Good Sunday morning; it's chilly here in SoCal. All three dogs are covered up and sound asleep at 7:30. They've all been up; had a snack and are now back under their covers with no thoughts of moving anytime soon. I've been asked to blog about finding a good vet; so just how do you go about finding a good one? That's a loaded question and one that you really have to go with your gut on.
I have had dogs for 30 years; my first dog was an Airedale named Mandy (Ivywin's Mandeline.) Unfortunately for Mandy I was not as experienced guardian like I am today. I'm a big believer of making mistakes; without mistakes we often don't learn the things we need to for the future. So I made many mistakes; so let's talk about vets. Over the years I've been through a few; infact it was not until last year that I found a vet that I actually like and trust. I've jumped from vet to vet; leaving each vet dismayed and frustrated, that is until now.
With my first dog Mandy; I clearly remember asking the vet what to feed her. Should I buy the better food or is the generic stuff as good. "Oh; they're all the same, doesn't make a difference at all." Hmmmm. Another vet was a large animals vet; looking back now it was not the best choice for my dogs. He handled them like they were cattle and they didn't like it. Another was a newbie; oh ya gotta love the enthusiasm of a newbie. I went in with Tilley at the age of 12 weeks sure that she had a bladder infection; hey I'm a Mom, I know these things. I left with a hefty 450.00 vet bill after numerous tests and an xray. I was told it could be a liver shunt, complications from her tail being docked or a heart problem. Hmmmmmm, when my regular vet returned the following day she called to tell me that Tilley had a bladder infection and gave me the 12.00 prescription.
My first vet trip here in Southern California was horrific and a HUGE learning experience. It was this seemingly innocent trip to the vet that transformed me forever. The woman vet that I visited was very distant; she gave off no actual concern for Tilley and was going through her routine. Tilley had an ear problem and they wanted to flush her ears; to make a long story short they took Tilley back into the back, handed her over to a tech and he let her run away. After I threatened everyone with their life basically; I frantically searched for her. Amazingly she found her way home after only being here 2 weeks. So to this day; unless for some reason like surgery my dogs do not leave me.
One thing I don't like about visiting a new vet is that I have to go through Tilley's story; explaining why I must hold my dogs and why they can't take my dog in the back. But it is not just my story that causes my concern; why send my dog to the back, away from me for some stranger to wrap their arms around them and give them a shot or do some procedure? It makes no sense; especially if you understand canine behavior. If an owner is willing or wanting to do the holding, they should. I know my dogs are not comfortable with hugs from strangers as most dogs are not. The tighter they are held the more they panic; the more they panic the tighter they are held. It's a pretty simplistic problem with a simple solution.
I have been told by vets that Luke has a dominance problem. When they tried to turn him onto his back for an xray he baulked; "wow, really?" No s*&t!! I think it should be mandatory for people who work with animals to take behavior courses. Not all dogs are like Tilley; she basically shuts off and anyone can do anything to her, Luke not so much. So what is the biggest issue for finding a good vet? It really depends on what type of guardian you are. Do you just want someone to tell you what to do; putting blind faith in whatever they say? Then picking a vet will be easy.
There are people who are experienced dog owners but still really don't have an opinion with regards to health issues on their dog. These people will have an easy job finding a vet as well. But; if you are experienced and educated with regards to health and nutrition you will find it much more difficult to find a vet you like. I have strong opinions on canine issues "bet you'd never have guessed that." I have often told vets; "no, that's not what I found out when I researched." Or "no, I don't do that." How many times have I had to support my opinion on feeding "real food.?"
I think the most important thing is to first; ask around. For myself; I wanted a vet who believes in alternative as well as western medicine. A vet who believes in feeding real food and minimal vaccinations. One that I don't have to argue with each and every time I want to stay in the room with my dog. Many vets are accustom to dealing with guardians who pretty much come in and hand their dogs over. I think this can cause the "pushy" attitude that some have. They are use to just doing and not discussing with guardians.
How a vet deals with guardians makes a big difference as well. Do they listen???????????????????????????????????? That's a biggy for me; if a vet does not listen well then they are not the vet for me. Most guardians know their dogs; at at least a little so a vet should listen to a guardian. I know what is the norm and not in my dogs; maybe not all dogs but definitely my own. If a vet does not listen to what I have to say and brushes everything off with a smirkish grin; ya, I won't be returning.
Don't think that you have to stay in your neighborhood. These days there is a Veterinarians office on every corner; much like Starbucks. My vet is over 30 min. away and well worth the drive. Convenient in no way equals "a good vet." You might luck out and get a great vet only minutes away from you but don't be afraid to drive to find one.
And finally ask questions; this is your dog, you have complete control of what happens to your dog. Do not be intimidated; this is a common effect with vets and guardians. Many guardians really don't know what to ask; so they don't. Get educated and ask a billion questions. If you feel unsure about anything; say "hold up a minute." If you don't agree with something; THAT IS YOUR RIGHT. I have been given very bad advise from many vets; in fact one vet not too long ago wanted to amputate Tilley's tail. I disagreed whole heartedly and I am happy to say that she still has it and it works just fine. Yes it took months of nursing around the clock but I saved it.
Before I go off to the vet for a specific reason I read, research and do it some more. If I am given a new medication; my dogs do not get it until I read and read some more on possible side effects. Go with your gut instinct; do you feel good about a decision being made with regards to your dog or dogs? If not; DON'T DO IT. You can always go back but once something is done you cannot undo it. There are all sorts of vets; just like there are all sorts of Doctors. I have found a vet I really like; I'm still looking for a dr. that I like, don't know if I'll ever find that.
Here are a few links:
AHVMA (American Hollistic Veterinary Medical Association)
Shirley's Wellness Cafe