This is part 2, you can read part one here
That VCPR thing can be a pain if you have an injury prone pet and it seems like you are always at the vet. This can be frustrating, not to mention, expensive. Many people are out of work and finances may be strained. Another trip to the vet may not be in the budget. So pet parents will sometimes look other places for advice to solve their pet’s problem like Dr. Google, their neighbor who breeds dogs, their physical therapist or chiropractor, or the nice guy at the pet store. All these people love pets and that is great. The not great thing is that their well-meaning advice is often dead wrong.
Pet owners need to beware of human professionals that offer advice or treatments for pets. Physical therapists and chiropractors are trained to work on humans, not pets. They can’t read x rays, listen to a heart, take a temperature, or evaluate mucus membrane color. They cannot prescribe medicine. They may love and want to help animals, and that’s ok, but it’s not ok for them to treat an animal for any problem or disease.
The veterinary medical board is very clear on this in order to protect you and your pets from harm. It is often the case that a pet parent may ask their chiropractor/massage therapist/physical therapist to work on their pet for a perceived problem or weakness instead of seeking out more immediate veterinary care. A few days go by, then finally when the owner is not seeing improvement, they may relent and go to the vet. Meanwhile the pet has spent those days not feeling well and not getting real help.
I have seen pets in this situation and it is heartbreaking. In an older dog, arthritis or “slowing down” may be the perceived problem, but often the real issue turns out to be something else. This is a scenario I see often: a dog seems to have arthritis so a well-meaning pet store employee suggests a glucosamine supplement. It doesn’t help. Days later, the veterinarian finds out the dog is is weak because he has diabetes.
Another dog that was having trouble getting up was taken to a chiropractor, then a physical therapist, only to finally get to a vet who discovered a bleeding splenic mass.
And one dog who was treated for weeks by a human therapist for low back pain, was found to have bone cancer. Another dog that received a massage and then died suddenly, probably had heart failure, but a vet may have been able to prolong his life with the proper treatment.
A lot of clinical signs of disease in animals look the same: limping and weakness can be caused by many different underlying issues. That’s why relying on untrained human professionals to guide you in animal healthcare is a mistake and it often delays getting legitimate help for your pets.
It’s important to rely on your veterinarian, especially during this unusual time. In the long run, they can save you heart ache and dollars and can keep pets from needlessly suffering. If your veterinarian believes that a therapy like spinal manipulation (the term used for veterinary “chiropractic”) or canine rehabilitation (the term used for veterinary “PT”) will benefit your pet, he or she can refer you to a licensed veterinarian who is trained in and certified to perform these services. Veterinarians can only refer to other veterinarians in California, and human practitioners who work on pets must work in a veterinary facility and be supervised by a licensed veterinarian.
In Nevada, both Physical therapists and Chiropractors can obtain a license from the Nevada State Veterinary Medical Board to work on animals, but those practitioners still require a veterinary referral and work closely with the referring vets.
What to do if you think your pet has a sickness or injury?
- Call your vet. If your vet is busy or you can’t get through, or you don’t have a vet, it is OK to call any other vet in your area. If you love your vet but your vet is busy and can’t help you by phone, call another vet. It is OK! Vets understand you need answers, all of us vets in Tahoe know and work together to support your pets. We email records back and forth all the time. We don’t think it’s a big deal and neither should you. If you need help, keep calling any of us. We want to help you help your pets and we want you to get the most accurate information.
- If it is a night or weekend, call the emergency vet your regular vet recommends on their after-hours message. The ER triage nurse will help you with questions.
- If your pet has a valid VCPR for the illness or injury you are calling about, ask for a Telemedicine consult.
- If you need more general info but want to get it from a vet, ask for a telehealth visit. TeleHEALTH is available to pet parents when we don’t have a valid VCPR. Veterinarians can share general information and triage, but they can’t diagnose, suggest treatments, or prescribe medicine. Extended telehealth and telemedicine visits may have a charge just like if you were meeting with a vet in person. But quick calls for advice are usually welcomed and may provide all the information you need.