by Barry B. Burtis D.V.M.
Communication with Your Veterinarian
Everyone realizes the task of the veterinarian, in providing health care for a pet, is a bit more challenging because it can't tell us where it hurts. Veterinarians are also unable to speak directly to their patients with advice concerning their health. The pet owner is the middle man (or middle person). We rely on you, the pet owner, to give us accurate, detailed information about your pet and you must hear and understand what we tell you about your pet. Good communication is vital in many aspects of life. Good communication between a veterinarian and a client on behalf of a pet is certainly of great importance. Here are some tips to help in achieving effective communication with the animal doctor.
1) If you are visiting because of a sick pet, don't be afraid to ask at the outset, after the examination, about the prognosis. Your first concern will be about the well-being of your pet. You will listen much better and understand more completely when your anxiety is lessened.
2) If you are familiar with a health problem share this information with your veterinarian. For example, if the discussion is about diabetes and you have a family member who is diabetic, the veterinarian should be told. It will make for a more meaningful and less repetitive explanation of the disorder.
3) If the veterinarian is using medical jargon in the consultation, it is quite appropriate to ask for clarification of terms that are confusing or unfamiliar to you. For most clients, "heart" is better understood than "cardiac", "liver" makes more sense than "hepatic". It is not unfair to expect some effort from the veterinarian to do this.
4) Ask how the signs and symptoms you have noticed in your pet relate to the normal function and disease processes in the organ or body system that is affected in your pet.
5) It is often helpful to see models, diagrams, handouts or other educational materials that better illustrate conditions that may affect your pet. If they are available, ask to see them.
6) When treatment options are outlined to you, try to have them connected to normal function and what effect they will have on the symptoms your pet is exhibiting.
7) It is quite alright to ask to have portions of the discussion repeated. Remember, the veterinarian may have explained the nature of ear problems that affect dogs many times. But, it may be the first time you have ever heard about such things. You may very well need to hear some parts of the description a second time.
8) It may take some time to assimilate new information that you receive. You may think of a question you forgot to ask during the consult. Your veterinarian should be very willing to help with questions that you or other family members may have about the pet later or even the next day.
9) Never be afraid to ask how you could learn more or get more information about matters that affect your pet's health.
10) If you really need more time to make a decision about the health care of your pet, say so. It is not often that instant decisions or immediate actions must be taken. A bit of time may be important in resolving any outstanding issues.
Communication really is a two-way street. You and your veterinarian both need to work towards achieving excellence with it. Your pet's health depends on it.