Dr. Shadi Ireifej reflects on what veterinarians wish their clients knew - and some things they wish clients would just stop doing!
By Pet Pro Supply Co. Featured Veterinarian,
Dr. Shadi Ireifej DVM DACVS
Co-founder and Chief Medical Officer at VetTriage
All service professionals are frustrated by the number of things they wish their clients knew. Vets are no different. Some things may appear to be common sense in pet care, but not all pet parents grasp them. Here are some of the most frustrating ones!
Last-minute health certificates for airplane travel
It is all too common that when a health certificate is needed for traveling with your pet, the request for such a certificate arrives at the veterinary facility too late. It can often take 10 days or more from the time a pet visits the veterinarian (for a physical examination, vaccination updates, and any necessary testing), to the time where a health certificate stating that the pet is healthy and free of infectious disease can be issued to the traveler.
Since this process requires multiple steps, it is vital that the moment a pet owner plans or schedules a flight with their pet, that an appointment is made with a federally accredited veterinarian. This may require seeing a different doctor at the practice a pet owner normally visits or even making an appointment with an entirely new veterinary facility to meet with an appropriately licensed vet. Not every veterinarian is approved to write health certificates!
Pet parents: save yourself and your vet the frustration by just planning ahead!
Here is another blog post I wrote on this topic, going into extensive detail:
Flying With Your Pet - by Dr. Shadi Ireifej
Not looking into pet insurance
There are many different pet insurance companies out there. Each contain different plans, options and costs. Select the insurance company and plan that best fits your companion pet situation and lifestyle. Seeking your family veterinarian’s opinion may also be valuable when deciding on which company to choose.
Despite pet insurance companies being around since the 80s, most people are unaware that such services exist. Or, many people are aware of these companies, but just fail to see their benefits.
Pet insurance companies are, relatively speaking, a gamble. This is true of any insuance. The pet owner pays a specified dollar amount on a monthly basis just in case the pet gets unexpectedly ill or sustains trauma. For pets who are prone to illness or trauma or for pet owners who are not focused on preventative health measures, such services are extraordinarily beneficial. Those pets who tend to stay out of trouble or for pet owners who are diligent about preventative and safety measures, the benefits of the insurance coverage for your pet may never be utilized.
That being said, nobody hopes that their pet becomes ill or hurt just for the sake of the insurance company benefits being utilized. Therefore, the question of whether or not acquiring pet insurance is worth it for any given pet owner really comes down to your ability to financially secure veterinary health if an emergency arises. If your financial situation does not lend itself to an unexpected large veterinary expense in a very short period of time, pet insurance is potentially of great benefit to you.
Once pet insurance is acquired, and your pet sustains an unfortunate medical or traumatic injury that necessitates emergency veterinary care, the company will ask for your final veterinary invoice. Based on your plan, the pet insurance company will then reimburse you a specific amount of the invoice you had paid your veterinarian. These reimbursements can often be quite substantial - it's worth your time to do the paperwork! The pet insurance company will also ask for medical records and a form filled out and signed by your vet.
Rarely, some pet insurance companies allow for pre-approval based on the estimate from your veterinarian. This is helpful with very large expenses. The pet owner contacts their insurance company, submits the estimate to them, and within minutes to hours the company may determine if they are going to reimburse you and how much.
So, pet insurance sounds like a great thing and pet owners should look into it. What exactly is frustrating about it to veterinarians?
This: pet parents, do not wait to acquire pet insurance until the time your pet needs it!
There is a waiting period between requesting pet insurance and finally having it. If your pet starts feeling sick, you don't just get to buy insurance for them on your way to the vet clinic. The insurance company may also not cover pre-existing conditions. Pre-existing conditions may be those that were present in your pet’s medical history prior to acquiring the insurance (even if something just happened prior to the purchase) or those conditions that may have an increased likelihood of occurring based on your pet’s genetics or history.
I speak for all sensible vets when I say: look into insurance for your pet as early as possible. If it makes financial sense for you, it can be a great benefit to have - and it may even save your pet's life!
Unnecessary appointments and "non-emergencial" emergencies
A big frustration for veterinarians originates from pet owners creating appointments as emergencies for issues that are not actual emergencies, or worse - often not even medical concerns at all. Although the veterinarian is more than happy to evaluate and take care of a client’s pet and alleviate the pet owner’s concern, such an appointment takes up time and resources, despite the simplicity of such a case. And for most veterinarians, their time is scarce: they consistently have fully booked appointment slots, surgeries planned, phone calls to make, and actual medical emergencies entering their facility at any moment.
There is an emerging solution that bridges the gap between a pet owner’s ease of mind and providing excellent veterinary care to a large number of people - all the while avoiding a potentially unnecessary and expensive in-person veterinary visit that adds to the already busy and stressful day of your veterinarian. That is veterinary telemedicine.
This brand-new and evolving branch of veterinary medicine is gaining more and more traction by the day, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet despite the popularity of telemedicine on the human medicine side, the vast majority of pet owners (and veterinarians!) are still learning what veterinary telehealth entails.
VetTriage.com is a one-of-a-kind direct to consumer video telemedicine service that aims to alleviate the frustrations of overscheduled vets while giving pet owners an easy, affordable channel for pet care. Pet owners be assured in knowing that if a sudden ailment to their pet can be managed with conservative care at home or with a scheduled veterinary appointment, the doctors at VetTriage.com will advise them accordingly.
Note: if a true medical emergency exists, a vet will be able to identify this during a telehealth consultation - which will make it more likely for other vets to make room in their schedule to see the ill or traumatized pet!
This list of what veterinarians wish their clients knew comes with the best of intentions. Vets do not take joy in seeing ill or traumatized pets who cannot get help! The more prepared a pet owner can be, the better a vet can help them when a pet emergency arises. Help your vet help you (and your pet)!
About Dr. Shadi Ireifej:
Dr. Shadi Ireifej DVM DACVS is the Chief Medical Officer at VetTriage. He holds degrees from SUNY Binghamton and Cornell University and has practiced as a veterinary surgeon all across the United States. Follow him on Instagram @dr.shadi.ireifej and subscribe to his YouTube channel (Dr. Shadi Ireifej).
VetTriage is the world’s foremost provider of veterinary telehealth services. With VetTriage, pet owners have immediate access to triage advice from licensed veterinarians. Follow them on Instagram @vettriage and Facebook (facebook.com/televeterinarian).