50 Things Your Veterinarian Won’t Tell You
We asked veterinarians and vet technicians to reveal pet vet tips and cautionary tales, which can save time, trouble, and trauma for everyone in the family.
By Michelle Crouch from Reader's Digest | May 2012
GK Hart/Vikki Hart/Getty Images
"We're a vet hospital, not a dog hotel."
1. “People always ask, ‘How do you handle pit bulls and rottweilers and big German shepherds?’ The truth is, the dogs that scare me most are the little Chihuahuas. They’re much more likely to bite.”—Mark Howes, DVM, owner and medical director of Berglund Animal Hospital in Evanston, Illinois
2. "We know when you’re twisting the facts. If your dog has a five-pound tumor hanging from his skin, please don’t tell me it wasn’t there yesterday.”—Phil Zeltzman, DVM, a traveling veterinary surgeon in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and the author of Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound.
3. “Most hospitals keep comprehensive records of behavior—of both your pet and you! If you are aggressive to the staff, you will be treated differently.”—Oscar Chavez, DVM, program director for the vet tech program at California Polytechnic State University in Pomona, California.
4. “Looking for a way to say thank you to your vet? Last year, one pet owner gave us a check for $100, saying we could use it at our discretion for an animal in need. That was a wonderful gift.”—Patty Khuly, VMD, a vet in Miami, Florida.
5. “We’re a vet hospital, not a dog hotel. People will get upset because their dog got a sheet instead of two fluffy blankets or because their dog didn’t get hand-fed. We’re just trying to get your dog better so he can come home and you can spoil him.”—Jessica Stout-Harris, a vet tech who runs confessionsfromtheanimalshelter.com.
“The reason your pet is fat is because you are too."
6. “The reason your pet is fat is because you are too. I would never say that to someone in an exam room, but the fact of the matter is, if you have an owner who overeats and is inactive, they are very likely to have an obese pet.”—Oscar Chavez, DVM.
7. “Here’s a pet peeve: owners who don’t want to pay for diagnostic tests but then cop an attitude because you don’t know what’s wrong with the animal. Since you wouldn’t let me do the blood work or X-rays, how the heck do you expect me to know?”—A vet in South Carolina.
8. “If you’re visiting your pet in the hospital, and we say something along the lines of ‘OK, it’s time to let Fluffy sleep now,’ often what we really mean is that you’re in our way, and we’re trying to treat other patients.”—Jessica Stout-Harris.
9. “I understand the value of dog parks, but I personally wouldn’t take my dog there. We see a lot of dogs who were injured at dog parks.”—Rachel Simpson, a vet tech at Adobe Animal Hospital in Los Altos, California.
10. “Every time I save a life, every time I fix a patient, that makes everything worth it. And I love it when a client says, ‘I wish my physician would treat me as nice as you treat my pets.’”—Phil Zeltzman, DVM.
"They still don’t use painkillers."
11. “A lot of veterinarians have told me matter-of-factly that they still don’t use painkillers for procedures that we know are painful. They think that dogs and cats don’t need it or that feeling pain after surgery is good because it keeps them from moving around too much. But research has shown that pets who are in less pain heal faster, sleep better, and don’t move around as much.”—Dennis Leon, DVM, director at Levittown Animal Hospital in Long Island, New York.
12. “At a veterinary meeting I attended, it came to light that more than half the vets there had not licensed their dogs, which is required by local law.”—Patty Khuly, VMD.
13. “You should never give pets chocolate, because it’s toxic to most of them. But my cat is obsessed with it and is all over me when I’m eating it, so sometimes I give her a sliver. Just an itsy-bitsy, tiny one.”—A vet in California.
14. “Every time we help a pet, we help a person. The classic example is the 80-year-old grandma who has nothing in life but her cat. She’s a widow with very limited social contact, and the cat is what connects her to life. So when we help her cat, she’s really the one we’re helping.”—Phil Zeltzman, DVM.
15. “When people surrender their pets because they can’t afford their problems, I often end up with them. I’ve got a three-legged cat, a one-eyed cat, three dogs that required major surgeries, one goat, and 11 chickens.”—Patty Khuly, VMD.
©2009 Jupiterimages Corporation
"Your vet may not have gotten into vet school."
16. “Sometimes we do things for free, just because we want to help the pet.”—Sandy Willis, DVM, DACVIM, an internal medicine consultant in Seattle, Washington.
17. “New staff or training students sometimes practice injections or catheter placements on your pet. If you’d rather not allow your pet to be used this way, make sure you say something beforehand.”—Oscar Chavez, DVM.
18. “I’ll let you in on the secret of no-kill shelters: We had a contract with our local Humane Society that stated we’d euthanize the animals in their care that needed to be put down. One Sunday, they sent us 72 cats to put down. By the end, we were all emotionally devastated.”—Jessica Stout-Harris.
19. “Behavior issues are the No. 1 cause of pet re-homing, euthanasia, and death. Yet, because it’s not medical, most of us don’t learn much about that in veterinary school.”—Oscar Chavez, DVM.
20. “Your vet may not have gotten into vet school! Vets who can’t get into traditional U.S. veterinary programs due to bad grades and poor test scores often go to for-profit schools in the Caribbean, where, basically, if you can pay the tuition, you get in.”—A vet in California.
"Your $2,000 designer dog is still a mutt."
21. “No regulation says vets have to check certain lists before
they euthanize an animal, and lots of vets still do convenience
euthanasia for owners who prefer the easy way out. We see a lot of
euthanasia in November and December, for example, just because people
are getting ready for the holidays. I refuse to do it.”—Oscar Chavez, DVM.
22. “I hate to break it to you, but your $2,000 designer dog is a mutt. Puppy stores and breeders have created these cute names like Morkipoos and Puggles, and now people are paying $2,000 for a dog they couldn’t give away at the pound ten years ago. Whoever started the trend is a marketing genius.”—Dennis Leon, DVM.
23. "I hate retractable leashes. The stopping mechanism pops open so easily, and suddenly the pet is flying to the end of it, and maybe it’s into the street or into the jaws of another dog. I’ve had people bring in a pet who got hit by a car because they were using a retractable leash and the stopping mechanism broke.”—Bernadine Cruz, DVM, associate vet at
Laguna Hills Animal Hospital in Laguna Woods, California.
24. “Even though you see vitamins on the shelves in pet stores, healthy pets don’t need them. The pet food companies have spent billions of dollars to make sure their food is properly balanced with every vitamin and mineral a pet needs.”—A vet in California.
25. “Some people are really into a raw-food diet for pets, but it’s a huge public health hazard. Think about it: You have raw meat, you’re touching it, your dog touches it, and then your dog goes and licks the baby. I’ve had two patients die and two patients get really sick from it.”—Amber Andersen, DVM, a vet at Point Vicente Animal Hospital in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.
"If your animal is really sick, it’s better to bring him in during the morning."
26. “The cheaper, over-the-counter spot-on flea and tick treatments are extremely dangerous. I’ve seen animals having violent seizures after using them; I’ve seen animals die. Ironically, most of these animals still have live fleas crawling all over them.”—A vet in California.
27. “After their kitten vaccinations, indoor cats don’t really need to be vaccinated. They’re not going to get rabies sitting inside the house. Vaccines have the potential to create a lot of harm for cats, including possible tumors at the vaccine site.”—Jill Elliot, DVM, owner of Holistic Vet in New York and New Jersey.
28. “A cold, wet nose on a dog does not necessarily mean he’s healthy. I’ve seen plenty of sick dogs with wet noses.”—Mark Howes, DVM.
29. “The biggest mistake pet owners make is calling the vet too late. Pets rarely get colds or the flu, and they almost never get food poisoning. So if they’re sick for more than a day, call us.”—Sandy Willis, DVM, DACVIM.
30. “If your animal is really sick, it’s better to bring him in during the morning. A vet I once worked with would do a huge workup when a sick animal came in early. But if the animal came in late in the day, the vet would actually encourage the owner to euthanize. But I would add that this is not common.”—A vet in South Carolina.
"Some places give half doses of vaccines instead of full doses."
31. “Unfortunately, I’ve had to work in low-cost clinics, and
many of them are cutting corners to make a profit. Some places give half
doses of vaccines instead of full doses, which is totally illegal and
ineffective.”—A vet in California.
32. “The vets who work for most corporate-owned vet hospitals are
paid monthly bonus checks based on how much money they bring in from
clients. So if it seems like you are paying more at one of those
hospitals, you likely are.”—Jessica Stout-Harris.
33. “Some people worry that paying for pet insurance will be a
waste if they don’t use it. But when you renew your fire insurance on
your house, do you say, ‘Shoot, my house didn’t burn down last year—I
wasted all that money’?”—Phil Zeltzman, DVM.
34. “If we wanted to go into it for the money, we’d have become human doctors.”—Oscar Chavez, DVM.
35. “Most vets put themselves through 8 to 12 years of school and
have huge student debts. We love animals and want to help them. Most of
us start our day early, finish late, and are available for
emergencies.”—Phil Zeltzman, DVM.
"Giving food is not giving love."
36. “When you’re looking for a new vet, always check out the staff. A lot of times they’ll be listed online. Look for technicians who are certified or licensed (they’ll have RVT, LVT or CVT after their names).”—MeiMei Welker, DVM,
outreach vet at DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital in Portland, Oregon.
37. “Giving food is not giving love. Obesity will hurt their health and decrease their life span. Instead, give affection. Pet them, brush them, love them, and walk them.”—Bernadine Cruz, DVM.
38. “Home cooking for your pet is harder than you think. I once saw a dog who was fed a home-cooked diet of chicken breast and vegetables for a year, and his bones became so weak that his jaw broke. If you would like to cook for your pet, find a veterinary nutritionist who can help guide you, or check out balanceit.com.”—Monica Revel, DVM, a vet in West Hollywood, California.
39. “One way to make sure your vet is up on the latest stuff? Ask what medications he uses for anesthesia. If he says he uses ketamine or halothane gas, that’s not good. That’s like 1970s medicine. Isoflurane and sevoflurane are a lot safer.”—Rachel Simpson.
40. “You can go to an online pharmacy and get the same exact drugs you would get from your vet for 10 to 20 percent off. But check first to make sure it’s certified as a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site (VIPPS certified). Some vets will also match online prices—you just have to know to ask.”—Patty Khuly, VMD.
"Don't ever share your medicines with your pets!"
41. “Just because a food is premium priced doesn’t mean it’s good
stuff. That’s especially true with many foods that come in those little
gourmet pouches or cans. You pay $3 a package, and it’s basically just
junk food with little nutritional value. Do some research, and have your
vet read the ingredients list with you.”—A vet in California.
42. “Some veterinary drugs have a generic version that’s made for
humans, and if your vet believes it’s a safe and effective alternative,
you can get it from a human pharmacy and pay ten times less than you’d
pay for the animal version. But recognize that there are legitimate
reasons why the generic might not be appropriate for your pet.”—Patty Khuly, VMD.
43. “Don’t ever share your medicines with your pets unless your vet says it’s OK. One Tylenol will likely kill a cat.” —Amber Andersen, DVM.
44. “Yes, dog whisperer Cesar Millan has turned some aggressive
dogs around, but—please—don’t train your dog that way. Using aggressive
tactics can cause serious behavior problems and may not be effective.”—A vet in California.
45. “A lot of pet medications are available at human pharmacies
for lower prices than we charge. Walgreens even has a list of veterinary
medicines for $4 per one-month dose. These are medicines that you would
pay $20 or $30 for at your vet.”—MeiMei Welker, DVM.
© Digital Vision/Photodisc/Thinkstock
"Maybe start with a goldfish?"
46. “Want to exercise your cat without getting off the couch? Get one of those little laser beams.”—Albert Ahn, DVM, a vet in Short Hills, New Jersey.
47. “I know you mean well when you vigorously lather your dog with shampoo and then vigorously rub him dry with the towel, but that can jam hairs under the skin like little splinters and cause horrible infections that are very painful. It’s especially a problem for short-coated dogs like Weimaraners, Boston terriers, pugs, Labs, and boxers.”—Nadine Znajda, DVM, a vet with BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Tampa, Florida.
48. “If the plaque sprays and dental water additives actually worked, none of us would be telling you to brush your pet’s teeth.”—Dennis Leon, DVM.
49. “Take your cat to the vet in a plastic cat carrier with a removable top, and have your vet remove the lid for the exam. Your pet will feel more secure and be less likely to fight or try to flee."—MeiMei Welker, DVM.
50. “If you live in a one-bedroom apartment with no patio and minimal space, and you’re gone ten hours a day at your job, a 100-pound Great Dane may not be the best choice for you. Maybe start with a goldfish?”—Amber Andersen, DVM.
Photo: Mary Sample
True tales from the experts
We couldn't make these up!
“I once had a dog responsible for a divorce. The dog came in and had
eaten something unusual. When we went into surgery, it turned out it was
a pair of women’s underwear. The owner insisted she wanted the
underwear back. We washed them and sent them home, and it turned out
they didn’t belong to the lady. They belonged to her husband’s
mistress."—Bernardine Cruz, DVM.
“A client came in with her poodle and warned us that the dog would bite.
She said that it would often corner her in a room at home, too, and
snarl and sometimes bite. I asked how she handled it, and she said,
‘Well, I started throwing food to get him away from me, and it worked.
So now I keep snacks in every room just in case.’ ‘So ... ,’ I asked
incredulously, ‘whenever he tries to attack you, you give him a treat?’
‘Yes,’ she answered, ‘and it works every time!’”—Dennis Leon, DVM.
“I had one client who got upset because her dog’s ear infection wasn’t
getting better. It turned out she was putting the oral tablets in the
dog’s ear canal. They were all stuffed in there. I wish I were making
this up.”—Rob Nathan, DVM, a vet at Sharon Center Veterinary Hospital in Medina, Ohio.