Pick A Vet
Your veterinarian needs to be a partner in your pet’s health
By Dr. Marty Becker
Time passes at such a crazy pace — and if age creeps up swiftly on us humans, then it practically gallops where our pets are concerned.
Because pets age more quickly than people, they may get illnesses earlier than you’d think. Making sure your pet has regular checkups with the veterinarian is the best way to catch and treat developing health issues before they become serious problems.
I recommend twice-yearly wellness visits. Just as in human medicine, veterinary care has come a long way in its ability to detect health problems before they become symptomatic — and to treat many of those problems simply and effectively.
The old adage about an ounce of prevention is just as true in your pet’s life as it is in your own. Preventive, proactive veterinary care can add years to your pet’s life.
For some pets, the veterinarian is just a vaguely familiar person who gives them treats and rudely palpates their privates once a year. For others, though, this is someone associated with all kinds of discomfort: strange and disturbing odors, barks and hisses of unfamiliar animals, and memories of pain from visits during an illness or following an accident. The veterinarian’s office can be a scary place, indeed.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, and it shouldn’t be.
Making sure you and your pet have found the right veterinary practice can cut down on the stress and strain of visits. Having a practitioner — and an actual veterinary practice, from front desk to veterinary technicians and more — you can trust and count on when it comes to your pet’s health care is essential to your pet having a life as long, healthy and happy as possible. Because without a well-run practice, an expert team and great veterinarians, neither you nor your pet will be likely to go as often as you need to, and that means less than optimal health for your pet.
What makes a great veterinarian? It starts with your level of confidence and trust and goes from there.
•Does your dog’s veterinarian put you at ease? Do you feel comfortable calling or coming in with any question or concern? Are you taken seriously when you bring your pet in for something non-specific, like overtiredness, a slight change in bathroom habits or becoming snippy with the kids?
• Does the veterinarian acknowledge your role as “Dogtor Mom” or “Dogtor Dad”? A good practitioner respects the fact that you are her eyes and ears at home. You’re the one who knows your pet’s normal habits and attitudes, and you can be trusted to raise an alarm when something is outright wrong or your pet is just a little “off.”
• Do you like the way pets are treated at the practice? It’s fair to expect to have confidence in everyone from the receptionist to the surgeon in your vet’s practice. Ask for a tour of the entire clinic before becoming a client. Beyond reception areas and exam rooms are the areas where the nitty-gritty work of the office takes place, and most veterinarians will be happy to show you around. Employee- and pet-only rooms should reflect the same level of care, compassion and cleanliness as the ones out front. In fact, they must. I have a mantra that you should demand from your veterinarian: that she treat your pet exactly as if you were standing there looking over her shoulder.
When you find the veterinarian you can feel that way about, you have found the right one. Make that appointment for a wellness check and get your pet’s health on track!
(Dr. Marty Becker is currently on a national tour for “Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual,” his newest book with fellow Pet Connection writer Gina Spadafori. “Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual” is now available in paperback. For information on where to meet Dr. Becker, visit Vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker.)