It may come as a surprise to some readers, but many veterinarians are frustrated. That’s because so many of us don’t take their advice or follow their instructions. Many horse owners expect an instant cure or a simple fix and don’t want to do the work that goes with therapy for an injury or take the time to make sure the horse consumes the pills they vet presecribed. Amazed? Well, read on, as Horse Journal’s Cynthia Foley explains the veterinarian’s reaction to our noncompliance.
Not long ago, my sister asked how my hips were doing. They’ve been hurting for quite some time now (after sitting, but not riding, thank God!), and I finally went to the doctor. She said I have trochanteric bursitis, and she offered me cortisone injections or, if I prefer, I could try a course of exercises to see it they help.
That was an easy decision, and I’ve done the prescribed exercises every day. I’m noticing some improvement, too.
“You’re actually doing the exercises?” My sister was stunned.
“Why wouldn’t I?” I asked, thinking that was bizarre reaction.
“Well,” she said, “I learned in vet school to expect most people to not take your advice.” She went on to say that, as a small-animal veterinarian, she sees it over and over again. Sometimes, she’ll tell a new client what’s wrong and what to do, only to be told, “OK. That’s what Dr. Jones told me, too.”
Apparently, there are people who don’t like the treatment advice Vet 1 says, so they go to Vet 2 to see if they suggest something easier or cheaper. This isn’t a second-opinion type of visit, but a full new workup without letting on about the first vet to the new vet.
My turn to be stunned. “Why on earth would you pay someone for their opinion and then not take their advice?” My sister just shrugged.
Then I thought back to a Veterinary Viewpoints article by Horse Journal’s Dr. Grant Miller. In that piece, Dr. Miller wrote about 10 ways to make your veterinarian happy. One of them said:
“Follow our advice. Many times I’ve been befuddled to learn I prescribed a treatment that the owner didn’t follow correctly. When vets make recommendations, we expect the horse to respond in a certain way. If you call a week later to say the horse is no better, we assume our treatment didn’t work.
“The consequences are a prolonged problem for your horse, more expense in time and money for you (since we have to do more work), and frustration for us because we have to figure out why your horse didn’t respond. If you’re uncomfortable with your veterinarian’s recommendations for whatever reasons, please say so immediately. It’s better in the long run.”
That doesn’t mean don’t educate yourself through reliable sources like printed publications, books, DVDs and websites by people and companies you recognize and trust (with the Internet, especially discussion groups, you need to be very wary). You should always do learn as much as you can and then ask your vet questions, if you have any.
It also doesn’t mean don’t get a second opinion if there’s question over the diagnosis or the suggested treatment is extremely invasive or expensive. But if you do want a second opinion, be up front about it to both veterinarians. It’ll save you money in the long run, and you might be surprised that they may collaborate on the case, giving you even better suggestions. No good veterinarian will be upset by it.