Want to get your vet to work harder for you? Make it a 'service animal'

Patty Khuly, DVM
January 23, 2008
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It’s true. We’re suckers for service dogs of all stripes. Last weekend at the North American Vet Conference I fell in love with about five of them as they lounged out at the booths of their sponsor organizations or drug companies.

Yes, drug companies actually sponsor these service animals and their organizations by giving them free drugs and sometimes large cash infusions, usually asking only that they hang out at their booths in return. That’s a pretty good deal, I think.

“Woof!,” I said to the ones I met. “Get me in on some of that action, too.” Silence. Maybe a nuzzle. Oh well, I guess they’re not the go-to people in their group.

They are when they’re in my exam room, though. When I have a service animal on the stainless steel table in front of me I’m extra cautious about investigating orthopedics for search and rescue dogs, neurological conditions for drug, cash and bomb sniffers, alertness levels for “seeing eye” and seizure dogs, etc.

For them I’m always extra-sure to be on the ball, no matter how overworked I’ve been that day. I get jacked up as if newly caffeinated whenever I get a service pet in.

Part of that is because I know how much is riding on this highly trained, often expensive animal in terms of its benefit to society. Another is feeling my oats as a part of a team that makes a big difference to humanity in a more palpable way than the norm.

Though ordinary pets keep people alive all the time—I’m dead sure of this from my personal experience, while recent stats on the improved health and longevity of pet owners continue to back me up—somehow service pets tug at my heartstrings more than most.

I don’t know about you but nothing makes me want to recite the Pledge of Allegiance more earnestly than a chocolate Lab in an orange rescue vest.

Call me biased. Call me sentimental. Call me human. But these guys are the best pick-me-up I can think of for any stressed out vet.