I cried all the way home from our appointment. Not just cried, body convulsing, wailing, runny mascara, runny nose bawling. Both dogs were staring at me with great concern.
Never in my life had I experienced such a lack of cooth from a professional – especially someone in the medical profession. Someone, who, in my opinion should be a caring individual and receive ‘compassion’ training or at least have learned empathy during their time in practice. Veterinarians will inevitably have to share devastating news with clients about their animal companions. Most of us consider our companions family and to learn of an illness – especially one that may end their already too short lives even earlier is devastating. This is a VERY delicate situation and how this news is delivered is the first step in treatment.
My husband arrived home a few hours after we did, and it took him another hour to calm me down. I was in shock and the way our vet handled the situation caused all three of us (Reese, Henry and me) unnecessary stress. I admit, I shared my anxiety with the dogs – our companions pick up on our energy.
I don’t even remember why we had gone to the vet; I think it was a routine checkup. Our DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) had a Veterinary Technician training at their clinic. After looking at Henry, the Vet also gave Reese the ‘once over.’ He made a comment about her heart murmur – I’m not sure what, exactly he said, I was still digesting ‘heart murmur.’ We knew she was special needs – more due to bladder weakness and fearfulness. She was in pretty bad shape when rescued from the Puppy Mill at only eighteen months old. Reese was a cage chewer – reacting out of fear and nervousness she would grind her teeth on the metal surround of her confinement (common among Mill dogs). Grinding and the complete lack of dental (or other) care provided for this type of ‘livestock,’ resulted in several of Reese’s teeth being removed when she was finally vetted at the rescue organization.
Still reeling from the initial blow, I barely had time to catch my breath and drift back into the moment, when I was dealt another punch in the gut. The vet said to the technician
Let’s get them both on the table. I want you to listen to a ‘good’ heart and then listen to a ‘bad’ heart so you can compare the two
“HELLO……MOTHER OF DEFECTIVE DOG STANDING RIGHT HERE!!!”
MY heart sank further from my chest down into the pit of my stomach. ‘A bad heart?’ Hearing my beautiful, sweet little girl spoken about as if she were nothing more than a training tool for this clinic was incredibly upsetting. I don’t remember any discussion that followed. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. We never went back.
Since then, we have been clients at two incredible clinics. After such a negative experience, we didn’t know where to start when considering other options. We asked friends from the area to share their opinions and experiences. That turned out to be the best way to find a ‘good’ Veterinarian. We moved a few years ago, and one of the most difficult things about relocating was the need to find a new clinic. For the longest time, we made the three-hour round trip to visit our trusted Veterinarian. We realized it was unrealistic and once again reached out to people in the area for their advice. Since then we have received more difficult news. The difference between the two experiences being that our current Veterinarian delivered the news in a sensitive manner and assured us by suggesting a treatment plan and outlining various options. We did not feel as overwhelmed and were not left to deal with the news alone. In fact, our clinic followed up with phone calls to check on the status of their patient – Henry.
As for Reese, she is completely unaware of her condition. We have to give her ‘time outs’ from Fetch regularly as she builds up quite a (sweat) pant from running after her toys. Our current Veterinarian has assured us that Reese’s heart, although with murmur, is quite fine. Together we will monitor her and address any change as and when we need to.
We spoke with clinic patrons to find out what they like and dislike about the service they receive. We also found out from one of our trusted Veterinary clinics what you should look for when deciding on a clinic and what questions you should ask.
Thank you to patrons and the team at the Barrie Veterinary Hospital for sharing the following:
- We take our pets to a holistic vet. She combines eastern and western medical techniques. The atmosphere is relaxed and the pets can wander around the room. They play soothing music and examine the pets on a little yoga mat on the floor
- Look for an AAHA accredited veterinarian. I discovered only two of our city’s vets were accredited. I also look for friendly staff, personal service and a doctor that takes time to listen and understand
- Open to and ideally experience in alternative therapies (holistic, east/west), raw diet, reduced vaccination schedule, non-pesticide preventatives
- Has the animal’s best interests in mind (avoids unnecessary procedures and treatments)
- Welcomes questions (whether or not you may have”googled” them), answers fully in non-judgmental and open manner
- Open office – allows you to accompany patient to any area of office (barring surgery, etc). This has vastly increased in importance for me
- Proactive and “non-alarmist”
- Searches for solutions that don’t always cost us a fortune (when possible)
- Our vet is an excellent listener and never rushes us. He often calls US without us having to call him to check in on whatever might be going on with either of our pets. He also gave me his cell phone number YEARS ago, when my Angel Bobo was in the last stages of heart disease. I have used the number since but I ALWAYS am respectful and ONLY use it in a situation that warrants it. I also try to text instead of call whenever possible. He gives us the feeling that he loves and cares about our “boys” as much as we do. He laughs at them, enjoys them, talks to them…..I had the misfortune of seeing a vet (once) when I first moved to Michigan who literally manhandled my Angel Bobo and treated him like a number. I never went back
- We, too, had a terrible experience at the vet we used to go to. They almost killed CK performing an unnecessary blood test. The vet we go to now will not do a procedure that is unnecessary and I can e-mail/FB PM her doctor anytime and it saves CK the stress of having to go to their office. She answers any question I have and will even follow up with a call. This vet practice was referred to us through the woman we work with at our rescue. Incidentally, we had used this vet with our first cat years ago and only switched because the other vet was closer and we had adopted both Autumn and CK through them. We will never go back there under any circumstances
- I think one of the best ways to find a good vet is through the referral of a friend or co-worker, which is how I found my current vet
- He or she must love cats. I often look for cat-friendly practices from the AAFP, but that is not always possible. My current vet has three cats who live at the office/clinic, all street rescues — her husband is allergic to cats. She, and all of her vet techs, are certified for low-stress handling. She is also a consultant for veterinary behavior — she helped me teach Parker Prettycat that 2:30 am is not playtime. And every year, around the first of the year, she holds a memorial service for those of us who have lost our furriends, whether it was in the past year or earlier. There are some vets who consider cats as something they have to do to get the dog or large animal business.
THE TEAM AT THE BARRIE VETERINARY HOSPITAL
- Does the clinic provide overnight/emergency care?
- Are they a cat-friendly practice? Some clinics offer separate cat doors/cat rooms as well as dog doors and dog rooms
it should always be about the pet
- What species have they studied?
- What are their specialties; exotics, felines, equestrian, do they specialize in surgery or specific conditions (i.e. Megaesophagus, Addison’s disease and cancer)
- How many vets are on staff? What are their accreditations? Do they attend continuing education workshops? When did they graduate; are they receptive to new ideas? For example a holistic approach
- Are the vet techs registered? Have they taken exams, which means they are qualified to do more and are held in higher esteem
- Are they personable? Team member Janet shares her personal experience of a time when she visited a clinic and was emotional and in tearsThe staff at the clinic didn’t even offer me a tissue
- Staff confidence; retention/turnover
- Hospital cleanliness
- Hospital reputation/personal reference/word of mouth
- Cinic hours/location/convenience
- Technology available; digital x-rays, laser treatment, etc.
- Does the clinic refer to specialists i.e. ophthalmologist/dermatologist
- Does the vet speak in layman’s terms? Team member Janet gives another example of a DVM that drew a diagram of a liver as part of their explanation to her (as a client)
- Pricing – where does the clinic fall within the CVO (College of Veterinarians of Ontario)/OVMA (The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association) range?
- Is the clinic independently owned and operated? Sometimes this makes a difference to DVM’s being money motivated. If they are owned by a corporation there may be less pressure and they might not be as inclined to upsell
- Price should not be indicative. For example; lower cost should not mean less time spent with a patient
- Does the clinic have an on-site pharmacy?
- Does the clinic have a pain management protocol; do they monitor patients closely and provide adequate aftercare? For example, pain medication following surgery
- Is the clinic involved/connected with the community; does it provide support for shelters and rescue organizations? For example food banks, spay & neuter programs/clinics and adoption or support for rehoming of surrendered animal companions
- Does the clinic make good moral choices? Do they declaw cats and will they euthanize for no good reason? Sadie: I once learned a dog that was the innocent victim in a divorce – neither parent could agree on who would have guardianship of the dog, so they chose to have the dog put to sleep. Thankfully, the DVM refused and offered to find another home for the dog
we do what we do so we can sleep at night
- Does the clinic offer a loyalty, referral or reward program i.e. food, complimentary service (waived consultation fee)
Please comment sharing your experiences and suggestions with us. Thank you.
Mainly used as sarcasm.
And by yer granny.
Me; yer so cooth aint ye?