Updated: Feb 9, 2019
I don't know how many people I have spoken to who are about to go to their veterinarian for an appointment, be it emergency or simply a wellness exam, and they are seriously laden with anxiety and dread. The feelings they are experiencing are coming from a place of FEAR. The common thread when digging a little deeper with these folks are that they are "afraid" to ask questions, request diagnostics and - the BIG one - decline redundant vaccines. There are so many directions I could take this blog post....I could talk endlessly about the dangers of vaccinating when your dog already has antibodies against a disease or I could talk about the overprescription of antibiotics and NSAIDs but the truth is, I don't want to come across as "one of those" - the extremists who think that all conventional veterinary care is bad. I am not that person, however, I am the person who will tell you that YOU are the biggest advocate for your animal's health. YOU know your dog better than anyone and can tell when something is "off". YOU are the best gauge of when your cat is having issues with peeing. It is truly up to you to have a solid basis in red flags and possible causes when it comes to your pet's health. What does that mean? It means knowing that you can opt for something called a titer test that will test antibodies in your animal's blood to tell you if you NEED that additional vaccine. You also need to understand the risks and side effects of choosing the "easier" route (as touted by many overly conventional vets) of just giving the additional vaccine without checking the antibody levels first. It also means knowing what a baseline bloodwork panel looks like for your pet so you can tell when something starts to go sideways. I always recommend annual Geriatric Blood Panels as a terrific diagnostic tool for your pet's ongoing wellbeing. That means making an appointment when there is nothing clinically "wrong" with Fido and asking your vet for a test that they may say is "not necessary". Guess what, you are the one paying for the test. You are the one seeking preventative care instead of waiting until something is wrong and then being reactionary instead.
Nutrition - a big one and even more geared to preventative health. It is up to you to make the best decision for your animal. That means researching - which doesn't mean asking Dr. Google which food is best. You will get lots of answers if you do that, but keep in mind that some of those answers are PAID ADs by big name pet food companies who don't want to lose your business. And guess what again...your vet may not agree with your choice!! As long as you come from an educated place and take your time to get answers to your questions (a certified animal nutritionist, a trustworthy social media group that shares information for the betterment of animals, holistic veterinarians such as Dr. Karen Becker, Dr. Marty Goldstein, etc) then they don't have to agree with you - but they bloody well better respect your decision!! Diagnostics - I will give you an example of this one to help you see my point here.... If your dog develops diarrhea for no apparent reason, you will likely choose to take your dog to your vet. Now, if that vet prescribes antibiotics or some sort of steroid medication without any diagnostics, you should question that approach. A stool sample (to rule out parasites), bloodwork (to check for things like pancreas inflammation), xrays (to check for possible blockage) are all valid diagnostics to request before moving right into drug therapy. Being armed with this knowledge before walking into the clinic will give you the tools you need to get to the bottom of the problem more efficiently than walking in to your appointment scattered and it will allow you to get better care for your furry family member. Being informed can also help to diminish the fear that comes from having an ailing animal. We all know that we are at our most vulnerable when someone we love is sick. Having a variety of tools in your toolkit and being armed with a solid foundation of education on what could be happening in your pet is the best thing you can do for your animal and yourself in a time of need. If you have a vet that doesn't respect your questions or is impatient with your requests, it is time to shop around. You are the one writing the cheque, and there are MANY veterinarians in most cities and towns. Interview them (without even taking your animal) at the first appointment and determine if you can work with this person in a time of crisis. Don't wait until that crisis is upon you to be in the hands of someone you don't fully trust or feel comfortable with. Empower yourself and your pets will thank you.