Veterinarians Share The One Thing They Wish People Understood About Their Pets
David Mark from Pixabay

Pets can be wonderful companions, reliable helping hands when farming and hunting, or therapeutic presences when people feel gloomy or alone.

Nothing has proved all of this more than life at home during the pandemic.

But before leaping into pet ownership, it's important to think deliberately about that undertaking.

Nobody is more aware of those subtleties than a veterinarian. And lucky for us, plenty of vets use Reddit.


Redditor mrktx21 asked:

"Veterinarians of Reddit: What is one thing you wish people would know/understand about their pet?"

Just Imagine Being Stuck Home All Day Every Day...Oh Wait 

"About their pet, the best one I know is one I heard a while ago: You have your life, your job, your friends, your family to provide your social interaction per day. Your dog only has YOU."

"Interact with your dog for more than five minutes per day and maybe your dog will not go out barking every five seconds."

-- schrodingerscatty

Consistency is Key 

"Don't complain about your dog not having boundaries when you're literally feeding them scraps off your plate at dinner time! That's 100% on you." -- SquiliamFancySon95

"It's so tiring trying to get my parents to stop feeding their dog who is highly allergic to all sorts of meat food scraps off the table."

"In their minds, they're being kind and can't help pampering the dog when in reality it just causes her to chew her paw pads off when she has her allergic reactions. It blows my mind." -- takenwithapotato

You Get What You Pay For 

"Vaccines you get at the drug store on the corner or the feed and tack shop ARE NOT as good or the same as the ones you get at the vet."

"Just because your dog is scratching its ears does not mean it has ear mites."

"Your cat is not urinating outside the box because its a jerk ( it might be) it probably has an infection."

"Not eating for 3 days while vomiting and having diarrhea is a huge deal! That 5lb chihuahua or even 80lb lab cant lose that many fluids without having any intake and be ok and neither would you."

-- missnorlax

Do Your Research 

"RVT here. Exotic animals (reptiles, birds, small mammals such as rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and rodents) may be easy to acquire and assumingly easier to take care of but most of these animals have very specific housing and dietary needs that need to be met and require enrichment."

"Also, not every veterinarian has experience with exotic animals, and exotic animal medicine is sometimes at a premium but is still necessary."

"I've met a lot of people who get a small mammal or a small bird for like $20 from the pet store and then won't pay for medical care because it costs way more than the pet was purchased for."

-- spookybunno

Bring the Enthusiasm

"Not a vet but my mom is."

"One thing that really frustrates her is the myth that neutering a cat will make them fat and lazy."

"It reduces the amount of calories they need which means they need less food and/or more exercise to maintain the same weight. Cats generally get less energetic as they get older regardless, but most will still perk up if you make the effort to wave a toy in their face every so often."

-- mylifeisathrowaway10

The Only Language Pets Have 

"I am a vet. I wish people just even had a BASIC understanding of dog or cat body language. Ffs."

"The number of videos posted on reddit of animals in distress and its tagged as 'oh my little fluffster is so cute when he plays!' or whatever makes my blood boil."

"That kind of moronic ignorance is what gets children bit by the pet dog or the cat who is now dying because the owner had no idea of the signs 4 months ago."

-- little_miss_bumshine

To Keep in Mind 

"If you see a stray cat with a cleanly clipped ear tip do not take it to a shelter. Either take it home to live with you or leave it on the street."

"Clipped ears mean they were caught, neutered/spayed by the city/county, and released. This is a way to control cat populations and, over time, protect wildlife. They compete for resources with fertile cats without adding to the population."

"In many cities, stray cats are more likely to be adopted from the street than in the shelter. If the cat is taken to a shelter they cannot legally release it because it is now abandoning the animal. That cat will be euthanized, or at best absorbs resources until it finds a home."

-- Strict_Ad_2094

Tough, But Significant 

"From my former vet tech girlfriend, don't leave your pets to be euthanized without you. It's hard to be there and it's hard to watch, but if you leave them they will die scared and looking for you."

"She had to try and comfort pets whose owner's couldn't bring themselves to stay and it's one of the few things that makes her cry."

-- The-one-true-hobbit

One Vet's Take on Love and Stewardship

"If you own a pet and it's not a bird/mammal, it doesn't love you, not the way you're thinking of love. Reptiles, amphibians, and fish don't produce serotonin the way mammals and some birds do."

"They really do not care about you, they don't want to be snuggled, they don't want to be your friend, and it doesn't make a difference to them if you feed them/do their maintenance or someone else does."

"YES, they can learn to recognize you as their primary caregiver (my axolotls all know who I am and swim up to the glass if I'm there, which they don't do with anyone else), and they may come to TRUST you (which is arguably more valuable than love) but we do not know enough about them to say that they can love you."

"We just know that they can't love you the way you love them. They're biologically incapable of it, and that's not a bad thing, just different."

-- chibimonkey

Trust and Patience 

"I'm a vet."

"99% of patients are ok with drop off appointments due to COVID. The number of clients claiming 'my pet has severe anxiety, I can't believe you're making him go in alone!' is quite high. Almost all pets are fine. And the ones who aren't fine, I've allowed owners in the building to help."

"There's been 2 since March who actually were in distress despite people complaining daily about it being an issue."

"Also I think people need to learn more about the medical process in general. Tests are usually required to make a diagnosis. Sometimes even with tests the diagnosis is grey. Sometimes spending all the money will not guarantee success. Many times there's not a magic shot I can give to fix it."

-- Dr-does-little

Cute Is Temporary

"Dont buy a dog only because you like the way it looks."

"Huskies and most sorts of shepherds are working dogs. They need lots of activities to be happy and they often turn aggressive if they do not get enough of it!"

"Cute is cute, but there's a lot more to be considered."

- Paulinemaller

Just Like You

"For all idiots out there who think you put a dog on a chain and leave it, get your head out of your a…"

"If you're hot the dog is probably hot. If you need shade, so does the dog."

"If you're not standing outside in the rain, neither should the dog."

"Your dog needs food, shelter, and love just like you do."

- oxfordveterinary

Inconvenient To Your Routine? Do It Anyway.

"If we tell you to give your pet meds, give your pet the effin meds, as directed, until told to stop."

"Some owners seem to think this is optional for their sick pets if it is inconvenient to their routine but especially chronic diseases that may be otherwise managed like seizures, renal, heart disease can really deteriorate due to a non-compliant owner."

"An ounce Prevention is really over a pound of cure, and if you end up coming in to our ER we will cost significantly more than your regular vet. It’s not because we’re greedy that extra expense goes directly to our enormous overhead costs to keep our doors open."

"We’re fully staffed and prepped with surgical and monitoring equipment to handle emergency procedures 24/7, we stock an extensive in-house pharmacy to be prepared to care for a wide variety of ill hospitalized patients, we maintain expensive lab equipment to run bedside diagnostics and have test results within mins to hours rather than send to outside labs, multiple oxygen cages, etc."

"We’re not taking advantage of your unfortunate situation, this is simply what is required to have on hand to provide the standard of care required for dealing with lots of very sick patients all the time."

"So give your pet the meds the way you're supposed to and avoid coming to see us."

- Sweet_Maybe1623

Mosquitoes Can Fly Indoors

"Just because your dog/cat is indoor does not mean that they can’t get heart worms!"

"Why do people think mosquitoes can’t get inside a house?!??! Their wings don't suddenly stop working once they fly indoors. They aren't suddenly not mosquitoes anymore and will just give up on biting."

"Get the heart worm meds. Use the heart worm meds."

- TerraJohnson94

"If you live in the south east yes heartworm prevention is required year round."

"Yes there are mosquitoes. Just because your pet doesn’t go outside doesn’t mean it won’t get fleas if you dont have it on prevention!"

- Adventure_vettech

Constraints Up Front

"If you're financially constrained, tell us your budget and goals for the visit up front. I realize it might seem rude but we're happy to work with it."

"In fact the budget part was actually part of my schooling - our clinical reasoning capstone included financial constraints on some of our cases."

"Basically for the class we got a couple cases each week and we had to pick the diagnostic tests we would run and then based on the results we had to outline a treatment plan. The first few were pretty easy with no spending cap so we could do the "gold standard" diagnostic and treatment plan, like a full blood panel and radiographs and ultrasound and endoscopy for chronic vomiting but then they would start introducing things like a $500 budget for a pet with cushings and we have to figure out the minimal diagnostic tests to give us reasonable certainty but also save enough money for treatment."

"Likewise, let them know your goals for the treatment. We would love to 100% fix every pet but sometimes that isn't possible or reasonable."

"If your 11 year old golden retriever comes in with swollen lymph nodes I would love to aspirate it, send a sample off for flow cytommetry, and refer to an oncologist for treatment but sometimes that's not in the budget or the owner doesn't want to put the dog through chemo or chemo wouldn't get them much more time or would reduce the quality of life and palliative care is a completely reasonable alternative."

- daabilge

Individuals Like Us

"That they are individuals, just like us."

"So many owners think that because their previous or other dog was/is a certain way that their new dog will be, too. Nope! they are an individual in their own right and thus have their own personalities."

"There is no cookie-cutter version of a dog where everything turns out the same. Show them some respect and treat them like an individual instead of being disappointed that they don't meet your expectations."

- youhaveafuture

I Don't Care. Also...

"To keep the damn come oh your animals head!"

"I dont care if he's uncomfortable. He's gonna me more uncomfortable when his incision gets infected."

"Also that you can't immediately change a dog/cats food. It takes them 3 months of gradual transitioning if you're going to avoid gastrointestinal issues."

- jellyfishpenis

Human-Grade

"The worst one to me is the massively successful marketing myth that dog food should follow “human-grade” standards."

"Grain free foods are implicated in serious and sometimes fatal conditions and grain allergies are very rare! The most common allergen in pet food is to the protein and is usually easily fixable by switching to a novel one (eg, salmon and rice purina diet or something)."

"There’s also really no such thing as 'fillers' in pet food. It’s all specifically formulated for optimum nutrient content and macros."

"Look for a brand that has conducted feeding trials and employs board certified veterinary nutritionists (purina, IAMS, etc) vs the boutique brands unless your pet has special dietary needs in pretty much all cases."

"and for the love of god exercise portion control for your critters! Obesity is an epidemic in pets too and it absolutely kills."

- flaaffyy

This Whole List

"1- Your personal beliefs on diet and religion and gender orientation should NOT be placed on your pet."

"If you wanna be vegan, fine, but it can kill your pet. Just because you don't want to go on birth control because of religion doesn't mean your dog/cat shares that view (and can produce a lot more offspring!), and there's no such thing as a dog/cat being nonbinary (yes we have heard that!)"

"2- SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR GODDAMN PET."

"He has NO emotional attachment to his balls. But he will get REAL sad when they torse, develop cancer, or cause him to become more aggressive and wander away looking for females."

"We see a pyometra every week (that's where your female's uterus will fill with pus leading to sepsis)- that's a $3k+ spay you could have gotten for a few hundred and this with no guarantee they will even survive."

"3- Just because you have a pet does NOT mean you should breed it."

"Breeding is a LOT of HARD, EXPENSIVE work. I have no sympathy for your financial costs with a dystocia. Even worse if you ignore the situation and the female dies in labor (no, sir, the puppies will not survive either). With access to information in this day in age you have NO excuse not to be educated before you do this."

"4- Your dog's ear infection/limp/anxiety/single instance of vomiting/any condition going on for 3 weeks is NOT an emergency."

"If you go to an emergency hospital, do not throw a fit about the costs or the wait time. Just because YOU made a poor decision does NOT mean you have to punish those who are there to help with REAL emergencies (ie seizures, hit by cars, bloat, etc.). Also, emergency vets are ALWAYS going to be more expensive- it costs more to keep skilled nurses and doctors on hand 24/7. We deserve to make a living wage, too!"

"5- HEARTWORM PREVENTION. DO IT."

"Unless you want your dog to die young and share it's intestinal parasites with you, there's no excuse."

"6- Your cat will die faster if you let it outdoors."

"It definitely wont be happier with frequent bite wounds, getting hit by a car, coming home with a difficult ailment we cant diagnose because we dont have a history, etc. Cats who roam freely outdoors have half the life expectancy of indoor cats."

"7- Yelling at veterinary personnel, insulting them, etc. is never ok. Stop it. Don't ever do it."

- Your_Moms_Strap_On

Like human beings, domestic animals are nuanced and complicated.

They have physical needs that can be costly and time consuming.

They're profoundly social, demanding plenty of attention.

And like all of us, they live somewhere along a spectrum of physical and mental health.

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