What Every Dog Owner Should Know About Their “Annual Vet Visit”
November 24, 2013
Here’s Quincy looking all Better!
Last week I had a terrifying experience. Even thinking about it causes my fingers to tingle. I took my dog for an annual check up at my Vet. Let me first preface this by saying that I’m not interested in attacking my clinic or the Veterinarian that was involved in this story. For that reason I’m leaving names out of it. Let me walk you through what happened. I wanted my dogs to receive an annual wellness exam, and some long-overdue microchips. The Vet was friendly and lovely and told me she would take my dogs into the back for their microchips and to wait in the front. When she brought them out she said they might be sore for a couple of days and I asked, “from their microchip?”. She replied, “No, from their vaccinations”. I could barely contain my surprise (and I actually regret not speaking up in the moment). I went home feeling uneasy, knowing that I would never have wanted core Vaccines and Rabies at the same time. That night I woke up to a dog whose face was swollen to three times the size and his eyes were almost swollen shut. He was treated and recovered, but my thoughts kept coming back to, “what if I hadn’t woken up?”. I write this blog not to villainize the Veterinarian but to use it as a chance for our clients to avoid making the same mistakes that I did. This type of situation doesn’t have to happen and here’s what I’ve learned about how you can avoid it.
1) Be very clear about what “annual check-up” means to your Vet.
Sadly, for many Vets, the phrase “annual check-up” automatically includes vaccinations. This isn’t true for my particular Vet thankfully, but for many it is. Aside from any debate about how often dogs SHOULD be vaccinated (don’t get me started), it’s important for you to hear from your Vet exactly what procedures are included in the visit. Clarity is your friend.
2) Keep your own records…don’t rely on your Vet.
I had to learn this one the hard way. Keep a spreadsheet. On it, include the date and whatever (and I mean whatever) corresponding procedure, vaccination, test, or treatment your dog received. Keep a file of all receipts and descriptions of procedures so that you can be ready to answer any questions your Vet or Vet Receptionist may have about your dog. That way you can definitively say whether or not you’d like your dog to receive treatments of any kind.
3) Do NOT allow your dog to be taken to another room for routine procedures.
I say this one as much for the sake of your Vet as for yourself. If my dogs had stayed in the room for their Microchipping, I would have known that they were also being vaccinated. My Vet assumed I had given permission to the Receptionist. I hadn’t. Unless your dog is in surgery, or being X-rayed, I can’t see any reason why they should be removed from your presence. If I were a Veterinarian, I would never want to expose myself to that kind of liability anyway.
4) After your dog has been vaccinated, make sure they’re in the same room with you while you sleep.
I know this sounds macabre, but it’s the reality. A lot of my clients’ dogs sleep in other rooms of the house in crates, or behind baby gates. If your dog is having an anaphylactic response to his vaccinations (which is a LOT more common than you’d think), you need to be able to hear him. I heard my dog because he sleeps in my bed with me. He was pawing at his face and writhing in discomfort so much so that he woke me out of a dead sleep. I would say for the first night, maybe even two or three to be safe, keep your dog in the room with you and keep a close eye on him. If you notice anything out of the ordinary call your Vet immediately or get to the VEC.
Vets aren’t perfect. I’m not perfect. Mistakes happen that, granted, really shouldn’t happen. In my case I was lucky. I’ve known clients that weren’t so lucky. It is our job to mitigate the risks and not leave responsibility up to anybody else. I’m not excusing any mistakes that were made, but I’m acknowledging my part in them. I hope this post can leave you all a little bit more informed and a lot more aware.