I may be a little biased, but I think there are not many things in life that are as exciting and wonderful as having and loving a pet. God really outdid Himself when he created dogs and cats. They each have such a special personality, and create such a unique place in our hearts. However, along with that joy comes a lot of responsibility and possible stress. What food do we feed it? How do we train them? Will they get along with everyone in the house? It’s a lot!
A large part of pet ownership is their healthcare (again, I know I’m biased there too). How do we choose that person that is supposed to have the answers to all of our questions? How do we know if we can trust them or if they are the right fit? In the age of social media, Google reviews, and overall social unrest, this can feel like a daunting decision. It’s easy to find the scary stories. It’s easy to want to just hide your pet in a bubble and hope everything just goes well. I get it. It’s hard for me to read the things I see as well. While I cannot ease every fear nor answer every question, I want to take a minute to share my heart as a veterinarian during this time. I want to hopefully shed some light on veterinary medicine to bring some peace to you during this time.
More than ever, pets are no longer just pets. They are a special and integral part of our family. They are, more often than not, on the same level as our children – just more hairy and on four legs. The first thing I want to tell you is that we understand that. We take to heart that we are caring for your family member. We do not take it lightly that you have trusted us with their care. When I became a veterinarian, I did so to not only make a difference in my patient’s lives, but also yours – their owners. I wanted and still desire to make a relationship of mutual trust and respect. I want to be able to celebrate the happy memories with you and your pet, but also help you through the tough times. I promise you that veterinarians understand and want to nourish the special relationship between you and your pet.
We are not in this for the money. Please, hear this very clearly. Veterinarians DO NOT do this for the money. We take on the average student debt of a medical doctor to make approximately 1⁄4-1⁄3 of their income. We study for an average of 8-10 years (more if we go on to specialize). We work very long hours a week (most of us would kill for a 40 hour work week), and are never truly “off” because the public, friends, and family will always message us or ask us pet questions outside of work. Again, we do this willingly. Why? Because we do it for the animals. We do it because we care. We do it because our hearts are to make your pet’s life the best it can be. Now, we also have to remember that we live in the real world. Good medicine costs money. We have a large overhead – hospital, medications, medical/surgical equipment, support staff, reception staff, and more. We use the same medications and equipment as a human hospital. We invest the same time into our education. It costs money to keep a clinic running. I promise you that we wish we could do this for free, but again, we live in the real world and that just isn’t how it works. When we tell you how much it will cost to treat your pet, just be honest with us. Our job is to tell you what your pet needs. It is also our job to do our best within your means. Sometimes that will be a really difficult talk, but please, remember we are ALWAYS on your team to make your baby better.
We do not give unnecessary advice. When your veterinarian advises something – whether that is a different diet, a new medication, a behavior change, or anything else – please really
consider it. Again, our only mission is to give you the longest, most joy-filled life with your pet. We studied countless hours, keep up with annual Continuing Education, and consult with specialists routinely to be able to give you the most solid and current advice. Sometimes, what we tell you may not be what you want to hear. (Fluffy may not need the 17 treats a day she is getting.) It may be different than what your breeder, groomer, or Facebook friend said. But please remember who is examining your pet right then and take into consideration that we have no personal gain other than seeing our patients thrive.
We each have our own special strengths. Most of the time, you will have many veterinarians to choose from (unless you live in a rural area). That is such a blessing! This means that if you try a few different ones, you may have very different encounters. We each have our own approach to cases, our own type of bedside manner, our own communication/exam styles. It doesn’t mean any of us are necessarily any better than anyone else – we are just different! If you have an encounter with a veterinarian that doesn’t fit you, it doesn’t mean they are a bad doctor or that you need to take to a public forum to complain. It just means you need to keep looking! That perfect fit is out there and worth the look. Once you find that perfect fit, you may find that they may want to refer you to a specialist at some point. That just means that we, again, want the absolute best for your pet, so we are using those that are more focused on the area of medicine your baby needs to further their care. Don’t let that scare you or think we don’t know what we are doing! It means that we care too much to take a risk in not giving your pet the best care!
You can’t believe everything you read about us. This goes back to my point of living in the age of social media and the internet. It is nearly impossible to get on the internet today without seeing some story about how a doctor (human or veterinary) has messed up. Please remember that there are ALWAYS two sides to every story. Most reviews and publicized stories are based out of a very tough and emotional time. While veterinarians are not held to the exact same standards of HIPPA, we have always behaved as so and held ourselves to that standard out of respect of our patients and clients. So when there is a tough case, we generally do not get to defend ourselves. Our silence is never an admission of guilt or not caring – it is respect for our patient. Most tough circumstances do not have an easy answer. They just don’t. I hope that after reading this; however, you will at least remember where our hearts are and give us the benefit of a doubt. Most of the time, the truth will come out – it just takes some time.
Again, I realize I am pretty biased when it comes to this career field. I have been in it for over 15 years now as a technician, a student, and a doctor. It is my passion. It is what I was called to be and will do to the absolute best of my ability for the rest of my working life. It is, however, not an easy calling. We struggle with mental health issues due to the unique stresses we take on. We take time away from our family. We put aside our own wants to be there for our clients and their babies. We do this because we care. I hope that you find this encouraging. I hope that you see that in a world that is full of mistrust, unease, and overall resentment, you have an army of people that are here to make your pet’s life the best it can be. I hope you see a place that you can trust and feel comforted.