Let me tell you an insider secret from the world of veterinary medicine. There are certain people we can't wait to see come in with their pets. While as health professionals we certainly don't offer them better medical care than people we don't like as much, I do admit that these folks are shown the red carpet.
What makes these clients VIPs, how do you become one, and what will you receive in return for your efforts? The more items you tick off this list, the higher your ranking as a veterinary VIP:
-- You're a tiny bit early for your appointment.
-- You treat the entire staff with respect, warmth and good humor.
-- You come armed with a full history of your pet's current medical problem, the more detailed the better -- e.g., vomited three times yesterday; it was slimy, yellow and contained bits of cardboard packaging.
-- You've trained your pet to welcome, not fear, a veterinary visit, and you've gone through gentling techniques with your pet, so we can easily examine everything.
-- You accept our recommendations after an honest, open discussion.
-- You pay your bills.
-- If we exceed your expectations, you recommend us to others with enthusiasm and frequency.
-- On occasion, for any or no reason, you bring us a plate of brownies or cookies to feed a tired crew.
In return you get:
-- Staffers who fight to take your call and veterinarians who fight to keep you as their client.
-- A veterinary team that lights up even brighter when you walk through the door.
-- Somehow we find a spot on an overbooked schedule for you or find a place to board your pet over a holiday, even though we've been booked full for months.
-- We don't watch the clock as closely when it's your turn in the exam room.
-- Perhaps most important, you can call us after hours for help (VIPs often have their veterinarian's personal cell number!), and we'll either pick up the phone to talk you through it, race to the practice to meet you, or refer you to someone else and tell them to take extra-special care of you.
Little things mean a lot, and they all add up. With respect and a positive attitude on both sides, your relationship with your veterinarian will mean the best experience possible for all.
Video bonus: Watch Pet Connection's Mikkel Becker teach a dog how to sit for the food dish (vetstreet.com/teach-your-dog-to-wait-for-the-food-bowl).
Hide the trash
to protect pet
Q: My son brought his dog home for Christmas, and things went pretty well. The only exception: The dog wouldn't stay out of the kitchen trash bin. My son says it's a problem at home, too. Punishment hasn't helped. What will? -- via email
A: Pets who rummage in bathroom or kitchen wastebaskets are engaging in a habit that's very rewarding, which makes the behavior more difficult to change. After all, the goodies from the kitchen trash (food!) and bathroom trash ("used" paper products) are just about as appealing as can be imagined to a foraging pet.
But aside from the annoyance of cleaning up after garbage raids, this habit can have serious health implications. The cat who ingests string from a roast or ribbon from gift wrapping may need surgery to remove the item. And dogs can end up with blockages that also need to be surgically removed, or with deadly bouts of pancreatitis or peritonitis. And even if the worst never happens, you'll bound to be dealing with the extremely nasty after-effects of a garbage run -- vomiting and diarrhea.
So, yes, this is one habit that needs to be broken.
While you can booby-trap garbage cans -- for example, by putting a pyramid of empty soda cans with pennies in them -- it's really more effective to retrain yourself instead. Put garbage cans behind closed doors: under the sink in the bathroom, and behind a pantry door in the kitchen.
What about lidded cans? I've used a pair of them (one for recycling, one for garbage) in my kitchen for years with great success. That is, until one day my youngest dog stepped on the pedal, possibly by accident, and the resulting "light bulb moment" meant lidded cans were no longer safe! -- Gina Spadafori
(Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com.)
Too few vets choose
to treat large animals
-- The continued boom in pet ownership is having ill effects down on the farm, as veterinarians are increasingly drawn to practices that care for dogs and cats. Only 10 percent of students entering U.S. veterinary schools pursue large-animal practice, says the American Veterinary Medical Association. Treating pets generally means better working conditions, shorter commutes and fewer on-call nights. Fewer large-animal veterinarians is seen as a concern not only for the animals who need care, but also for issues of public health, since veterinarians help to keep the food supply safer.
-- Cats are notorious for not drinking enough water, and their near-chronic state of dehydration contributes to kidney and bladder problems. Getting cats to drink more can be a key to better health, but you may not need to offer purified water (as is sometimes suggested) to do so. A clinician's brief put out by the North American Veterinary Conference suggests that cats like tap water just fine, in fact, choosing it over purified water in a small study.
-- Parrots are attracted to the sound of their own voice, or at least one similar. A study found that female budgerigars prefer mates who sound like themselves. Although the parrots have an ability to imitate other voices, the study shows that female parrots are most attracted to the male if he naturally sounds like her at their first meeting, before any imitation is done. The findings also highlighted the greater help males will give to nesting females if her sound is similar to his. -- Mikkel Becker and Dr. Marty Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and also the authors of many best-selling pet care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.