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How To Choose The Right Vet For Your Dog

When one takes a moment to think about it - perhaps the most difficult and agonizing decision to be made on behalf of your dog is choosing a vet. The first and most essential step is to educate your self on the dog and aspects such as diet, health care, behavioral problems, and emergency care. This will enable you to understand what the vet is saying and you can then be a part of any decision making process where the well-being of your dog is concerned.

After all, it is the vet who will:

  • Ensure good health of the dog.
  • Treat the dog with care when sick.
  • Be a good adviser and friend to you the pet-parent when you are worried.
  • Give timely advice.
  • Be available on call at all times.
  • Put the interests of the dog ahead of everything else.
  • Be educated and well informed of new developments in the field of medicine.

A or B — who is the perfect choice?

In this vital decision of choosing between A or B, you the pet parent must make an informed decision. The right way to go about choosing a Vet:

  • Ask a friend or the breeder to make a recommendation. Even other dog owners will be helpful and candid about their own experiences.
  • Make an effort to visit the clinic when you are not expected there – it will give you a chance to see how it functions.
  • Check for cleanliness, a professional atmosphere, and a feeling of comfort combined with professionalism.
  • Request a tour of the facility – meet the staff.
  • Find out what kind of practice it is – allopathic or holistic.
  • Determine whether the vet is a member of any organization/body. Do check with the Medical Board and ask if there are any complaints registered.
  • Try and find out how many dogs are patients—many vets do not have experience in the care of “toy breeds.”
  • Ask if the same doctor will treat your dog every time. Also, whether anyone will stay with the dog if ever an overnight stay at the clinic becomes necessary.
  • Take your dog for a visit and see how he is treated by the staff/doctors.
  • Find out what the charges are and whether they are available for emergency calls. Also whether they accept insurance plans, credit cards, and if they have in place any health care schemes.
  • Find out whether the clinic offers/knows about alternative treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and herbal treatments.

The key is to however trust your own instincts.

And, the wrong way:

  • He is handsome or friendly.
  • Because the clinic is a hop, skip, and jump away from your home.
  • The interiors are done stylishly.
  • His rates are the lowest.

You must choose him only because, “he is the best” and you are in total/complete agreement with his philosophies.

There are basically two different lines of thought/treatment

The “Allopathic” represented by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) that practice medicine known as allopathic, conventional, or western medicine. OR

The “Holistic” philosophy represented by the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association ( AHVMA) which uses holistic or natural methods to treat dogs. This kind is known as holistic or natural medicine. What is the difference? You will find when you do a bit of research that their very perceptions differ.

Allopathic - the most popular medical treatment

Its foundation is based on:

  • Drugs.
  • Medications.
  • Chemicals.

In this, whatever the ailment your dog may have the vet will prescribe some medication. Unfortunately, although one can perceive an immediate difference in that the dog will feel better in no time at all – the symptoms of pain /discomfort will just disappear - in the long run the treatment is detrimental to the well being of the dog.

When a foreign substance enters the dog’s system the immune system reacts and tries to “get rid” of the foreign substance. This stresses the immune system. It also affects the organs such as the liver, heart, kidneys, skin, immune system, and digestive tract.

In addition, the drugs, chemicals, and other medicines invariably have some side effect. And, according to leading vets, often the medication does little more than mask the symptoms. It does not address the actual problem or cure it. What is holistic health care?

The holistic stream is, today becoming extremely popular. It is a safe, modern, and trusted avenue to health care. In this line of treatment, the vet will take into perspective not just the symptoms or disease but the mind, spirit, and environment too.

The focus is not “cure” but “prevention.” The holistic vet will endeavor to build up the dog’s resistance so that it can resist any bacterial/viral diseases. The system works to nurture good health from within. They use:

  • Medicinal herbs.
  • Nutritional supplements.
  • Vitamins and minerals.
  • Enzymes and anti-oxidants.
  • Chiropractic manipulation.
  • Acupuncture.
  • Homeopathy.

The trick is in urging the immune system itself to work on the ailments. You may wonder, whether a holistic vet is a “hereditary” medicine man or faith healer. Rest assured, he is a vet who has graduated from a veterinary school and has received/qualified for the same licenses and certifications as the allopathic practitioners. Then, due to his beliefs/convictions he has furthered his education and understanding to the canine/animal world by studying holistic medicine. The holistic vet will:

  • Study the history of your dog and check whether the nutrition is optimal. He will recommend an ideal diet based on your abilities and life style.
  • He will recommend any vitamins and mineral supplements your dog may need.
  • The vet will use—homeopathy, herbal treatments, and natural remedies as cures.
  • He will be more than happy to work with chiropractors, acupuncturists, reflexologists, and non-traditional medical techniques that are not yet accepted by western medicine such as “reiki”.
  • The vet will involve you in all aspects of treatment and use your insights about your dog to treat the dog.

Many vets will have “RPHAVC” on their signboards—it means:

R = Raw Food.

P = Prevention.

H = Use of homeopathic and /or herbal treatments.

A = Work in tandem with alternative health practitioners.

V = Vaccination is recommended only in moderation.

C = The client is always involved in any decision making process and treatment. As the pet parent, you should have in insight into various alternative medical treatments:

1.Homeopathy

Dr. Samuel Hahnemann was the founder of this field in the 1800s. It works on the principle that disease occurs when the life force is disrupted. So, the system uses substances derived from natural things to simulate/create symptoms of the disease so that the body can set its mechanisms into action to counteract the stimulus. The doses administered are so small /minute that they do not cause any toxicity.

Vets use homeopathy to heal. Examples are:

  • Arnica—is safe and can be kept in the dog’s first aid kit. It is beneficial in traumas, shock, injury, sprains, and bruises. It stems bleeding and aids in healing wounds. It is known to reduce bruising and muscular pain.
  • Arsenicum—this is recommended for vomiting and diarrhea. It is useful in treating food poisoning.
  • Rhus Tox—used for rheumatism, arthritis, as well as joint pain. It is also advised when a dog has skin problems. This is a popular remedy.

These are not prescription drugs that are to be used or bought over the counter. It is thus important for a qualified person to study the dog’s history and then determine a suitable dosage and treatment.

2. Herbal

Herbs have been a part of our existence from time-immemorial. Unfortunately many of us in the modern world have discontinued/forgotten the uses of the plants around us.

Holistic vets have often found that prescribing simple herbs helps alleviate many diseases.

Garlic — is used for treatment of coughs and bronchitis. Regular use helps maintain general health and is known to prevent heart diseases.

Raspberry leaf — this is a traditional remedy for problems in whelping and is useful in preventing pseudo pregnancies in dogs. It is a known uterine tonic.

Lavender and Marjoram - when rubbed into the skin these mixed with a oil base are know to relieve cramping and sore muscles—known to be excellent for working dogs.

There are thousand of herbs available, but one must be knowledgeable to use them – your vet will know a good herbalist. Learn about herbs their uses as well as their pros and cons.

3. Acupuncture

This is a healing method that encourages the body to heal itself. This is done by inserting needles and applying heat to acupuncture points. Veterinarians use acupuncture to treat –lameness, urinary incontinence, arthritis as well as back injuries and paralysis.

Most dogs accept the treatment well – each session takes 20-30 minutes and in most cases just 3-4 treatments are required.

4. Chiropractic Care

This is an old form of healing that is extremely beneficial for the treatment of spinal injuries and ailments of the joints, muscles, and nerves. It focuses on the relationship between the spinal column and nerves and offers increased flexibility, an enhanced quality of existence, and greatly improved health.

It basically addresses the root cause of problems—nerves that are stuck or pinched by a tight muscle or rotated joint. In dogs and other dogs this treatment has had considerable success in arthritis, joint problems, hip dysplasia, radial nerve paralysis, as well as Wobbler’s syndrome. It reduces the pain suffered by the animals and does away with the need to administer pain medication.

It has been found that chronic gastro-intestinal problems also respond to chiropractic treatments.

5. Flower Remedies

This is known as Bach’s Rescue Remedies and is known to be successful in calming down dogs that are stressed, excitable, or injured. In this form of healing, extracts of flowers and plants are “potentized” and used.

Disease, according to Dr. Bach is the immediate result of imbalances or negativity. Flower remedies set right the imbalance by steadying the emotional and spiritual well-being.

A Bach practitioner would use single or combinations when treating a dog—however according to the “rules” the number used should not exceed seven.

Fear is treated,by using three remedies—

  • Mimulus – treats fears of known causes.
  • Aspen — treats groundless fears.
  • Rock rose — treats acute fear or panic.

Similarly:

Bleeding heart – is a remedy for animals that are grieving the loss of a family member or another animal.

Cherry Plum — is a remedy for aggressive pets–those that fight or bite.

Impatiens – is used for animals that are hyper or impatient. They are snappy, irritable, rush here and there, or pull at their leash.

Olive – is a remedy for animals that have been drained by a chronic illness. It helps rejuvenate and heal.

These are just a few examples. There are thousands of remedies available—but one must always take the advice of a knowledgeable practitioner. Some conditions that can be treated with Flower Remedies are:

  • Abuse/abandonment.
  • Pre-surgery and post-surgery jitters/upsets.
  • Grief, fear, hyperactivity.
  • Excessive grooming.
  • A Change in Home/environment.
  • Inappropriate elimination.

6. Aromatherapy

Just as we humans are sensitive to aromas so also our dogs. You will be surprised that when used wisely aromatherapy has contributed to healing.

Studies indicate that since dogs are extremely sensitive to smell this form of healing is successful but one must used limited amounts of essential oils as their sense of smell is at least 20 times more than that of humans.

Cedar wood and pine oil are known flea repellants – when rubbed into the coat it protects the dog from fleas and gives the coat sheen. It is also known to heal small abrasions and cuts.

Lavender is known to promote healing and reduce the risks of infections from wounds—however a bath is seen to be more beneficial than direct application.

Rosemary mixed with lavender is known to relieve joint pains.

Essential oils are safe and not toxic.

7. Massage

The touch that heals would be the most appropriate nomenclature for this therapy. Massage is a proven method to reduce tension in dogs it gives them a sense of well-being . This therapy has found use in reducing aggression and in behavior modification. Circular motions, ear slides, and vigorous body rubs are recommended for dogs after studying the dog history and taking into consideration their size and delicate constitution.

Benefits include:

  • A sense of wellness.
  • Reduction in stress.
  • Increased flexibility and movement of limbs.
  • Reduced pain.
  • Quick recovery from traumas or surgery.
  • Improved blood circulation.
  • Removal of toxins from the body.

There are many forms of massage available and which one is to be used should be decided by a qualified vet. Random choices are not recommended.

8. Reiki

In Japanese it means –universal life energy. It concentrates the inherent energy present in the body to where it is needed the most. The healing works on many levels—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

The Power of Healing

Although one has many avenues to select from in holistic treatments, sometimes due to the gravity of the disease or the condition of the dog one will have to adopt allopathic medicines.

So, as the dog parent you will need to keep an open mind every time that you will need to make a “health care” decision on behalf of your pet.

Basic and Specialized

Some vets undertake “general practice” – they will do annual physicals, diagnosis, treat diseases, clean teeth, do vaccinations, x-rays, simple surgeries, and dressing of wounds, draw blood for tests, and conduct in-house diagnostic tests.

Others vets undertake specializations in the field of ophthalmology, dermatology, dentistry, cardiology, oncology, or orthopedics – to name only a few fields. They sometimes come as consultants to the “general practitioners “clinic.

It is your general practitioner who will tell you when you need to consult a specialist – depending on the disease, its prognostics, and required treatment.

Since vets are human their temperaments vary—some will be charming while others may be brusque. Some are finicky and will only treat certain breeds. Others have no tolerance for breeds like “toy” breeds or terriers. Yet others will refuse to do things like de-clawing/ear cropping; or will stick to only what they believe in having no open mind to what the owner feels or thinks.

And, of course if you are lucky you will find a vet who will be your “friend” share your worries and fears –stand by your side in times of need and, befriend your dog.

Many you will find are more than vets—they will advice you on food, training, which events to participate in which shows are good and so on. They will hold group sessions where many pet-parents can come together and discuss doubts and concerns.

Some even volunteer with rescue groups as well as therapy dog groups.

Vets today have preventive care programs –ask about them.

Most important, the vet must care enough for his office to maintain detailed records – from birth onwards of your dog. This will give him on tab information about allergies, vaccination schedules, past work ups, x-rays and so on.

Choose wisely and knowledgeably and you will have no regrets.

Pet Care Begins at Home

A word of advice/caution it is not just the vet that has responsibilities—you, as the pet-parent must also:

  • Teach our dog well so that he is a perfect citizen—he must be willing to allow the vet and his technicians to touch him.
  • Teach your pet how to remain calm on the grooming/examination table. With a dog this is important, as one wrong agitated leap off the table may mean grave injuries or even death.
  • Socialize the dog well so that it is not fearful of the waiting room where other dogs, cats, and birds may be waiting for the vet.
  • Learn how to control the dog at all times – aggression as well as fear can create mayhem in a vet’s clinic.

As pet-parent you must also learn to give your pet a weekly check:

  • Check the dog’s ears, eyes, nose – for signs of infection.
  • Check the skin and coat thoroughly for signs of lumps, mats, lesions, scabs and so on.
  • Check the legs and feet one at a time.

Many owners use commands such as “nose”, “teeth”, “foot” and so on while doing the “once over” this teaches the dog that you are going to check/handle each of these body parts. Believe me, it makes a vet’s life much easier to treat a dog that co-operates.

Be Sure

A vet is your partner in pet-care. The partnership has to last at least 15 years if not more. So ensure that the vet you choose is not nearing retirement nor has a “travel” bug. Find someone who has a family and is committed to the practice. He/she should be passionate about animals and pet care must be a “mission statement” in their lives.


Categories: Pets


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