The Sad Reality of the Modern Vet

There we were, sitting in the exam room at our local vet waiting for the doctor. Our dog, Maddie, had recently been going through some significant changes in behavior and weight. After some interventions of our own, we decided it was time to get her a full check-up and make sure everything okay. We didn’t really know what was going on, but we knew our dog and knew that something was going on with her.

As the vet walks in, Maddie lets out a nervous bark and cowers by my ankles. Although she had no problems when the vet tech walked in, Maddie is not a fan of the doctor. Being the runt of her litter, she has always been a little nervous in new situations. She has never quite responded this way though, which makes us even more alarmed about her current situation.

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After a couple of generic questions, the doctor makes an attempt at getting closer to Maddie, which she does not like. At this time, less than 90 seconds of being in the exam room, he decides that this is a “fearful dog” and that she should be on Prozac. It was at this exact moment that we had two realizations:

  1. The American healthcare practices of giving a drug for every issue has officially crossed over into the veterinarian world.
  2. We wasted $70 and would need to find a better option of care.

We were in complete disbelief when we received this “diagnosis” and treatment, all within 90 seconds of meeting the doctor. There was no discussion of Maddie’s personal or medical history. Outside of weighing her, taking her temperature, and looking at a couple of body parts, there was hardly a physical exam. No blood work to determine deficiencies or possible conditions. No listening to the owners about conditional changes. Just a doctor who saw a nervous dog and decided that medication for the rest of her life was the best option.

We spent the remainder of our time with the vet reasoning with him and defending our decision not to medicate our 3-year old dog who has not had any issues for 98% of her life. The entire experience left a bad taste in our mouths, but the taste was oddly familiar.

agitated-2023984__340Make an appointment, arrive fifteen minutes early, wait 30 minutes, get weighed, have your temperature checked, try to explain an ailment in 30 seconds or less, get poked a couple of times, and then get prescribed medication. Wait a minute! That is our healthcare system! In a world where our own health issues, such as obesity, diabetes, and cancer, have become prevalent in the lives of our pets, it is no surprise that the pet healthcare system has duplicated that of our own.

It is a sad, unfortunate reality but we can no longer put 100% trust in our doctors and vets. Our intent is not to bash the industry or take anything away from good people trying to help others, but the reality is that the systems in place do not allow for extensive care and individualization of patient treatments. It is up to you, whether in the role of patient or pet owner, to take charge of the health treatments that you seek.

Taking charge of the situation does not mean Googling your symptoms while you are sitting in the waiting room and telling the doctor what you have. Rather, it is putting together the most complete health profile possible and not accepting diagnoses or medications without validating the information. Make sure that the doctor is taking all information into account and is open to exploring many different avenues rather than one diagnosis and one treatment.

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It might be a tough pill to swallow (zing!), but the doctor or vet that you have a long history with and have been going to for a number of years, might not be the best option. We live in a time that has seen monumental advances in health sciences and medicine. If your doc is still taking the same approach as ten, or even five, years ago, she is possibly and probably missing out on information that could be imperative to the success of your visit.

In order to combat our negative experience with the vet, we decided to put our dog’s health in our own hands. The first thing we did was type up an extensive medical history for Maddie. We included her birthday, date of spaying, vaccinations, diet information, injuries, behavioral changes, symptoms, and anything else we thought had a chance at being relevant either now or in the future. We also added our own thoughts and beliefs at the bottom so that the vet reading the document would get a sense of the approaches we would feel comfortable with and what we were thinking in terms of Maddie’s situation.

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Some people might think that a document like this is unnecessary or excessive. That’s what the history forms at the doctors office are for, right? When you create a complete medical history and put it in your own words, it accomplishes a few things that the standard medical forms do not:

  1. By sitting down and typing the document at home, you are much less likely to forget anything and you are much more likely to take your time. Filling out the forms at the doctor’s office is usually a rushed process that you want to get done. When typing at home, you can walk away and come back when something else pops into your head. This makes for a truly comprehensive and detailed medical history and gives you or your pet the best chance at successful treatment.
  2. It shows the doctor what type of patient she is dealing with. Some people come into the doctor looking for the quick fix and the doctor is happy to oblige. If you walk into the doctor’s office loaded with a complete medical history and a brief summary of what you are thinking, it shows the doctor that you are serious about the ailment and that you have high standards for treatment.
  3. It gives you a voice. It can be very difficult to express your opinions in a doctor’s office, for a variety of reasons. By putting the document together and expressing your thoughts in an effort to be heard, the doctor should be respectful of what you have to say. That being said, we have been in situations where we came ready with a full medical history and the doctor did not take the time to read any of the document. At that point, you should be asking yourself, “If the doctor didn’t take the time to read what I think is important, is this the best person to treat me/my pet?” We have gladly walked away from doctors and found doctors who are much more willing to work with us.

This last point, in our opinion, is the most important. Always remember that whether it be caring for yourself or for your pet, you have no mandatory allegiance to any doctor. There are plenty of phenomenal doctors out there, it is just a matter of finding the right one. Do not accept working with someone who does not align with your values and beliefs. Deciding to leave the vet that we have known for over 25 years and seeking out another option was one of the best decisions we could have ever made.

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We found a vet that listens to what we have to say, believes in many of the same treatment options that we do, and genuinely cares about our pup. It’s like being in a bad relationship for years and then finding the right person. You wonder what you were thinking all that time and why you didn’t get out sooner. In the case of our now previous vet, we wonder how much wrongdoing we did to the dogs we had prior to Maddie and if we could have saved them from health-conditions and even early deaths.

Hindsight is 20/20 and we can now take comfort in the fact that Maddie has the best care possible moving forward. Our entire experience, from the Prozac day to finding our new, caring vet, has opened up our views on health care. We will fight the same battles that we took on for Maddie with our own personal health and empower ourselves to have the best treatment available.

What healthcare woes have you faced? How did you solve them? We want to know! Leave a comment below!

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