How to Divorce Yourself from the Veterinarian
There are very few relationships a pet parent ever has with another human being when it comes to their dog’s well being outside of a veterinarian. It is therefore, incredibly difficult when one must make the concerted decision to divorce themselves from the vet. When a dog’s overall care and/or dedication and attention to that dog comes into question, it might be time to find a new veterinarian.
I know because I recently made the decision to find a new veterinarian for my dog. Despite being with the same veterinarian for a very long time, things changed at the practice, and I no longer felt like my dog’s best interests were being served. My inner “dog mom monitor” also went off, and experience has taught me never to ignore my gut. When I ignore the gut, it bites me in the butt. I am sure most folks reading this can relate to that.
Here’s how to know when it’s time to go [elsewhere] and what to do in order to make the switch, step by step.
When To Find a New Veterinarian
Lack of Compassion: Red flag alert. If the veterinarian considers being “rough” with the dog, treating him or her like an inanimate object, and/or believes that animals must be dominated: Run, don’t walk. I am not talking about unruly dogs here or dogs who need to be gently muzzled for the sake of the vet’s safety and their own. Unsavory, rude, heartless people, no matter their profession, do not deserve my business…nor should they be working with animals.
He (or She) Is Just Not That Into You: Not listening, not wanting to hear your take on things, being oblivious to your questions and/or concerns about your dog: Run, do not walk, far, far, away. Any relationship must be a two-way street in order for it to work. Even more so, your dog is a member of the family, and if you are like me, you love them dearly like a child. Your input and questions are not only needed, but essential for a dog’s good health. After all, who knows your dog better than you?
Not Keeping Up: Technology, medical advances, and better practices are all strongholds in veterinary medicine. I love it when a professional keeps current on advances in their respective field, especially when my dog’s life is quite literally in their hands. If your pet’s vet could care less about attending a seminar, taking a continuing ed credit, or simply keeping abreast of the changes taking place in their scope of practice, this could cost your dog dearly.
Personality Changes: We all have bad days and off moments: Veterinarians are human, too. However, any sort of lack of empathy for pets, any sort of personality sudden alterations, or anything that is upsetting to you or your pet on a consistent basis are justifiable reasons to bolt.
Sad Staff: Are the folks who work at the practice personable? Do they engage well with you, your pet, and the veterinarian? This is important for me: If the staff is unhappy, unpleasant, and/or rude, despite how fab the veterinarian is, I won’t stay. Neither should you. These people will care for your pet if there is a stay over. Again, we all have bad days: Crappy personalities have no place in veterinary medicine. Period.
Outdated Office: If the practice itself is unkempt, the premises or dirty, or you are not welcomed to see the facility, these are red flags. Granted, if surgeries or sensitive procedures are taking place, you may be restricted from these areas.
Smack Talk: If the vet is talking smack about clients to me, you can bet you’ll be part of that nonsense when he or she talks to other clients. I appreciate hearing stories about clients, how something helped a dog, didn’t help, etc., but gossip has no place in a professional environment where animals’ lives are at stake. Run far away.
Refusal for Referrals: Not giving a referral or otherwise being offended at the notion…or that of a second opinion…is a no no. I put myself in my dog’s pawprints: I would want a second opinion if something didn’t feel right as a human. And since my dog cannot talk to tell me these things, I need to be his advocate. I would most certainly want a referral since any general practitioner is not an expert at every specialty. If your vet is against either second opinion or referrals, say bye bye.
Harm, Neglect, or Gone Wrong: In no way, shape, or form should a vet harm an animal. If a surgical procedure has gone wrong and the way things are handled are upsetting to you, the communication is poor, and the reason for the botching is unclear, get gone fast.
Planning an Exit Strategy
At the last visit from my dog’s previous veterinarian, I was reassured with my own internal gut, that this was, indeed, the right decision.
1. Find a new veterinarian. In most cases, it is best to have a vet in place before leaving your dog’s current vet. Sounds like common sense, but if your dog has an emergency and you must see someone urgently, be sure to have a plan in place. Worst case scenario, know where an emergency facility is located until you get a new vet.
2. Get copies of your dog’s medical records. I have no problem asking for this, and as a paying client, it is your right to have access to them. You are legally entitled to these records, and your dog’s new veterinarian will need them. This is not a time to be shy or afraid to ask. Your dog’s health is more important than the ego of a veterinarian or what his or her staff may think. If you are asked why you are leaving or why you need the results, simply explain you are moving on. You need not give a long, detailed explanation unless you want to voice the reason.
Fidose Helpful Hint: Request copies of all your dog’s records after every vet visit. I keep a written journal of my dog’s health, even outside of vet visits. Dogs age faster than people, and as such, little changes may otherwise go unnoticed. Having a journal solves that issue. I had all of my dog’s records already intact, but I did request a formal copy of everything from day one, just in case. I’ve been doing this for 20+ years and it has served me well.
3. Medication Refills: Have your dog’s prescriptions filled or any heartworm or flea preventatives taken care of prior to departing. If you have a few weeks in between finding vets and need the meds, you won’t have to worry.
4. Don’t Be Hateful Online: Remember, that what you say online is part of your electronic thumbprint. If you review the practice on the vet’s Facebook page, be aware that the everyone can see that. Leave behind old baggage. If a veterinarian is breaching their oath of medicine or in any way endangering animals, let the proper authorities know.
How to Find a New Veterinarian
In a previous post on Fidose of Reality, we outlined the steps necessary to help find a new veterinarian for your dog.
In a continuing effort to bring our readers the full spectrum of information on health and wellness for dogs, Medicine Vs Mom is back! This is an ongoing series with our buddy, Rachel Sheppard, at My Kid Has Paws. Rachel is a former veterinary technician who is a pet parent and has a lot of experience working with animals. She has a post on the topic of divorcing yourself from the vet from a vet tech standpoint here.
Did you ever have the need to find a new vet? How did it go? Did we miss any tips?
Great post! Trust is definitely an issue with me and any sort of professional who will be working with my dogs, especially since I am so pro-positive reinforcement and my dogs are very, very sensitive. That being said, since I’ve worked in the industry I’ve seen what can go on behind closed doors and I could tell you stories. Definitely going with your gut about something not being right is important. I also don’t let them take my dogs away for any minor procedures. They are all done in front of me. The vet I go to, I worked with for 2 years and I trust him but not his staff.
You know, that is so true. And there tends to be a steady turnover rate with vet techs. At the new practice, the gals there have been with the vet for a long time so that gave me some reassurance. However, I am one of those people who wants to be there for minor procedures. Plus my dog is calmer. Glad to hear you share this, Lauren.
When you get that feeling in your gut, you need to go with it. Sounds like you made the right decision.
Yes it broke my heart after so many years but when the dog’s well being is at stake, you are so right, Robin: go with the gut.
I have to admit we missed our vet check up this year but both fur babies are doing great so I’m dealing with it.
It is probably a good idea to have them see the vet and get a blood work baseline. My last dog was fine and looked great, but blood work said otherwise. Thankfully, they caught it in time, and we corrected the issue.
That is great advice. I think it is hard to make changes for switching to a new physician also.
Oh goodness yes, and I have been down that road with getting a new doctor many years ago. No fun.
I really like this article. It is so hard to find a veterinarian that you can trust with your fur kid. I’ve been to many different vets over the years and finally found one that I am comfortable with knowing my dogs are in good hands. I trust her explicitly. I like your helpful hints you provided in this article especially the medication refills. I never thought of doing that when I left the last practice; I wish I had. Also, the reasons you listed to leave a vet are spot on. Some of those were definitely reasons I left vets over the years. Good article for anyone who is looking for a vet or changing vets.
Thanks, Elizabeth. It is hard to find a good vet you really connect with, so it sounds like you did.
i had a problem with a vet i had been going to for over 10 plus yrs. i had complained b4 b/c i had requested to only see the head vet, who was the homeopathic vet and the owner. i did not like the other vets in the practice there were several kickers. when my oldest had reactions to bordetella which i no longer do and she got very ill and had to be sent to the vet school for 5 days. then i had another problems where this same dog who had bumps on her. i wanted them checked out and she refused. the bumps got bigger and changed shapes. she finally said she would do biopsies to satisfy me. she told me the reports came back negative, which was not the case. the report stated they needed to be removed and biopsied again. by this time the insurance would not pay for the surgery. so i had them removed and the reports did come back negative. however, it was in my dog’s best interest to have had them removed to begin with since min. schnauzer are known to have problems with developing bumps and you never know it they are cancerous or not. then the baby, who is now 5, had a loose front tooth when she was almost one. the vet said she had gum disease. i questioned how could she have gum disease and you never said anything. you have been seeing her since she was 8 wks old. they also got mad at me b/c i refused to do the rabies vac until she was over 18 wks. they said what if she bit someone and they would sue me, etc. she only weighed a little over 5 lbs then and was a very good girl. they tried to charge me extra b/c i refused to have the rabies vac at 12 wks. i was pissed. then she told me she would have to pull abt 10 teeth. i was outraged. i went home and found a dental specialist in greensboro and he saved all but her 2 back teeth. he did graphs and root planing. he said the teeth that the other vet were bad were not and going only by xrays does not give you a good view of what is going on. i had another problem in trying to the xrays, they did not have to put her under which they did, and refused to do the something else she needed while she was under which i had asked for as well. that was it. so i go to another vet. i wrote this vet, the owner a very long detailed letter. she never responded. she had one of her assistants to send me an email stating she was sorry that they did not meet my needs any longer. that was it. i had sent her a mailed long letter and she did not even have the decency to call me or write me. i got all of the medical records for all 3 gals. i was shocked when i saw the records. i was pissed. i get the records on all of my gals. luckily i found another homeopathic vet not in my immediate area and i drive over 90 miles one way to see the dental vet, who started the dental dept at the vet school. i am very particular abt my girls. i have been to over 10 vets plus in my area since 2001 and will change at the least little problem.
It is so sad how some people in this professional (and any professional) have zero ethics. I am glad you found someone you like.
I posted about veterinarians today too! We found out about AAHA at the Las Vegas BlogPAws conference. I came home and immediately found an accredited hospital in my city. The difference is astonishing.
Yes having a good vet makes all the difference in the world – will stop by your blog 😉
Very good article, we did this to a vet in 2009, she gave us some very bad advice.
Love our vet, Dr John Calhoun and his staff
SO glad you found a vet you trust. We recently switched and had one visit, so we have our paws crossed. He was very nice, kind, and knowledgeable so time will tell.
This is such a helpful post. It’s definitely one of those important relationships considering I’m my pet’s best advocate. Thankfully, we’ve been really happy with our vet and hope it continues that way.
Spot on – we are our pet’s advocates. Thanks, Jessica.
We had to switch veternarians not too long ago. Our new one is always up on the latest info about pet health.
This is such an important article and should be read by all pet parents. When my now husband, then boyfriend, rescued his first dog, I took Howie to the vet for Brian. The vet sold me everything under the sun and like a dummy I walked out with everything. When I brought Howie and everything we bought home to Brian, Brian lost it. He called the vet group and let them know not only would we not be coming back but that I was on my way back to return everything. The vet practice was more concerned about their billing goals than our dogs care. From that moment forward, we took Howie to my preferred vet who is more interested in each pets care than in the groups gross billing.
Great post. I love all the tips for what to do and the WHY you should find a new vet. I’m glad I haven’t had to do this yet, but glad to have the to do list if it should ever come to that.
Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Those are some great points. We find ourselves in a unique situation from alot of people. We have one vet that is 20 miles away and no others within 50 miles. Not super impressed with the “local” one, but want to be able to go there in an emergency because the others are so far. We keep up a working relationship with the local vet but watch very closely and go to another vet for more complicated stuff. It’s not ideal. Very important to pay attention and be your pet’s advocate.
Seems very similar to switching doctors actually. We rarely see the vet.
thanks for your tips! I am lucky enough to have found a great vet that passes all your tips!
Very good info. Copy of all records really helps.
Excellent advice Carol, thanks for sharing. These are definitely important tell-tale signs of a Vet that’s losing ground. When I had to change Vets because I didn’t like what was happening there, I simply walked away. I had detailed invoices and some of my own notes but I asked my new Vet to obtain the records from the old one. They had me sign a release, which they faxed over to them and voila! they had my pet’s records. It was super simple.
That is great, Cathy = and it is a good idea to keep those notes of your own, too 😉
Lack of Compassion is definitely a Red Flag when dealing with Pets .. why would they go into the field if they don’t plan on being kind? These are great tips
Those are some important things to consider. I could never settle for a vet who isn’t looking out for my pet’s best interests.
I am very lucky with my vet. I think he’s pretty great!
So true! Changing drs is always hard. Dogs or people.
These are great pieces of advice. The pet journal is an excellent idea (and could be done with kids too!)
These are so applicable to doctor and dentist offices too! We also switched vet offices and are very happy
I can’t even imagine the vet talking smack talk, oy! I guess no one is immune though.
I love our vet, and hope I never have to switch. But in the event that I would ever have to, this is great advice!
Wow, I never thought about a lot of these things. Great points, since we’re thinking about getting a puppy soon!
Love writing with you! Not keeping up with technology is huge! Although it may not impose your pet’s health right now, it can in the future.
This is some great advice. It’s very important to have a well-rounded vet you can trust!
Good advice. Our old vet and his staff almost caused me to leave. I took Betsy in for surgery three years ago and when I picked her up and asked to speak to the vet, I was shocked to learn that the old vet suddenly retired and a new young vet had performed the surgery. I was livid! I did give the new vet and his wife (also a vet) a chance to prove themselves and I have not been sorry. They are very knowledgeable and they have “modernized” the practice which was previously stuck in the ’70s. They have been very upfront with me and my seven rescued cockers receive great care.
This is something I had to do as well a few years ago and I’m so glad that I switched vets. Haley and I both really liked our old vet. He was gentle and calm with her and she was relaxed when she had to visit. Unfortunately, the quality of care just wasn’t there and a lack of concern over a bump on her foot could have been devastating as it turned out to be cancerous (but treatable and local). Her new vet is an AAHA vet and it makes all the difference in her care.
It is pretty awkward breaking up with your vet, but the tips you shared should really help anyone currently questioning their vet’s quality of care or compassion. Great post, Carol! 🙂
My little pup is pounds full grown. I often worry about her. Her vet has always been amazing easing my fears and ansering my questions.