Do you suspect your vet doesn’t tell you everything? What kinds of things does a vet hold back about and not tell a client?
Dr. Jon Rappaport, vet and CEO of the Petplace.com Pet Crazy newsletter, asked this question of one of the vets who regularly writes for the newsletter. For the vet to speak honestly on behalf of many other vets, the “Irreverent Vet” uses a pseudonym to prevent a deluge of mail from unhappy vets.
1. Veterinary hospitals run like any other for-profit business, and they have their own business-related bills to pay. They cannot offer free services and reduced fees even if they’d want to.
2. Vaccines help pay the bills. They create a good profit margin. Vets offer good, safe, tested products, whereas cheaper products are not equivalent so most vets feel justified in the higher costs involved. 3. Ditto for preventative medicines, which people sometimes buy through mail order or OTC.
4. Vaccines have side effects, but most vets feel the good outweigh the bad, so most avoid telling people the truth about all of the negative reactions.
5. Most clinics and hospitals cannot monitor pets overnight. Some will offer the names of full-service clinics that do overnight care if it’s needed.
6. Some vets still operate under the old guidelines of annual vaccines even though many can be given on a 3-year-schedule. Instead of pumping chemicals into pets, some vets will do blood tests to check if vaccines are necessary.
7. Vets and breeders often disagree over basics, like nutrition.
8. Some vets perform some surgeries or procedures more often than other vets do, and they are better at them. If you go to a multi-staffed clinic, ask who is better qualified for a particular task.
[My dog needed eye surgery, which my vet honestly told me one of the other vets in the office was more experienced with. I met the other vet, who had just performed the same surgery on his own dog. He did the surgery, and my vet continued the follow-up and regular care.]
9. If you want or feel the need for a 2nd opinion, ask for it. Some vets are reluctant to make referrals, even when it could be in your pet’s best interest.
10. Some vets are only versed in traditional medicine and are not educated or familiar with alternatives. If you want to try alternative solutions, ask for cooperation from your vet in trying them, or ask for a referral.
11. Most vets are similar to human “general practitioners” and are not specialists, who have three years of advanced training in a specialized area. If you need a cardiologist, a cancer specialist or a canine dental surgeon, ask for a referral.
12. Most vets have a “low tolerance” for aggressive animals, which often cause serious problems. The “irreverent vet” has seen some tragedies caused by aggressive dogs and personally has “no problem euthanizing a healthy dog.”
13. Although they are professionals, vets are people, too, and they often experience great sadness upon the death of an old (or young) furry friend.
14. A vet may have an off day when he is not completely in tune with an owner or a pet. Your understanding would be appreciated.
15. Most vets recommend that cats be kept indoors, even though they recognize that some cats love being indoor/outdoor pets. A cat allowed outdoors should be monitored (know that the cat is safe on its own property), should not be declawed, and should have ready access to food, water and shelter.
16. Most vitamins for dogs are an unnecessary expense if the dog is eating high-quality dog food, but vitamins are recommended if you’re offering food from a supermarket.
17. Some premium foods that vets will often recommend are Iams, Hills Science Diet and Eukanuba.
18. Drugs for animals have side-effects, just like those for humans. Know what they are and decide if the benefits outweigh the risks.
19. Most vets, at some time, must muzzle some dogs for safety reasons. The most common muzzles are made of soft nylon.
20. Vets will often not be completely honest about how “bad” your pet was during a visit or hospitalization. The situation was handled the best way possible, and most don’t emphasize the bad part.
21. Most vets don’t make “house calls.” The vet doesn’t have office help on hand; home conditions are not sterile and often aren’t well lighted; and many pets act more aggressive on their own turf.
22. Some pets do much better when they are not around their owners. Perhaps they are less protective or they don’t share the owner’s anxiety, but most vets find this is true.
23. Vets go into the field with the idea of working with animals, not people, but people bring the animals to the vets so they have to become people-persons, too. Some are better at that than others. Does your animal like his vet? That should be considered.
24. Even though vets are in a “business,” most do not become vets to make big money and they do not make good business people. Most vets hate discussing the costs behind pet care and leave that up to the staff. Of course, they have to have some knowledge about expenses so owners can decide whether or not they can afford treatment, but this is a hard topic for most vets to handle.
25. No one, including vets, is right 100% of the time. It’s OK to ask for a second opinion or further tests.
26. Symptoms and conditions can change within hours. A diagnosis can change, too. Sometimes tests need to be repeated or x-rays need to be taken from different angles. Trust your vet and go along with his recommendations.
27. Vets are not trained nutritionists. Although they know, in general, what dogs of different breeds, ages and sizes need, they will usually toss out the names of some of the best-known quality foods and not go further than that. You might want to do some research on your own.
It all comes down to a relationship built on trust. Most vets are in the field to do their best by the animals they treat. Some are better than others. Some stay more up-to-date in their fields. Some are better people-persons. Some do better with some species (birds, reptiles, farm animals) than others.
Shop around. Get referrals. Build a relationship that you and your pet are comfortable with because you should share several important years together as a team on behalf of your pets.
The “Irreverent Vet” replied in response to 28-year practicing vet and CEO of Petplace.com, Dr. Jon Rappaport’s question of “What veterinarians don’t want you to know.” Published in Petplace.com “Dog Crazy Newsletter” on 9-25-09. Retrieved from Petplace.com on 6-3-10, the site where 85 vets have written 10,000 vet-approved articles. Http://www.petplace.com/dogs/the-irreverent-vet-speaks-out–what-veterinarians-dont-want-you-to-know/page1.aspx.
Personal experiences as a pet owner plus honest comments from my own vets and vets I worked with in dog rescue.