– By Dr. Sangita Vengsarker-Shah
There are two great tragedies in a vet’s life. One is, knowing that even if you really love animals, that feeling is very often not going to be reciprocated (after all, if you were an animal, would you like somebody who prodded and poked you whenever you met him?). The second tragedy is that your patient can’t speak. And if that isn’t enough, there are pet owners who expect vets to have x-ray vision.
“So, Mr ABC, what’s wrong with your cat?”
“You should know, Dr. Vengsarker, you’re the vet.”
I often wonder if Mr ABC (and he really exists!) would go to his own doctor and say, “Here I am, tell me what’s wrong with me.”
Since animals cannot talk, it is entirely the owner’s duty to speak for them and help their vets diagnose and treat their pets’ ailments. This will save a lot of unnecessary problems, since diseases in animals can be correctly diagnosed only if an accurate history is obtained from the owner (history in this case means information about current and past illnesses).
As a first step, the person accompanying the pet must be familiar with the pet’s daily routine. This will enable her to answer questions like, “What did he eat today?”, “How much does he normally eat?”, “What was the colour of the urine?”.
At least for the first visit in any illness, it is important that the owner accompany the pet, however busy he or she may be. This will give the vet a chance to discuss the illness and the future course of action.
If the owner does not look after all the needs of the pet herself, she should gather the following information before leaving for the vet’s clinic:
- The pet’s diet.
- Appetite and thirst.
- Willingness to exercise and play.
- Colour, consistency and frequency of urine and stools.
- Any details of past illnesses.
Present all the information you have to your vet and let her judge what the chief complaint is. All too often, diseases are not properly diagnosed because the owner forgets to mention what he considers to be an insignificant symptom. For example, if a dog is not eating and passing urine frequently, the owner may be more concerned about the accompanying loss of appetite and overlook the latter symptom, which could actually signal the presence of a urinary tract infection, which, incidentally, has caused the dog to lose his appetite.
Whenever abnormal symptoms are present, it is important to state how long they have been present, whether the pet has been previously treated for the same and the names of the medicines in that treatment. Keep all this information in a diary or a file. In fact, a lot of vets themselves keep a record of their regular patients and you could find out if your vet has a recording or filing system.
On your part, you could make concise notes about the sequence of events in an illness – this will really help your vet, especially in a complex or prolonged illness.
All records of the pet’s vaccination status should be carefully maintained and made available if your vet asks for them. In situations where there is an abnormal weight loss or gain, keep a weekly record of your pet’s weight. Similarly, if there is an abnormal increase in thirst, you could keep a record of your pet’s daily intake of water.
Whenever it is not possible for the owner to accompany the pet, a written record of all the day’s symptoms should be sent along. This may be followed by a phone call to the vet, in case any further details are required.
When the vet gives you a prescription, make sure you understand all the details therein. Confirm the period of days for which the treatment must continue. On no account should you stop treatment or medication without consulting your vet just because you think your pet is better. Often illnesses may flare up again if the prescribed course is not completed. If it is easier to medicate your pet in a certain way, either by tablets or syrup, state your preference so that your vet can prescribe alternatives in that form, if available.
Please do not vary the treatment or add drugs on somebody else’s advice – you could risk damaging your pet’s health. And lastly, cooperate with your vet if she wants certain tests to be done – these are sometimes necessary to diagnose illnesses.
Following all these tips will go a long way in building a rapport with your vet and this in turn will definitely ensure better health care for your beloved pet.