Transforming Your Dog Health Series Part II: Is your Vet a Proactive or Reactive Thinker?

Is it worth it to be proactive in your vet care? If your answer is no, then you may want to stop reading this article. If you say yes, then can you be proactive with your vet care? If you can, will you do it? If you can’t, do you want to learn how to do it? If you answer yes to either question, then please read on.

Being proactive describes someone who gets things done. If you are proactive, you make things happen, instead of waiting for them to happen to you. It means thinking and acting ahead of anticipated events. Being proactive is extremely important for staying healthy and averting illnesses. For an overall proactive vet care model to work, a pet parent must commit to taking the necessary proactive steps to wellness. However, what people do not realize is that the veterinarian also has a responsibility to proactively manage your dog’s health – prevent disease, detect disease early, and improve healthcare results. 

If you knew that dementia, cancer, or other canine illnesses could be predicted with a high level of accuracy in your dog’s future would you take a proactive approach or a reactive approach in how you construct your dog’s life? If your dog were diagnosed with cancer would you want to know whether the use of chemo or immunotherapy would be effective for them? Living proactively will most likely increase the quality of your dog’s life, your dog’s longevity, and can help you avoid unnecessary health problems and vet expenses.


So why is proactive thinking important? On top of improving both you and your dog’s satisfaction with your vet engagement, personalized proactive communication from your vet can spur a pet parents willingness to take wellness care into their own hands and improve their dogs’ outcomes. Overall, proactive health and preventative care can help veterinarians and their pet parents achieve the triple aim: Improving the quality of the dog’s experiences, improving the health of dog populations, and reducing the cost of vet care.


Is your dog’s vet a proactive or reactive thinker?

The main difference between a reactive vet and a proactive one is the “surviving versus thriving” mindset. If you are proactive, you make things happen, instead of waiting for them to happen to you. Active means "doing something." The prefix pro- means "before." So if you are proactive, you are ready before something happens. The opposite is being reactive or waiting for things to unfold before responding. When finding a proactive vet or deciding if the vet you have is still a good fit we need to know how to tell the difference in the way they think.

The Reactive Mindset:

A vet with a reactive or “surviving” mindset thinks about doing blood work once the dog presents symptoms and might not do much with a healthy dog until sickness or injury arrives. Reactive vet professionals tend to:

● Rely on pet parents to contact them when their dogs have noticeable symptoms.

● Make pet parents and their dogs passive recipients of treatments or other interventions mandated by vet professionals.

● Engage in Clinical visits or encounters that are symptom/treatment-focused as opposed to holistic/root-cause/patient-centered.

● Not effectively promote the maintenance of overall health, through the prevention and delay of disease, while ensuring continuity of care across health providers.

With a reactive thinker, there is usually no discussion about breed dispositions and you probably will not be provided with proactive wellness schedules or protocols for wellness approaches to maintaining health. Reactive thinking vets manage symptoms by looking to make a disease or its symptoms less severe or unpleasant without taking time to investigate or remediate the original cause if the dog is responding to medicine. So after the medicine is gone or the season changes, that same issue may come right back and need to be remediated again. So the cycle might continue. Even some holistic vets can be reactive in the way they think. For example, you might hear “I’m holistic, I do not do any of that testing”. They too will wait for a symptom and then treat that symptom “holistically” instead of getting out in front of it. So the reactive mindset can be anywhere. 



The Proactive Mindset:

A vet with a proactive or “thriving” mindset wants to see your healthy dog a few times a year not just when they are presenting symptoms. Proactive thinking vets recognize that:

● Chronic disease is ongoing and warrants proactive, planned, integrated care within a system that pet parents and their dogs can navigate.

● Pet parents and their dogs need to be active partners in managing their dog’s condition, rather than passive recipients of care.

● A multi-faceted approach needs to be taken where clinicians and non-clinicians from multiple disciplines work closely together.

● Chronic disease can be prevented and thus requires health promotion and disease prevention strategies targeted at the whole dog population and especially those dogs at risk.

Predictive care solutions leverage cutting-edge technologies and sophisticated machine learning data algorithms to not only stratify risk but even predict risk and intervene even further upstream. Predictive care solutions take things a step further, intervening much earlier upstream. Often, these technologies rely upon genetic testing to help determine susceptibility to disease years or decades before the disease might manifest itself. Do you know what pre-dispositions your dog’s breed has? 

A proactive vet’s way of thinking will become evident when they provide you upfront with their wellness program suggestions and schedule wellness protocols that bring healthy animals to the vet office. These vets are able to address all biochemical changes and abnormal exam findings early and then rechecks until normal. Vets who think proactively employ all modalities to get to the root cause of the issue, not just pain or symptom management. According to Dr. Karen Becker, proactive thinking vets create wellness plans both short and long term, they do genetic testing, vitamin testing, chronic inflammation testing, assess the dog’s environment through active questioning, they might titer test before vaccination and really try to keep “health” at the forefront. Testing a healthy animal creates a nice baseline reference for health and then allows you and your vet to gauge how to best treat them as well as protect them in the future. The mindset of the proactive vet is “I will do everything in my power to prevent the disease from occurring”.

If you are taking the time to become a more proactive thinker when it comes to your or your dogs’ health then you need a vet partner who also thinks just like you do. Take the time to educate your vet on the changes you are making and encourage them to follow suit. Make suggestions about what tests you would like to see done, strategize about your dog’s wellness visits and plan for them each year. In the next blog of our Transforming your Dog’s Health Series, we will be talking about the actual dog’s wellness visit. You will better understand what tests should be offered, why you want to know the results and how to talk to your vet about proactive wellness plans.