Published: Apr 14 2015 : Mirror (Bangalore)
Visits to vets can be stressful for dog and people. The place is often full of sick and stressed dogs and tense V people. Even if one walked in calm, it’s easy to get into what I call “The Collective Hospital Tension“. When it’s an emergency, the whole thing gets worse. It’s easy to get emotional, forget half the things we wanted to say, forget half the things we wanted to ask about and not to register most of what is said. We come back and ponder. The thing with dogs is that a dog cannot speak about his ailment. It all boils down to our and our vet’s ability to observe and conjecture. This is a fine skill and often fails us if we attempt it under duress. So here are some ways to prepare before going to a vet and while at a vet.
First up, maintain a dog diary. One diary for all household dogs will do. But keep it handy. Jot down anything out of the ordinary.Not just health issues, but life events too. Health issues can be logged as aberrations in appetite, poop, pee, skin and fur conditions, strong odours emanating from ears, nose, eyes, mouth or any other part of the dog, gait, water consumption, dandruff. Life events to log would include any change in diet or other routine, sudden stressors like being chased by a cow or getting a scare during a walk, extreme weather conditions, loud external events like construction, fireworks and loud speakers.Log behavioural changes too. These include sudden hyperactivity, loss of temper, lethargy and irritation. Telling patterns of escalating stress or deteriorating health include odd inexplicable behaviour like chasing one’s tail, self harm and lack of concentration.
When logging notes, be generous with pictures and videos.That is what we have our gadgets for these days. Here is a good way to put it to use for your dog. These pictures help you look for improvements or deterioration of any kind and will help you react sooner.
When at a vet, ensure you take your journal and point to what you think are relevant parts of the journal. It is your prerogative to get your vet to understand your dog and your home. And it is your responsibility to understand what exactly your vet is saying.Ask questions. As many as you need to ask. Get specific. Good vets are very good at providing full transparency on what they are thinking. If your vet says it’s an infection, ask all the questions: “Infection in what part of the body?“, “What kind of infection?
Fungal/bacterial/viral?“. “What kind of bacteria?“. “What is the medicine being prescribed?“. “What does each medicine do?“.Don’t be afraid of technical terms. Write them down in your journal or ask the vet to write the term down. You can seek help to understand these terms later. But log them all down so you know what you are dealing with.
Journals also help if you want to change vets or seek second Journals also help if you want to change vets or seek second opinion. Often, the second vet will want to know what has been the course of treatment this far. You can then just whip out your journal and read it out like a pro.
Apart from vets, trainers too can benefit from this journal. After all, it will be a combination of a health and behaviour journal.So while adding veterinary records, log training records too. Log each session with the trainer, what was taught, how you intend to practice it and any unexpected outcome of the training session.
The thing is, we remember in celebrations and catastrophies. But when it comes to the dog’s health and behaviour, it’s the small details that actually matter. The more nuances you catch, the sooner you can react.