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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?

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Grizzled, old, immune compromised Springer lady or rabid bite risk? Who makes that call?

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?

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Comments

Jenny
Reply

I think, as someone who has worked with vets, and someone who lives 2 minutes from one of the best vet schools in the country (we love our veterinarians around here!) it’s really hard for me to disagree with my dog’s vet. You figure they have extensive training and live, breath, eat, and sleep animal care, so how could they be wrong? However, my dog saw a new vet last time he had a check-up, and she seemed to have a slightly different philosophy than his previous vet. So it seems that not everything is black and white even in the veterinarian community. Btw, I like the new girl better. I think Riley will continue to be vaccinated for rabies until I feel he’s not healthy enough to handle it. We have a rabies problem around here some years and he loves the wildlife.

Btw, you will be having the same exact concerns when baby comes and they want to vaccinate your child for everything immediately. I am pro-vaccination, however, I don’t agree with more than two shots per visit for a newborn. Don’t be afraid to extend baby’s shot regimine out and prioritize the “must haves.” You can always come back in a month or two to make-up missed shots. And find a pediatrician/family physician that supports this. You should look into watching Frontline: The Vaccine Wars (it’s on Netflix). Seriously eye-openning.

dogsordollars
Reply

Thanks for the recommendation! Generally, I think puppies and kids should be vaccinated, within reason. I like your policy. For me the problems arise with (unnecessary) continued vaccination and (potentially) compromised combo shots. Digression. Anyway, dog/kid overlap is rampant in the whole decision making health concern arena. Much of the same thinking applies. Surprises me all the time.

Jenny
Reply

Absolutely. As a new mom, I didn’t know better when our son’s pediatrician recommended giving him 4 shots at his six month appointment. He did fine, no regression or anything, but he was absolutely miserable with a fever for a full 24 hours. It’s just not worth it to make your child miserable when you can just come back in a month or two and spread the shots out. We’ve since switched to a family practitioner, who we plan to have care for our newborn when he comes. We’re really happy with our new doctor, and he always asks to make sure we’re comfortable with any and all shots our son gets.

Kris
Reply

What I learned when my son was in school: I live with him, I know him better than any pediatrician, vet, trainer, teacher, principal, etc. I am responsible for him, and if I NEED advice I’ll ask for it.

As to the vet – we changed vets because of this issue. Our new vet actually takes the time to LISTEN and DISCUSS what’s best for our guy. I think, if the times and the geography were different, he’d be an Ol’ Country Doc.

dogsordollars
Reply

I agree. Our original vet (who we still see on occasion and love) is an older gentlemen who’s taken the time to get to know us and listen. He has a lot more common sense about him than most, which helps. And he doesnt get offended when questioned, which is pretty much a requirement to be our vet. ;)

Betsy Voss
Reply

I would like to know why every vet in the Greater Baltimore area pushes the Science Diet. According to every rating I’ve ever seen, it is terrible dog food, yet the vets around here have bought into it lock, stock, and barrel. Seems like every veterinary office I visit has the posters and a stock of it.

dogsordollars
Reply

There is probably a very active Science Diet rep in the area who does a bang up job visiting the clinics and providing incentives and kick backs. That would be my guess. These things tend to be covered in territories.

And you are right. Its terrible. Can these vets not take the time to read the label? I’ve never understood it either.

Lee
Reply

love your old dog, I want to give her a big cuddle.
I luckily don’t need to see the vet very often with my dog but this may change as she gets older.
I wonder if its because she gets a lot of home cooked food.
My parents had a dog that lived to be 19 years old and she was fed predominantly home cooked food, the same food as my parents ate basically. And my parents are now both 83years young! Makes you think .

dogsordollars
Reply

She is always a fan of a good snuggle. :)

My dogs have had remarkably good diets the vast majority of their lives, and we’ve still ended up at the vet a little more than our fair share. Some individuals more than others. Which leads me to suspect, its not just diet. That certainly helps, and I shudder to think where we’d be without the investment made in nutrition, but genetics plays a huge role. My 3 older girls are not from fabulous stock, and I think they’ve always paid the price for that. A little more so now, in their dotage.

Peggy
Reply

Have you read: The Royal Treatment, Dr. Barbara Royal? I’ve not finished it, but what I’ve read, I liked. Speaking for Spot, Dr. Nancy Kay. Nothing you don’t already know, but I enjoyed it and often reference it before we go to the vet. Not that he seems to notice that I have answers to all the questions he didn’t but should have asked. Sigh. And, coming out Tuesday, 5 Feb 2013, Pukka’s Promise, Ted Kerasote. I’m probably the only person ever that didn’t like Merle’s Door. Loved the dog so he did that part very well, but not so much the human. Just me, but at the end I thought he could have done so much more for Merle by doing less. Don’t have Pukka’s book yet, will probably find some of it annoying, but it has outstanding reviews and we should learn something. Or, if we don’t necessarily learn new things, we should have a lot of good information in one place for reference.

Have a great weekend!

Cassi
Reply

I know that my parents stopped taking my animals to the vet, but we know them and if they don’t need a check up every few months, why take them? I can tell when my animals need something, and if they need someone with more credentials that me, I don’t mind them seeing someone else, but right now, they are fine.

julia McLaren
Reply

BRILLIANT! Great post, You nailed it! I had this conversation with my associate in animal rescue and care who also happens to be a terrific veterinarian. This Vet is also a huge advocate of “you and your animal companion know best”. She actually stops rabies ay 8 yrs! She is horrified at the present manner in which rabies shots are driven into our beloved pets at a rate that can and will endanger them. Again great post!

Laura
Reply

I agree with you whole-heartedly. Vets, dentists, and doctors are great resources, but we still need to think for ourself. I want the best for my dogs, but that doesn’t mean I want to pay tons of money for unnecessary treatments, and I’ve been caught in that situation many times.

Cheryl
Reply

I’m currently researching as much as I possibly can to gear up for what I think may be a fight in about two weeks when we go back to the vet. We’re working on getting rid of a nasty uti that my pug just can’t seem to shake (2nd round of antibiotics). We saw a different vet at the clinic we go to and she was wanting to push some kind of food that she thought would help but was afraid he was too young (5 months) but put a call into the company? I’ve got notes on most of the foods they sell there so I can tell her why he won’t be eating them! Ever had urinary troubles with Hugo that you have a magical trick for?

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