Taking our precious fur-babies to the vet can be a nerve-wracking experience at the best of times, but what do we do when we don’t see eye to eye with the doctor? Today we’d like to share a personal story in case any of you find yourselves in this position in hopes that it helps you navigate a disagreement with your vet.
About four months ago our family changed vets due to a move. As much as we loved our previous vet, the physical move made visiting that clinic impossible, so we researched, read all sorts of reviews and chose a new health care team for our puppers.
We took our eldest, a spry poodle-mix of 10-years-old, into the new vet for a basic annual checkup — booster shots, blood-work, the usual. Before our appointment we forwarded all of our pupper’s health records to the new team so they could be as informed as possible about her wellness and history.
The visit started nicely. The vet in question was kind and chatty and attentive to our little noodle. We consented to the standard booster shots that were advised and they were administered gently. But then things took what felt like an odd turn.
WHEN THINGS STARTED TO FEEL ODD
We asked for the vet’s recommendation regarding senior dog food and if we should put our 10-year-old onto a new formula. We were then bombarded with information — studies, stats, behind-the-scenes information about how pet food is manufactured, a million risks, personal anecdotes etc. Appreciative of the fact that we are not certified animal health or medical experts, we politely asked the vet if they could break down what they were saying into simpler terms so we could deduce an answer to our question.
We asked for the top three pros and cons of providing a senior dog with a senior formula, but once again were bombarded with a flurry of frantically delivered information that didn’t really get to any clear point. We found this odd because in nearly a decade of taking our dog to the vet we had never encountered not understanding a vet before. No matter — we assumed we were tired and perhaps not focusing. We moved on.
WHEN A GUT-FEELING KICKS IN
The vet examined our little one’s teeth next and we were informed that she needed a teeth cleaning and that she needed a back tooth extracted. We discussed the options — once again feeling overwhelmed with excessively roundabout information from the expert in the room.
Once again we asked for the vet to please slow down and walk us through the requirements of this procedure step by step and once again we continued to feel lost. The explanations provided were chaotic, bouncing from tangent to tangent and getting more and more complex and tangled. We sighed and shrugged it off, again, assuming that the issue was our fault for not understanding. It must be a clash of personalities, we thought. No problem, that happens sometimes in life.
A quote was then provided — $2000+ for the extraction. We were flabbergasted at the figure to be honest, but accepted it graciously, trusting that the vet knew best.
WHEN WE KNEW SOMETHING WAS WRONG
But then, at the very end of the exam, once our pup was off the table and on the floor, the vet was recapping the quote for a single tooth extraction and casually added, “And we’ll have to remove her lower front teeth as well because of that under-bite.”
Our smile faded. The vet had not even touched or breathed a word about our dog’s under-bite until now.
“What do you mean?” we asked.
“Well lower teeth like that can sometimes be an issue,” they replied.
“ARE they an issue?” we asked. The red flags were popping up. “Because they have not been an issue her entire life and you didn’t look at them during the exam, just the back teeth.”
The vet quickly crouched down, pressed on our dog’s lower teeth for a split second and stood back up again. “Oh, they seem fine,” they mumbled.
We left the exam room, settled up for the appointment at the receptionist’s desk and left feeling extremely unsettled. The off-hand attempted “addition” to the quote for a non-existent issue seemed reckless and underhanded. It didn’t feel right, which then made us have doubts about the quote that was provided. It was an odd feeling; feeling in disagreement with your vet was unsettling and anxiety inducing.
WHAT WE DID NEXT
We made two appointments at two different vet clinics in the following two weeks. This time we asked for personal recommendations from friends and community boards online in the new neighbourhood in addition to doing our own researching and reading reviews.
We forwarded each clinic all of our dog’s vet records, including the recent boosters that were administered. However, we did not mention anything about our dog’s dental state that was mentioned by the vet we were unsure about — the idea being we wanted a clear, unbiased second opinion.
At both clinics the vets told us that her teeth looked good! That plaque build up was minimal (we do brush our pup’s teeth) but that we would want to keep an eye on the plaque as she aged. We then specifically requested that they exam her back teeth more closely to ensure that all the back teeth were in good health — and both vets obliged and said that her back teeth looked great.
“Nothing needs to be extracted?” we asked, just to be sure.
“No,” they replied. “Why do you ask?”
We also asked about senior dog food options and were provided a comprehensive clear list of pros and cons for a variety of brands and formulas that we could readily understand.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU FEEL IN DISAGREEMENT WITH YOUR VET
The moral of the story is our gut was correct and we had a questionable experience with a vet. We are not saying that this was necessarily a bad vet or a corrupt vet, merely that it was not the best veterinary care fit for our dog and family. But we found a way to empower ourselves and find the right medical care for our beloved fur-baby. Here are a few things we learned:
1. ASK FOR CLARITY
If you aren’t understanding what is being communicated, ask directly and politely for clarity. Ask the vet to break down the information for you. Don’t be afraid to ask again if needed.
2. SEEK A SECOND OPINION
Take your pet to a second (or even third) vet for another opinion, quote or advice. It is your right to ask other certified experts for medical advice. This will be enlightening. It will either confirm the first recommendation or that other animal medical professionals are in disagreement with your vet.
3. ASK FOR A PERSONAL REFERRAL
Ask your friends and family with pets where they take their fur-babies for care. Chances are if your friends like their vet, you’ll like them too.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
Again, we ARE NOT saying that our experience was necessarily a bad vet or a corrupt vet. But it was not the best veterinary care fit for our dog and family. We wanted to share our experience in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation. If you feel uneasy or unsupported in your dog’s vet care, listen to your gut. There are incredible vets in the world to care for our pets and it’s up to us to find the best fit for our dog’s needs. So don’t be afraid if you feel in disagreement with your vet. There is always a way to navigate it.