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Cat Health

Vetting Your Cat Veterinarian

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We check the references of your personal physicians and we check the references of a person who does repairs on our home. We want to know their experience, their background, who recommends them and why they are recommended. Should we do any less for our cat’s veterinarian?

When I researched how much feline behavior veterinarians received in their DVM curricula, I was unhappily surprised. Even in the best universities, most (few) classes were only possible for postgraduate work. You could get as much information on sugar gliders and goats as you could on your cats’ mental and emotional life.

Odd, that in a country where the most popular domestic pet is now the cat. Even stranger that the typical household has more than two cats on average…

Your cat is your fur-baby and it’s almost certain that you would want someone well-versed in feline behavior, as well as physiognomy. This is about evaluating the practitioner, not the practice.

[heading style=”modern-1-light” color=”#ff9933″ style_color=”#ff9933″ align=”left”]Background and Education[/heading]

When I choose my vet, I want to know which schools they have attended. Did they come from top vet schools, such as UC Davis, Colorado State, Tufts, Cornell or Texas A & M? (US News & World Reports ranks the top universities from best to worst and you can Google any school you have a questions about.) A great school doesn’t automatically mean the vet is terrific – there are exceptions for every college – but I want to know a bit about their background. Here are some great questions to ask your cat veterinarian:

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  • What classes have you taught?
  • Which publications have you written for?
  • What type of clinical work have you done?
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Veterinarians should include a bio on their clinic website; or at the very least, it should be available from the receptionist. Read between the lines. Research.

Examples:

  • One big-name ‘pop’ doc has listed a medical school on his CV, so it appeared he was on staff. Instead, he had rented an office on campus one summer, but never actually worked there.
  • Another ‘name’ lists a major university on a bio, so it looks as if a course were taught there, when it was merely a brief internship.

Is there ‘ABVP’ (American Board of Veterinary Practitioners) after the vet’s name? If so, it means they did extra work to be certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. This will allow you to identify their specialty area and discover more about the veterinarian.

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[heading style=”modern-1-light” color=”#ff9933″ style_color=”#ff9933″ align=”left”]Bedside Manner[/heading]

A nice manner is important, and enough isn’t taught about the patient-doctor relationship. But that’s not enough. Bedside manner should not replace lack of experience. When it comes to diagnosing, are they more analytical or intuitive? My vet is more likely to suggest a battery of tests than look at the whole picture before him. His partner, equally as great, does it piecemeal, one test at a time, to diagnose. Both are valid approaches. The first takes more money up front, which is not suitable for some people, who may prefer a more conservative style – but to me, it’s worth it.

Does your state’s veterinary medical board have any formal complaints filed against the person? Check. It isn’t always their fault; but you will be able to see if there are patterns. It will also tell you about how your veterinarian resolves conflict.

Does your vet take time with you? Sometimes huge practices with lots of auxiliary people may not offer that ‘luxury’.

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  • Do they listen to you and your concerns?
  • Do they encourage questioning?
  • Do they stay abreast of research?
  • How does they treat your cat?
  • Are they thorough?
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[heading style=”modern-1-light” color=”#ff9933″ style_color=”#ff9933″ align=”left”]Cats vs. Dogs[/heading]

Some veterinarians just prefer to work with other species. There’s nothing wrong with that, unless you’re trying to get your cat treated by a vet who is clearly not interested (and may even be fearful) of cats.

Note how the vet interacts with their patient. Is their tone soothing or do they prefer to just scruff your cat because they can’t be bothered to calm your feline. Also check equipment. I, for one, prefer to have a mat available for my cat so she doesn’t have to feel unstable scrambling on a stainless steel exam table. The type of equipment can tell you a lot about your veterinarian.

[heading style=”modern-1-light” color=”#ff9933″ style_color=”#ff9933″ align=”left”]Complementary Therapies[/heading]

Is your vet open to proven complementary therapies, such as acupuncture or herbal therapies? How about cold laser therapies or essential oils? Each of these methods have their own benefits which have been scientifically proven. One of these may be more effective for your cat than traditional methods, and it’s important that your veterinarian be at least knowledgeable in complementary therapies (or willing to consult a holistic veterinarian that might be more knowledgeable).


[heading style=”modern-1-light” color=”#ff9933″ style_color=”#ff9933″ align=”left”]Trust your gut![/heading]

There are a hundred other questions to ask your vet, and to ask yourself. But the bottom line remains: TRUST YOUR GUT.

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