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How To Get The Most From Your Vet

Mar 1, 2008
It is curious how many people, conscientious and considerate in all other matters, never seem to think about their veterinary surgeon as a person but merely as an expert perpetually on tap, whose duty it is to attend to the troubles, mild or serious, of pets at any hour of the day or night. They would not dream of ringing up even a great personal friend at three in the morning for a cosy chat about the length of Fido's toenails or to communicate the breathtaking news that he was sick the day before yesterday but, believe me, people do just this with the veterinary surgeon! Evidently sleep is considered a luxury for these busy people.

It should be unnecessary for me to add that although training equips them to practise their profession it does not make them less than human. Because urgent visits to animals seriously in need of their services are made promptly at any hour and may entail an all-night session with a long day's work to follow it does not mean that veterinary surgeons should be at the public's beck and call each and every minute.

Clients who praise or criticise their veterinary surgeon rarely stop to think what he thinks of them! They might be horrified if they knew! You are probably saying indignantly, "My vet and I are the best of friends I never bother him unnecessarily nor call him out in the night for trivial reasons." So much the better. But according to veterinary surgeons with whom I have discussed the matter, about twenty-five per cent of their clients (some say more) do try their overworked patience sorely at times. I was told that many practitioners who liked small animals were so discouraged by exacting, unreasonable and tactless owners that they concentrated on large farm animals. I gathered that farmers are not so "difficult". This seems very sad to me, as a client.

As a result of frequent discussions with veterinary surgeons (who are surprisingly unanimous) the following reflections have emerged, and if you wish to be a popular client, helping that twenty-five per cent to shrink to a mere five per cent or so, read on.

When calling in a veterinary surgeon, ring up early in the morning during surgery hours, give your name and address and, if a new client, explain where you are, to save time in hunting for an obscure lane or an unnumbered house in a long row. Be brief and factual in the description of your animal's ailment. What the veterinary surgeon will want to know are the essentials i.e., temperature, if any, vomiting or diarrhoea, coughing, any signs of pain or discomfort, loss of appetite, depression, and details of that kind. He does not want to know that your dog is extraordinarily clever and does tricks, and that you bought him from a friend of a friend at Barchester or was it Porchester? five years ago. Give the age of the dog and say whether or not he has been immunised against distemper.

If you do call in a veterinary surgeon, do not first wait for a week while the animal slowly gets worse and then 'phone in the evening when the man may be on his way to a dinner party. If you do this, do not be surprised at a chilly reception! Just as detectives, in fiction or in real life, dislike being asked to investigate a cold trail, so do veterinary surgeons dislike being called to a possibly moribund patient and then perhaps be blamed for its subsequent death. Such a procedure is unfair to a veterinary surgeon, so if you are going to consult one do so at the beginning of the illness if
possible.

Do not exaggerate the condition of your dog with the mistaken idea that the veterinary surgeon will come only if convinced of the gravity of the illness. To give the impression on the 'phone that a dog which was sick twice yesterday is dying will mean that the practitioner who rushes to your aid, only to be greeted by a dog with a mild malaise, may be chary of treating seriously your real emergency later on. When an emergency is genuinely urgent, say so straight away.

Veterinary surgeons do their best to come quickly, especially if the case is a serious one, but if yours is a conscientious person (as the majority are) do not insist on any special time. After all, yours is not the only case and, important though it is to you, there may be one which must receive prior attention. Trust your veterinary surgeon to do the best he can for both you and your sick dog and remember that he is as interested as you in your animal's recovery. But there are only so many hours in a day, and it is not humanly possible to be in several places at once.

No very sick dog should be taken to a surgery; travelling and change of atmosphere, especially in winter, would probably be bad for him, and the slight excitement might make his temperature higher than it would be if he were seen at home. It might be necessary to wait for some time in a waiting-room, a bad thing for a sick dog and if he is in the early stages of some infectious illness he would probably infect everybody else's dog. Also, he would be likely to become infected himself, his resistance having been lowered by illness.

Skin troubles and surgical conditions are rather different, but if at all possible a visit is always to be preferred, particularly with puppies. Every veterinary surgeon does his best to avoid infection at the surgery but it is not always possible, however careful he is.

If feasible, messages should be given early in the day. Sometimes people who wish the veterinary surgeon to call, delay 'phoning until the afternoon, yet still expect an immediate visit. In all probability your district has already been visited and the surgeon is miles away in the opposite direction. Of course it is not always possible to 'phone early the dog's condition may not warrant veterinary attention until late in the day, and accidents and whelpings happen at any time. Veterinary surgeons are reasonable beings, and are quite prepared for these events. The fact remains, however, that many calls which could have been made in the morning are not made until the day is well advanced, and it does help the veterinary surgeon to plan his work if he knows in good time where he will have to go.

Try to avoid ringing up in the evening unless yours is a real emergency; this particularly applies to calls late at night. It is easy to get into a panic in the wee small hours; things always seem much more alarming then, but try to refrain from rushing to the 'phone ten to one haste is quite unnecessary.

If you have a bitch who has difficult whelpings, make arrangements in advance and tell your veterinary surgeon when she is due to whelp.
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