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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

How Is Your Relationship with Your Vet?

Updated: October 8th, 2018

relationship-with-vet-dog-cDr. Demian Dressler, author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, and his oncologist co-author, Dr. Susan Ettinger, don’t always agree about everything. But they definitely agree that you are the ultimate authority on your own dog – and that’s why you should take on the role of “Primary Health Advocate.”

As Primary Health Advocate, you bring together a team to work with your dog. That team includes you, your dog, other important family members or friends, and your vet. It might also include an oncologist, or other specialist or health care practitioner. And still, even with these experts, you are the one in charge.

Why? Because: ultimately, you’re the one who has to live with the decisions that are made about treatments. And you pay the bills.

What Medical Experts Might Think You Want

You may need to have a short conversation about this role with your vet, if you haven’t already. Your veterinarian may hold the common assumption that you want them to be in control of decisions about your dog’s cancer. To the contrary, most of us dog lovers seem to want to be in charge of decisions, or to share decision-making with our veterinarian and/or oncologist.

We definitely don’t mean to imply that you should not trust your vet, and we’re not saying that they don’t have an expert opinion. We’re just pointing out that your vet, with his or her specialized training, is an invaluable team player … but you’re still the boss.

It may be worth it to tell your veterinarian directly that you would like to know all of your options so you can make the final decisions. Sometimes we hear from dog lovers that their veterinarian assumed that they wouldn’t want to hear about expensive treatment options, or outside-the-box options, or clinical trials … when in fact they would have welcomed the information. It’s horrible to look back and wonder if you would have chosen a different course of action if you’d been given information earlier in the process. So: have that conversation with your veterinarian!

So how do you work with your vet?

Chapter 22 of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide covers this topic in some detail. It’s called “Working with Professionals and Loved Ones,” and has a lot of interesting things to say about the way vets think and the best way to communicate with them. It even has a list of dozens and dozens of questions to ask your veterinarian about your dog’s cancer diagnosis and treatment options.

Some treatment options Dr. Dressler and Dr. Ettinger present in their book can challenge conventional thinking. Other options will challenge holistic or alternative thinking. But that’s OK. In the end, what you think is more important.

No Dogmatic Thinking

The essence of Dr. Dressler’s Full Spectrum approach to cancer care is that dogma of any kind does not belong in medicine. Scientists are supposed to make decisions based on evidence, not belief. If a treatment has been shown to help and is safe, Dr. Dressler thinks it should be considered. There are dozens of strategies outlined in his book. Not every one will apply to every dog cancer case … but they’re all worth checking out and seeing if they might work for your dog.

Trust Your Vet

Your relationship with your veterinarian is very important, because the level of trust and ease of communication you share will impact your decisions about your dog. It’s a good idea to take a little time to work on it.

The Dog Cancer Kit has several resources that can help. In addition to the book, (and the eBook edition, which you can read while the paperback is shipped to you), you get The Dog Cancer Coping Guide, which can help you to calm down and think clearly – and that always helps when you’re talking to your veterinarian. There are also several Ask Dr. Dressler webinars that touch on your relationship with your veterinarian.

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Best Wishes & Doggy Kisses from Our Homes to Yours,

Dog Cancer Vet Team

(The Team of Dog Lovers Who Understand What It Means to Have a Dog with Cancer)

Discover the Full Spectrum Approach to Dog Cancer

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