Building a Relationship with Your Veterinarian

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No, we aren’t adding an advice column to Animal Life. But when you own an animal, large or small, you do need to work on building relationships to provide the best possible care for them. Maybe that’s why they call the field of caring for farm animals “animal husbandry”! Not that we are expecting any marriage proposals, but it is prudent to have a plan for veterinary care in place long before an emergency arises.

Did you know that in some states (including MA and VT) it is actually illegal (and unethical) for a veterinarian to give a diagnosis or treatment advice over the phone or to dispense medications for an animal that has not been recently examined?

A VCPR stands for a veterinarian-client-patient-relationship. In order for a VCPR to exist, a veterinarian must assume the responsibility for making clinical judgments regarding the health of the patient and the need for medical treatment, and the client must agree to follow the veterinarian’s instructions. This requires the veterinarian to have sufficient knowledge of the patient to initiate at least a general or preliminary diagnosis of the medical condition of the patient. This means that the veterinarian has recently seen and is personally acquainted with the keeping and care of the patient by virtue of an examination or in the case of a larger herd or flock, medically appropriate and timely visits by the veterinarian to the premises where the animal is kept. (256.CMR.2.00).

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) states that a VCPR is established “only when your veterinarian examines your animal in person, and is maintained by regular veterinary visits, as needed, to monitor your animal’s health. A valid VCPR cannot be established online, via email, or over the phone”.

Scheduling regular appointments for preventative care will allow your veterinarian to get to know your horse, herd, or flock, and make it easier to diagnose conditions and make treatment recommendations if problems arise. During the wellness visits, your veterinarian will discuss vaccinations, nutrition, parasite prevention, and dental care. Your vet may also be able to teach you what you can do to identify, treat and prevent common conditions, including how to obtain vital signs (temperature, pulse, and respirations), perform basic first aid techniques, and institute biosecurity measures.

You may think that by giving your own vaccinations and only calling a vet when you have an emergency will save money. But can you be sure that the vaccines available at the farm supply store or online are really the right ones for you animals, and that they have been handled and stored correctly? Veterinarians are well educated in proper storage and handling of vaccines to ensure their safety and efficacy. Veterinarians can make recommendations on which vaccinations are best suited for each individual animal, and should a vaccine reaction occur they are prepared to properly treat them and report it to the manufacturer for technical support.

Having a veterinarian monitor your animals’ condition regularly over time may allow them to notice subtle changes allowing for earlier intervention and treatment. This can result in a better outcome and may even save you money by treating earlier in the course of the disease and preventing spread to other animals.

While it is easy to find information in catalogs, internet blogs, feed stores and other sources, and tempting to act on free advice, there is no substitute for the education and training that your veterinarian has received. Veterinarians also maintain their state licensure through continuing education, which allows them to remain up to date on the latest disease trends and emerging technologies that may impact vaccination and treatment recommendations.

Veterinarians want the best for you and your animals and prefer to educate clients about preventing diseases rather than treating them on an emergency basis. Invite them to be part of the team and build the foundations for a strong life-long relationship.

Dr. Yoanna Maître is the owner of Berkshire Ambulatory Veterinary Services, a mobile clinic that provides on-farm medical and surgical care to horses and farm animals in Berkshire County and neighboring areas of New York State.

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