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Get involved in your animal’s healthcare

As published in Canadian Dogs Annual
Get involved in your animal’s healthcare

Caring for your beloved dog throughout his life is a team effort. The key members of his healthcare team are your veterinarian, ancillary caregivers such as groomers, behaviourists, and pet massage therapists – and, most importantly, you.

When people consult animal healthcare experts, they sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the advice and information they receive, or assume the experts are the only ones qualified to decide the animal’s fate. It’s therefore crucial that all guardians become advocates for their companions and seek out veterinarians who will listen to their concerns.

Choosing a veterinary team

The first step is to find a healthcare team that will offer compassionate care while respecting your views and wishes. It is important to be able to develop a good relationship with this veterinary team, so keep the following suggestions in mind when selecting a practice.

• The veterinary office should be a friendly, personal place where you and your dog are treated with respect and kindness.

• The staff should be compassionate and able to communicate with you clearly.

• The doctor should be respectful of your opinions and offer you options for your animal’s care, including referral to specialists or alternative caregivers.

• _ Ask for a tour of the hospital before you take your dog.

• _ Ask if the doctor has any special interests or training.

• Selecting a veterinary team based solely on price of services is not a good way to guarantee quality care.

Six ways to stay informed

Once you have chosen a healthcare team it is important to empower yourself with knowledge. If your animal has a certain disorder, educate yourself about the condition and its different therapies.

1. Write questions down before each visit. Make sure you do not leave the office until all your questions are answered and you understand the answers. The only stupid question is the one you did not ask.

2. Bring a friend or family member with you. A second person can give another perspective and may remind you of things you have forgotten.

3. Ask for printed information and/or about the validity of information you may have gathered on your own. The internet may be a good resource but it is not always correct.

4. Maintain an open dialogue with your veterinary team. Be respectful of their training and
education. Asking questions is a good and natural approach to any problem. Remember
most veterinarians truly care about your animal and feel their suggestions are the right ones.

5. Make sure you understand the purpose of any treatment and if it will take into account your goals for the animal, and your limits. For example, a rehabilitation program for a police dog returning to work after a cruciate injury will be different from a program designed for a family dog. Let the veterinarian know if there are treatments you would prefer or others you do not feel comfortable about.

6. Take time to think about major health decisions before acting on them. Do not worry about what other people think about your decision. Your veterinarian’s job is to tell you what he or she thinks is best for your animal and to give you options. Your job is to gather all the information and then listen to your heart. You are the one who knows your dog best.

If you disagree with the suggested treatment, communicate this honestly and courteously.
If you prefer a more integrative or natural approach, be sure to discuss it with your veterinarian. If your veterinary team does not provide these services, ask for a referral to someone who does. Not all veterinarians have the same training so asking for a referral is not insulting.

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Dr. Janice Huntingford is a 1984 graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, and a Board Certified Specialist (Diplomate) in Canine Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine (DACVSMR), only one of three in Canada. She is certified in Animal Chiropractic, Animal Acupuncture, and Chinese Herbal Medicine, and is a Certified Veterinary Pain Practitioner. In 2007, Dr. Huntingford opened Ontario’s first salt water canine therapy pool and canine rehabilitation centre at her clinic, Essex Animal Hospital, in Essex, ON.


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