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How Not to Be a Complete Jerk at the Vet's Office

My parents are vets, and I know dealing with pet parents can be rough. Here's how to be a good one.

 |  Feb 22nd 2013  |   129 Contributions


Editor's Note: Claire Lower is a contributor to Dogster's sister SAY Media site, xojane.com. This article first ran on xoJane, but we're rerunning it (with permission!) so you readers can comment on it.

Being raised by two veterinarians made for a very warped childhood. Most of my formative years were spent gazing at the innards of cats and dogs while Mom or Dad removed, stapled, or otherwise rearranged internal organs. I used to take naps inside of kennels with the patients. I have no real concept of what polite dinner conversation is.

I always thought I would be a vet, until I worked at a vet hospital. Working at one and hanging out with your parents at one are very different things. Sometimes it is just one big kitten parade, but sometimes my mom has a Facebook status like this:

“I have seen 5 patients tonight and all 5 are now deceased. The worst night ever."

My mother has been a veterinarian longer than I have been alive (she graduated pregnant with me) and an emergency vet for over a decade, but even she has a hard time with this much death in one night. 

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Me and Angie: If only this were all veterinary medicine required.

Things like that help remind me that I did make the right decision, career-wise.

My parents have a lot of funny stories, too. But, they also have some stories about people just being mean. So I asked them (and all of my other vet-friends) to provide me with some helpful hints on how to not be a jerk at your local vet hospital. 

1. Don’t lie

I lie to my doctors all the time. I lie to my dentist about flossing, I lie to my MD about how much I drink, etc. But, I don’t lie to my vet. Mostly because she is my mom and can tell if I’m lying, but also because it would suck if something happened to Angie because of something stupid I did. 

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I’m not the best at keeping Angie's ears brushed.

If your dog ate your pot, it is really important that you tell the doctor that your dog ate your pot. THC is toxic to dogs in large doses. If your dog ate any prescription medication (legally obtained or otherwise), tell your vet. Vets are also bound by doctor-patient confidentiality, so they’re not going to narc on you. They will report abuse, however, such as people drugging their pets to “see what would happen.” Don’t do that.

Don’t lie about non-drug factors, either. If you feed your pet human food, don’t say you only feed them Iams. If you haven’t applied your flea prevention or heartworm prevention in a year, don’t say it’s been a month. Giving heartworm medication to a pet who already has heartworms can kill the pet, so it’s important that a heartworm test be done if you’ve fallen behind on the medication. 

2. Follow instructions

Medical instructions are not suggestions. They are given from a place of medical knowledge. Administer medications as directed and when directed and KEEP THE CONE OF SHAME ON. You can also use one of these great cone-of-shame alternatives.

Also, if you do have to go to an emergency clinic: be sure to go to your follow-up with your regular vet!

3. Pick one point of contact

Your vet usually has several cases going at once and does not have the time to explain one set of findings to five different people. Pick one person for the vet to talk to and do not ask her to call your husband, wife, mom, or breeder to re-explain themselves.

4. Treat your vet like a doctor

Don’t tell my parents I just admitted that they are real doctors, but they are. The most disrespectful thing you can say to your vet is, “But, I read on the Internet ...”

We all read things on the Internet. You can read things I wrote on the Internet, proving that you should probably not get your facts (except these ones!) from the Internet.  

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My dad with his grand-dogs.

If you are concerned about vaccines: Ask your vet as many questions as you need to feel comfortable. Not all are legally required, and a good veterinarian should be able to tell which ones are needed for your pet’s lifestyle. 

There is a reason vets spend a quarter-million dollars on their education, and that is so they can save the lives of sweet little animals.

5. Don’t try to emotionally bribe your vet

I used to get really hurt when people would insinuate (or flat-out accuse) my parents or the vets I worked for of being in it for the money. As I mentioned earlier, the average vet student graduates with a quarter-million dollars of debt. Buying your own practice is another quarter-million. The median income for this profession is 65K. 

Surgeries for pets are expensive, but so are surgeries for people. Telling the vet they are effectively killing Princess Fluffy Face because you can’t afford treatment is a real jerk move. Owning an animal is a financial responsibility. If you can’t afford to feed, vaccinate, and treat the ailments of your pet, you should not have one. 

6. Expect to spend money

An office visit may be $50, but that only serves to identify the problem. Don’t expect a cheap home remedy for severe dermatitis. But, if you are up-front about how much money you can spend (and we all get in tight spots) your vet can work with you and will know to focus on the treatment aspect of things. To quote my mother, “X-rays are not therapeutic.”

7. Don’t show up 10 minutes before closing

Yes, hospitals are open until they are closed, but if your dog has been puking since 10 a.m., don’t wait until 5:30 p.m. to come in. If something becomes apparent at 5:30 p.m., it might be best to go to your emergency clinic. I would recommend getting to the vet at least 30 minutes prior to closing. Several of my vet friends have babies (furry and otherwise) they would like to get home to. 

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My vet friend, Brooke, with her fuzzy kid, Mara.

These are some of the most common gripes, but the most important thing to remember is this: Ninety percent of veterinarians are veterinarians because they feel they have a calling.

I know enough of these people to know that they are not in it for the money. They are not in it for the hours. They are not in it for the heartbreak. They legitimately love animals.

My dad could care less about your baby, but he will talk to your puppy (not you, just the puppy) for an hour if you let him. I strongly suspect that he only visits me to visit Angie. He likes going to work. Most vets I know like going to work -- and if they don’t, it’s not because of Fluffy, it's because of Fluffy’s mom. 

Check out more vet-related posts here: 

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