Your pet is a beloved member of the family, so naturally, you want the very best for them. Although the process of finding the perfect veterinarian can be a tedious one, your due diligence will be well worth it. So now that you’ve decided upon your dream vet, it’s time to get some insider tips. The reality is vets have a few secrets of their own — secrets they actually wish you knew.
From getting your pet spayed or neutered to restricting table food, here are 15 things your vet wants you to know.
1. Vets are sensitive by nature
We’d like to assume every kind of doctor is compassionate, loving, and has your best interest as a top priority. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. But when it comes to those working in the animal doctor business, it’s hard to deny these folks are a rare breed of extra-caring individuals. For this reason, it’s important to remember your vet is doing the best he or she can, so try to refrain from going ballistic when you see or hear something you don’t like.
According to Dr. Jeremy Orr, a specialist in small animal cardiology in Denver, hearing that vets are just in it to make tons of money is a frustrating, yet common, sentiment, seeing as vets are “a sensitive group by nature.” As Orr explains to Modern Dog, “We want to help animals and their people, so when there is an outpouring of anger directed at us, trust me, we take that home with us.” It’s a good thing to keep in mind next time you’re chatting with your vet.
2. Veterinary medicine is a business
Yes, it’s true. Although we’d like to assume, once again, these people became vets solely because they have huge hearts — which most do — they still need to make a living. Talk to any vet, and you’ll probably hear similar stories.
Their patients’ owners, for instance, seemingly aren’t aware of all the costs associated with running a veterinarian practice. “I wish that more people understood that this is a business,” Dr. Ilana Smolkin, a partner at Guelph Animal Hospital in Ontario, Canada, told Modern Dog. “We have to charge for the services we provide, just like every other business.”
3. Medicine is not an exact science
If doctors of humans can’t always figure out what’s wrong, imagine how difficult it is for the medical professionals whose patients can’t speak. Sometimes, we just need a little reminder, as The Spruce mentions, that animals can’t articulate their symptoms. Because of this, lots of extra legwork, testing, and educated guesswork is required on the part of vets. So be patient, and allow them to do their job.
4. Pain treatment is possible — you just need to ask
Your vet doesn’t live with your pet, so speaking up on their behalf is key. When you visit your vet, it’s important to convey each and every thing that’s been going on with your precious little fur baby. As Vetstreet says, pain relief is possible, but you just need to ask. Even though your pet’s condition might not have a cure, there’s usually a pain-management treatment plan your vet can provide.
5. Annual exams are crucial
Ensuring your pet has the best health care doesn’t end once they’ve been spayed or neutered and have had all their puppy or kitten vaccines. In fact, Kara M. Burns, president of the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians, told WebMD regular checkups are “the single most important way to keep pets healthy.” Additionally, veterinarian Marla J. McGeorge says annual visits should address weight, nutrition, parasite control, and dental exams.
6. Cats need extra attention
Any cat owner knows just how finicky felines can be, which is why it’s important to keep a close eye on any changes you notice, no matter how insignificant they might seem. “Cats are very good at hiding diseases, so it’s challenging to know when yours is sick,” Dr. Marcus Brown, a cat-only vet in Arlington, Virginia, told Today.
As a preventative measure, Brown recommends two checkups per year. Furthermore, keep an eye on subtle changes in weight, eating habits, and peeing outside the litter box.
7. Hamsters need checkups, too
If you’re a rodent-loving individual, it can be easy to forget these little critters need medical care and attention, as well. Although they might seem perfectly self-sufficient, issues can still arise. In particular, small rodents can develop dental problems.
In fact, Dr. Suzanne Scott, companion animal and exotic pet vet in the Houston area, told Today that because rodents’ teeth grow continuously, they might not properly align. When this happens, they can develop sharp points, which can cut into their gums, meaning your little guy might stop eating. And that brings us to our next point.
8. Proper dental care is key
Speaking of dental hygiene, it’s important for any living creature. And though you might be thinking animals in the wild are just fine not seeing a dentist (which often isn’t the case), you have to remember their environments are completely different. Is your dog part of a pack that goes rummaging through the neighborhood for food? Probably not. Taking care of your pets’ teeth prevents unnecessary pain and serious diseases, so don’t overlook those smiles.
9. Vets often can’t help much with behavioral issues
If you’ve ever seen The Dog Whisperer or My Cat From Hell, you know the talented animal trainers on these shows aren’t vets. They are, however, seasoned behavioral experts. Your vet might not be able to do much in the way of turning a disobedient dog into the perfect canine. After all, that’s what training schools and behavioral therapists are for.
“Behavior issues are the No. 1 cause of pet re-homing, euthanasia, and death,” veterinarian Oscar Chavez told Reader’s Digest. “Yet, because it’s not medical, most of us don’t learn much about that in veterinary school.”
10. Vets have to treat unwell animals but can refuse to deal with their owners
You probably know most doctors have an obligation to treat people who need medical attention, regardless of certain factors. And the same goes for vets and their nonhuman patients. If an unwell pet enters a clinic, the vet has to treat it. Funny enough, though, there’s no obligation for a vet to put up with frustrating, overbearing, or otherwise aggressive owners, Buzzfeed says.
11. Over-the-counter flea medicine can be dangerous
Keeping up with your pets’ flea, tick, and heartworm medications is crucial. Any animal owner knows just how helpful these products can be in preventing unwanted issues, not only for your pet but for your home.
But did you know some might be more dangerous than others? In fact, a vet in California told Reader’s Digest, “I’ve seen animals having violent seizures after using them. I’ve seen animals die. Ironically, most of these animals still have live fleas crawling all over them.” Your pets’ medication is no place to cut corners.
12. Your pet will cost you money, so plan accordingly
Don’t think just because you adopted a pet from a shelter it means you’re free and clear of financial responsibility. In fact, owning a pet — no matter how low-maintenance it might be — can come with a hefty financial burden.
According to PetSafe, “A healthy dog or cat can cost $6,000 to $9,000 over its lifetime, even without any major illness.” Between spaying and neutering, vaccines, and general upkeep, owning a pet is a costly endeavor. Just a little something to think about next time you have the urge to take yet another pup home from the pound.
13. No pet is hypoallergenic
It’s sad but true. If you think there’s absolutely no way the hypoallergenic dog you paid a small fortune for could be the reason your allergies are back in full force, think again. Turns out, allergies don’t have much to do with the actual hair itself. And despite popular belief, there’s no way to know beforehand whether your pet will trigger an allergic reaction.
As Woman’s Day points out, it has everything to do with the dander found on the pet’s skin, which means even getting a totally hairless cat or dog won’t guarantee immunity from watery eyes and itchy throats.
14. You might be better off with a mutt
While some folks seek out rescue pets only, others have their hearts set on getting a gorgeous purebred. But the truth is trying to breed the perfect specimen can lead to problems down the road. Just think about royal families, for instance. Too much inbreeding can result in less-than-desirable traits. Similarly, there are certain health issues commonly seen in particular breeds of dogs. For example, Saint Bernards often develop hip dysplasia, due to their large heads and small back ends.
Like most things in life, a little variety will do you good, and the case is no different when it comes to choosing a pet. Veterinarian Marty Becker, coauthor of Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual, told Woman’s Day, “When a dog or cat has a more varied genetic makeup, it’s less likely to develop health problems that commonly affect those breeds.”
15. If your pet is unhealthy, it’s probably because you are, too
It might sound harsh, but it’s sometimes true. Think about it. If you go for a run every day after work, chances are your dog does, too. If you’re lazy and not all that motivated to stay active, on the other hand, your pet probably isn’t getting much exercise either.
Veterinarian Oscar Chavez told Reader’s Digest, “I would never say that to someone in an exam room, but the fact of the matter is if you have an owner who overeats and is inactive, they are very likely to have an obese pet.” And on that note, it’s also time to quit feeding your dog the same food you eat. Pets have specific food that’s made just for them, which means table food can cause more harm than good.