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British pet owners trust their vet more than hospital doctors

A survey released by Petplan, the UK’s largest pet insurance provider has found that British pet owners trust the advice and knowledge of their local vet more than doctors at their local hospital. 

The results are released as Petplan is asking people all over the UK to nominate deserving candidates for any of the four categories in the Petplan Veterinary Awards 2006.

 The survey undertaken by NOP, asked 1,000 people which professional opinion they trusted most.  Over a quarter of all pet owners interviewed said that they trust their vet (26%) more than most human health professionals.  People trusted their vet over their optician (24%), hospital doctor (24%) and dentist (23%).

Further findings revealed that pet owners look after their pet more than they look after their own health.  51% of the pet owners interviewed are more likely to take their pet to the local vet at the first signs of ill health, but would wait for further symptoms in their own health before going to the GP.

Dr June McNicholas, psychologist, and one of Europe's leading researchers in the field of relationships between people and animals says, “I am not surprised at all by these findings. 

When people are discussing pet health problems with their vet, it can often lead to thoughts about similarities with human health problems. It is not uncommon for people to mention their own health problems to a vet.  If the vet says something to the effect that a GP visit would be advisable, most people will take this advice.  This can range from general aches and pains, to digestive problems, and urinary disorders and so forth”.

Dr McNicholas continues, “Psychologists studying human health behaviour have long been aware that people are often ‘put off’ going to their GP, making excuses about the causes of  their symptoms, waiting to see what happens, buying over-the-counter remedies or asking friends what they should do. 

This doesn’t seem to be the case with decision making over pets’ illness. Possible reasons:

Owners may feel less likely to be thought of as wasting a vet’s time- Owners are less likely to take risks with their pet’s health than their own - There are fewer alternatives in treating pets or validating symptoms so delay is less likely - Pet ownership often involves pleasure in being needed by the pet. Seeking treatment is a concrete way of demonstrating this
Dr McNicholas continues, “People do place a great deal of trust in their vet and have considerable respect for a practitioner whose patient cannot tell them about their symptoms.  In fact, many people will say that a vet has to be even more knowledgeable than a doctor because his/her patients cannot talk, and because vets have to be able to treat all animals not just one species”.

The four coveted categories in the Petplan Veterinary Awards are Vet Nurse of the Year, Vet Receptionist of the Year, Vet Practice of the Year and Vet of the Year and will take place at the CBSO Hall, Birmingham on the 20th April.  

Fiona Pinkney, communications manager of Petplan comments, "We understand how important pets are to their owners, and in turn how important the relationship with their vet who looks after their pet also is to them.  The Petplan Veterinary Awards are the ‘Oscars of the Veterinary World’ and celebrate the important work of veterinary professionals”.

The closing entry to vote is the 20th February and for every nomination received, Petplan donates £1 to the charity, Petsavers.  Please log onto to nominate.