If your pup has previously growled or attempted to bite in a clinic setting, it is vital that you divulge this information. Trust me, withholding such important information is the quickest, most effective way to alienate yourself from an entire staff, and you will not be welcomed back. The flip side of this coin is that veterinarians have nothing but respect for the client who brings along a muzzle that’s just the right fit.
A dog acts out of character in a hospital setting for a number of reasons. Pain, fear, a bad experience or the need to protect their human can all provoke aggression. Fortunately, there are many humane ways to work effectively with an aggressive dog: chemical sedation or muzzling is a reasonable option. Sometimes, simply separating a dog from his human subdues this aggressive tendency. Restraining with brute force (a.k.a. “brutacaine”) is never warranted.
IV: Thou shalt provide information.
The “history” of your dog’s health, past and present, is exceedingly important, more so than many people realize. This often provides more clues for a correct diagnosis than the actual physical examination. Your vet will want to know if you’ve seen any changes in behavior, appetite, thirst or energy. Report any vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, sneezing, decrease in stamina, or change in bladder or bowel habits. Do some sleuthing on the home front.
Medication and Diet
Bring your dog’s current medication to every visit, so drugs and dosages can be confirmed. Your veterinarian will want the name and strength of the drug, not just a description of the tablet. (Many medications come in the form of small, round, blue pills!) All too frequently, we come across a prescription that has been dispensed, or is being administered, incorrectly.
And, know the brand name of the food your pup eats. The color of the bag and name of the store where it was purchased simply won’t give your veterinarian adequate information.
Prior Medical Conditions
First-time visitors to a vet clinic should have in hand their dog’s vaccination history as well as any medical records, laboratory test results and X-rays that pertain to prior problems. If your dog’s recent symptoms or medical history are somewhat complex, it helps to see a concise written summary of events. For example, when your dog has had a seizure disorder for the past nine months, providing a journal of the dates and duration of the seizures might be extremely helpful. By the same token, it is possible to provide too much information. I once received an inch-thick log of many months’ worth of a patient’s bowel movements—including weights and lengths (I couldn’t possibly make this stuff up).
V: Thou shalt confess everything.
If your dog has trained you to feed him nothing but table food; if you have been sharing your own prescription medication with your pooch; if he fell out of the back of a pickup truck because he was not properly tethered; even if he has just eaten a plate of marijuana-laden brownies—you must force yourself to rise above any embarrassment or awkwardness and be truthful with your veterinarian.
I once had to confess to a large-animal vet that I’d fed rhododendron trimmings to my goats. Rhododendrons are toxic to goats, causing terrible abdominal distress—something every veterinarian learns in school, but I’d somehow managed to forget. Ingestion requires immediate and specific therapy, so my confession facilitated my goats’ complete recovery, thank goodness. I still feel a wee bit embarrassed when I cross paths with the vet who saved them. Ah, the things that keep us humble!
VI: Thou shalt pause for confusion.
It is just about impossible to do a reasonable advocacy job if you don’t understand what your vet says. As the saying goes, “What we don’t understand, we can make mean anything.”