Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dead Giveaway: Your Vet's Tone of Voice and the News that Is Coming

Very small portion of communication is conveyed through actual words. Some sources indicate that it is as little as 7%. Makes you wonder why we talk so much all the time.


When the vet walks into the exam room with your dog's lab results, do you already know what kind of news they're bringing before they open their mouth?

I still remembers the phone updates I was getting when Jasmine was in the ICU. I remember the monotone voice reciting her vitals, "her blood pressure is good, her heart rate is good ..." Translation: "she's hanging in there but I have no good news to give you." Morning after morning after morning.

When they were releasing her to home care, the non-verbal communication was saying, "there is nothing else we can do for her, it's up to her now. Hopefully she'll bounce back when she's in her home environment."

I remember the message between the lines when discussing Jasmine's prognosis on her last days.

The messages between the lines

When I was discussing Cookies ALT elevation with her vet, the tone of voice was quite neutral. No alarm bells going off. It was a mild anomaly which could mean something or could be normal for Cookie.

The phone call after her ultrasound was much more guarded. Before we even got to discussing the actual results, I was already worried. No word has been said about the actual ultrasound yet. But I knew that while it wasn't going to be a horrible news, something about the ultrasound wasn't quite right.

Just the time it took for them to call me about it at all was suspicious.

As time went on, I started thinking they saw something and were waiting for the biopsy results before talking to me. As it turned out, it was exactly why they were making me wait. It took three phone calls from me to finally hear back.

I was on pins and needles awaiting the biopsy results.

We were out walking the guys when the phone rang and it was from the vet hospital. By the time the vet introduced herself, made sure I was who she was trying to talk to and that I had time to discuss things, I KNEW it was going to be a good news.

Does your vet's non-verbal communication give away the news they're bringing?

21 comments

  1. I'm still trying to figure our new vet out. We've seen him at least a dozen times over the last 6 months but I still haven't figured him all the way out yet. He's pretty neutral so far. The only thing I have is when it's good news he starts the sentence with my name.

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    1. That's pretty impressive of him :-) All our vets were kind of like an open book. But he still has "a tell" then :-)

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  2. My vet doesn't give much away with body language. He always starts by explaining and giving tons of information before he gets to the point.

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    1. Really? Would make a great poker player then :-)

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  3. Non-verbal communication is so powerful. I wonder if pet owners maybe tune into it more since we have to in order to communicate with our pets?

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    1. That is a good point. Learning to see the language in dogs would allows seeing it better in other people too.

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  4. Non-verbal communication says A LOT. It is kind of amazing how you can tell what someone is going to say before they even say it. I'm sure veterinarians don't like to give bad news any more than pet owners want to hear it. That's a tough situation.

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    1. Yes, bad news sucks. For the one who has to get it as well as for the one who has to give it.

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  5. People think dogs and cats "talk" more with body language than people do, but really--it's tone of voice and body language we "read" unconsciously all the time.

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    1. We pay more attention to it in dogs and cats because they don't speak English. Often, the words just confuse the matter :-)

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  6. Thankfully we haven't gotten bad news from the vet in a long time. The last time was a bad news/good news situation. Nelly needed surgery, but the good news was it was operable and she had a good recovery.

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    1. Glad you didn't have a bad news in a long time! Yes, surgery sucks but as long as the problem is fixable that's what's important.

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  7. I haven't had devastating news with our dogs' Vets so far, thankfully. My Husky had some minor issues but my Vet's always cheerful & optimistic. If we have very bad news at some point, I'm not sure how he'll react so I can't say. Interesting post.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

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    1. Nothing better than never having any devastating news.

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  8. When you have a good relationship with your vets, I think it is easy to predict what kind of news you are going to get when trying to diagnose any persistent issues.

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    1. Yes, definitely when you have a good relationship. I find it is quite telling with vets you don't know that well too, though. At least those we encountered.

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  9. I've tried picking up on cues from my vet about results but I'm just not good at it. Or he's just a really even tempered person, I'm not sure. Luckily I haven't had to deal with too many lab test results lately; it's no fun playing the waiting game, that's for sure.

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    1. Maybe your vet has a good "poker face." :-) Waiting game definitely sucks.

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  10. I soooooooo get sick waiting at the vet for things like aspirate a biopsy and doing a "first look" - I honestly can never tell and we have been with our vet for over 15 years.

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    1. Waiting for lab results can be extremely stressful, particularly when some bad things are on the table.

      Interesting that your vet doesn't have a tell either. I could tell with any of our vets.

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  11. My vet calls me with the same tone of voice every time... he has a nice calm soothing voice so I can never tell what the news is going to be unless it's a face to face discussion, then it's a dead giveaway.... he tends to give me the look.

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