by Jana Rade
What do you think is the key component of getting the most out of veterinary care? Is it finding the perfect veterinarian?
Finding a great veterinarian is an essential step. Is that all there is to it? Not quite. To get the most out of veterinary care, you need to:
- find a great veterinarian
- know when to see them
- understand how to work with them
- communicate effectively
Finding a great veterinarian
How did you find your veterinarian? Did you Google veterinary clinics near you and pick one that seemed most convenient? Did you ask a friend for a referral?
What do you look for in a veterinarian?
Convenience, accessibility, and practicality are, of course, part of the equation. And if routine care is all your pet ever needs, such criteria are likely good enough. It helps if your veterinary clinic is close, has convenient business hours, and it doesn’t take forever to get an appointment. The best vet is no good if you don’t get to see them.
Yet, sometimes is worth it to endure a long drive or other inconveniences for the sake of greater care.
Have all veterinarians been created equal? Have all professionals from any other field been created equal? What do you think? A great veterinarian needs to do more than show up in the exam room with a stethoscope and booster shots.
More than meets the eye
Objective criteria to consider include credentials, experience, competence, and commitment to patients. You want your veterinarian to pursue continued education because veterinary medicine evolves all the time.
You want to know your veterinarian’s beliefs regarding core issues such as vaccinations, pain management, and nutrition philosophy. Does the veterinarian practice a fear-free approach? Are they willing to discuss your concerns, research, and cover all options?
Does it matter whether the veterinarian is an experienced old-timer or a young graduate? What is the difference, and does it matter?
When to see your vet
The greatest veterinarian is no good unless you bring your pet in. When should you pay a visit to your veterinarian? Obviously, when your pet is sick. Catching problems before they become apparent, though, is even better—wellness exams can go a long way to achieve that.
For young animals, that means once a year. Senior pets benefit from having annual exams bi-annually. No, a wellness exam does not equal vaccination boosters. Rather, it should include thorough physical examination, blood, urine, and stool check. Many health issues can brew under the surface, but screening can catch them before they rear their ugly head.
Before taking your pet in for the exam, I recommend making a list of all concerns and questions you might have. If anything has changed or looks suspicious about your pet’s behavior or habits, don’t miss the opportunity to bring it up. Don’t rely on your memory. It is easy to forget to mention things once you’re in the exam room.
Working with your veterinarian
Regardless of the coat people wear, they are individuals underneath it. When you did the work and picked a vet you believe is a great choice for your pet. Get to know them. Learn how they work, how they think, and allow them to get to know you. Find a way you can communicate most effectively.
Never lie to your veterinarian. For example, if, for whatever reason, let a symptom go unchecked for an extended period of time, be truthful about how long it’s been going on. If you didn’t give your pet their medication, confess how many doses you missed and if you had a good reason, explain why. And so on. Detailed, honest history can be the difference between a good diagnosis and a misdiagnosis. It can be the difference between effective treatment and care.
On the other hand, you have the right to expect your veterinarian to be open with you, take your concerns seriously, discuss all options, or come up with an alternative approach. You should be able to bring up your internet research or anything else you want to bring to the table.
Effective communication is a two-way street. Both you and your veterinarian should hear the other out and discuss matters honestly.
The more information you can provide to your veterinarian, the better they can assess your pet. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or object when you feel that the proposed course of action will not work for you or your pet. Clearly explain your expectations, financial restrictions, or other constraints that might call for adjustments in the diagnostic or treatment plan.
If you don’t understand what you’re veterinarian is explaining, ask questions or write it down and research it later. Ensure that the veterinarian clearly lays out what you need to be doing and what progress you should expect. Find out what you should do when things are not going according to expectations.
If you want to be certain you don’t miss any crucial information or questions, grab my free veterinary visit checklists. I broke them down in three parts:
- Part I: Information for your veterinarian
- Part II: List of questions you should ask before you leave the exam room
- Part III: Surgery Checklist