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Vets, Pets, and Their People: The Evolution of Veterinary Care

Reviewed by Missy Beall, DVM, PhD on
Posted August 06, 2013 in A Vet's Life

The role of our pets in our lives has certainly changed over the years. Dogs and cats have gone from largely utilitarian, or at least taken-for-granted positions as animals who lived in the yard, wandered the neighborhood and slept in a modest shelter, to family members that share our lives in many ways. They interact with our children and have assumed roles not just as companions but as pseudo siblings. Our pets live intimately with senior citizens, disabled and chronically ill family members and add greatly to the quality of life for the people who share their lives. 

Once, pets were considered expendable… now, for most of us, they are virtually irreplaceable. The role of your veterinarian has evolved as well. In the not too distant past the veterinarian’s role was almost exclusively to intervene when pets were injured or sick. Today, veterinarians play a much greater role in the early detection and control as well as the prevention of disease.  Veterinarians are also educators and they are dedicated to supporting you in sharing and enjoying your pet as long as possible. That means a visit to the veterinarian may look a lot different than it did in the past when intervention was more important and prevention and counseling played a lesser role.

When you go to your physician you will generally find that between nurses, PAs and the Physician you will spend as much time describing your complaints, discussing lifestyle issues and answering questions as you do in the course of the actual examination. The reason is a shift that has occurred from primarily illness intervention to early detection and prevention. These same changes have occurred in the way veterinarians provide healthcare to pets.

Every question asked has a reason. Issues of nutrition, behavior, experience of discomfort as well as basic physical questions like water intake, toilet habits activity changes…all can be an indicator of subclinical problems or offer a course of exploration for clinical concerns. Some of these questions may seem misdirected, but they all link together and help ensure a clear direction. 

Physical exams can be confusing. Just what is the doctor doing? Why is she not going directly to the problem like lameness or a rash or a mass? But it's important to remember that a physical exam must be conducted in a complete and methodical manner. Sometimes subtle physical findings can result in problems that seem

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.

Opinions expressed are those of the writer:

The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent the beliefs, policies or positions of all veterinarians, Pet Health Network, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. or its affiliates and partner companies.