When you walk into your veterinarian’s office with a sick dog, do you expect your veterinarian to be able to cure the problem? Most likely, yes. What if your pet is a python? Do you expect your vet to fix him, too? Yes, again. How about a fawn found alone and staggering in the woods? Yes, again? Really? Do you honestly think it’s realistic for us as pet owners to expect veterinarians to know everything about every illness and every injury in every animal species?
Consider that sick dog again. All general practice veterinarians know about dogs, right? No matter that dogs can fall victim to hundreds of different illnesses and injuries. No matter that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of different diagnostics and therapies available for veterinary use in dogs. Your vet should know them all, right? Wrong!
Time for a reality check, folks. Veterinarians aren’t omniscient. They aren’t living computers. They are well educated in basic animal physiology as well as routine diagnostics and treatments of common diseases in popular domestic animals. Some veterinarians pursue advanced training and certification in specialty areas of veterinary practice, but most don’t go beyond a standard, generalized veterinary education. They do, however, have access to many resources of veterinary information, and they attend professional seminars and conferences to stay connected and continually increase their knowledge base. In spite of their best efforts, though, veterinarians are only human, and they have only so much time away from patients to research diseases or pursue continuing education opportunities.
What does this mean for pet owners? In this age of the Internet, it means that we have nearly as much access to veterinary information and perhaps more time to research the diseases and injuries that befall our animal companions than do our veterinarians. It means that we can take a much more active role in the veterinary care of our pets than has ever been possible in the past. It means that our responsibility as pet owners has taken on a whole new dimension.
We should embrace this opportunity to become effective partners with our veterinarians, to learn about the medical concerns of our pets, and to expand our pets’ diagnostic and treatment options with authoritative information gleaned from the Internet and shared with our veterinarians. Of course pet owners should not expect our vets to dismiss their professional knowledge in lieu of the “miracle cure” touted on Betty Lou’s blog, but it is reasonable to expect our veterinarians to acknowledge Internet information from reliable veterinary sources or from those with extensive personal experience with a specific pet disease. An open-minded veterinarian will be willing to consider and discuss your research: research that may well improve the prognosis and quality of life of your pet.
Keep your expectations of your veterinarian realistic, and help him provide the best possible care for your pet. It’s a win-win-win proposition.