When Was the Last Time You Thanked Your Veterinarian?

As someone who has always shared her home with pets, I have come to develop a special relationship with the family veterinarian. She performed the first check up on Monty when we brought him home as a tiny puppy. She helped us navigate Wellington's years-long struggle with heart disease. She eased us through the loss of our beloved cat, Bodey. And that's just in the past three years!

Veterinarians have also shaped my business, contributing ideas and information to help advance the pet insurance industry and improve pet owners' access to cutting edge treatments as they become available. These dedicated professionals have become colleagues, advisors and, I'm pleased to say, friends. But in getting a glimpse "behind the curtain" of their profession, I've been struck by how thankless their jobs can sometimes be. The solution? Thank your veterinarian!

Or better yet, become the kind of client who not only continues the excellent standard of care pets receive in the office at home, but the kind who also champions the practice and supports the hard-working individuals who keep it running. Beyond the (hopefully) obvious common courtesy rules like showing up to your appointment on time and turning off your cell phone during your pet's examination, here are some other ways to show your veterinarian your respect and appreciation for what they do.

Bark vs. bite
If you know that your dog or cat becomes fearful or aggressive while being handled or receiving vaccines, TELL SOMEONE. There's nothing wrong with requesting a muzzle for a dog or sedation for a cat who panics at the sight of a white coat -- and believe me, the staff will be grateful that you're looking out for their safety. If your dog or cat has ever growled or attempted to bite in a clinic setting, it is vital that you share this information. While getting bitten is an occupational hazard for veterinary staff, you have a responsibility to protect both the personnel and your pet from the trauma of an aggressive incident.

Back away from the computer
Just because PetMD indicates that your pet's symptoms are consistent with a certain health condition, doesn't mean that's actually what is ailing your pet. While it can be useful to do a little research to help you ask more informed questions during your pet's exam, relying on information gleaned from the internet -- or worse, insisting that you know better than your veterinarian because of something you've read - is not only counter-productive to helping your pet, but insulting to the person in the room who spent years and years in veterinary school. Leave the diagnosing to the professionals!

Be realistic
Let's be real here for a minute: Hollywood doesn't make movies like The Wolf of Wall Street about veterinarians. They simply do not go into the profession to make millions of dollars. But they DO have to charge for services, and charge enough to keep their practices solvent. Having your pet diagnosed and treated for an illness or injury can be expensive - especially with the tools and technologies available in veterinary medicine today. Be prepared! Get pet insurance to avoid having to pay unexpected bills out of pocket or, if your pet gets sick or hurt before you have a policy, communicate any financial concerns to your veterinarian upfront. Expecting free services or attempting to haggle over a bill after the fact only makes everyone's jobs harder, and diminishes the relationship between you and your veterinarian.

Sing their praises
If you really want to express gratitude to your veterinarian, send them a thank you note, give the practice a positive review on social media or even consider nominating them for an award. The AVMA, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association and other organizations (including Petplan!) all accept nominations for their annual veterinary awards. It's a meaningful way to give back to your veterinary heroes for all they do to keep your beloved pets healthy -- especially those who go above and beyond in patient and client care.

Whatever you do to thank the people who keep your furry friends by your side, remember John F. Kennedy's advice: "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them!"