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Veterinarian: Lifesaver, Caretaker, Confidant

One of the most important relationships a new pet owner can develop is the one with his or her veterinarian. Choosing a quality vet may take some time and entail a bit of trial and error. As with anything of this level of importance, it takes time. Occasionally you strike gold right off the bat. Other times, you look for a long time. Just like with doctors that tend to humans, you want to find one who genuinely cares for his or her patients and puts their needs ahead of everything else. If you can find one with a varied career, and both broad and specific knowledge, that’s all to the good. Some animals are known for curious and not-well-documented ailments. One of these esoterically-inclined vets might be the ticket, depending on the species of your special friend.

The traits you may consider optimal when considering a vet may not be the same as your friends would pick. Some people neither want nor care to know about what the vet does. They simply want their animal to be ‘taken care of’. Others want to be involved in every aspect of the process – to bounce ideas off the vet, to have the security in knowing that whatever happens, they and their animal will be getting the best care possible. Of course, when it comes right down to it, you will want to defer to their judgment, but that dialogue is of importance and shouldn’t be discounted.

As an example of a particularly unpleasant ailment, a common problem in German Shepherds is that some develop an autoimmune disease called Perianal Fistulas - characterized by swelling and inflammation of the sweat and sebaceous glands around the anus. Though the cause is unclear, what is known is that the body is attacking itself. In some rare cases, this disease presents itself on the muzzle. It comes across this way:

Day one: Your dog’s muzzle will have what appears to be either white heads or cystic-type pimples.

Day two: Those pimples open up and are raw and oozing blood and pus. They’re painful.

Day three: They are very raw and extremely irritated. Hopefully, if you see something like this, you won’t, as many people do, wait three days. If you haven’t felt alarm by now, by day two, you should at least have taken your Shepard to the vet. Most vets will recognize the illness easily. A normal course of treatment to try is treating with Animax as 75% of cases usually clear up with one run of the drug. However, if Bruno is the rare dog whose nose or sebaceous glands don’t clear up with one treatment, hopefully your doctor will be open to your bringing alternate or experimental treatments you may have researched on your own to his or her attention. And if you happen to have one who is broadly inclined, they might have a few you don’t know about.

Another ailment particular to a majority of Shepherds (and large dogs in general) is Hip Dysplasia. This is an exceedingly unfortunate side-effect of particular breeding in order to achieve a certain appearance. It can manifest in degrees from mild to severe, and though there are surgical procedures for it, if Bruno’s discomfort can be minimized with anti-inflammatory medication or other medicines, that would be the optimal course. There’s no sense in putting the dog through the physical and emotional distress of surgery if you don’t have to. If your vet (with whom you hopefully have a good rapport) does not advocate surgery, and provides well-founded reasons as to why not, listen to him or her. Take his or her advice.

The point about this narrative is that it’s important to have a relationship with your vet that includes you being your pet’s best advocate. Your vet may understand medicine, but he or she doesn’t a) know everything and b) doesn’t know your dog the way you do.