So here we are at the end of one year and the beginning of the next. Who am I to buck the tradition of the New Year’s Resolution? This is mine from the "professional improvement" category:

I will strive to be more compassionate with "difficult" pet owners.

As is the case for many veterinarians, I got into this field because I love animals and am fascinated with medicine and science. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy working with (most) people, but if people were my primary focus, I would have gone into human medicine. I wasn’t naïve when I applied to veterinary school; I knew that dealing with people would be a huge part of my job. But when I get tired, frustrated, or overwhelmed, I have little patience with people who make helping their animals more difficult than it has to be.

I can usually fake my way through appointments with difficult clients. I basically become an actor playing the role of a considerate veterinarian and focus most of my attention on my patient. I try to remember that it is never the animal’s fault if his or her owners are driving me crazy. In this way, I ensure that my patient’s medical care doesn’t suffer just because I don’t really like the people to whom he or she is attached.

This approach works in so far as it goes, but leaves me feeling like I’ve shirked one of my professional duties — truly connecting with my patient’s primary caretaker. I suspect that these owners leave our appointments somewhat unsatisfied as well — my acting skills haven’t landed me in Hollywood, after all.

Therefore, I resolve to truly try to connect with even the most difficult of clients by remembering that I don’t know what troubles are the cause of a person’s attitude and that most people are doing the best they can under the circumstances.

Now on to the other side of the exam table, so to speak. If you haven’t made a resolution in the "pet care" category, might I suggest:
 

I will take care of one aspect of preventive veterinary medicine that I’ve been putting off.

Did 2012 pass without your pet benefiting from a "wellness" exam? Does your cat need a dental cleaning? What about a fecal examination/prophylactic deworming for your dog? Did your veterinarian recommend a panel of lab work to screen for disease in your canine or feline "senior citizen"? Is there a vaccination you declined, but with hindsight think might be a good idea? What about heartworm or feline leukemia/immunodeficiency virus testing? Does your pet have a microchip? Is he or she neutered/spayed if not part of a breeding program?

Make it your New Year’s resolution to knock off at least one aspect of veterinary preventive care from your "to do" list in January or February.

Here’s to a healthy and happy 2013. Cheers!

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Beagle New Year by cutiepie company / via Flickr