Why Your Veterinarian Can't Be Your Doctor

Vet and client
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I can’t tell you how many times people have told me, “I wish my own doctor were as good as my pet’s veterinarian.” And while we veterinarians certainly appreciate the compliment, there is an aspect of this admiration that we’re honestly not so grateful for: when our clients ask us to treat their maladies along with their pets’.

And yes, it happens pretty regularly, especially when medications are involved that are common in human and animal medicine alike, such as antibiotics and those that are frequently abused or sold, such as pain-control or “party” drugs.

Why Your Vet Won't Treat Your Rash

I don’t guess at motives and I don't judge, but I also won't treat the human members of my patients' families. In my head I give the person the benefit of the doubt, and figure they’re honestly looking to save some time and money by getting two family members treated in one visit. Who wouldn’t want a veterinarian on a family’s health care team, after all? We’re the birth-to-earth doctors, and the majority of us treat more than one species, handle emergencies and surgeries, and have a pretty good handle on most things human physicians would refer to specialists. (Yes, we refer, but much less often than in human medicine.) As my friends at the American Veterinary Medicine Association joked recently, in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse, having a veterinarian on your survival squad would really be a good thing. It’s even true that in the event of a non-Zombie disaster of large enough proportion, veterinarians are ready and willing to help in all ways, including patching up people, although that's the one species we're not licensed to treat.

But that still doesn’t mean I’m going to look at your rash and prescribe cephalexin for your "dog,” or give your "cat” an open-ended, high-count prescription for alprazolam, better known as Xanax. I don’t need to be worrying about my license to practice (which, when last I checked, was for veterinary medicine), and believe me, I have my hands full providing the best care I know how to give to my real patients: your pets.

So don’t ask. Call your own doctor. While I can’t guarantee he’ll be as useful as I might be in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse, I know he’s the best choice when it comes to caring for his species of choice: yours.

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