“Communication is the key to building trust between a veterinarian and client.”

Tell us something about yourself? Your real name isn’t The Meowing Vet, is it? 🙂

Hi! What an honor to be interviewed by I Love Veterinary! I’m Dr. Maranda Elswick, known professionally as The Meowing Vet! I’m a 28 year-old veterinarian originally from Virginia yet currently residing in Florida (USA).

Why did you decide to become a vet?

I, like so many other veterinarians, joke that I wanted to be a vet since the womb. I have always loved and wanted to help animals in need, so marrying my interests in science and biology with a love for animals led to a natural career as a vet.

Where did you study?

I attended veterinary school at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine (VMCVM) at Virginia Tech, from where I graduated in 2015. Even three years after graduating, I still hold my former classmates in extremely high regard. I was lucky to experience a unique sense of comradery and support during my time at VMCVM – both among my classmates as well as the amazing instructors, clinicians, and nurses at the college. I learned a lesson to help me grow as a vet and as a person from each and every one. In addition to a solid education, the biggest blessing of all was meeting my boyfriend (now a boarded veterinary cardiologist) of three years there!

What does your veterinary work include at the moment?

In July 2016 I transitioned from full-time clinical work in general practice to relief work and veterinary writing, which I’m still doing. I experienced an emotionally traumatic family situation around that time, which contributed on a personal level to the compassion fatigue that I was beginning to experience professionally. I needed a change, and my life depending upon it. Fortunately, veterinary medicine is a very multifaceted profession, allowing me to make a shift to create my own bespoke life-work balance.

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How many times a day do you encounter ill-informed, medically uneducated pet owners? Is that the reason for starting your blog?

During both my former full-time position as well as in veterinary relief work, I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing pet parents, many of whom are highly educated individuals and a veterinarian’s dream clients. However, despite their best intentions, many other pet owners I encounter are indeed poorly informed in terms of vaccinations, pet behavior, dietary requirements, and overall medical understanding.

 I want desperately to pass on my veterinary knowledge to all pet owners so that we may reach our common goal of providing the happiest and healthiest lives possible for pets. However, a typical veterinary office visit only allows so much time for discussing dog and cat health topics, many of which are exceedingly complex. Growing frustrated at this time crunch, I launched the website and corresponding Facebook page for The Meowing Vet, LLC, in 2016 to serve as a virtual continuation of where a client’s veterinary office visit trails off. This web service provides free online educational resources for pet owners who strive to be the best pet parents possible.

How important do you think it is for pet owners to fully understand the health issues of their pet in order to be able to do as much as they can to help them in the treatment?

Good client communication has always been one of the most significant features of veterinary medicine for me. How else can we vets expect our clients to comply to our medical advice if we haven’t fully explained how important our recommendations are? I, personally, often resist following orders myself unless I understand the reasoning behind them. Pet owners are no different.
Communication is the key to building trust between a veterinarian and client. However, properly communicating with clients can be difficult especially during a busy clinic day: a litter of puppies is bouncing in Room 1 waiting for their first vaccines, a family is somberly waiting in Room 2 for you to euthanize their 18-year-old terminally ill kitty, your next patient for surgery is being anesthetized in the prep room, an emergency just came in, and Mrs. Smith wants to discuss all the lengthy details regarding feline diabetes mellitus. We vets are often pressed for time to adequately communicate with our clients.the meowing vet i love veterinary
A recent study by the Partners for Healthy Pets (PHP) revealed a rather large disconnect among client understanding of veterinary advice, leading to poor treatment compliance and lack of improvement among patients, resentment and distrust for vets by clients, and feelings of inadequacy and compassion fatigue among veterinarians. Together, we’ve got to figure out a way to do better. By providing comprehensive insight into complex diseases and by creating an open dialogue between vets and pet owners, The Meowing Vet’s pet health articles serve as a first leap toward this resolution.

What is the most common advice you give to pet owners?

Prevention, prevention, prevention! I can’t convey enough how passionately I feel about teaching pet owners about preventable diseases and disorders. I must sound like a broken record from the amount of times I explain the importance of vaccines; flea, tick, and heartworm prevention; spaying and neutering; proper diet and exercise to prevent obesity-related challenges; and appropriate puppy and kitten training and socialization. Preventing a problem before it happens saves so much money in the long run as well as circumvents avoidable animal suffering. I am also asked rather often about raw food diets for dogs and cats, and I explain the bacterial and parasitic contamination risks that such diets carry, the potential for nutritional deficiencies, and the possibility of Campylobacter-induced peripheral neuropathy.the meowing vet i love veterinary

What are your veterinary involvements the moment?

In addition to part-time veterinary relief work and freelance professional writing, I’m becoming more and more involved in the tiny snowflake that has become a sizeable snowball: The Meowing Vet! Originally created as a small personal blog to indulge me with a creative outlet, The Meowing Vet, LLC, has gradually exploded into a real business and has garnered a following of pet owners, vet students, and other veterinary professionals from around the world! I still shake my head in disbelief at its unforeseen growth! A start-up web company is a difficult venture (especially since I have no background in web design or technology), but I’m excited by its entrepreneurial challenges and am prepared to follow it along its journey! I’m also looking forward to working with some non-profit veterinary organizations in my local area which serve pets whose owners are homeless or from low-income households.the meowing vet i love veterinary

Do you have any advice for the future vets? (maybe some advice about your University?)

In the days of the #NotOneMoreVet movement, my primary advice for veterinary students and newly graduated vets is to stay informed about the reality of compassion fatigue and to take care of themselves emotionally, mentally, and physically. One in six U.S. veterinarians have considered suicide (the highest rate among any other profession nationwide), and statistics are also staggeringly high among vets across the globe. Because we veterinarians sincerely love animals and take an oath to contribute toward the welfare of animals and to prevent suffering, we’re constantly driven to adhere to this calling 24-7. “Veterinarian” is not just a job title; it so often becomes our primary identity. Oftentimes, our own wellbeing and personal relationships fall by the wayside while we push our emotional and physical reserves to care for more and more pets over the course of a day.
Though we don’t do what we do for the sole accolades of clients, we are left wounded when met by a lack of appreciation, a disregard for our instructions, and all too often misguided anger in the midst of financial difficulties or emergencies. Our innermost sense of self feels attacked and insufficient. We are merely human, but we have a superhuman drive to help and empathize with our clients, and it is killing us. I urge my veterinary peers and future vets to know the warning signs of compassion fatigue, to find a life-work balance that’s right for them, and not to be ashamed to admit feeling depleted and to seek professional help if necessary.the meowing vet i love veterinary

What are your goals for the future?

I feel exceedingly blessed to have the unique opportunity to blend my love of veterinary medicine into my life as a whole. Balancing all aspects of my life that grant me fulfillment as an individual is key, and a happy, well-rounded person makes for a happy and better veterinarian. Through hands-on clinical work as well as my impact through The Meowing Vet’s growing web presence, I make continual strives to improve client communication so that vets and pet owners are better united in our common goal: happy and healthy pets who thrive!