My Veterinary Pact With You

Vet Shaking Hands

Successful relationships are based on clear expectations and commitments. For example, when I go to my favorite restaurant, I know I can expect their usual level of great service and delicious food. And the owners can expect that I’ll pay my tab, behave nicely and respect the “No shirt, no shoes, no service” sign. I hold up my end of the deal, knowing that they’ll hold up theirs, and vice versa. Same goes for my children’s day care. I bring my kids in clean, germ-free and with healthy lunches packed, and the staff does their part to make sure that my children are cared for, educated and looked after until I arrive on time to pick them up. We each know what to expect from the other. As a veterinarian, I had a brainstorm the other day: What if expectations between pet owners and veterinary teams were just as clear? We each have our needs, abilities, strengths and limitations. Would we understand each other better — and work better as a team to care for pets — if we agreed on what’s fair to expect of one another? I think we might. Here’s what I believe pet owners should expect from me — and what I hope I can expect from them in return:

  1. I, your pet’s veterinarian, promise that I will always act in your pet’s best interest. I’ll listen (I mean really listen) when you tell me what your concerns and questions are. In return, I ask that you remember that I am a human being, flaws and all. I have only two hands and one brain. At the end of the day, I have a family to go home to, too. I’m just a person, but I’ll be the person who puts your pet first whenever I see him or her.
  2. I promise always to keep learning and improving as a veterinarian. I ask that you also try to keep learning as a pet owner and follow the recommendations I give you.
  3. No matter what I have been through emotionally in a day, you can expect that I will give you a smile, my full attention and my best effort and advice. You and your pet deserve nothing less. You should also expect that sometimes, despite my best efforts, I may look like I’ve been through the wringer. This is because I probably have! We in veterinary medicine deal with death on a near-constant basis, and sometimes it takes a toll on us. If I look and maybe even act like I’m not my brightest, may I ask that you’ll forgive me and not take it personally? I’ll be back to my old self the next time.
  4. I promise not to hide from you in public because I can’t recall your name or I’m afraid you will ask me questions about a pet. In return, I’d be grateful if you could refrain from asking me about diarrhea, vomiting or anal glands when you see me dining.
  5. We have to tell each other the truth. If your Pug ate a bag of marijuana or you haven’t given your pet heartworm prevention in two years, I need to know. In return, I will not judge you or broadcast the information (unless you’re an animal abuser, in which case — you’re toast).
  6. If you will remember that medicine is (unfortunately) expensive, but that compared to human medicine, veterinary care is actually an amazing value, then I will do all I can to work within any financial constraints you have in the best interests of your pet.

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