Saturday, May 3, 2014

Decoding Veterinary Hospital Rules and Policies

While working as a veterinary technician, there were many clients who just didn't understand some of the rules and policies in place at the veterinary hospital. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions about these rules of course, but it still doesn't change the fact that the policies are in place for a reason and must be followed by hospital staff.

Photo via Austin Pet First Aid

I'm talking about questions like "why does my dog need a heartworm test once a year?" or "why does my pet need an exam for vaccinations?" Every veterinary hospital is different, but many of the basic policies I'm talking about here are pretty fluent throughout the country.

Some people may not like or agree with some of the policies mentioned here which is fine. Other pet parents are totally cool with their veterinary hospital's policies. I am just explaining the reasoning behind them to help pet parents understand them a little better.


Why does my pet need an exam for vaccines?

Many people just want to come in, get some shots, and then be on their merry way. It's understandable. But, many veterinary hospitals require an examination before vaccinating a pet. In Texas, it is a law that a veterinarian must examine the pet before administering a rabies vaccination. 

Photo via Lindsey Turner

Besides trying to be a law-abiding veterinarian, your pet's doctor just wants to make sure that your pet is healthy enough to receive vaccinations. Does your pet even need all of the vaccines you want? This is something you should discuss with your veterinarian before vaccinating. Talking with your veterinarian is part of the exam. If your vet finds that your pet has a more pressing health problem, they may opt to take care of that first before going on with vaccinations. Veterinarians don't typically like to vaccinate sick animals. 

Why does my pet need an exam for euthanasia?

Some veterinary hospitals will charge an exam fee along with a euthanasia fee. Especially if the pet is a new patient that has never been seen at the hospital before. If the pet is an established patient and his health condition is well-known by his doctors, they may feel that an exam fee is not necessary. 

The pet's life is at stake and no vet wants to put down a pet just because the owners don't want him anymore. It's horrible, but people do walk into hospitals asking for this more than you might think. They usually leave upset when they are told that their pet can't be put to sleep "just because". Exams for new patients before euthanasia are important to make sure that the right decision is being made for the pet. 

Why does my pet need an exam for a prescription or refill?

For people who don't understand this policy, I ask you - would you call your doctor and ask for a refill of pain medication that you received 3 years ago for a hurt back? If you did, it's likely the doctor would not prescribe this medicine to you without seeing you again for the current problem. 

Photo via Tom Baugis

Depending on your pet's situation and condition, they may need an exam more or less frequently. Where I worked, the maximum amount of time the doctor would go without seeing a patient for an exam and refill a prescription was one year. Again, this just depends on the pet's history, situation, and medical condition. 

Why does my dog need a heartworm test once a year?

You can't buy heartworm prevention for your dog without a prescription. And in order to get a prescription, your dog needs to have a heartworm test performed first. As mentioned above, doctors like to see their patients on at least a yearly basis. 

It's not likely that your own doctor would continue prescribing a medication for you for more than a year without some sort of re-evaluation. The same goes for our pets. There are repercussions to giving a dog with heartworms heartworm prevention. In short, it's not good for them. This is why they are tested once a year. 

There are probably a number of other veterinary hospital rules and policies that I failed to include on this list, but these are some of the more common questions that pet parents ask. If you have a question I didn't answer here, please feel free to ask in the comments! 

37 comments:

  1. We tend to think that most of the exams and treatments are OK but sometimes we do question the need for extra tests etc. Have a super Saturday.
    Best wishes Molly

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  2. I agree with you, it's important to examinate pets first before they get their shots. There are a lot of shots what can lead to side- or aftereffects and sometimes not even the owner can know all about the pet. I asked our vet for a treatment what includes heartworm prevention too instead of the common spot on without what we always use. Heartworms are not common here, but they are accidentally introduced, and some infections happened. Our vet said that's not necessary, but I don't think so. Is it possible that I can order Revolution by Pfizer or is only my vet allowed to order the treatment? Have a super saturday!

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    1. Hmm... well, you can order something like Revolution through an online pharmacy. But after you order it, they will fax something to your vet to sign saying it's OK for you to get the medicine. I don't think your vet should mind? Unless it's different where you live, but that is usually how it works here. I didn't know that there are some heartworms over there.

      Otherwise, I saw some natural prevention from the Only Natural Pet store that I'm working with right now. I wouldn't use natural prevention somewhere where there are high instances of heartworms, but for your purposes it might be OK.

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    2. It depends on the online pharmacy. Some work with vets. Others have their own vets. Others use veterinary prescription licenses without the vet's permission.

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  3. Yep, somethings are really necessary, but I am not a big fan of rules!

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  4. Most of the policies are simple common sense. Our clinic is very nice and they also think of costs and only do exams when they are necessary. Rules are rules and they have to be followed.

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    1. Yes, I was lucky enough to work with one vet who always was thinking of costs for clients. Unfortunately, the practice we worked at didn't like that so much. But that's another story!

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  5. It seems like it's a no-brainer, but I know there are those out there who think an exam isn't necessary.

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  6. With my experience of vets I do question sometime ,as our previous vet was expensive and tried to add extra stuff on the the bill all the time,so to reduce cost I asked for a writen preschription so I could get Speedy's med else where at a cheaper cost and his examination I was told would have to be every 3 months in stead of 6 months which would mean cost more money not saving,this made me cross as before that it was 6 month for repeat preschriptions right up until I asked that question,and legally the vet only has to see the pet every 6 months that was why I changed vets plus the one we changed to had the top surgeon for Speedy's Eye op and they are cheaper too,Speedy vaccination was £27.50 with our current vet with no extra charge for his health check where they even looked at his Paws because I said about the bald patches, but £35.00 with the old one with an extra fee for a health check,the current vet is cheaper ,better service and it a proper hospital too with experts in small animals ,thats a no brainer to me.I don't mind paying for extras if I know why.xx Rachel

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    1. Sounds like you made a good switch Rachel. Vets do want to make money too, but some are more consumed by that than others. I like the small clinics that aren't corporate. They are usually pretty genuine.

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  7. That's great, thank you for sharing!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

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  8. That is interesting. We are good friends with our vet and don't always follow all the rules, but because he says it is ok. For example, he will give me both dogs heart worm when Lee goes in for her check up in the spring (as Phod's is due over the summer). He will also give me more of Phod's car sickness drugs without seeing him. Our dogs only needed a heart worm test the first year and after that they don't as long as they took the pill. Our clinical included the final exam in part of the euthanizing cost. I understand wanting to do that for pets they don't know before euthanizing them (to prevent people from vet hoping to find someone from 'getting rid of' a healthy animal). I do think if people have questions about charges/policies at their clinic, they should ask.

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    1. All of the exceptions you explain sound perfectly normal to me for a well-established client and patient. Definitely something we would have probably done as well in the same situation. That is one of the perks of having a good relationship with your veterinarian!

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  9. I think of it like this, our human physicians won't often prescribe something without seeing us or our children, and my dogs are no different than my children with skin are. If a vet doesn't want to see one of our furry kids to provide any of these services, then I'm going to question just how thorough that vet is, and if we should be seeing them or should we be finding someone else that seems to care more.

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    1. Very well put! I don't think I could have said it any better myself.

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  10. Thanks for clarifying things. We usually follow our vet's recommendations because I figure he is the expert in animals, I'm just the lay person who loves my pet and wants the best for him.

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  11. We would want an examination before getting our vaccinations. We want the vet to check us out and make sure everything is okay. Fortunately, our vet charges a lower rate for the exam if it's for getting vaccinations.

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  12. Some people axed why they gave me the shot while I was having an asthma flare up. Prolly cos it cost the peeps almost $40 in cab fare to get me to the vet and they weren’t gonna do it again this year. I don’t think the peeps are gonna get me vaccinated again since this is 2 years in a row I’ve gotten sick from them.

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    1. Well, CK sometimes there are those situations like your peeps where exceptions might be made. I don't blame you for not wanting them again. At least you are an only cat. Definitely unlikely to get rabies, just don't let those po-po's catch you! ;)

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  13. That's interesting! Learned a few things. Thanks so much for sharing! xox Natalie

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  14. Great post! Very informative and accurate information. I also get these questions on probably a weekly basis working at a veterinary hospital.

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  15. Great post, It's the same in any profession your going to get good and bad, I've changed vets before because I couldn't talk to them because they were in to much of a hurry to get the next client in instead of taking the time to explain things..

    Sheba.

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    1. It's true that sometimes the vets are in a rush. After all, they do have a schedule to follow. Vet techs play an important role in keeping them on time. Still, if you are willing to wait to talk more in depth with them, they should be too.

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  16. I didn't know about most of those. Very informative. Thank you for sharing.

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  17. Thank you for touching on those topics, we get those all the time at the clinic I am a tech at also. They don't understand the Veterinarians license in on the line and if they do something without a exam and the animal gets sick and dies they can be liable. We will split up vaccines and if gotten a exam for the first one if the second one is given with in 4-6 weeks we will just give the second vaccine without a exam for adult dogs, puppys and kittens always get a exam with each vaccination.

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    1. Yea, I know at the very least pets are getting their temps taken and given a quick once over.

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  18. It's interesting that dogs require exams for heartworm whereas cats do not. I wonder if it's because you can actually *treat* dogs who have been infected whereas no treatment exists to kill the heartworm that would not also kill the cat? Hmmm, food for thought. Excellent article - especially the point about the pain med refill from 3 years ago (!!). And I view an exam prior to euthanasia as actually protecting animals from people who decide to euthanize simply because they no longer want the animal (and YES this does indeed occur!!).

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    1. I think the reason is because the testing for cats is more extensive. There is an ELISA test for cats, but if it were to come back positive then further tests would have to be performed in order to confirm it. It is just simply much harder to diagnose a cat with heartworms than it is a dog.

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  19. That's all great information, Ann, and things that people need to know and understand. It all seems reasonable to me. Our vet is pretty good about explaining things to us, but sometimes we do have to ask.

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  20. It's sad that people question these simple things. It should be common sense.

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  21. I love my vet. They do a pre-vaccine exam, but do not charge extra for it. Also, once a condition has been diagnosed there is no follow-up exam fee. Now if it has been a year or so and I need ear meds, they may charge and that is perfectly understandable. :)

    I have heard acquaintances complain about being required to pay for a heart worm exam prior to getting a new RX. What they ended up doing is just not renewing the script. I totally understand why the annual test is important, but I think some vets don't explain it well enough to their clients. I am glad you did this post.

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    1. Thank you! It's OK not to know all the answers to these questions! There are people out there who don't know, which is why I try to explain them as best as I can.

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  22. Great post and information Ann! We really like our vet and we know what to generally expect, and are very happy that we feel comfortable to respectfully ask questions when we don't understand something. And I love that an exam is required before any PTS that is of unknown reason. It's a shame that people want to do so just because, but it's comforting that a vet practice is looking out for the best interest of the pet.

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  23. I worked at the front end of a vet for a while, and ran into the same types of questions for these procedures/expenses.. it is a shame that more people don't understand the value of a good relationship with a vet, and the importance of making sure your pet is healthy..

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  24. This post is very informative for those still searching for the right vet. I am fortunate enough to have already found a great vet that I can trust, He doesn't really have to explain anything to me. I knew him since I got my first pet and I have 3 dogs now and I've never considered seeing anyone else. He was able to help me when my first dog got really sick, After that my dog has never been sick and remained in tip-top shape that's when I decided to continue seeing him.

    - Carl Williams

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