The veterinarian has their view on how to take care of an animal, but ultimately – if it’s not about animal welfare issues – it’s the owner who has the final decision on the care of their pet.
"For a veterinarian, the patient plays the leading role. However, often it feels that there is still a more important role behind the animal," says veterinarian Katri Moisala.
She works in Sastamala, Finland, providing care for small animals as both a municipal veterinarian and at home. To large animal patients she also offers care in the surrounding municipalities.
Katri Moisala also has experience in veterinary work in Denmark and Sweden. She graduated as a veterinarian from the University of Copenhagen. In Helsingborg, Sweden, she worked in a big animal hospital.
"People have differences. On farms, the attitude towards animals is more rational. In cities, the life of a pet is thought of differently; it is thought to have an absolute value," Moisala says.
You must be able to tell the owner of the pet the realistic alternatives in the care and the life expectancy of the animal, says Katri Moisala.
Quality of life for a pet
"It is important to keep your eyes and ears open when you meet a customer, with a certain kind of sensitivity. Especially in the case of small animal medication, you should pay attention also to the wishes and needs of the owner," Moisala says.
The other thing is communication: trying to explain the diagnostics in as accurate and comprehensible way as possible, the conclusions drawn from it, and possible different scenarios for the continuation and outcome of the proposed care.
"The veterinarian will provide as much information as possible to support the care decision. The owner of the animal is ultimately the one that decides," Moisala says.
Many people want to do everything that is possible in the event of a pet being ill.
"The veterinarian assesses whether the benefit from a treatment is greater than the potential disadvantage. Is the animal going to have a long good life ahead after a big operation, or is it a short-term improvement; will the animal’s quality of life improve?" says Moisala.
For her, it is important that the animal’s quality of life after treatment gets back to the level where it is supposed to be. The animal must be able to behave the way that is natural for the species and breed, not just to simply be alive.
Sometimes the veterinarian must say that it would not be wrong to let the animal go. You cannot persuade the customer into the path of euthanasia, but for some customers that option does not even come to mind. Many fear the pain of giving up on a beloved pet.
"In different countries, the rules of courtesy and interaction are different. Some things that would be somewhat softened elsewhere, are often said directly in Finland," Moisala says.
This means that interaction skills and getting along with people are an essential part of the veterinarian’s work.
Customer expectations for a veterinarian are as diverse as the customers themselves. Again, Moisala emphasizes customer observation and listening.
In a small animal clinic, the solutions must be such that the veterinarian can use the time – besides with the animal – to observe and listen to the customer. Unnecessary computer tapping takes focus away from the most important part of the customer interaction.