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.
The dogs that scare me most are the little Chihuahuas
“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.
If you are aggressive to the staff, you will be treated differently
“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
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
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.
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
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.
Don’t blame me if you’re frugal
“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.
Please respect that we’re trying to work
“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
I personally wouldn’t take my dog to a dog park
“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.
Every time I save a life, every time I fix a patient, that makes everything worth it
“I love it when a client says, ‘I wish my physician would treat me as nice as you treat my pets.’” —Phil Zeltzman, DVM.
We don’t want your pets to be in pain
“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
You must license your dogs
“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.
I know she shouldn’t have it, but…
“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.
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
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
We’ll do things for free
“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.
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
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
We rarely can help with behavioral issues
“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.
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
No regulation says vets have to check certain lists before they euthanize an animal
“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
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.
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
Healthy pets don’t need vitamins
“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
Don’t feed your pet a raw-food diet
“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.
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
Indoor cats don’t really need to be vaccinated
“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
Don’t judge your dog’s health by his nose
“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.
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
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
Unfortunately, many clinics cut corners to make a profit
“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.
If it seems like you are paying more at corporate-owned hospitals, you likely are
“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
Invest in pet insurance
“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
Don’t ask me what I make
“If we wanted to go into it for the money, we’d have become human doctors.” —Oscar Chavez, DVM.
The job’s not easy
“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
Always check out the staff when looking for a new vet
“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
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.
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
Want to know how to make sure your vet is up on the latest stuff?
“Ask how he puts your pet to sleep. 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
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.
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
Some veterinary drugs have a generic version that’s made for humans
“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
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.
Using aggressive training tactics can cause serious behavior problems
“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
A lot of pet medications are available at human pharmacies for lower prices than we charge.
“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
Buy a laser beam
“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.
Be careful when washing your pets
“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
Brush your pet’s teeth
“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
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.
Be realistic when buying a pet
“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.