Calming your vet visit worries

dog at the vet

Sometimes people worry about going to the veterinarian for a variety of reasons that are tangential to their veterinary visit, so I wanted to give a veterinarian’s perspective on these situations.

“I have rescheduled my euthanasia three times and I’m annoying my vet.”

I feel so bad when clients worry about inconveniencing their veterinarian during this really stressful and emotional time. Pet owners in this situation should know that veterinarians understand and don’t care if you book and cancel your pet’s euthanasia multiple times.

We understand that there is a lot of guilt associated with making this choice. And it is very common for animals to rally for a day, making it seem like it’s a sign that it’s not time, or possibly that even the animal will get better.

Please know that during this very difficult time, it is OK to not be decisive.

“I can’t afford the treatment my vet recommends, but I don’t want to tell her.”

Veterinarians want clients to be honest about all of the barriers to care.

It sometimes happens that I outline a diagnostic and treatment plan for a client and the client is afraid to tell me that the plan is too expensive for them. Either they don’t want to disappoint me or are embarrassed that the bill will have such an impact on their personal finances.

If we don’t have a conversation about money at the beginning, then the veterinarian leaves the exam room thinking that they are doing a good job, and the client leaves the exam room feeling a variety of different ways: tricked, mad, embarrassed, inferior. Money can create a lot of stress at veterinary visits.

It is both the client and veterinarian’s responsibility to talk about the cost of the visit. If the cost of a veterinary visit is weighing on you prior to coming in, bring that concern up with the other reasons for the visit. Use the words “I am also worried about money right now.”

Veterinarians can work with you to make the visit less expensive. For sick animals, that sometimes means doing tests in a stepwise fashion instead of all at once, or it can mean sending lab work out and getting the results the next day instead of the day of the visit.

Depending on the urgency of the situation, we may try some treatments first instead of doing some tests. Or we may need to discuss a payment plan like Care Credit.

Sharing with your veterinarian any financial constraints you may have will ultimately help with coming up with a plan everyone is comfortable with. Most important, veterinarians understand that health care can be expensive, and we want to find a good solution that is right for you.

“My vet doesn’t like my animal.”

Usually this feeling arises when a visit doesn’t go well because the animal became fearful and uncooperative or aggressive at the clinic.

Coming to the vet can be a very stress-inducing situation for many animals. At Westgate, we try hard to “bribe” our patients into liking us, but there are times that animals are just too suspicious of our good intentions to be cooperative.

Veterinarians don’t dislike fractious animals. The only frustration that comes with dealing with an animal that becomes aggressive at the vet is if we don’t have a plan ahead of time about how to manage a nervous animal. The two biggest worries on the vet’s side are if we don’t have enough time booked for the visit or if the client objects to sedatives for their anxious pet.

Veterinarians know and have empathy for the fact that uncooperative animals are scared. From a practical standpoint however, a scared animal that is becoming aggressive can seriously injure someone on the veterinary staff. The most important thing is to have a plan in place for the visit ahead of time.

If you know that your animal gets anxious at the vet, it is best to have a discussion with the veterinarian before the visit even happens. Then we can plan enough time for the visit, discuss how the animal will get into the clinic with the least amount of stress, discuss whether or not a sedative prior to the visit is appropriate and what type of tests or treatments we think we might need to do.

Sometimes for nervous animals, we can only do one thing each visit before it’s time to call it quits for the day. Everyone needs to be OK with that, and it’s better to not push an animal to the point that its anxiety worsens with each visit.

If expectations are managed ahead of time, everyone will leave a visit with a feeling of success.

“I think my vet doesn’t like me.”

It is important that you find a vet that matches with you in terms of your view on pet ownership and philosophy on health care.

Clients and veterinarians have a variety of different views on the best way to manage a pet’s health. If a client who wants to focus on quality of life gets matched with a veterinarian who is focused on extending life, that relationship might become contentious, because the client and veterinarian may have trouble understanding the other viewpoint.

Veterinarians encounter a lot of different people, and successful veterinarians try to meet the client at their level and help the client achieve their goals for the animal. But there are times where a relationship is just not a good fit and it’s better to see a different veterinarian.

“I haven’t given the pills my vet told me to give.”

Unless your pet will readily take pills in a treat, it is a pain to give medications to your animal. Veterinarians understand that.

It is important to be honest with your vet about what medications your animal actually received. This is especially important if your animal isn’t getting better.

Clients are often nervous to tell their veterinarian that they didn’t give a medication. In the end this negatively impacts your animal’s health.

How an animal responds to a treatment is a diagnostic test in and of itself. If the veterinarian believes that their treatment plan failed when in actuality the treatment plan was not executed, this may lead the veterinarian to make a different diagnosis or assumption about your pet’s condition.

Clients will sometimes get irritated at the vet because they prescribed “an expensive pill” that got wasted because the animal kept spitting it out. Your pet will receive the best care if you tell your veterinarian exactly what happened with the medication that was prescribed, and if giving pills isn’t working, we can brainstorm alternatives.

“My animal stresses me out.”

I have had some clients that I know feel very trapped in a relationship with their pet. Usually it’s because the animal is exhibiting a behavior that the owner really doesn’t like, like reactive barking.

When an animal is exhibiting behaviors that really get under the owner’s skin, the owners often make the behavior worse be reacting in an unproductive way, like yelling at the dog that is barking, for example. Now this relationship is no fun for either owner or dog.

Relationships, whether human-to-human or human-to-animal, require work and understanding. Talking to a professional is very helpful.

For simple problems, start by consulting your family veterinarian. If the problem is more complex, or if there is concern for injury to a person or another animal, your vet may recommend that you see a behavior specialist.

It is OK to spend money on counseling. Think of it as buying happiness.

Most animals live 10–12 years or more. You don’t have to just live with a situation in which you don’t have a good relationship with your pet.