DIY pet care? Talk to your vet first

Q: Our veterinarian charges a lot to trim toenails. She says she does this so that we learn to do it at home instead of at the hospital. She also recommends that we learn to take our pet’s temperatures, clean their wounds and place bandages when needed. My daughter says that this is unrealistic for owners and isn’t even good for the pets. Could you please clarify what kind of home-based veterinary care is appropriate?

A: As a rule, we veterinarians aren’t big on the DIY approach to animal healthcare. We’ve known too many pets who suffered the wrath of makeshift splints, botched wart removals, backwoods tail docking methods and strange parasite-killing concoctions (some of these killed more than just the fleas).

Which is why, excellent intentions notwithstanding, we always urge that pet owners seek professional veterinary counsel before embarking on an irreversible course of DIY care. Not only is it heartbreaking to see pet owners lose pets to conditions that might have been treated, it’s gut-wrenching to tell a client they’re responsible for it.

But, as always, there are two sides to every story. There are plenty of times when a DIY approach is warranted –– even preferable –– to a veterinarian’s more formal interventions. This is especially true in the case of especially nervous pets who suffer unduly when outside the home. Further, seeing as veterinary medicine is so expensive (increasingly so), it also stands to reason that pet owners might want to take on some of the workload.

But it’s not just about the simple things. While in-house vet-related pet care is most often recommended when it comes to taking simple preventative measures –– like nail trimming, tooth brushing, pilling, temperature-taking, ear cleaning, therapeutic bathing, simple wound ministrations and sanitary clipping (it’s a thing we do to fluffy pets’ backsides) –– it’s now about sophisticated home care, too.

Consider the diabetic patient, for example. Veterinarians are not only teaching owners of diabetic patients to give insulin injections but to measure blood glucose with a glucometer, too.

We also teach owners of kidney disease patients to administer fluids at home, show owners how to replace basic bandages and offer simple first aid. Some owners are even willing to learn how to perform CPR.

Sure, some of these seem tough, but I promise you can learn! Just don’t skip that visit or phone call to the veterinarian before embarking on your DIY experience.

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is Send questions to