Don’t get me wrong. I am MORE than happy to answer the questions that I can for readers and subscribers of MyPetsDoctor.com, but it disturbs me when owners are left with questions after a visit to your pet’s doctor.
Here are some suggestions to help you get all you need when your dog or cat makes a trip to a veterinarian.
MAKE A LIST
I am the world’s most forgetful person. When I was a little boy and my Aunt Polly would send my Uncle Sam and me to town, she always gave us a list and we never came home with everything on the list. Can you imagine how badly we would have performed without a list?
Even today, as I approach my sixtieth birthday, I’m an avid fan of lists. When I need to go to a physician I start a list as soon as I recognize the need, so that I won’t forget to tell him everything historical that pertains to my medical complaint.
That’s the first part of my list.
The second part has questions about treatment. What are the side effects of treatment? How long will I be on medication? Are there alternative forms of treatment? What are the pros and cons of the alternatives?
These same questions apply to your pet’s visit. If he is suffering from an acute-onset problem you might not have much time to make a list, but difficulties that arise slowly, such as skin problems, behavioral problem, a chronic and/or recurring cough, these are cases that give you plenty of time to make an in-depth list.
DON’T BE SHY
In thirty years of practice I’ve been unable to develop the skill to read minds and have yet to hire a staff member who can. We don’t know what your questions are, so you have to ask them. We try to explain things in terminology and at a pace everyone can retain. We try to be complete with our explanations, but you may have questions we haven’t thought of.
Many veterinarians will finish an office visit with an inquiry of their own: “Do you have any questions?” Don’t be too quick to say no; this is your opportunity to ask.
I always like to add one more step to this final examination-room inquiry: “If you think of questions later, call us! That’s what we’re here for!” We don’t want you getting your answers from an unreliable source, especially the Internet, where 64% of the medical information is either outdated or outright wrong.
You may think of something after you’re at the cashier’s desk, and the doctor has already moved on to his next patient. That’s OK. Ask the employee to take the question to the doctor and bring you back an answer. You may have to wait until he is finished with that patient, or he may have to call you later. Be patient. You have a question and you deserve an answer.
CALL BACK LATER
It’s not unusual for questions to arise after you get home with your pet, maybe even a day or two into your pet’s treatment. Perhaps you didn’t have any questions until side effects showed up, or your pet wasn’t getting well as fast as you thought he should. These are valid questions. I’m not shy about calling my physician back when I have followup questions, and neither should you be shy about calling your veterinarian under those circumstances.
Again, patience and understanding are necessary. Your veterinarian may not have time to call you back, and he may have to relay the needed information through a staff member. He may be having a day like we’re having today (emergency surgery and nonstop phone calls leading to appointment after appointment). Some calls I simply won’t be able to return until tonight after closing or tomorrow between appointments.
Now, let’s cover the unpleasant side of this topic. What if your veterinarian refuses to call you back? What if he won’t answer your questions? Assuming you haven’t put yourself into the “pest” category with unreasonable requests or excessive inquiring phone calls, you deserve an answer to your questions. In my mind, refusal to answer your questions is sufficient reason to find another veterinarian.
The practice of medicine is complicated. The more we learn about practice, the more complicated it gets! Likewise, having a good understanding of what’s wrong with your pet, why it’s doing what it’s doing and why he needs the medicine he needs all get more complicated, too. All this complexity leads to more questions and your pet’s doctor wants, and needs, you to understand. Your better understanding leads to better compliance with therapy, which leads to a higher rate of healing and a lower rate of relapse.
See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph