A Tale of Two Vet Visits – How the Right Vet Makes All the Difference

Last year at Baxter’s annual vet check-up, we had a dogtor that we’d not met before.

Everything went fine, and then she said, “We’ll just take him into the back to draw a little blood.”

A few minutes later, we heard snarling and screeching as Baxter reacted to strangers handling his feet. My husband and I exchanged a look and when the vet came back into the examining room we sheepishly said, “He’s sensitive about his feet.”

She said:

“That dog is dominant. If it was my dog, I’d be going through every doorway in front of him.”

She went on to say a few other things about Baxter’s “dominance.”

Dominance is a topic for a whole other post.

The vet’s comments disappointed me for a few reasons:

A tale of two vet visits - How finding the right vet makes all the difference

1. She judged my dog. She’d only seen my dog for about 10-15 minutes. Admittedly, she’s an experienced professional who sees a lot of dogs every day. But I still feel it takes more than 15 minutes to get to know most creatures.

2. She judged us. We felt like bad dog owners with a bad dog.

3. I didn’t feel her judgment was accurate. In observing Baxter with us, other people and dogs, he’s one of the least assertive dogs I know. When I cut his toenails, his tail curls tight between his legs. I may be biased, but he appears more afraid than aggressive to me.

This year when I booked Bax’s annual appointment, the assistant said, “Does it matter what vet you see?” Initially I said no, but I called back the next day and asked to see a vet that we’ve seen before and really liked.

This year’s appointment was a very different experience.

We went through the basics, and then the dogtor said, “We’ll just draw a little blood.” But instead of taking Bax into the back, he brought a tech into the room with us. He asked us to hold Baxter and give him lots of scratches to distract him.

The blood was drawn and Baxter didn’t seem to notice.

It was a much more comfortable experience for all of us, and most importantly for Baxter.

I’m very grateful to our vet. I’m grateful that he trusted us to hold Baxter and keep everyone in the room safe. I’m grateful that he thought about how to keep Baxter most comfortable. I’m grateful that he showed me that there are other options for treatment and tests.

Standing up for your dog

Sometimes I find it a bit difficult to be assertive. I don’t want to be difficult or demanding or rude. However, my experience between these two check-ups showed me that the most important thing I can do is ask.

  • Ask for the vet I want.
  • Ask if they can treat Baxter in the examining room with us.
  • Ask what the test involves and be up front about how Bax might react.
  • Ask if there’s another way to perform the test.

Sure I want to be polite. But my first priority has to be my dog and what’s best for him. There’s nothing wrong with asking a few questions to try to make that happen.

How do you help your dog be comfortable at the vet?

Anyone have a similar experience to share?

Julia and her husband Matt live on a 129-acre farm in Ontario, Canada. She is a blogger at Home on 129 Acres where she writes about her adventures of country living and DIY renovating.

How the right vet can make all the difference

32 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Vet Visits – How the Right Vet Makes All the Difference”

  1. I went to a vet who insisted I buy a “plan” to save money. I told the vet I did not have the money as I was waiting for disability and did not have money for a monthly fee. She insisted indicating I would save almost a thousand dollars that day. Hence this bill went into a bankruptcy.

  2. That’s terrible. I remember a vet office I used to go to where they took the dogs to the back. It felt wrong to me, but I wasn’t assertive and let them take them. So far as I know, everything went fine. Still, Pierson is a one person kind of dog and he gets very nervous when other people poke and prod him. In our recent visit due to Pierson hurting his toe (turns out it is a fracture), the vet went to pick Pierson up and put him on the table. It all happened so fast, I didn’t have time to stop him and ask if I could do it. Pierson freaked out. He actually snapped at the guy, which is something I’ve never seen him do. Fortunately, he didn’t bite. I got Pierson onto the table just fine and stayed by his side for the rest of the examination. Pierson peed himself, but he didn’t growl or try to bite again. I wish the vet would let me act as the vet tech and hold him when they draw blood or give him shots. I think Pierson would do a whole lot better if they let me hold him. I know how. I used to work at a vet office some years ago. But I guess there are regulations against it. Seems silly. We know our dogs better than they do and our dogs know and trust us better than anyone.

    1. One of my cats is very fearful at the vet so I honestly don’t take him anymore. The last time he was there, the vet wouldn’t let me hold him because of policy. (They didn’t want me to be bitten for liability.) So a vet tech helped and it was very traumatic for my cat. The vet tech had to hold him down with a towel over his head and the vet still had trouble giving him his shot. He hasn’t been back since.

      I don’t like when certain vets have to take Ace back for certain procedures either. He’s a good sport about it so I just let them do so if it’s easier, depending on what’s being done. But he’s very easygoing and let’s strangers handle him. Not that he enjoys it.

    2. Those sound like two awful experiences. I didn’t consider that offices might have policies against letting owners hold their own pets. It just seems to make more sense for everyone, but I guess it might depend on the owners comfort and confidence.

  3. This post reminded me of how different trainers can make all the difference too, and I guess any pet professional (the right dog walker, the right pet sitter, dog daycare attendant, etc.).

    I have taken my pup Remy to two different non-profit obedience clubs this year. The first club was very understanding of him and the trainer’s assistant reminded me that weim’s are very immature for quite some time (mentally and physically) and to just keep working with him and be patient. I appreciate that!

    Now … at the 2nd club we’re currently going to (because it’s closer) the trainer’s assistant said to me, “I bet you wish you’d taken a puppy class!” I responded, “We did.” She goes, “Where at, Petco?” And I told her the club we’d gone to. She then says, “Oh, weird. They’re usually pretty good.” And then, “Why would you want a weimaraner?” Needless to say, I felt horrible. I felt like a bad dog owner and that my puppy is a bad dog. 🙁

    1. Oh my gosh who would say that?! What a cow! My puppy was so crazy and neurotic that starting at 6 months we started taking him to a special club for reactive dogs. When she saw how bad he was, the trainer asked me how long I’d had him. I said since he was 8 weeks old and she kept an impressive poker face. I think she expected me to say 2 weeks ago! She was so nice despite my dog acting like he grew up feral in the Mojave Desert instead of being spoiled by me. All dogs are crazy for a while. Don’t let that jerk get you down!

    2. What a B! Wow!

      A trainer should be supportive, not making people feel small for their chosen breed or for their puppy being a puppy. All of us – trainers and human classmates alike – should be cheering on anyone who brings a dog to class and sticks with it. Even if the dog is difficult, the owner is at least trying.

      I train with someone who was asked to leave multiple obedience classes. When they got to our club, the trainer settled in to work with them and their dog, and a year later the dog is able to focus and work and is a much better pet. The dog passed its CGC the same day we did. So much of that is due to a dedicated owner but credit also goes to the trainer who didn’t even consider not doing her best to find creative solutions rather than making someone feel bad about their dog.

  4. When I was a child I saw this really traumatizing documentary where they had hidden cameras in the back of a few vets and showed them beating the dogs they took into the back. I’m sure it was a freak occurrence but I’m always nervous about giving my pet to them. On the other hand, when I trust my vet I’m almost relieved because I HATE doctors and medical stuff and I think my anxiety would make my pet more anxious if I were there sometimes.

  5. Thanks for this article! 🙂 As a vet, I can tell you that I am *never* offended if a client requests that we do something a certain way, or prefers to be in the room for treatments or procedures – if this bothers your vet, consider finding a new one! We should all have a common goal of making the experience as easy and stress-free for the pet as possible. A good vet should be very open to your thoughts on the best way to achieve this, and may also have their own suggestions for how to help things go well if you let them know that your dog is fearful or anxious about certain things.

    We do have to be cautious about allowing owners to restrain their own animals, unfortunately, since we have legal liability if you are bitten in our clinic – even by your own dog. So this may be a reason that vets are sometimes hesitant to allow this. But even if a technician needs to be the one holding in certain cases, many procedures can be done with very minimal restraint if the pet can be kept busy eating treats or being petted. And the owner can certainly be present to help make the pet more comfortable.

    Just remember – you have every right to be an advocate for your dog, and you don’t have to allow anything that you aren’t comfortable with. There are lots of vets out there who will support your desire to make your dog’s visit enjoyable and stress-free, so don’t be afraid to keep looking until you find one that fits your needs 🙂

  6. My dog will do anything as long as I’m there. I don’t like it when they take my dog to the back for simple procedures. Rapport is important, I’ve fired a few MD’S in my day. Lol

  7. I’m starting to learn this. The other thing that I’ve noticed is who brings in the dog. My other half is nervous at vets offices and in turn his dog gets nervous. My other half brought him in once and the next time I brought him in I was told that they would have to put a muzzle on my dog. Excuse me???? We made it through the visit just fine. We have since moved and the funny thing is that now we might be going to different vet clinics. I like one doctor for one of our dogs and another doctor for the other. Go figure right???

    1. Just like people, every dog is different. It’s great that you’re attentive enough to notice what’s best for your dogs. I know what you mean about people’s energy affecting their dogs. I have the exact same experience with my better half too.

  8. Fear is much more likely cause of aggression that dominance. I doubt dogs get aggressive because they’re dominant.

    There is no need to take a dog to the back for blood draw! None of our guys ever had to go to the back for that. And because we know our guys do better with us around, when the vet does want to take a dog in the back for things, we request to go along. Such request is well within reasonable expectations.

    Sorry you had such a bad experience. There was no need for that.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Our vet takes Ace back for blood drawing too … not sure why that’s even easier. Only takes a few minutes though and Ace is a good sport.

    2. Some dogs are actually better without their humans around and some humans can’t take watching something like a blood draw. You have to know your dog and yourself and never be afraid to ask for what you want. If you don’t like the vet or their methods find another.

  9. Sandy Weinstein

    i always go in the room with my vet. i even hold her and help if needed. my girls do better when i am around and my vet knows that. she is very nice abt everything. i have even been in the back when she is working on my dogs. i have even helped the vet when one of my dogs had an er visit and he needed some help. i am now on abt my 7 vet in the area. i change vets as soon as i start to have any problems. my previous vet, i should have left yrs ago but stayed b/c i had been going there for 10 yrs. however, things went from bad to worse….one too many screw ups. and these were major screw ups. i wrote her a long letter and she did not even have the decency to respond. she had one of her vet techs email me to say she was sorry they were not working out for me anymore, never apologized or anything, even though i cited all of the incidents in which there were problems. that was the last straw.

  10. tabathautley@yahoo.com

    I’m at the point where I don’t even want to take my dog to the vet anymore because of the misinformation and/or lack of information provided. I took my dog in for his rabies vaccine and discussed what’s new or different — he’s a morkie and was shivering after eating occassionally – could have been cold, but it was odd nonetheless. They insisted on a blood panel – which meant fasting and going in and taking blood, eating, taking blood again. Yorkies and Maltese are at high risk for liver shunts so my “mutt” had a double dose of risk. The vet also noted that it was unusual that he still had all of his baby teeth (he still had his entire bottom row of teeth) and he was about 4 months old. The next morning I dropped him off – I picked him up a few hours later. He was very lethargic – he let me hold him all day – which he never does b/c he’s a puppy and very wriggly. Later that night he began vomiting, diarrhea, laying on his side crying, he looked like he was cramping and couldn’t stand up, began slobbering uncontrollably. As I’m googling all of the symptoms – the slobbering was the most concerning – obviously he was nauseas, but I examined his mouth and ALL of his baby teeth were gone. 24 hours ago they were all there. I left a message with my vet and asked her how in the world all of his baby teeth could have fallen out after visiting with her and that all of these horrible things were happening to him. I then phoned an emergency vet (someone else) and they talked me through everything and made me feel a little better and I felt like I could wait until morning. This was 3am. I called my vet again and left a message – she didn’t call me back until 5 days later. She acted like it was no big deal – it was all very “normal”. I ended up going to a specialist – got an ultrasound, etc… – the entire ordeal (w/insurance) cost me $1350 and his diagnosis was “intestinal inflammation”. I will never go back to them again. The staff was rude, as well. I moved and found a new vet that was still affiliated with that vet (b/c I’ve paid for the annual insurance coverage) and they made me feel like a bad dog mom in about 5 seconds when I asked about his humping activities – which had just started – he’s 7 months now. I want to wait to get him fixed until he’s at least a year old. She said it’s a bad habit and I should make him stop immediately – no toys, no humans, no dogs. I said ok – not a problem. But it was the way she said it and the tone in which she said it that was really off putting. Insurance or not – I want to completely separate from these people. When I was little and we had dogs — we never took them to the vet (probably because we were poor), but our dogs were fine. My 1st dog lived to be 12 years old and only died because it was attacked by another dog, but it was perfectly healthy otherwise.

  11. Sandy Weinstein

    i have been to over 10 vets in my area in the past 15 yrs. i finally found one that i just love. i also love the dental vet that i travel to in Greensboro, NC. i got tired of the previous vets not doing their job, not knowing the true root of problems or even bothering to figure out the problem. i went to one vet for almost 10 yrs, and finally got tired of the mistakes, which cost me a lot of money, one dog lost 2 teeth, another will loose her front tooth soon. another dog they gave her too much anesthesia and we not even worried about it. i finally had enough. i wrote a letter to the owner of the clinic and she did not even have the courtesy to respond. she had one of her employees send me a so sorry we are not able to meet your needs anymore email. there was also anther incident where i did not want to vaccinate my puppy for rabies at the 16 wks because she did not weigh enough, i already had 2 vets chime in telling me to wait till she weighed more. this vet charged me extra because she said my puppy might bite them. i refused to pay and complained.
    they would charge extra for the lintiest thing. my oldest who has cancer, had the sarcoma removed from her toe there yrs ago, it came back last yr. i am not wondering if they did all of the test correctly and removed it completely. i had to argue with the vet about the removal and getting it tested. and when i say argue, it took many phone calls and visits. the biopsy came back as possible cancer and now she has terminal cancer. it started in the same spot. i dont think they even did the test results correctly now.

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