Monday, January 4, 2010

Does Your Vet Listen To You?

One of the things that make our vet so amazing, and why we travel a long way to see him, is that he listens to what we're telling him. Is that a big deal? You bet it is.

By listening I don't mean letting you talk, I mean actually listening to what you are saying and taking it into account. 

Your vet knows the medicine (at least you'd hope so) but you're the one who knows your dog. You know things you vet cannot, unless he finds out from you.

Listening is a lost art, and veterinarians don't seem to be any exception. 

My observation is that they often quickly jump to the most obvious conclusion, make up their mind, and shut down to anything you might have to say.

Sometimes it's about time. They want you in and out as fast as possible. Sometimes it's simply because they believe that owners don't know anything.

So why does it matter?

How can a vet reach the right conclusions without all the information? 

They cannot. Every conclusion is only as good as the information that it is based on.

In routine situations they can get away with it with no harm done. But what if things are not so simple?

Neither a misdiagnosis or a missed diagnosis is going to help your dog.

It seems quite likely that Jasmine's first ACL injury wasn't actually her first. But when we took her to her vet at the time, we were sent home with “it looks like some soft tissue injury...”.

When we took her to the vet because I was convinced that something wasn't right with her mouth, we were told that nothing was wrong. Guess what? It was – as we found out much later.

When we kept taking her to the vet because she was having episodes of distress of some kind, and a battery of tests didn't lead to any diagnosis, I felt that one of the important signs might have been that she was trying to bury her pee. I said that to the vet. He replied that it is normal. I was trying to explain that she is not scoring the ground (which is normal) but that she's trying to cover it up by pushing dirt over it with her nose. But the vet already wasn't listening.

Next time we came in with the same issue, which kept getting worse, and still with no diagnosis, I mentioned it again. Guess what? He replied that it is normal. So I tried to explain the difference again, but I never got through to him.

When Jasmine was in an ICU as a result of severe hyperthermia (reaction to medication), she was in such a bad shape, she couldn't walk. Her mobility didn't seem to be improving, which worried me a lot. They were subscribing it mostly to her recent bi-lateral ACL surgeries. We were trying to explain, that before this trauma, she had full use of her legs, and was walking, running and jumping with no problems. But they already seemed to have made up their minds that the knees were the main reason and, again, turned off to what we were saying.

And I could go on ...

Today, while still work in progress, Jasmine is doing great. But could the path to it have been much shorter were the vets listening to us?

How can one fix something without taking the time to find out what is really going on? Listening to what you have to say is an important part of it.

Does your vet listen to you?


Related articles:

Where There Is Smoke, There Is Fire!

It's Your Dog's Health!
Help! My Dog Is Purple!
Veterinary Drive-Thru: Coming Soon To A Veterinary Hospital Near You!
A Praise To Our Dog House DVM
A Word On Pain


  1. Great information! I had similar experience with our vet in Bay area when he was trying to find out what was causing Jasper's repetitive ear infections and in the process he was selling us on special allergy tested food products that caused great deal of problems for Jasper. After eating the s"special" food not only his ears were itching but all his body. I quickly changed the vet after that experience.

  2. Hi Bibiana.

    Thank you for your comment :-)

    Jasmine was put on a diet food too, and guess what? It contained the main ingredients she turned out being allergic to. The vet at the time also didn't seem to be bothered by the fact that it was not helping.

    There are vets who believe in elimination diet approach, and I can see how it could work. Then there are vets who believe in allergy blood test.

    Our new vet believes in blood testing. We did that, got results quickly, and following up with diet changes, it has been working beautifully.

    What is sad about Jasper's and Jasmine's old vets is, that some of them seem to be 'one trick ponies'.

  3. I have worked as a Veterinarian Technician for the past 23 years. And over that time have worked for a multitude of different DVM's (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine). Some have horrible bed side manner, but are excellent clinicians. Others can't find there way out of a paper bag. I think it is a great idea to trust your instincts. If you don't feel right about what is being said to you regarding your pet, you should seek a 2nd or 3rd opinion.
    One of the best resources for finding a competent Veterinarian is your local Emergency Veterinary Clinic. They work with all of the local Vets, & treat many of their patients after hours. They have the inside scoop on who's competent in the Vet Community. Now some may be hesitant to give you this information -due to the ER's dependence on the local clinic referrals. But it is worth a shot- also I would recommend talking to the ER technician (not the receptionist or DVM). Your likely to get more accurate information that way. Good luck. And way to listen to your instincts Jana.. I am glad Jasmine finally got the correct diagnosis and is doing better..

  4. Dear Corina, thank you for reading and commenting! I think it makes sense that veterinary profession would be the same as any other--some will be excellent and some won't.

    I wouldn't mind horrible bed side manner in a competent vet. I do believe that part of being competent also means listening to the clients - because medical history and history of symptoms is an important part of the diagnostic process.

    Thank you for sharing the tip on talking to ER technicians about their recommendations, that is a great idea.

  5. JANA!!!! Woah, we totally are in line with you here! EXACTLY THIS is why we started our site--I hate to say it, but the vet industry (on the whole) needs a wake-up call. With multiple snooze alerts, because they don't seem to listen.

    I feel guilty saying this as a vet, but I truly believe that the vets need to be held a little bit more accountable, that the industry and pets and pet owners would benefit from the thought in the back of the mind that pet owners can go online and get an inexpensive unbiased professional opinion.

    This post -- I saw it on Pet People-- really hit home tonight. I want you to know Jana, that this is why we are here and have closed our hospital doors. We are sickened by it all. We were very successful and loved vets, but we want to do something bigger to impact the lives of more pets than we can treat in one day.

  6. Dear Laci. Well, I feel bad for saying these things too. I love vets. But, sadly, not all of them deserve the love and confidence they get and the dogs suffer for it.

    That's why I set on the mission to help people to see this and protect their dogs.

    Don't feel too bad, as a graphic designer, our field isn't any different. Some are great, some are good and some are down right terrible.

    The only difference is that for most part bad design doesn't hurt anybody, except those who might go blind from it ;-)

    I am very glad that the great vets don't take offense and understand where I coming from. After all, we all, and our pets, suffer from the situation.

    I think that the only way out of this situation is owner education. That way the owners can make the right decision and force the bad vet either get better or put them out of business.

  7. Many dogs are stressed when visiting a vet and do not behave adequately. This makes it harder to examine true condition of the dog, so listening to what owner has to say can give a lot of very useful information.

  8. Mario, yes that's true. Even dogs who like going to the vet (like our Jasmine) get excited and the excitement can mask pain so it is often hard to elicit pain in vet's office.

    Also many symptoms are not present at all times. Like with taking a car to the mechanic. Gives you trouble all the time but when you take it to the mechanic it runs flawlessly.