When a vet and owner disagree

Published: 11 Apr 2017 By vet times jobs

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Ideally, a vet-client relationship is a harmonious one, with a pet’s well-being at the core of all interactions.

However, as a vet, you may find – from time to time – your best proposed course of action is not accepted by an owner, in which case, an uncomfortable situation can arise.

Here are a few tips on how to handle this scenario:

Why it happens

Unsurprisingly, disagreements between an owner and a vet often arise when a vet feels he or she must recommend euthanasia as the best option for a pet – particularly if the owner is unaware his or her animal was that ill.

However, disagreements also happen when a vet must recommend expensive or invasive treatments – particularly where the costs may be beyond the owner’s means and/or he or she wants to avoid considering this route altogether and press for alternatives.

Assess the situation

Disagreements can involve anything from flat denials and rudeness (questioning your competence, for example) to shouting and threatening behaviour. Remember to be professional and not resort to the same actions as a client, which will only escalate the situation.

Decide whether you feel comfortable attempting to reason with the client, but never put yourself in harm’s way. If the owner is becoming aggressive, end the consultation and/or ask for help.

Explain your decision again

If you feel able to continue a consultation, go through the reasons behind your recommendation again. Even though the whole consultation may have led up to the moment you gave your advice, repeating your reasoning clearly may allow an owner to reconsider his or her disagreement.

If you feel any alternatives the owner has pushed for will not work, explain why.

Give owners time to consider

Sometimes, an owner will disagree with – or refuse to – accept a diagnosis because he or she is in shock. Particularly when it comes to euthanasia or serious illness, it can help to allow him or her some time to fully take in the news.

If an animal will not suffer too much from a small delay, give the owner time to consider his or her options. A few minutes alone may be all it takes, but you may want to offer a follow-up appointment so he or she can take a day or so to understand the situation. It can make all the difference.

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