Learning pet talk - the advocacy role of your vet

pet advice

Learning pet talk - the advocacy role of your vet

words by
catherine harper // Barossa Veterinary clinic
  • Owners regularly say to my team, ‘If only they could talk…’, ‘If only they could tell us what was wrong, what they ate to make them sick’, but unfortunately our pets have not yet mastered the intricate art of human language.  Instead they tell us in subtle and not so subtle ways;
  • The way they sit, dogs with stiffness or early arthritis will often do a ‘lazy sit’ with their legs out to one side rather than tucked right underneath them or they lick their leg constantly, trying to tell us where it hurts.
  • The way they chew a treat, only using one side of their mouth and when examined, one side of their mouth is great and the other has a rotten tooth hiding up the back.
  • The way they hold their head or carry a leg, telling us which ear or leg is sore.
  • Sometimes in the way they react to a previously normal stimuli with growling or biting to indicate pain, disorientation or other discomfort.

This is their communication and as a partner in your pet’s care, the veterinary team must observe and act on these signs in combination with your detailed history to provide appropriate advice and recommendations to you, the pets owner, to achieve the best possible outcome for your pet. 

When they are sick, the signs are sometimes more obvious and a path for treatment can be determined, but more difficult times are those routine health checks. The ones whereas an owner you perceive there to be nothing wrong, no obvious signs of an issue and yet as your pet’s veterinarian we find several items of concern.

These may be things you do not feel are of significance or are not bothering your pet, but please listen.  Our animal companions are incredible and will cope with horrific levels of discomfort through arthritis, dental disease or skin issues to name but a few, and not show obvious signs of outward discomfort…they wag their tail, greet you at the door and ask for food, just like always. 

As their doctor, we must advocate for them, read those subtle signs and give them a voice to get their problems solved early. If we don’t actively share early preventative care information and present it to you, then we are failing your pet and their health care needs. This sometimes entails a difficult conversation with you, recommending further investment in their care and creating a need for action where one was not previously perceived.

Our primary goal is to prevent problems before they happen, keep your pet healthy and happy and to prolong the wonderful time you have together. In order to do this, preventative care is key and acting on recommendations from your vet, before you necessarily perceive them as an issue, will allow us to achieve this goal together.

Catherine Harper

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