Tell the pet's owner how you really feel

Tell the pet's owner how you really feel

Make sure you're watching out for the best interests of the veterinary patient, not the owner.
Feb 01, 2013

Long ago, I decided to stop trying to guess what recommendation would be best received by the pet lover on the other side of the exam table. At that moment, I became an advocate for the best care I could offer for the pet on the table between us.

These days I don't care if the pet's owner is the kind of person who'd say "no" even if money or time weren't an issue, or the person who'd say "yes," but money is always an issue. The fact is, that doesn't matter. Because here's the thing: You can always be accused of being late for an appointment, of missing a diagnosis, or of charging a lot for your services, whether they're true or not. But the one thing you should never be accused of is not looking after the best interest of your patient.

We all know the fine line we walk, because the patient is capable neither of deciding on care nor of paying the cost of it. But that doesn't change my responsibility to that animal. My training, my experience, and my heart and soul all demand that I do what I can to the best of my ability, no matter how my recommendations may be received or perceived by the owner.

What I will do, however, is help the owner to prioritize—to decide what needs to be done now or what can wait, and in what order will serve the pet's best interest. And having given all the help and information I can, I will also do my best to make peace with any responsible and caring decision made by the owner.

Dr. Marty Becker is a popular speaker and author of more than 22 top-selling books, including The Healing Power of Pets. He is the resident veterinarian on Good Morning America, a regular guest on The Dr. Oz Show, and the lead veterinary contributor to Dr. Becker practices at North Idaho Animal Hospital in Sandpoint, Ida. and Lakewood Animal Hospital in Coeur d'Alene, Ida.