Sometimes you may walk away from the vet clinic feeling a little … well, surprised.
It may be you wanted the dog to go onto antibiotics, but the vet said no.
Here are 7 examples of how your vet may surprise you when deciding on treatment options.
1. Not Start Anti-Seizure Medication After 1 Seizure
Seeing a beloved pet have a seizure is a truly awful experience. You feel so helpless and desperately want to ease their distress.
You rush the pet to the vet, who examines the patient, draws blood and perhaps suggests an MRI scan, but then … nothing. No meds, no drugs to go home with. Instead, you’re told to “Wait and see what happens.”
This may be surprising or even unsettling, especially when you witnessed the seizure. More than anything, you don’t want it to happen again. So wouldn’t starting anti-seizure medication be best?
All drugs have side effects, anti-convulsants more than others.
By starting medication, there’s a risk of doing more harm than good. Taking a medication for 6 months that can potentially cause liver damage for an event that may happen once in 6 months isn’t a good trade.
In addition, knowing if the dose is correct is a tricky task when a seizure is that rare. In short, most vets start patients on anti-convulsants only if the fits are monthly or extremely severe.
2. Not Automatically Give Antibiotics for a Cough/Diarrhea
Hopefully, we’re all aware of the risk of antibiotic resistance.
However, antibiotics are often regarded as a cure-all. Many clients come into the clinic expecting to leave with a pot of pills.
But this is rarely the best solution.
Only when there are signs of a bacterial infection making the pet sick are antibiotics prescribed. If your dog has kennel cough but is coping, doesn’t have a fever and is eating, then antibiotics really aren’t indicated.
Likewise, that episode of garbage gut needs rest and a bland diet rather than a course of antibiotics. So don’t be disappointed if you come away without pills. Rest assured the dog has had a good checking over and was assessed as being at low risk.
Some things you just have to see through and wait for the immune system to clear up.
3. Give a Different Opinion to a Colleague
Vets strive to give advice based on evidence, but we are human. We try to put personal opinions aside.
But sometimes we read scientific papers and interpret them differently.
Take neutering male dogs as an example.
My view is that there aren’t the strong medical arguments for neutering male dogs as there are for females. Therefore, it’s appropriate to decide on each dog as an individual as to whether neutering is necessary. I believe that the vast majority of people are responsible and don’t let their dogs roam, so the risk of fathering unwanted litters is low.
However, one colleague of mine is rabidly in favor of neutering all male dogs and advises — without exception — getting the boys seen to.
Who’s right? That can’t be fully answered presently, but we can only ever give our best advice based on the facts as we see them.
4. Suggest Pain Relief for a Limping Dog
It’s a common sight: the elderly Labrador hobbling into consult, tail wagging.
When I suggest pain relief, the client shakes their head. “He’s not in pain,” they say. “Look, his tail’s still wagging.”
The fact is it’s pain that causes the limp. Just because you have a stellar dog who doesn’t complain doesn’t mean they aren’t hurting.
My advice as a vet? Use the pain relief and see if your dog improves.
5. Want to Run/Not Want to Run Blood Tests
Sometimes, as a vet, you just can’t win.
There are patients with long-term medical problems whose human refuses much-needed monitoring blood tests.
Then there are patients whose humans want blood tests run to diagnose a problem for which there is no blood test.
If I suggest blood tests, it’s not as a money-making exercise (which some people imply). It provides valuable information about the pet’s health.
Remember, a pet can have more than one problem. So, for the elderly cat with kidney disease who suddenly drinks more, yes, I do need to check they aren’t now also diabetic.
And no, sadly, blood tests can’t answer all our questions.
If a dog has a food allergy, the best answer comes from putting them on a hypoallergenic diet rather than running in vitro tests. This doesn’t mean we as vets are being inconsistent about whether to recommend bloods or not. It’s just what’s best for each case.
6. Have a Vaccine Protocol in Place
Every once in a while, a client brings in a newspaper clipping (or an internet printout).
The article espouses the risks of vaccinations and shames vets for giving boosters as a money-making exercise.
It’s not — and we do already have bespoke vaccine protocols in place.
There are countless times I’ve identified a health problem on that annual booster checkup. Had the pet not come in for a booster, the problem would have gone untreated.
We also vary the components given in each injection. This balances the risks posed by that individual pet and how long each vaccine component works for.
So tear up those newspaper articles — vets are there ahead of you.
Listen to this vet explain the results of a pet’s blood test:
7. Want the Best for Your Pet
You may be surprised at how often vets are verbally abused.
But as professionals, we soak it up, try to understand what’s driving the angst and find a solution.
The anger expressed by people is real and driven by concern for a beloved pet’s welfare. The simple trick of putting myself in the client’s shoes usually does it for me. I can see where they’re coming from and then help them better understand the complications.
But sometimes there’s an underlying hostility from people. A deep-seated mistrust floods from them, which makes them hard to talk to and reason with.
And here’s the rub: Vets want the best for your pet, just like you.
Sometimes this means spending money or making a choice. Sometimes it means taking a risk or prioritizing one option over another. But at the end of the day, the vet wants what’s best for the pet.
Perhaps after a long, hard day following from a busy night on call, we’re not super-clear at explaining things.
But most of the time, veterinarians go the extra mile to look out for both you and your pet — and you shouldn’t find this surprising.
This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS. It was last reviewed Nov. 22, 2018.
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