Do you know what is most likely to frustrate your veterinarian?
We love our vet dearly and treat him with love and respect. But we often refer to him as a Saint. I have to face it. Dealing with me isn’t exactly a walk in the park. I get concerned about every little thing that could potentially be a symptom, I have endless questions, I leave no stone unturned, and I challenge everything that doesn’t feel right to me. And he’s been bearing with me for all these years. So I think he deserves a medal.
So I got curious, how much does he really mind all this?
Then I got more curious, and I wanted to learn what the one thing we, pet parents, do (or don’t do) that veterinarians find the MOST frustrating is?
Veterinarians share their peeves
Are you guilty of these deeds?
Hmmm… My biggest pet peeve with clients would be when they let their children run all over the hospital or exam room without attempting to discipline them. Kids climbing up my pants and lab coat or rolling around licking the baseboards is not appreciated, safe, or sanitary.
The most frustrating? People who don’t value their pets or care for them responsibly. Some people still don’t believe pets feel pain; others want to euthanize their pets when they become inconvenient. The worst is when they return (after I have declined to perform medically unwarranted euthanasia) a week later with a new puppy– from a pet store, of course.
The failure of the four generations of pet owners, now raised on Disney shows, to recognize or even entertain the suggestion that their pet may be in pain. It must not be in pain if it does not whine or limp. Denial that loss of weight, the gain of weight, sleeping more, sleeping less, personality change, change in activity, or fatigue, could be signs of illness or pain is not understandable to some people. They would rather blame age and ignore the pain or deny the disease and ignore the need for treatment. Pus leaking around loose teeth and swollen joints are often overlooked. If the pet can still eat and stand up, they must not be suffering. Many households only have one pet of a species, so they lack another normal pet to compare their sick one with and consequently ignore the deterioration in health.
Since many pet owners do not recognize their limitations as identifiers of pet pain, they then obstruct attempts to prevent or mitigate pain. Simple strategies that can be started with puppies and kittens can do a lot to avoid or mitigate pain during their lives but are not adopted by as many owners as they could be since they do not see the need.
Sadly, those people feel that love is enough to vaccinate their pet against suffering. More times than I would like to remember, I have had an owner tell me how much they loved their pet and how well they take care of it. But, unfortunately, subsequent examination of the pet would then reveal issues like rotten teeth, infected ears and skin, fleas, obesity, cancer, arthritis, and hypersensitive myofascial trigger points.
When these owners are led to these issues and explained their significance as a cause of pain, one hears the responses.
a) he is old and that is normal,
b) it cannot hurt he still eats and goes for a walk,
c) oh I could never put him through treatment it would be cruel and so on.
Meanwhile, the suffering continues…
My biggest pet caretaker (I don’t use the term “pet parent”) peeve is when they don’t consider lean body weight maintenance and periodontal health to be of higher priority on a daily basis.
As obesity and periodontal disease are the most common diseases veterinarians diagnose on a physical exam, they are entirely avoidable conditions. Yet, most pet caretakers don’t attempt to prevent these conditions and instead only strive to make changes when significant secondary problems arise, such as foul odor from the mouth, decreased appetite, internal organ system abnormalities, arthritis pain, immobility, and more.
What is my biggest pet parent peeve?
Delaying treatment. I often see pets so late in the course of their diseases that their prognosis suffers.
At the very least, treatment is more difficult and expensive than it would have been otherwise… to say nothing of the unnecessary suffering the pet has had to endure.
What is the one thing pet parents do/don’t do that I find the most frustrating?
I once practiced in an exceptionally wealthy part of the United States. I was floored at the number of people (who had just parked their Range Rovers in front of the clinic) who resisted spending what I considered to be moderate amounts of money on their pets’ care. It seemed like people of modest means were willing to move heaven and earth to help their pets while the wealthy counted their pennies. Kudos to those who prioritize the health of their nonhuman family members; shame on those who don’t while having (more than) the means to do so.
—Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, Fully Vetted
First of all, buying a dog instead of adopting one, but even beyond that, with no consideration of the puppy’s expected behavior profile, with no thought of what the breed was bred for initially. Then, just assuming the dog will magically grow up to be healthy and well-adjusted all by itself, that the parent will magically know how to train the dog without professional help.
The longer I do this job, the more I think putting dogs through proper school, with appropriate teachers, as we do with children, should be a requirement of pet ownership.
Not understanding that having a pet is a privilege and not a right. Owning a pet (providing proper nutrition, yearly examinations, PROPER vaccination) is costly and requires a pet owner’s financial commitment for just routine care.
Once an emergency pops up, care can become instantly very expensive (many many accidents and illnesses can run thousands of dollars).
Eventually, even without an emergency, that cute puppy or kitten that you took into your house will become geriatric. Ultimately, we all get sick. Geriatric care can also become expensive and burdensome. There is also a time commitment to owning a pet. Pets need to be walked and played with to provide exercise and mental stimulation and medicated and cared for when they are sick at home. People need to be aware of these facts and carefully decide whether or not buying or adopting a pet fits into their schedule and budget.
—Robert Foley, DVM
I think my biggest pet peeve is that people look for advice from places with little to no credentials provided to them. Specifically, breeders, pet stores, and the ever self-entitlement Internet giving veterinary and nutritional, etc. advice.
Nothing burns my butt more than a client coming in the door and telling me that “their ” whoever ” told them that skin disease was from corn or some other food ingredient, and that they should be on ___ diet, supplement, additive, to cure it.”
I sincerely appreciate that pet parents are becoming more invested and inquisitive about their pet’s health, but please remember that your breeder, pet supply/ food store employee, etc., didn’t attend veterinary college and shouldn’t give medical advice. Argh!!
I’m all for getting advice from many sources, but please use caution and check credentials.
My biggest pet parent peeve?
Pet parents who ask for advice but then don’t like the answer won’t follow through with the recommendations.
This most often occurs when the pet is overweight, and the pet parents aren’t ready to accept it or implement changes in the animal’s environment regarding diet and exercise.
What is the one thing pet parents do/don’t do that I find the most frustrating?
I find that most pet parents don’t exercise their pets regularly enough or for a long enough duration of time. The weekend warriors often suffer the most.
My biggest pet parent pet peeve is when families decline what I feel is essential care because I have seen the flip side of that and how awful preventable conditions can be for pets and their people.
At first glance, I planned to respond that my biggest frustration is “ignorance.” It’s disheartening to have a client whose paradigm about pet care doesn’t align with common sense and quality veterinary medicine.
But then I realized that some of my best and favorite clients entered my practice with ignorance about an essential aspect of their pet’s health over the years. When enlightened, however, these clients embraced the information and enthusiastically made changes in areas such as diet, weight management, dental care, toenail trimming, training, etc.
Upon reflection, I realize my answer lies in a client’s failure to respond to appropriate information. My biggest pet parent peeve is when I passionately explain something that I know will improve my patient’s quality of life, and the client doesn’t convert that information into action.
On the flip side, watching clients receive knowledge and adjust accordingly is one of my favorite parts of my job!
Are you innocent of these things? Or guilty as charged?
The message to take home is: please, don’t let your dog suffer!