an appointment for one, and then bring one or two others along "just for a quick checkup" without asking if a multiple dog visit can be accommodated?

It is your responsibility as a dog owner to seek the best veterinary care possible. If you are not happy with your current situation, ask yourself honestly what's wrong. If you think you are part of the problem, then try to change. If you think the problems are insurmountable, for any reason, then do your homework and find a veterinary practice that is more suitable to your needs. And, do it now ... before finding a new veterinarian becomes an emergency.

Sheila Foran
ANTIC, March, 2004

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