Musings of a Veterinarian

Why Does My Vet Do That?

September 05, 2014 By: Dr. K Category: Opinion

As the years tick it’s easy to become a slave to routine. We do our jobs daily and soon a routine is formed. Over time I’ve become more engrained in my practice, adhere to the routine, and forget that many clients don’t understand why we vets do what we do during the course of an appointment! Wonder no more! I’ve compiled an explanation of some of the actions that may stupefy pet owners.

If I tell my vet my dog’s paw hurts, why does she look in his mouth?

Our critical listening skills are attuned, trust us! A thorough examination of every pet presenting with a problem is necessary to achieve a proper diagnosis. Did you know that a lethargic dog could have pale gums from internal bleeding or even red speckled gums from a platelet issue? Did you know we can look for jaundice in the gums and the whites of the eyes? I often reserve the “sore” limb for last so as to not develop a bias in my physical exam findings.

Why do they take my pet to the back for blood draws?

While some practitioners are comfortable and willing to draw blood in the examination room, oftentimes technicians and veterinarians will take your pet to the central treatment area for lab work. There are a few reasons for this. First, spare staff is typically roaming about and are readily available to provide an extra hand. Second, supplies and lighting are oftentimes better in the treatment area. Last, the techniques used to draw blood from domestic pets are not for the faint of heart. Typically, blood is drawn from the jugular vein when a larger sample is needed. I’ve been on the receiving end of a line-backer-sized man slumping down the wall in the examination room just from a peek at the syringe.

Why do they restrain my cat or dog even when he’s behaving?

For the safety of everyone in the room! My general rule of thumb is that if the animal has teeth he can bite, regardless of previous behavior. Pets in pain function on instinct and act accordingly. Proper animal restraint techniques can be misunderstood as being too “rough” or “hurting” the pet when in actuality handling techniques keep pets and staff safe during exams, vaccines, and blood draws.

Why does my vet require an examination for vaccinations?

Best medical practice means ensuring our patients are the healthiest they can be prior to receiving a vaccination. For vaccinations to reach full effect, the animal must be systemically healthy. We assess animals for signs of infection, disease, and fever. Giving a vaccination to a sick animal could be immunologically like not giving a vaccination at all. In addition, vaccinating a sick animal has the potential of exacerbating the disease – something none of us wants to see!

Why does my vet care so much about poop?

Your veterinary practice asks you to bring a stool sample to every annual examination but is it really necessary? YES! Dogs and cats, even indoor ones, can pick up intestinal parasites from a variety of locations including dog parks, walking trails, wild animals, consumption of wild animals, and insects. And did you know that tapeworms and roundworms can infect people? Hookworms can burrow in your skin! Veterinarians represent the front lines of public health and checking your animal for parasites protects both him and you!

Cutaneous Larval Migrans from Hookworms

Have wonderings? Ask in the comment section.

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