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Monday, January 20, 2014

"If It Was Your Pet...."

One of the most common questions asked of a vet is "Well, what would you do of this was your own pet?"  Yes, admit it.  As a pet owner you've asked this of your vet at one point or another.  And if you're in the veterinary field you've heard it more times than you can count.  Believe it or not, this is tough to answer.

Everybody has different perspectives on pets and different life situations.  Someone who is pregnant may make different decisions than someone who just had a baby.  And both may make choices different than a grandmother.  An unemployed teacher may spend more money on their pet than a wealthy lawyer because the teacher sees the pet as her biggest joy in life and the lawyer knows he can just buy a new one.  (By the way....I'm not commenting on attitudes of teachers, lawyers, or anyone else.  It's just a random example, folks....)  There rarely is a "right" or "wrong" answer as many circumstances depend on many factors.  

Just take a look at yesterday's blog.  Pam decided to pursue a full diagnosis and then authorized chemotherapy for her cat.  She's happy with her decision and the case turned out quite well.  In a possibly similar situation I made different decisions which ended up with euthanizing my cat.  I don't regret my own actions.  Two people, two cats, different outcomes.  Neither one was "more right" than the other.  Each decision was right for that person.

That's why that question is so hard for a vet.  It's usually asked in difficult cases, especially prior to euthanasia.  Because these are hard decisions people want some guidance.  I'm happy to share my opinions, experience, and knowledge, but that's different than "Here's what I would do".  Sometimes I'd run tests that clients can't afford.  Sometimes I would stop treatment before another person would.  My own thoughts, beliefs, and history guide my decisions.  And since nobody in the entire world has my specific combination of these things, my decisions are really only applicable and appropriate for me.  My financial situations are also different than many clients, where sometimes I have more money than them and sometimes I have less.

Rarely do I give a direct answer to this question since there are so many variables and the reason why I may pick a course of action can be quite different from why a client may go in the same direction, or even the same reason may lead them to opposite actions from me.  I try to word my answer in such a way as to allow the client to make their own choice and not rely on me.  While it may not be as satisfying to some people, it would be better and easier to ask "Well, what are the benefits or problems with options A, B, and C?"  That's a question I can handle.