Could it be so that perhaps veterinarians don’t know everything about your pets? Being a former practicing veterinarian, and now online animal health advocate gives me a fairly unique perspective. As a profession, we have our downfalls; this article will give you the top 7.
1. Crappy people skills. This is more about what vets don’t say – as in nothing. How about the veterinarian and their staff making good eye contact when any client comes to the office and making pet owners feel welcome. I have had many clients say they have felt un-important and not acknowledged at a veterinary clinic. Imagine the veterinarian introducing him or herself, saying your name, and your pet’s name. Unfortunately people skills are not one of those traits selected for at veterinary school- yes as a veterinarian you can be great with animals, have superior medical or surgical skills, but you still need to be able to talk to pet owners.
2. I Know So Many Medical Words. The newly graduated I know so much that I must speak in ‘medical term’ lingo is a veterinarian you may know. These veterinarians feel the need to impress you with all the big words that they know. Unfortunately this is very difficult to understand and a major source of miscommunication. You may be asking yourself after the veterinary visit: “What did the vet say?” To have pet owners comply with their suggestions, veterinarians need to be able to properly explain what is wrong with clients pets in ‘regular’ terms. For instance I suggest that vets do not use the term phytobezoar, when they could say the word hairball.
3. Too many recommendations. So what does your pet really need? 13 different blood tests, heartworm screen, fecal flotation, urinalysis, X-rays, EKG, all justified as ‘wellness’ screening. If a pet is sick, most clients want vets to do the most important tests first in order to figure out the cause. Clients want veterinarians to start with some common sense and give a list of the most likely diagnoses. Ask your veterinarian exactly what they do for so called ‘wellness screening’ for their own pets. In my experience most veterinarians only do diagnostic tests on their own animals when they are sick. Should this really be different with their clients?
4. Home diets, Raw Food and those overpriced ‘All Natural’ Diets are a waste of time and can Harm your pet. Perhaps, but likely not. Millions of dogs and cats around the world are eating raw food and thriving… and ‘gasp’ the food is not balanced. Veterinarians and veterinary food companies still claim that dry, carbohydrate loaded kibble is ‘fine’, yet a growing body of evidence is showing how this is harming our pets. Diabetes is directly linked to these dry kibble diets, yet most veterinarians are still advising that you feed primarily these to your pets.
5. Realistic estimates. Veterinary care is expensive, some clinics far more than others. Staff salaries have gone up, equipment such as digital X-ray is pricy, and superior care costs. Fair enough. But pet owners routinely find themselves shocked at the reception desk when they go to pick up Fluffy from a dental, expecting a bill for $250.00 and getting one for $799. Prior to doing anything extra ensure that the veterinarian talks to you first, so you can at least give verbal consent. As well, it would sure help if veterinarians understand that many clients really don’t have the extra funds, so at times please give the less expensive option. For example most cat abscess don’t require surgery, yet many clients report that when they bring their cat to a clinic for an abscess, they are only given surgery as an option.
6. Holistic Care isn’t all bad. Many veterinarians have a strong aversion to ‘natural’ veterinary care, they suspect that it really does not work and let their clients know. Pet owners want their pets healed, without side effects, and natural remedies can often do this. Pet owners are increasingly using natural remedies, with over 50% have used some form of complementary medicine. Of particular note, holistic veterinary medicine has a large number of credible scientific studies that back its effectiveness. Take for instance the herb turmeric, which has been shown to be increasingly effective for allergies, arthritis and now even cancer; clients find that it works, and now science is backing this up. Clients are actively researching the internet for any available option to treat whatever disease their pets may have, and being exposed to far more alternative treatments. Ultimately as veterinarians it would be far better to become your clients trusted advisors on all aspects of their pets care, holistic and conventional.
7. Just give me the Truth. As in what vaccines does my dog or cat really need? What do you really think is wrong with pet? Pet owners want the ‘real’ answers, whether it is bad news about a diagnosis, or what vaccines you think are needed. As an example, many veterinarians are giving their own pets far fewer vaccines than they advise giving to their client’s animals. Or consider after an exam of your dog, your veterinarian finds multiple enlarged lymph nodes. For fear of ‘scaring’ you, your veterinarian may tell you that ‘it’s just a lump we need to test’. This confuses clients, and breeds mistrust, the exact opposite that I think veterinarians want to communicate. Key to any type of long term success in veterinary practice is establishing a mutual relationship with your clients based on trust. If clients trust you then they are far more likely to accept your recommendations, refer more clients to you, and have your practice thrive. Win-Win.