Despite the outstanding care you provide your dog, it is sometimes necessary to consult with a veterinarian. This can often be a source of fear and aggravation as you might not always see eye to eye with your vet when it comes to nutrition, vaccines, treatments and/or the necessity of surgery. This is especially true if you are the type of dog owner who feeds raw, does not have complete faith in the safety or efficacy of vaccines, prefers herbs and homeopathy to drugs and fears the stress and invasiveness of elective surgery.
You may find yourself without access to a good holistic vet or in the hands of a holistic vet who falls back on drugs and surgery quicker than you would like. You might even find your area completely devoid of any holistic vets and that puts you in the uncomfortable position of consulting with a traditional vet. Regardless of which vet you have, sooner or later you and your vet will have differing opinions on what approach to take in treating your dog. In the event of disputes, how do you agree to disagree and still maintain a good relationship with your vet? Here are some tips that will help you to stick to your convictions but still maintain a good working relationship.
- If you do not already have a vet, you may want to consider joining a raw feeding or natural rearing group. Perhaps a member who lives in your area can recommend a good one. You can also ask other dog owners who you may meet at your local dog park, people out walking dogs or a member of your local kennel club or flyball team. Or you could find a natural rearing breeder in your area and ask her to recommend a vet.
- Once you have a recommendation, a background check with the state board and perhaps internet research on reviews for the vet and his clinic will provide you with a little more information.
- Before visiting your new vet, it is a good idea to arm yourself with knowledge about the benefits of raw feeding, the benefits and basics of natural treatments and the risks of vaccination. If your vet then questions you in a pressure filled moment, your answers will be well rehearsed. The vet will be more likely to respond to you positively if you have done your homework. You will learn that it is easier to make a stand if you are prepared in advance for any situation.
- Once you have selected a potential vet you may want to make an appointment for a general office visit to introduce yourself and your dog. At this time you can check out the cleanliness of the facility, how the vet and staff interact with you and your dog, and whether your dog is comfortable in the clinic. Don’t be afraid to tell the vet about your health care preferences and pay attention to how receptive he is of your choices. He doesn’t have to fully embrace natural health care, but he should be respectful of your choices.
- Take note of the following while you are in the clinic. Does the vet consult with you on treatment options? Does she provide time for you to make treatment decisions or do you feel pressured into immediate action? Does the vet offer various options for you to consider or does he just recommend one treatment plan? Does she agree to not provide treatment without you being present? Does he discuss both the risks and the benefits of all treatments? If you find you are answering no to more than one of these questions, then you might want to seek out another vet.
- If your vet doesn’t agree with your decision of feeding your dog raw, that is not necessarily a deal breaker. He should however respect your decision, especially if your dog is active, shows no signs of ill health and looks in optimum shape. Try not to discuss your dog’s diet on a constant basis: mention it once or twice in passing and then let it go. Discuss other topics with your vet to build a rapport so that she does not feel threatened or preached to. In fact, once your vet is comfortable, she may surprise you and begin to ask questions about the raw diet.
- If your vet does not agree with you about vaccination, you may still be able to work with him. Be prepared for a guilt trip and stories of all the dogs he has seen die of parvo, lepto, or whatever vaccine is on the table. This is where your wealth of knowledge about the dangers of vaccines will come in handy: it will provide you with the strength to say no nicely but not defensively. You can simply say no thanks or you can say he has given you something to think about and just not mention it again. Some prefer the direct approach while others may feel uncomfortable just saying no. Either way, your vet will soon catch on to your wishes. Know your stance on vaccines before you go to the clinic and if you feel yourself caving, remember that vaccines will always be available but once you vaccinate you can’t undo any damage done. Never feel like you have to decide on the spot. If your vet is willing to work with you, he will respect your decision to take time to evaluate any offered treatment.
- Regardless of what your vet or her staff may tell you, vaccines are not compulsory. The only exception is rabies. Once again, education is your friend and you would be wise to know what your state, provincial or county laws are in regard to rabies vaccination. Go directly to the source and do not rely on your vet to tell you whether a one year or three year rabies is required in your county. Many vets will offer exemption letters and/or titers and most states and counties will accept them. Needless to say, a vet who will write an exemption letter is a very good find!
- When it comes to treatment and surgical decisions, your vet should be able to sit down and explain exactly what health issue your dog may have, what the implications are for his health, which treatment options are available and the risks and benefits of each treatment. If you suspect that there might be a holistic treatment your vet has overlooked, you may want tell him that you would like to think over the options and will reschedule for a later date. This buys you the time to consider any herbs, homeopathic remedies or other holistic modalities that can help your dog. If your vet is not supportive of alternative methods, you do not necessarily have to let her know about your intentions. You should just inform her that you need to think it over or you need to consult with your partner/spouse. In the event that she is supportive of holistic treatments, you can inform her that you prefer to try the natural route before considering any allopathic treatments and share your research with her. Remember again that allopathic medication is readily available and, once given, there is no turning back so take the time to research possible holistic cures and present them to your vet before falling back on drugs or surgery.
Just because you and your vet may not see eye to eye on every issue does not mean that you can’t work together. You must firmly and consistently assure your vet that you are going to take an educated and active role in your dog’s health care. Remember, it is you and your dog who must live with the consequences of treatment, not your vet, so make an effort to become an educated advocate for your dog. You vet should always be working with you, not against you: it is you paying for her services. Treat her with respect but never be afraid to become more of an equal partner in the relationship. Once your vet understands you, she will be more willing to treat you as an
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