Animal Advocacy at the Vet
Many of us will happily wear a t-shirt declaring our strong feelings on spay and neuter policies, animal adoption, breed legislation, and a variety of other animal related topics. We will shout to the world our opinions and declare our unconditional love for a specific breed, dog, or activity. But, will you stand up to your Veterinarian?
Educated animal types tend to know a little about food, about general health, about the dangers inherent in over vaccination. Maybe we haven’t done all our own research, but at least we’ve heard about it. We know the world exists. Some people have those opinions. Opinions that are brushed off by your local vet as ‘inconclusive’, perhaps ‘dangerous’. They use phrases like ‘to be on the safe side’. They are all too eager to sell you a prescription diet that you shudder to read the ingredients label on. Believe me, it’s best you don’t. The alternatives are expensive at best and incredibly labor intensive at the outside. Or at least that’s how we are made to feel. We cave. We aren’t experts. We don’t have the pile of student loans and certificates to prove we went to vet school. Sigh.
Despite my lack of qualifications, I don’t always do what my vet says. Look at me and my rebel self. That’s right. I’ve said no to those prescription diets, more than once even. I reject vaccines in my dogs who are over 10. Heck before that, I set my own schedule for those vaccines. I’ve skipped follow up visits I deemed unnecessary. I’ve adjusted the dosage (ever so slightly) on meds when I felt it was appropriate. I’ve even stopped giving a medication entirely if it was not helping or not worth the side-effects. And I consult with my witch doctor of a Holistic Vet. Although, sometimes I even disagree with her!!
The horror of it all! String me up! Call the ASPCA! On a recent vet visit, I had to sign a legal-ese sounding declination form because I refuse to give my almost 13 year old dog a rabies vaccine. Never mind that I spent the $200 to have her titer tested for rabies. (She came back within the normal range.) Also, please disregard that this dog has a potentially compromised immune system due to on-going health concern, or that she presents virtually NO bite risk. Rabies vaccines are the law. A law I’ll happily excuse myself from. I’ll sign the paper which accuses me of being a terrible no-account pet owner (in a very round about way). I’ll sign it with a flourish. Maybe a smiley face after my signature.
I’ve been accused of rejecting prescription diets because I’m cheap. Rather, they phrased it as a ‘money issue’. A comment at which I almost bit my tongue clean off. Clearly, they’ve not seen my pet spending. On the rare occasion The Husband has embarked on a solo vet visit, I’ve had to be phoned in to summarily dismiss any and all chances that we will be vaccinating today. These situations occur with vets not familiar with me, or who’ve not read the notes on our file. Maybe that or they think The Husband is an easy sell. Sadly mistaken, in either case.
I am not a vet. I don’t presume to be. Nor do I think I know more than even your average fresh out of vet school, newest of new, green Veterinary practitioner. I have no credentials. You have no reason heed my advice. What I do know, what I will call myself a bit of an expert in, is my very own dogs. My vet sees them for 20 minutes a few times a year (tops). They don’t live with these animals. They don’t understand their day-to-day life. They don’t understand the food we feed, the care we provide. What causes my dogs to flourish and when they struggle. I do. So if that antibiotic is giving my dog horrendous diarrhea and making everyone’s life a little miserable, guess what? I’m going to discontinue it. If I personally think the risks of vaccinating my dogs outweigh benefits, if I can reconcile the dangers in my mind, then I will skip it. If, like right now, I can see that an unfortunate wound (which was granted my fault) is healing up rather nicely, I’m not going to schedule the 3rd re-check at $100 a pop. I’ll discuss it on the phone with the administering vet, sure. But that hundred bucks can go right to future dog security.
Against my veterinarian’s advice, I think my dogs are all the better for these decisions. To often people kow-tow to the almighty vet. They spend the money, administer the meds, blindly follow. When in doubt, maybe that’s the way to go. But, I’d challenge you as the advocate for your pet, to think of those interactions as more of a ‘conversation’, and less of a mandate. Even if they they’ve never heard of your brand of dog food or they wrinkle their nose in disgust at the mention of ‘raw diets’, hold your ground. I’ve never written all the why’s and wherefore’s of my personal vaccination policy. Nor do I intend to. I think, as with most of these decisions, its a personal one. When you are in that examination room, you usually aren’t required to make a decision right now (though sometimes you are). For the run of the mill, the day to day, take your time. Do a little Google of your own. Maybe even consult the Whole Dog Journal. The point is: You are the expert in your pet. Speak up!
What kind of relationship do you have with your vet? Do you ever disagree with their advice?