Tag Archives: veterinarian

What a veterinarian and a dog massage therapist have in common

I came across an article recently which was a sort of a “Vets Tell You What They Really Think” piece.  It listed 50 things that the veterinarian would love to say, but can’t, because it would be either too forward or too unprofessional (or both).

One of these really stood out for me:

“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.

I’m in total agreement with this vet.  If we don’t have a diagnosis how are we able to help?

Believe it or not, I get contacted fairly regularly from people who want me to come and work on their dog because they don’t want to pay for x-rays or other tests.  In such cases, I tell them politely that I need a diagnosis to be able to confidently work with their animal.  The risk is too high that, for example, if the dog has spinal injury I can make it worse rather than better.

Costs for veterinary care can be high, but you pay for the skills and the tools that are available to a veterinarian.  The vet is your dog’s equivalent of the Family Doctor/General Practitioner and sometimes the Emergency Room Doctor combined.  Your dog needs them!

dog and vet

There are times I’ve been caught.  Such as the case where the owners said x-rays had been taken and we worked for quite a few weeks on the dog only to suffer setbacks.  The owners were getting frustrated.   I suggested other things within my scope of practice and I recommended they go back to the vet.

That’s when I found out that the owner had only allowed the vet to take a single x-ray to save money.  The x-ray didn’t reveal anything in the lower spine and so the vet  assumed a partial tear of the cruciate based solely on symptoms.  And that’s the diagnosis I was working with, too.

When the owners returned to the vet, they were persuaded to do more scans and that’s when the problem (and a totally different diagnosis) was determined.

In the end, these owners probably spent more money than they saved.  And  their dog walked around with an injury that was even more difficult to address.

My advice to owners is to only bring a dog into your life when you are confident that you can pay for their care (and that’s means more than just vaccinations, food and flea treatments).  And if you have concerns about your ability to pay for injuries and illness – get pet insurance.  Some policies even cover costs of complementary care such as dog massage when these treatments are recommended by your vet.

I know that some owners like the idea of setting aside money regularly; my concern is that you would have to be setting fairly large amounts aside regularly for a bank balance with compounding interest to reach into the thousands.  And that’s what some of my clients face when surgeries and special procedures are needed.

Your vet is an essential part of your health care team.  We all need a solid diagnosis to help your dog feel better.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

A dog’s perspective of your trip to the vet

This is a great video made for veterinary practices – reminding them about the layout and setting they should provide for their dog clients.

I particularly like the reference to stress and the effect it has on recovery time.  That is one reason why I recommend massage, done by a professional, when a dog is recovering.

Massage will help to reduce the anxiety and aid blood flow and recovery.  I also use acupressure to help clear the anesthetic medications from the dog’s body.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Acute or chronic?

I find that many of my clients don’t understand the terms ‘acute’ and ‘chronic’ when working with their veterinarian.  To manage a range of health conditions, it’s really important to differentiate between the two words.

If a problem is acute, its symptoms appear, change or worsen rapidly.

If a problem is chronic, the condition worsens or changes over a period of time.

Acute vs chronic – look out for these terms when working with your dog’s healthcare team!

What’s proprioception?

Proprioception is the awareness of how your body, particularly your limbs, are oriented and how your body moves.  A type of self-awareness.  And your dog has it too!

When your dog next goes to the vet for an exam, watch how the vet will support the dog’s body and lift the hind paw, placing it on its toes or more of an upside down position.  Then watch your dog replace its paw to its normal position.  Your vet is looking for how quickly your dog does this and a dog with normal proprioception will replace its paw almost immediately.  Dogs with a neurological deficit will take longer.  Sometimes this isn’t a problem, and sometimes it is a sign that something is going wrong.  It depends on what other symptoms your dog has.

Other symptoms of a proprioceptive deficit include a wearing of the toe nails in an abnormal pattern (I see this a lot in my massage practice) or a strange posture when your dog goes to sleep (paws or legs in an abnormal position).

There are exercises that you can do to enhance your dog’s proprioception.  This includes walking over sticks or ladders as seen in this YouTube video:

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Choosing a veterinarian

As a dog owner as well as a canine massage therapist, I can honestly say that one of the most important things you can do for your dog is to have a good veterinarian.    However, many people I have met through my practice seem to move from vet practice to vet practice – never really giving a vet the chance to get to know their dog.

Of course, sometimes the moving around can’t be helped – people change jobs or other circumstances happen that require them to move house and location.  However, in other cases, it seems the owner is looking for the ‘best deal’ in a consultation fee or they have had a bad experience with an office (not necessarily the vet) and don’t want to return there.

So, here’s my advice on finding a good (and possibly great) veterinarian:

  • Ask your friends who own dogs who they use and why
  • Similarly, ask other dog owners you meet through obedience classes, dog park, etc.
  • Phone around and enquire about consultation fees and office hours that fit your schedule and lifestyle
  • Book a single, short consultation appointment to allow your dog to visit with the vet – see how he/she reacts to the vet and whether you like your experience at the practice.  If not – keep looking!
  • Most vet practices have more than one veterinarian; most owners and dogs develop a favourite vet.  However, it is always a good idea to have an appointment with the alternate vet once in a while so they have some  experience with your dog.  If you have an emergency on a day when your favourite vet isn’t on duty, you’ll understand the importance of having done this!
  • Ask about the staffing arrangements at the practice.  How many qualified nurses/technicians are there at any given time?  Is there a dedicated receptionist (because the best receptionists get to know the patients very well!)?
  • Is the facility set up for surgery if your pet needs it or will you have to go elsewhere to a ‘sister’ clinic?
  • What options are there for after-hours care or emergencies?
  • If you may want to pursue complementary therapies for your dog, how receptive is the vet to these?  Is the vet trained in homeopathy, for instance?
  •  Do other specialists work from the practice or, at a minimum, are they available through referral?
  • What type of payment options are offered at the practice?
  • Does the practice charge extra for filing insurance paperwork (if you choose to have pet insurance)?
  • Will the vet write a script for medicine that you choose to buy from a (reputable, of course) online pharmacy?

Dr Tim Nottage of Merivale-Papanui Veterinary Clinic with a happy client

Finally, if you have been using a veterinary practice for some time but have become concerned that the treatment and level of care/attention is no longer up to par – I advise you to raise it with the veterinarian.  All businesses need feedback.  For example, I had one client who felt that the changes in staff at her local veterinary practice meant that the standard of care had gone down.  The nurses were all new, young, and inexperienced.  She still liked the vet, however.  A short discussion to share her concerns didn’t solve the problem overnight, but it started the vet thinking that the staff needed more training particularly in the area of customer service.   My client’s next experience at the office improved and she didn’t have to go in search of another vet.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand