When Pets Get Sick, Are You Willing to Do What It Takes?

Cat being examined by a vet
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Chiwi is a Chihuahua. A very fat Chihuahua. Unfortunately, Chiwi can’t afford to be overweight. He’s had two bum knees for a year, and just last week he slipped a disc in his back. This collection of bad news means Chiwi likely won’t walk again without surgery, rehab and emergency weight loss.

For veterinarians, the C word isn’t always cancer. In many cases, it’s something far more complicated: compliance.

Simply put, compliance is the extent to which you, the pet owner, follows medical advice for your pet. It is a term laden with meaning, one that effectively asks you to be honest with yourself. Are you willing and able to do what it takes?

It's a Joint Effort

Though it might seem obvious to you, the reality is that it’s not always easy to answer this question in the affirmative. Doing what it takes to keep your pet as healthy as possible, especially in the face of a complicated set of problems like Chiwi’s, can be expensive, stressful, time-consuming and physically demanding.

Which explains why veterinarians have to walk a fine line when it comes to making recommendations. We can’t just make dictatorial pronouncements about what our patients need; we’ve got to understand our clients’ real-life limitations if we’re going to get to what’s best for each pet.

But getting that done isn’t always easy. That’s why we tend to follow some simple, collaborative steps when we approach our clients with recommendations for caring for their pets. I offer them here in the hopes that you'll feel more confident giving your veterinarian your input and, along with it, your compliance.

1. Honest questions, honest answers. “Can you manage the treatments I’ve just recommended? I know you must have your plate full, so I just want to be sure this schedule is realistic for you.”

Veterinarians are aware that not every client is capable of (or can afford) what we recommend. That’s why we have to be accommodating with our treatment plans. We don’t want to assume you can’t do what we’d like you to, but we have to let you know that you can be honest with us about what’s reasonable. 

Of course, this approach assumes you’ll reward our honesty with more of the same. Without it, your pet might not get what she needs.

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