AJ Debiasse, a technician in Stroudsburg, PA, contributed to this article.
We know you love your dog, and we know you want what’s best for your dog. But many guardians are laboring under dangerous misunderstandings that concern us. Speaking candidly, here are 10 things we would like to tell you, but sometimes have difficulty with in the exam room. I hope that these points will help more guardians better understand their dog and their veterinarian.
1. Recognize pain and suffering
Most dogs are extraordinarily stoic. It can be extremely difficult, but is very important to recognize when dogs are suffering. If they are limping, they hurt. If they are vomiting, something is wrong. If they have difficulty breathing, they may be, in fact, suffocating, and it's terrifying for them. Seek help immediately. Procrastination is heartbreaking for us.
2. Don’t be in denial
If you have to use words such as “solid,” “big boned” or “fluffy,” chances are your dog is overweight or obese. We know dogs love their treats, and that you love giving them. But overweight is not healthy. It takes years off of their lives. It makes anesthesia riskier, and it makes recovery from surgery more difficult. Love your dogs in a way that makes them healthy and happy:
Those alternatives are all calorie-free but your dog craves them. [Learn 5 reasons why pet obesity is a big deal.]
3. Know whom to trust
Speaking of pet food, who do you think knows more about dog food?
- The veterinarian
- The technician who attended “special training”
- The 18-year-old kid at the pet store (or feed store)
Please choose your vet when picking food. Feeding the wrong food can lead to obesity, bladder stones and a poor hair coat.
4. Never assume anything
We can't diagnose your dog’s lump or bump over the phone. We can't tell if a mass is cancerous or not just by looking at it or feeling it. We can have an impression, but that’s all we can do. Only a biopsy can confirm the diagnosis.
Yes, we sometimes need to run lab work to find out what is going on with your dog. Yes, that fee is going to be in addition to the exam fee. Yes, these tests are best for the health of your dog. We do not have a magic pill to fix your dog’s condition. This is really no different than in human medicine. [Learn more about lumps and bumps on dogs.]
5. Spay and neuter your dog
Spaying a female before her first heat cycle virtually eliminates the risk of breast cancer. Spaying also totally prevents pyometra, a deadly uterine infection. Neutering prevents testicular cancer and almost eliminates prostate conditions. Beyond those medical reasons, spayed or neutered pets are less likely to run away and get hit by a car. They also have a lower incidence of behavior problems. [Check out the top 10 reasons to neuter your dog.]
6. Follow discharge instructions
Discharge instructions are made to be followed. Not some of them, not some of the time; all of them, all of the time. This is one of those times where you get to learn from someone else's mistakes, and that can save you and your dog from some serious trouble. Where do you think these instructions came from? You guessed it: things going wrong with someone else's pet. We know that wearing a plastic cone for 2 weeks is no fun. We know that being stuck in a small room or a crate for 4 to 8 weeks is boring. If there were an easier way to do things, we would tell you! [Learn more about the importance of following instructions after surgery here.]
7. Get pet insurance
Pet insurance can make all of the difference in your dog’s life. If you cannot afford thousands of dollars in emergency or medical care, please consider getting pet insurance. And do your homework, as there are some really bad companies and really good companies out there. [Learn more about pet insurance.]
8. Know thy enemy
Anesthesia is not the enemy. Surgery is not the enemy. Your dog’s condition is the enemy. We are here to help you choose the best weapon to fight the enemy.
9. Prevention is a critical part of dog medicine
All pets should be on heartworm, flea, tick and intestinal parasite preventive medication year round. And all dogs should be up to date on all of the vaccines recommended by your veterinarian. Vaccination against rabies is likely a legal requirement in your state. Other vaccines are recommended to prevent several deadly diseases.
Every year, countless dogs die because they did not receive basic, effective, affordable preventive care. [Learn more about adult dog vaccines.]
10. Don’t starve your dog
When you put your overweight dog on a “light” diet, it is next to impossible to make him lose weight effectively. So many make the mistake of unknowingly starving dogs by cutting the amount of food down significantly. We would rather have you trust us, and feed a diet that was made specifically for weight loss. It will have fewer calories, may have more fiber to fill the stomach, and will have all of the nutrients and vitamins required. And it works consistently when the rules are followed.
Veterinarians are trained to provide care “from the cradle to the grave.” Veterinarians do truly want what's best for you and your pet. Help us help you.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.