Let’s face it: there are some terrible veterinarians out there. I’ve encountered my fair share over the years, both directly and also through hearing stories from my dog training/behavior clients. What makes a bad vet often isn’t lack of intelligence. Veterinary school is highly academically competitive. Some of the most common complaints I’ve heard from my clients is more about attitude and their experience being with their veterinarian. There seems to be an arrogance or closed-mindedness that comes with the territory. Why?
Now hold on. Obviously not all vets are arrogant egomaniacs. I’ve worked with and interviewed some excellent vets over the years, and I covet them. One of my favorite “regular” vets (not holistic) in Seattle is Dr. Erica Anderson, owner of Jet City Animal Clinic. She has that seemingly rare combination of being both an excellent veterinarian and having an open minded, humble attitude. She is careful, attentive, creative, and more than willing to try new things and work with holistic practitioners like veterinary acupuncturists, holistic veterinarians, and etc.
One of my favorite things about her as a “regular” vet is that she values nutrition as a cornerstone of good health. Imagine that! Pardon my sarcasm, but I’m frustrated with the general mentality of the institution of veterinary medicine, which peddles prescription diets that are made from ingredients like corn, wheat, soy and meat by-products. Dr. Anderson believes they have their place at times, for short periods of time, but generally recommends less processed foods like raw or cooked food diets, dehydrated or freeze-dried foods, and even home-prepared diets, as long as the recipe is complete and balanced. When kibble is necessary, look for a high quality kibble with no grain, no by-products, and shop at a local, small, “natural” pet store. Don’t buy your pet food from a grocery store or pet superstore.
Unfortunately, Dr. Anderson wasn’t taught to think this way in vet school, but she says she’s seen so many pets transform when switched to raw diets or less-processed foods. She said, “They thrive versus live. Their increased vitality is undeniable…why would I be against something that has such a consistent positive effect on animals?”
“I’ve always thought outside the box and questioned everything”, she said as we sat across from each other with a bowl of chips and salsa in the middle. She continued, “Veterinarians in general are brilliant, but conservative and afraid of trying something that might not work, or observing that what they are doing isn’t working.”
Dr. Anderson told me that her clients are often so surprised that she consistently follows up with them by phone to check on how their pet is doing. Of course she’s going to check in and make sure the animal is getting better; that is how she learns!
“Medicine is an art”, she said. “There is so much to hold all at once: the body, the mentality of both human and pet, nutrition, and the numbers that science provides. Medicine is a mystery you have to solve with each individual being.”
Dr. Anderson expects her clients to play an active role in the decision making process for their animals. She works together with her clients to inform them and respects their opinions. She is also open to trying new things. She encourages people not to tolerate a vet who doesn’t listen; who doesn’t think they have anything to learn. She lets her animal patients continue to teach her and she works with every family to make the best medical choices for them and their pets. “If I am small-minded and ego-driven, I’m not going to learn and expand. Being open minded ultimately makes me more effective in what I do, which is bringing wellness to people’s beloved pets.”
We talked about how this is similar to my field of training and behavior. There are a lot of trainers who are attached to one type of training, but what is true is that every dog is different. Being equipped with, and open to, a number of different styles and techniques will bring more consistent results for each dog as an individual.
Dr. Anderson says that your veterinarian should listen to you and not talk over you or tell you what to do. They should involve you in decisions and should actually like animals…she said, “You’d be surprised…”
Don’t settle for a veterinarian who doesn’t listen to you and value your opinion. There are plenty of wonderful, open-minded veterinarians out there – sometimes it just takes a little time to find the right vet for you and your animal.
You can find Dr. Anderson and her team at jetcityanimalclinic.com.