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“Kindness is free. You don't even have to queue up for it.”

Whoever you are, a bit of kindness goes a long way. And when that kindness comes unsolicited and in the middle of a tough workday, it’s even sweeter. On World Veterinary Day Caroline Winter is taking a moment to celebrate vets and the contribution they make to animals, people and the environment.

It doesn’t take much. A simple “thanks very much or I appreciate your help” is all that is needed, yet at times they are the hardest words to come by. Not because someone isn’t thankful or appreciative, but because they are emotionally or financially stressed, or both.

And in the vet clinic, those experiences are a dime a dozen.

But in moments of distress, fear and anxiety, how do we see through the fog and realise that there is another human standing before us, doing the best they can for us and our pet?

In researching the Sick As A Dog podcast and speaking to dozens of vets, vet nurses and vet staff, there was one comment – one wish – that I heard more than any other.

“Please be kind.”

Photo by Howie R on Unsplash

Amity Hejinian is a vet student at Sydney University and is part way through her degree, but she’s already experienced the ups and downs of working as a vet nurse in a clinic.

“You know, a lot of us are in this industry, because we're really passionate about helping animals. And there’s a lot that comes with compassion, fatigue, and all sorts of other issues,” she stressed.

“We don’t have the same respect as doctors, but we deal with all the same issues. Try to approach your vet with kindness, understanding that we have to put on a brave face every day and may deal with some really difficult cases and really difficult people. Approach us with compassion.”

There is no doubt the real cost of care, along with client expectations play a huge part in how vets are perceived and treated, according to fellow vet student Imogen Graham.

“There's definitely a lack of awareness, because we are so lucky in Australia to have Medicare, which means that the human medical bills are so, so much smaller than the ones that you can get given at a vet,” Ms Graham said.

“It leads to kind of a false belief that veterinarians are in it for the money. And yeah, I think just being aware that, we’re here because we love our animals, and we love our clients, not for the money or any other sinister reason like that.”

The Benefits Of Kindness

While kindness goes a long way for the person its directed at, it can also be excellent for your health.

Numerous studies have found all sorts of goodness that are linked to being kind.

It can boost serotonin and dopamine – the neurotransmitters in the brain that give you feelings of satisfaction and wellbeing and which cause the pleasure/reward centres in your brain to light up. It can also release endorphins, your body’s natural pain killer.

Dr Bhawani Ballamudi, child psychiatrist with SSM Health (a not-for-profit health provider in the United States) explains how our brains respond to acts of kindness.

“What studies have shown is that when we are either thinking about kind acts or witnessing kind acts or engaging in acts of kindness to other people, there are several biochemical changes that happen in our brain,” she said.

“One of the most important things that happens is that it releases oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that’s been studied extensively for its role in promoting a sense of bonding.”

“Research shows that kindness can be cardioprotective. It can decrease blood pressure and cortisol, a stress hormone, which directly impacts stress levels. Oxytocin releases nitric oxide. Nitric oxide dilates your blood vessels and thereby reduces your blood pressure and improves heart health.”

“There’s also research looking at oxytocin and its effects on reducing inflammation, which in some ways protects you from some chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and cancer and that leads to overall better health and overall longevity.”

The Many Forms Of Kindness

We know vets want it, and that it’s good for our health, so how can we do more of it?

  1. Respect their time and schedule: Vets often have tight schedules and appointments throughout the day. If you are running late, call ahead to let them know and avoid making last-minute cancellations where possible.

  2. Be patient and be understanding: Vets deal with a variety of animals, each with its unique set of health issues. It can take time to diagnose and treat a pet's condition, so be patient and understanding during the process.

  3. Express gratitude and appreciation: Like any other healthcare professional, they appreciate positive feedback. Take the time to thank them for their hard work and dedication. A kind word or gesture can go a long way in making their day.

  4. Understand the cost of care: Animal medicine can be expensive, and it is easy to get frustrated with the costs. But remember that clinics have expenses such as equipment, staff, and overhead costs. Work with your vet to develop a payment plan or explore pet insurance.

  5. Follow advice: Vets provide medical advice and recommendations based on their training and expertise. Follow their instructions carefully to ensure your pet's health and wellbeing. And just ask if you have any concerns or questions about their recommendations.

  6. Share positive reviews: If you had a positive experience with your vet, consider leaving a review on their website or social media. Positive reviews can help attract new clients to the clinic and boost the morale of the staff.

  7. Be respectful: Like all of us, vets deserve to be treated with respect and professionalism.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels

Veterinarians are human, just like you and me.

They are also essential healthcare professionals who work tirelessly to improve the health and wellbeing of our pets, wildlife and livestock.

Jack Levitt’s lost his friend Dr Flynn Hargreaves to suicide in 2018.

He created Flynn’s Walk. It’s an emerging Australian charity that brings together the community, encourages meaningful conversations and spreads awareness of the mental health challenges faced by vets and other vet staff.

“I'd like my message to be, just pause. Pause for that moment and think about where vets sit in the community. Explore, and just increase your knowledge around what they contribute to the community,” implored Jack.

“Be patient, be understanding and be kind. Kindness is free. You don't even have to queue up for it.”

Take a moment to show our gratitude to these unsung heroes who care for our animal friends and next time you visit your vet, thank them for the invaluable work they do every day.

Happy World Veterinary Day to the thousands of vets, vet nurses and vet staff who care for the millions of animals globally. We salute you!

The science behind kindness and how it’s good for your health:

Caroline Winter podcast producer of Sick As A Dog:

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