marching orders: following your vet’s recommendations

Posted by Dr. Cori Majeska on Jul 25 2013

I am a vet. I make recommendations alllll the time that I realize are being ignored. Either completely ignored or partially ignored; yet I continue to make these recommendations. Why? Because it's the right thing to do.

Many of the recommendations that we vets make may sound silly, or unnecessary, to the average pet owner. Some of them may even sound silly to me! But I rarely make a recommendation that doesn’t have some scientific background in it, or at the very least some logical sense. You want to go running with your dog? Great! Wait until their growth plates are closed, at a year and a half. You wouldn’t sign your toddler up for a marathon, right? Right. You’re worried about affording the best medical treatment for your pet? Sign up for pet insurance to help you pay the bills. See? Logical.

Have a cat who needs crate rest? Cats don't appreciate being confined, or being told what to do in any capacity, really. Plus they go to the bathroom in a box, on their own schedule, so that box needs to live with them in the crate and get cleaned A LOT. And while cats typically sleep 22 out of 24 hours in the day, for some reason it tugs on our heartstrings to see them sleeping in a crate all day. Because of these reasons, people will ask if there is any other way, so I will sometimes suggest a bathroom or laundry room – somewhere small and confined but not a true crate. (And sometimes it works!)

The problem with this is that it's not strict rest. If a cat can jump onto an object (toilet, sink, washer/dryer, etc.) they will; and if they can't jump onto said item because of an injury, they may still make the attempt, often with disastrous results. And when the cat is not getting better and I have to insist on the crate, we've already delayed the healing process and frustrated everyone. Best to follow orders up front.

You think teaching your pet to accept daily tooth brushings is too much hassle? Remember that there’s a very good reason we vets recommend it! Bacteria are starting to form into gross slime on your teeth within eight hours of eating. Over time that bacteria mixes with other materials in the mouth to form plaque and hard calculus. This stuff rests along the sensitive gingival tissue, promoting decay and bone loss beneath it. The gingiva has direct blood supply from the rest of the body, and those bacteria can hitch a ride and set up shop in other organs (heart, kidney, liver). Not to mention that dental cleanings under anesthesia can turn into multi-hour events with extensive, and expensive, dental extractions if the dental disease is advanced. If you brush your pet’s teeth every day you can prevent that.

So, no, I’m not just trying to get you to buy my toothbrush. I have a reason for recommending daily brushing. And for my timing of things. And for strict crate rest. And most of the other things I recommend have reasons too. I’m not saying that you should take all recommendations from your vet without thought, but I ask that you accept that most of those recommendations have very good reasons behind them. Trust is an important part of the vet/pet owner relationship; you should trust in our expertise, and we should be able trust you to be our partners in keeping your pets healthy for life.