‘Hey! I have a question about my dog’
Whether you are a vet, a vet tech, a vet nurse, a vet student, a pre-vet student, or a vet receptionist; if you are somewhat involved in the veterinary profession, you are bound to have received one of these messages.
No doubt, you have rolled your eyes at the message and thought ‘just take your pet to the vet.’
I would be lying if I said I have not reacted the same way. But, after some reflection (and playing a bit of Devil’s Advocate with myself), I have decided to look at these messages with a different perspective:
I will preface the rest of this article by saying that, legally, a vet cannot offer advice without seeing an animal as their own patient.
So, although I read these messages with a different attitude, I still reply by recommending the owner take their pet to the vet.
So, why should we embrace these messages?
Why We Should Re-evaluate Free Veterinary Advice
If for no other reason, we should embrace these messages for ourselves.
I find that if I focus on the negatives and get annoyed at the fact someone has messaged me instead of going directly to the vet, all it does is put me in a bad mood. Why should we give a random message that much control over our emotions and our day? The simple answer is, we should not.
In my experience, the people that do message me, do so because they genuinely care for their pets. We tend to assume they are reaching out purely to get free medical advice. But, I do not think this is the case (for the most part).
Often, I find, they are looking for help because they are worried. And in this day and age, the go-to thing to do when you are worried is to turn to the internet!
Almost nobody has got mad at me for explaining that I cannot offer medical advice and recommending they visit a vet. It is all about educating pet owners about what we can and cannot do.
Helping Pet Owners Feel Secure About Going To The Vet
Sometimes the person messaging is doing so because they are nervous about seeing a vet.
This may be because they have not been to a clinic before and are anxious about the visit. Or maybe because they are worried the veterinarian will judge them (especially if they are having to consider humane euthanasia).
Again, these kinds of messages are perfect opportunities for us to educate clients.
As veterinary professionals, we are used to the processes and procedures of a veterinary practice because we work within them day after day. However, for a member of the general public, these processes and procedures are not necessarily common knowledge and do need an explanation.
To me, the most important part of my job is to gain the trust of an owner, so I can offer the best treatment I can for their pets. An easy way to gain some of that trust is to explain the steps I am taking so the whole process does not seem too mysterious to a pet owner.
If explaining some of these steps in a message is what it takes for a pet to get the help it needs, I am happy to do so.
I also like to think that it helps the veterinarian who does end up seeing the animal as the owner already has some sort of an idea as to what may happen in the consult!
How To Respond To Someone Asking For Free Veterinary Advice
As I mentioned earlier, although I have changed my attitude to these messages, I still cannot offer veterinary advice online.
If you are not sure how to respond to one of these messages, feel free to copy and paste one of these responses to use in the future:
‘Hi, I appreciate your concern for your pet. Unfortunately, I am unable to offer you any advice online. The best I can say is to take your pet to your local vet or emergency clinic. Good luck!’
Vet tech/ Nurse/ Receptionist
‘Hi, I appreciate your concern for your pet. Unfortunately, I am unable to offer any advice as I am not a veterinarian. Vets also cannot advise without seeing your pet as their patient. The best I can say is to take your pet to your local vet or emergency clinic. Good luck!’
‘Hi, I appreciate your concern for your pet. Unfortunately, I am unable to offer any advice as I am not a qualified vet. Vets also cannot advise without seeing your pet as their patient. The best I can say is to take your pet to your local vet or emergency clinic. Good luck!’