It’s that time again: the time we figure out who has been good this year and who has not. But what about when it comes to your vet? We know there’s more to being a great vet than just taking vitals and treating illness, but for many pet parents, exactly what makes the difference between a good doc and a great one may not always be clear.
To help you figure out whether your pet’s doc belongs on the “naughty” or “nice” list, our Petplan bloggers Dr. Ernie Ward and Dr. Kim Smyth suggest you ask yourself these questions:
Does your veterinarian take the time to address your concerns and express sincere compassion for your pet?
While it is important to find a doctor with solid clinical know-how, “your veterinarian should express sincere and authentic compassion for your pet,” says Dr. Ward.
Dr. Smyth, agrees. “Whether your concerns or small or large, your vet should take the time to address them. Remember, you are your pet's advocate and her only voice. If your vet doesn't act like your worries are valid, find one who will take you seriously enough to ease your mind.”
Does your doc discuss both diet and disposition during your visit?
“Our understanding of nutrition changes all the time as new research emerges, and if your doctor fails to talk about diet, he or she is overlooking one very important area where vets can impact longevity and health,” says Dr. Ward.
Likewise, behavior changes can signal sickness or pain, so it is essential to talk to your vet about what your pet has been up to since your last visit. “No matter how subtle it may seem, you should be talking about behavior during your appointment,” says Dr. Ward. “If a vet doesn’t have the time or interest in addressing behavior, he or she is not the vet for me.”
Is your vet always late for appointments?
Once in a while is normal, but if your vet constantly keeps you waiting – or fails to return your phone call within 24 hours – it should raise a red flag. “There are times when emergencies occur and need to be addressed, which can push your appointment, but constantly being kept waiting for 45 minutes or more is stressful for both you and your pet,” says Dr. Smyth. “If your doc just can’t seem to see you on schedule, it may be time to find a veterinarian who can.”
Does your vet give you tips and advice for improving your pet’s health?
“It’s not enough to say, ‘Your pet looks great,’” says Dr. Ward. “There are always opportunities to improve, always new things you can do. I make a point to leave all of my clients with homework – try this treat, teach this exercise. The goal is to always be moving the needle in a forward direction. If you’re not getting advice from your veterinarian, you are being shortchanged.”
Have you been referred to a specialist?
Sometimes, even the professionals need to ask for help. “There are some cases that just can’t be solved by a general practitioner,” says Dr. Smyth. “If your pet’s medical condition isn’t improving and your vet hasn’t referred you to a specialist, he or she is not acting in the best interest of your pet,” she says.
Be wary of a vet who refuses to ask his or her colleagues for help or refer you to a specialist – sometimes it takes a village to heal a pet, and egos have no place when it comes to your furry friend’s health.
So, how did your doc measure up? Tell us in the comments!
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Want to know more about what makes a great veterinarian? Read about our 2014 Vet Awards “Heroes of the Day.”