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Veterinarians and Suicide

More than three decades of data show that veterinarians are up to 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than members of the general population, according to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

I used to work for Dr. Sophia Yin. Outside of our office, she was very bubbly and good with people. We’ll never know what she was feeling on the inside because she took her own life on September 28th, 2014 at 48 years of age.

Every time I see someone online scorning a veterinarian I have big feelings.

It makes me angry when people attack veterinarians. They aren’t running non-profits, and they also have to put food on their tables and feed their pets. I don’t particularly like my dentist but he has to keep me healthy, and he also has to cover costs for his small practice.

I saw a post by Dr. Judy Morgan this week, and it struck a chord for me.

Veterinarians have an incredibly hard job. So many times I see comments online like “they are only in it for the money” or “they hate dogs,” and I have to challenge anyone who says that… do you think anyone gets into Veterinary medicine because they hate dogs?

I support my veterinarians because, besides myself, they are the next best advocate for my dogs.

They constantly have to deal with unspeakable things like sitting in a room giving a cancer diagnosis one moment and then moving to the next room to visit with a brand new puppy. I don’t know about you, but that would take a toll on me.

I have had some extremely tragic dog losses and diagnoses, and I can’t even imagine having to give a heart-wrenching cancer diagnosis or putting a beloved old (or young) dog to sleep and then turning around and seeing your next patient with their healthy dog and being able to adjust and cope emotionally.

I have massive respect for any veterinarian who sees my dogs. They have a tough job as it is, and then they have me! But I’m fortunate to have found a couple of vets who I have built a good rapport with; it did take time though. I have multiple veterinarians, depends on the dog and the case we are working on.

I reached out to my friend, Dr. Judy Morgan, and I asked her “what can I do to help make visits easier for both you and me?” And she gave me this excellent list…

  • Be organized.
  • Have your list of questions ready, so you don’t forget them and have to call back three times.
  • If the veterinarian recommends treatment or diet change and you don’t follow the recommendations you can’t blame the veterinarian if nothing improves (yes, people pay $400 for a consultation and then do nothing and get mad because the animal isn’t cured).
  • Bring the label from the food you feed, be truthful about snacks, treats, the food you give.
  • Bring the supplements you use.
  • Ask for titers if you want them.
  • Let us know if you have a limited amount of money. Ask for an estimate so you won’t be surprised at the front desk.
  • Don’t ignore dental health.

I also asked my friend, Dr. Leslie Eide, if she had any thoughts.

It’s important to listen “to the vet’s questions” and to “answer honestly and to your best ability. For example, if I ask how is Fluffy today? Don’t say I don’t know, you tell me.”

We know our dogs best so it’s essential that we keep tabs on how they usually act so when they are behaving differently, we have a baseline. This means taking note of their activity level, or if they are eating or drinking, or if they are peeing or pooping normally. I can tell if my dogs are “off” based on how they are acting in the house or out on a walk or if they are relaxing (or not) in the home. Pay attention!

Dr. Eide also had an excellent point that “general courtesy goes a long way. Just saying thank you, not interrupting, staying on topic are huge.” Be nice. Be kind. Breathe. We all have the same goal in mind… healthy dogs.

Tips for distracted humans.

I bring my iPhone into every appointment and ask the vet if it’s okay if I record our visit because I also have a lot of anxiety around visiting the vet and I need to write things down to process them – recording it helps me re-listen when we’re home.

Yup, we humans can also be traumatized by the vet. I have a whole routine *I* follow aside from the work I do with my dogs around our vet visits. That’s another blog post!

Hopefully, these tips from some of my favorite veterinarians will give you some tips for better vet visits. Remember, they got into this field because they love dogs. We have the same goal in mind. Be kind, breathe, and hug your dog, and your vet!

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