Find One Good Veterinarian

When I was serving in the Air Force, a matter of great annoyance, and possibly even medical danger, was that whenever I sought medical care I could never see the same physician twice in a row.

Having a background as an automobile mechanic, I knew the value of continuity of care. If one of my customers brought me his car, I knew in my head or at least in my repair records what problems it had in the past. If more than one of his cars had the same problem, I began to suspect “operator error”. Such a level of care only occurs when the customer is consistent in taking his automobiles to the same mechanic every time.

Today, the absence of continuity of care is still a pet peeve of mine. Now, the term “pet” peeve takes on a whole new meaning.

Recently I saw a pet with a chronic weight-loss problem. Frankly, it was a problem that should have been observed and diagnosed long ago. But, it wasn’t the fault of the attending veterinarian. You see, the veterinarian who had been seeing this pet for the last few years only gives vaccinations. He doesn’t claim to provide comprehensive veterinary medical care, and the pet owners who seek him have indicated by their choice that they don’t want comprehensive medical care.

But, do they know what they’re missing?

Perhaps not.

When clients call for their pets’ regular checkups, frequently they ask for an appointment to “get all his shots”. While that’s a very important part of each annual visit, it’s not the only thing that happens in the visit.

A crucial part of a veterinarian’s role is to educate pet owners about what is most important.

The most important thing that happens for your pet on a visit to the doctor is the physical examination. Never is it more important than in the very young and the very old.

As young pets are growing, it is imperative that they be monitored for early signs of illness, parasitism and developmental problems. Failure of pets’ eyes, teeth and organ systems to mature properly, as well as many of the other perils of youth, need to be caught early before those problems cause lifelong damage.

After age five or so, a pet’s risk of developing skin problems, heart abnormalities, growths that can be cancerous and eye deterioration become greater. If you haven’t already been doing so, this is a good time to begin seeing your pet’s doctor every six months instead of just annually.

If you go to the “shots only” veterinarian, you have missed your chance to catch these problems early, and you put your pet at risk for severe illness, even fatality, by letting these sometimes-hidden problems fester.

That’s what happened to the kitty I mentioned at the beginning of this column. She had a very treatable feline thyroid condition in a fairly advanced stage. Had it been caught one or two years earlier, the damage to the cat’s heart and kidneys that is now permanent could have been prevented.

Prevented by choosing one good doctor, and staying with him or her for all your pets’ care.

I intentionally used the plural form of pets. Just as with your cars, if there’s something going on in the big picture that’s affecting all of your pets, and one veterinarian is seeing all of them, he is more likely to observe the pattern.

The kitty with thyroid disease is but one example. I could tell you about case after case of pets with cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, tooth and gum disease, heartworm disease, intestinal parasitism and other medical disasters that went undiagnosed and untreated, all for the want of an annual or semiannual physical examination.

Has it been more than twelve months since your pet’s last thorough examination? Call your pet’s doctor today to schedule a life-saving, heartache-preventing examination.MMONED

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