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Pet Caregiver Support Blog…

Communicating With Your Vet Team

As a pet parent, I know that I have a tendency to jump to catastrophic conclusions when I feel like there is something wrong with my dog.

For example, when I found a tick lodged in his neck, I was convinced he had Lyme Disease and rushed him to the vet for bloodwork. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when the results came back negative.

When the same thing happened a month later, I knew I was going to have a sick dog on my hands. While I was sitting in the vet’s office, anxiously hoping for good news, I started telling myself that whatever the vet said to do, I would do it. As luck would have it, he was still Lyme-free and I was relieved of my panic mode.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about making any big or expensive decisions. However, many of us are faced with these moments of having to make fast decisions that might have huge impacts on our pets’ lives and our own.

As pet parents, we tend to hold our veterinarians and their team in high regard, and for good reason!

Our veterinary team has spent a very long time on their education and training to take care of our precious pets. But too often, we forget that we are still the experts on our pets.  Just because they can’t “speak” to us, it doesn’t mean we should second guess what we feel is the best, and more importantly, right decision for our fur babies.

Communicating to Be Your Pet’s Advocate

It can be intimidating to work with a veterinarian and team who speaks with such confidence and ease, in a medical language that many of us don’t understand very well.

It's ok to ask your vet team questions about your pet's treatment and explain difficult concepts.

Respect your vet team but don’t be afraid to ask questions.

However, medicine is based on research and evidence-based practice. If you don’t understand something they’re talking about, simply ask.

Your vet team knows it’s important for you to take the time to educate yourself on your pet’s treatment options. If you aren’t satisfied with the options presented to you, it is perfectly acceptable to seek a second opinion. How often do we do this for ourselves in our own healthcare options? It should be no different in veterinary medicine.

When we are in crisis, we tend to make quick decisions to help diffuse the panic. We are hard-wired to fix things. Sometimes, just getting an option helps us regain our  calm and equilibrium.

When it comes to our pets, we want to quickly relieve their pain and discomfort. How many times have we asked our vet, “If it was your pet, what would you do?”

But you must remind yourself, this vet is not your pet’s parent. You are.

While it is absolutely appropriate and necessary to fully understand all of your options, remember it’s ok to ask for additional information or clarity from your vet.

Be Honest With Your Vet Team

It’s easy to feel shy or intimidated by a vet team. And sometimes, we will disagree with them or request other treatment options.

It’s important, though, to be honest with them about how you feel and why you need more time and/or options. This can help the team understand your thought processes and why you’re feeling uneasy about the current recommendations. Let your vet know this is a really difficult time for you and you’re struggling to make a decision that feels best for you and your pet.

Remember that you and your vet team are working together to “fix” the problem and toward the same goal.

Good communication can bring open and honest dialogue between you and your veterinary team when making the best decision about your pet’s treatment. It’s always important to take the team’s professional recommendations under consideration.  Ultimately, however, you can never forget you know your pet best and it’s your responsibility to make the best decision with your pet’s best interests in mind and in heart.

—Shira Rothberg, LSW, MSW

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