Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Veterinary Appreciation Day™

Today is Veterinarian Appreciation Day and we want to take a moment to thank all of the veterinarians for their tireless efforts and care they give to help keep us healthy and happy. Veterinary Appreciation Day™ was created by Trupanion Pet Insurance in 2015 to recognize veterinary professionals and the wonderful work they do. From the front desk to the exam room, veterinary teams offer compassion, advice and care for our furry family members. 

Dr. Keisler showing some extra love to Brulee during an examination

We've shared a lot of stories about our trips to the veterinary hospital and how much we respect and appreciate the knowledge, tireless hours, love, and care our vets have given us. We've shared that only a small percentage of people take their cats to the vet after the initial visit. To help honor the veterinarians today, we thought we'd offer some advice on how to choose a veterinarian for your cat (or other pet) that both of you will be happy with and visit whenever needed. 

Choosing a Veterinarian

Dr. Hansche with Truffle and Brulee

How does one choose an appropriate veterinarian for a feline? Most people tend to choose a vet by word of mouth from a family member or friend. This can be an excellent resource for an initial search for the best veterinarian for your cat, but it's important to do some additional research prior to bringing your feline into your home. 

When my first cat came to live with me over 40 years ago, there was no such thing as the Internet for the average person. My family always chose veterinarians based on recommendations from friends. Internet access for the everyday person exploded about 20 years ago and the information superhighway was born. Information was still limited at that time and many veterinarians didn't have web pages, so recommendations from individuals were still the main resource for finding a veterinarian. I'm a little ashamed to admit that we only took our pets to the vet when they were sick or if it was time for their rabies vaccination. Sweet Praline came to live with me in 1995 when I became "single again" and I had to make decisions on my own for the first time and began depending on the Internet for information. It was still difficult to find information on the Internet and I depended on word-of-mouth. When moving back home in the 2000's, I needed to find a new vet, so I researched the Internet and found a "cats-only" veterinary practice. The disadvantage of this was the distance from my home and when Praline began getting sick during her senior years and ultimately developed cancer, the trip to the vet became more stressful for both Praline and me because of the distance and time it took to travel.

The Internet progressed a lot in ten years when I knew Truffle and Brulee were coming to live with me in 2011. I was able to do a detailed search of veterinary hospitals within a 10 mile radius of my home. I took advantage of being able to see the locations on a map in relation to my home and read reviews from clients. I know there are always some negative reviews and I read those, but I wanted to see in more detail what people had to say about the veterinary practice. I narrowed down my choices to 3-4 veterinarians within a 5-mile radius of my home. 

Hospital Previsit

Dr. Boyette showing Truffle some tenderness and love during an examination

One you narrow down veterinary hospital within a distance convenient to your home, you should contact the veterinary hospitals and arrange a pre-visit to see the facilities and talk to the staff. I reached out to four different veterinarians, telling them I was bringing two new Persian kittens into my home within the month and wanted to check out their hospitals. Only one hospital responded to my request! This was surprising to me since so many people don't take their cats to the vet and one would think veterinarians would do what they could to encourage clients to bring their cats in. A on-site visit was arranged and I was introduced to the office manager and taken on a tour of the facilities. Most of the veterinarians were either in surgery that day or with patients, so I didn't have the opportunity to talk with them. I was impressed with the facilities, the services, the staff, and the accreditation of Cherokee Trail Veterinary Hospital

An important piece of information for my final decision was if the veterinarians were comfortable working with cats. I'd had some "not so pleasant" experiences in the past with other vets working with my cats. Cat tend to stress easily and they need someone who can work with cats in a calm manner and knows up-to-date research in feline medicine. I asked the office manager which vet liked cats. Her response was the expected, "they all like cats." I responded by saying, "I knew you were going to say that, but which vet obviously cares about the care of cats and shows it?" I was given the name of one of the veterinarians because of the way he handled cats, even when bringing them to their recovery after surgery. 

Accreditation and Training

AAHA accredited Cherokee Trail Veterinary Hospital

Cherokee Trail Veterinary Hospital is accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Having worked with accreditation of K-12 schools and university programs, I was aware of the stringent standards an organization must go through to obtain and maintain accreditation. Cherokee Trail is also a Cat Friendly Practice® Gold member. The Cat Friendly Practice program was established by the American Association of  Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and the International Society for Feline Medicine (ISFM) and designed to elevate care for cats by reducing the stress for cats, their caregivers, and the entire veterinary team. Our vets now have separate examination rooms specifically for cats that include synthetic feline pheromone diffuser or spray, warming pads on the examination tables, and a location away from the noise and activities of the hospital. You can read more about Cat Friendly Practices here

Cherokee Trail Veterinary Hospital is in the process of having their veterinarians and staff certified in Fear Free training. Fear Freesm was created by Dr. Marty Becker (aka America's Veterinarian) in 2016. Fear Free provides online and in-person education to veterinary professionals, the pet professional community, and pet owners to provide education on the emotional well-being, enrichment and the reduction of fear, anxiety, and stress in pets.

I'm very lucky my cats are treated by veterinarians who've improved their practice through the above accreditation and training. I do want to stress that even if you don't have a vet near you with these attributes that you still need to take your cat to the vet on a regular basis for wellness checks.

Being an Advocate for Your Cat

Brulee and Truffle waiting for the veterinarian at their wellness visit

I want to say upfront that I truly respect the training and expertise of veterinarians. They are there to help me give my cats the best quality of life they can have. I do listen to the advise given to me, but I've also begun to research issues with cats and usually have a list of questions ready for our visits (wellness and illness visits). If you are uncomfortable with something the vet is recommending, you owe it to your cat to discuss the recommendations. We made decisions together (the vet and myself) about the treatment of my cats.

I admit that I didn't always take my previous pets to the vet on a regular basis. Most of our trips were to give rabies vaccinations (because of state law) or for illnesses. I realized several years ago the importance of wellness visits and began taking my girls to the vet annually to make sure they stayed healthy and to ward off any potential problems. Cats are notorious for hiding illness and pain and many times, it may be too late when you take them to the vet if you wait for obvious signs. Cats also age much more rapidly than humans and become seniors before we're prepared. Visiting the vet on a regular basis can allow the vet to perform examinations, bloodwork, and other tests for potential problems of aging cats. The vet will also weigh your cat at each wellness visit to see if there is any weight gain or loss which may indicate health conditions that need to be addressed or monitored. The key to remember is that preventative care is better than reactive care!

Discussions of microchipping and neutering cats should occur during initial visits with the veterinarian. It is strongly recommended that both occur with your cats if they haven't already been done.

During the visit, you can discuss any behavior changes with your veterinarian. Our vet asks about the food the girls are eating, their litter box habits, and changes in behavior. I recommend you keep a journal of your cats and make a list of concerns and questions you have for the vet. Because of losing Truffle's littermate, Beignet, to a sarcoma from his vaccination and Brulee's recent violent reaction to vaccinations, we discuss the need for future vaccinations. South Carolina does require rabies vaccinations. However, with the girls' history of reactions and the fact they are totally indoor cats, we may reconsider this as they age. I also ask my veterinarians about current research for illnesses in cats so I may become more educated in their care. My vets are more than willing to share articles or links to appropriate research.

Take your notebook with you to the vet and write down key points. I also ask for the veterinarian notes from the visits so I can review them again once I get home. I never hesitate to contact the veterinarian if I have questions. Be observant how your vet treats and reacts to your cats. I remember taking Praline to a vet once and after he examined her, he didn't touch her again and stayed away from her. I found out later he was allergic to cats. I didn't take Praline back to him because I felt I needed a vet who would give her his undivided attention during a visit. I love how the vets at Cherokee Trail will rub the girls' ears, play with their ear tufts, pet them, and cuddle with them. I know this isn't connected to their expertise, but it lets me know they care about my cats, which helps me feel more relaxed and confident in their treatment.

Paying for Veterinary Services

Dr. Strom examining Truffle

One reason given by many pet parents for not taking their cat to the vet is the cost. Just like human medicine, pet care can be expensive, but it's important to plan for wellness visits and illnesses/injuries with your cat. 

Special Savings Account

Some people set aside a separate savings account for vet visits for their pets. This is a great recommendation if you are disciplined and can do this. Basic wellness visits can cost from $50+ (vet exam fee). Any additional tests, medications, vaccinations, or procedures increase the costs. If your cat requires an overnight stay or surgery, the costs can get into the thousands. There are clinics in local communities who provide reduced costs for examinations and rabies vaccinations. I prefer taking the girls to a specific hospital where I know the vet, but support these mobile clinics if they encourage people to take their cats to the vet.

CareCredit or Other Credit Cards

I'm not a person who is disciplined enough to set aside a specific amount of money each month to cover emergencies for myself or my cats. There was a time my finances were terrible due to multiple illnesses I experienced myself, but I always found a way to get my cats the veterinary care they needed. One recommendation given by many friends and veterinary professionals was to apply for a Care Credit card. CareCredit is a line of credit that can be used to cover expenses at a veterinary hospital (if accepted). It's basically a Visa card that is only accepted at medical or veterinary facilities. There is are no interest charges if paid off within a certain time period.  The CareCredit credit card gives you the flexibility to use your card again and again for your pet's procedures. I use my CareCredit card to pay for large expenses (tests, surgeries, emergency care) upfront and pay it off once I'm reimbursed by our pet insurance.

Pet Insurance

I cannot stress the importance of getting pet insurance for your cats. I spent over $2000 last year when Truffle had surgery to remove bladder stones (tests, medication, surgery, office visits, etc.) and over $1000 when Brulee had a reaction to her vaccination which required a 4-day stay at the emergency animal hospital. Thanks to Trupanion Pet Insurance, I was reimbursed 90% of the costs, minus the vet examination fee. There are a lot of pet insurance companies available to choose from, but be sure to read the fine print, especially as it relates to preexisting conditions and allowable costs. I chose Trupanion when Praline was 12 years old because they were the only company at that time to cover a senior pet and I was able to choose my deductible and copay. I purchased pet insurance for Truffle and Brulee before they even came to live with me. I do need to pay the costs upfront, but once Trupanion receives my information, I'm reimbursed within a week (direct deposit is available). This allows me to pay back the expenditures on my CareCredit account or bank account. Dr. Boyette told me on a recent visit that they provide a one-month complimentary subscription to Trupanion for new puppies and kittens. 
Many veterinary hospitals are offering wellness plans for their clients. Cherokee Trail provides a Wellness Plan that covers the costs of the vet examination fee for biannual visits. There is an initial charge upfront and a reasonable monthly charge throughout the year. This plan encourages pet parents to bring their cats to the vet at least twice a year. 

Happy and Healthy Cats

Truffle and Brulee resting on examination table waiting for the vet

My cats are my family and deserve as much health and happiness I can provide. Taking them to the vet twice a year for wellness visits and when they are ill is key to keeping them with me as long as possible. I've developed a great rapport with the vets who see Truffle and Brulee and depend on their expertise, care, and assistance in helping to maintain the best quality of life for them.

If you aren't already taking your cats to the vet on a regular basis, I encourage you do schedule that appointment now so your feline will be around for a long time to provide companionship, love, and comfort to you.

We also encourage you to thank your veterinarian today! I'm taking a little surprise to our vet to let them know how important they are to us.


  1. Great post! With 13 cats, we are at the vet almost weekly.

  2. I'm still on the hunt for a new vet. Ever since Dr. Plotnick retired it's been a struggle. I hope he knows how much his patients appreciated him!

  3. It's good to have a vet that you trust and that takes great care of your babies. They are priceless.

    Have a purrfect day. My best to your mom. ♥

  4. You Vet sounds wonderful and we are lucky to have Vets we love and trust too.

  5. Bravo! What a wonderful article! I thought I 'knew it all' regarding Vets with my years of owning cats, but I learned some things, thanks!

  6. We’re glad you have such a great vet. Having one is so important, as you have aptly pointed out.

  7. I used to resent how much our vet charges - and then I thought it through. I owe our vet at least a card to tell him how much I appreciate his care of my kitties. I can be awfully nervous and he's always been patient. They don't have an easy job - that's for sure!

  8. Veterinarians definitely have one of the hardest jobs out there. It's great to know there are special programs that educate staff on how to put cats at ease. Your babies looked very relaxed in their Sleepypods.

  9. Finding the right veterinarian isn't always easy. I agree with you that the little things that they do to show that they love your cats like you do are really important. I love how much quieter cat-friendly practices are too. About 6 months before Cinco's passing, I had taken him to the veterinarian (who was our regular vet at the time) because he was refusing food. The vet said that their was nothing wrong with him and it was probably just a bug. I switched to a cat friendly vet when Cinco got sick again and it turned out to be cancer. They did a lot more looking than the other vet did. I'm very happy with our switch.

  10. A good veterinarian is worth their weight in gold. Or diamonds. Or whatever is the most valuable thing these days.

  11. Vets train hard and work hard but then some of them go and start practising and encourage owners to declaw cats. This is the most distressing this I have ever read about American vets. I dearly wish they would stop and focus on pet health and generating trust.

  12. I'm always amazed at how relaxed Truffle and Brulee look at the vet's office. That has to be a sigh that you're found an awesome vet.

  13. Love that you included the need to be an advocate for your animals! Sometimes we have a feeling, or may not agree - and we have to trust our intuition and speak up. Doesn't mean we're right, and we should always keep an open mind - but don't just do something because a vet said it. Love this - and will share!


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