Picture this scenario: you’ve just adopted an active, exuberant dog, but then your veterinarian diagnoses him with a malignant tumor and only one year to live. Now imagine that, just three years later, you are faced with your own diagnosis of breast cancer!
Incredibly, this is just what happened to attorney Teresa J. Rhyne, author of The Dog Lived (and So Will I). When her Beagle Seamus was diagnosed in 2005, it was hard for Ms. Rhyne not to be overwhelmed by the diagnosis, cost of treatment and overall prognosis of his disease.
When the first veterinary specialist she visited didn’t get to know Seamus and proved to be a poor communicator, not taking time to explain things or think through some options, Ms. Rhyne felt frustrated and uncomfortable. Her experience with Seamus’s medical care improved dramatically when she found a veterinary oncologist who, while seemingly young and inexperienced, was genuinely concerned about Seamus and his outcome. Seamus is still her loyal and loving pet, and has successfully overcome an additional cancer recurrence.
Three years later Ms. Rhyne received the dreaded call that she had breast cancer. She soon became unsatisfied with her own doctors and, deciding to take her medical care into her own hands, found expert care at UCLA. The UCLA surgeon may have been less experienced, but he was easy to talk to and communicate with, and made Ms. Rhyne more comfortable in dealing with her diagnosis. After surgery and treatments, she continues to be cancer free.
Ms. Rhyne’s experiences emphasize the importance of taking an active role in your pet’s medical care:
- Ask questions! This is the most important thing you can do to ensure you understand your pet’s condition and any proposed treatment. Don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian if you think of anything, or have questions after your scheduled appointment.
- Insist on good communications – in today’s world, veterinary communication can include phone calls, emails and text messages. A good communicator asks you which is more convenient, and how often you would like to be contacted.
- Have a clear understanding of who you will be communicating with – the doctor, assistant, receptionist or veterinary technician. If there is a concern, a doctor should be available for calls.
- Make sure you feel comfortable with the person giving care to your pet and don’t be afraid to look beyond the surface. The vet you’ll feel most comfortable with may not be the most experienced.
Keep in mind that many times different personalities work well together, while others may clash. Don’t be afraid to find the right match!
Dr. Mark Beerenstrauch is a practicing veterinarian in Las Vegas, Nevada and hosts a weekly pet talk radio show called “Pet Talk with Dr. B.” Dr. B enjoys working with pet parents who want to take an active role in their pet’s medical care. He also enjoys college football, hair metal and country music, along with one-eyed dogs and three-legged cats.