Sunday, July 5, 2009

By: Irreverent Vet

Irreverent Vet

This is a touchy topic. I hope we don't get tons of hate mail from vets.

PetPlace asked me to write an article about this difficult and controversial topic. In this article, I'd like to address this issue of what veterinarians may not want you the pet owner to know. I'm the Irreverent Veterinarian. I give you my opinion and speak the truth regardless of if pet owners or other veterinarians like it or not. The question that I'll address today is...What do veterinarians not want you to know?

So...what is it that veterinarians don't want clients to know? This does not apply to all vets but here are some things that come to mind....

1. A Veterinary Hospital is a Small Business – Most vets don't want to talk about this – but a vet hospital or clinic is a small business. It is like any other business that requires money for services rendered. It is sometimes hard because vets love animals but they also have bills to pay. They can't give away services and still be able to pay all the bills and employees.

2. There is a High Profit Margin on Vaccines – Veterinarians don't want to say but there is a very good profit margin on vaccines. However the margin on treating a sick pet is much lower and the vaccines help to balance that part of the practice. Also, the overhead on a veterinary practice is higher than most people would realize. Another important point is that veterinarians are very careful on where they get their vaccines, how they are shipped, stored and given. Some pet owners and breeders turn to less expensive feed store vaccines which can be associated with vaccine "failures". These vaccine "failures" are attributed to poor quality products, products given improperly, and/or inadequate storage (refrigeration requirements).

3.They Want to Sell You Preventative Medications – There is also a good profit margin on some of the preventative medications (flea control/heartworm prevention, etc). They would prefer that you buy them from them as opposed to over-the-counter or mail order services. They generally feel that the quality of their products are superior.

4. Vaccines Can be Dangerous – There are some reactions to vaccines that can be life threatening. They are reactively uncommon but when present can be significant. Some pets will have mild allergic reactions and other can have an immune mediate response or develop a tumor (cats). In general, most veterinarians believe that vaccines do way more good than harm and they often don't emphasize the uncommon reactions as they should. I think they don't want to scare people away from something that has clear benefits.

5. There is No One in Our Hospital Monitoring Pets at Night – Some hospitals have 24-hour care but most do not. Every hospital has a slightly different situation. Some have staff that live above the clinic and do nighttime treatments and walks/monitoring. Others have no one but have an early shift that walks pets early. If your pet really needs 24-hour care – ask what they offer. Most areas have a local emergency clinic that does offer 24-hour care.

6. Vaccine Recommendations Have Changed – Most veterinarians are up-to-date and have changed with the times. Fifteen years ago – the recommendations for vaccines was yearly updates for both dogs and cats. Some vets still practice this recommendation. However, recent research has indicated that most vaccines last longer than 1-year and most recommendations are to give vaccines every 3 years. Titers (a blood test to determine if a vaccine is needed) are a good option to yearly vaccines.

7. Vets Often Don't Agree with Breeders – There are often very different opinions about certain issues between veterinarians and breeders. The differences are especially true regarding nutrition.

8. There are Some Things Some Vets are Better At then Others – For example, some practices don't do many ear cropping and have a lot of complications from a procedure they don't do that often. Ask the technicians and vet how often they do a particular surgery or procedure if you have any question.

9. You Have Referral Options – Some vets are very eager to refer a complicated medical or surgical case and others are not. If your pet is not improving or you have any question – ask about referral options to seek an opinion from a specialist.

10. I'm not that Familiar or Fond of Alternative Medicine – Most veterinarians are very educated in traditional medicine. Most alternative natural solutions are not proven and some have been harmful to pets. There are some veterinarians that have educated themselves in natural therapies but the majority doesn't believe in it.

11. Most Vets in General Practice are "GP's" – A GP is a general practitioner – a doctor with a general ability to treat just about anything. However, this is NOT the same thing as a specialist. A specialist ahs at least 3 years of advanced training after which they take an exam that identifies them as having the board certification. It is impossible to know everything about everything. If you have a critical or complicated cardiology case – it may be best for your pet to see a cardiologist.

12. Vets Have a Low Tolerance for Aggression - Most vets have seen enough nice dogs put to sleep that they have developed a low tolerance for aggression. They have also seen technicians and pet owner unnecessarily injured. Personally, I have no problem euthanizing a healthy aggressive dog.

13. Vets Get Attached – Vets may be professional and try to act as though certain things don't bother them but often they do. For example, when a patient they have been seeing for years dies – tears are shed. Often in silence or on their own. It is almost as though they have become their family too.

14. Vets Have Bad Days Too – Vets are human too. They can have bad days. I recall having an appointment for which I was running late because I took a friend for a chemotherapy appointment – she was doing poorly and I was upset. I was late. The client was upset. I did apologize but I didn't explain the situation to the client. I could tell they were mad the entire time. I had my mind elsewhere and probably didn't care as much as I should have. Vets have bad days too.

15. Cats May be Happier as Indoor/Outdoor Cats – Some cats may be happiest as indoor-outdoor cats. Their life span may be less and there are inherent risks of being outdoor cats. However, a balance of food, shelter at will with the stimulation of outdoor life and make for a very happy at. Based on the outdoor risks, most veterinarians recommend that cats be kept indoors.

Irreverent Vet

16. Your Dog Doesn't Need Vitamins – If you are feeding a good quality premium food, you don't need to give your dog vitamins. If you are feeding a supermarket brand of food or lower quality food – you should give your dog a vitamin.

17. Not all Foods Are Created Equal – Most vets don't want to debate with you about what food you are feeding. However, most vets believed in the premium proven food brands such as Iams, Hills Science diet, and Eukanuba to name a few.

18. All Drugs Have Side Effects – Often medications are prescribed without detailed discussion of side effects. All medications have side effects – which you know if you have ever gotten a prescription filled and received a handout on that medication from the pharmacist.

19. If Your Dog Acts Aggressive, We Muzzle – If your dog acts aggressive in any way – most veterinarians will muzzle your dog. They use a variety of muzzles but most common muzzles are soft nylon. This is for the protection of staff from bites.

20.Even if Your Dog is Really Bad – They May Minimize It – Veterinarians and their staff generally don't want to tell you that you have a bad dog, even if you do. I've seen vets deal with terrible dogs and later tell the other they were "pretty good".

21. No House Calls – Vets that have a practice generally don't want to do house calls (unless house calls are a part of their business). Pets often will act more aggressive at home, the lighting is often poor, and no competent support staff to "hold" the pet for procedures or evaluation. In general, house calls can be a big headache.

22.Many Pets Do Better When You Aren't Around – Some pets actually do better – are better behaved with its owners is not in site or in the room. I don't know if this is because they are trying to protect you or you the owner actually get in the road...but it's true.

23. We are Often People People – Most people think vets are just "about the pets". For some, this is true and they are better animal people and not so good at people socialization. However, it doesn't matter if the pets like us or not – what matters is the pet owners like us. It is the people that bring the pets to the veterinarian's office to make us successful at what we do.

24. Vets Hate Talking About Money – Veterinarians are trained to in medicine and surgery. Not business. That is a weakness in the veterinary curriculum. And most vets are happy to talk to you about what is best medically for "Fluffy" but hate to talk to you about what it is going to cost to help "Fluffy". They would rather just do what is best but are forced to talk about money in order to keep their doors open and bills paid. Most vets I now really dislike talking about the money part of their work.

25. Vets Aren't Always Right – Vets don't know everything. If you are not comfortable with a diagnosis or treatment – it is okay to disagree or see a second opinion.

26. Pets Can Change - Pets can change their symptoms and condition in a matter of hours. Just because they show one set of signs one day, they can look different the next day. Things can change frequently- so repeat testing is often helpful as a pets condition progresses.

27. Vets are Not Nutritionists – Most vets are not that familiar with all the minor dog food companies out there. They are familiar with what dogs need and generally recommend one of the big high quality premium foods.

My Final Thoughts – On What Veterinarians Don't Want You To Know

Most veterinarians want and try to do the right thing. They want to care for their patients and to provide a good quality successful service to clients. Most try to do the right thing. However, some veterinarians are more current on their medicine or more eager to refer to specialists than others. And...just like in any profession – there are bad eggs. However, out of the different professionals that I know – most vets are just darn right good people.

Find a vet that you believe in and have a good relationship with.
If there is any question or concern about your vet or what he is doing - ask. It is important that you are comfortable with the care that your pet receives.

What are your thoughts?

What do you think your vet doesn't want you to know about your dog? Or about your cat? Take our survey and fill out your comments at the end.


The Irreverent Vet is a columnist that regularly contributes to The goal is to add a balanced and alternative view of some controversial pet issues. As happens with all of us, veterinarians can't say what they really think without offending some clients. This commentary allows vets to say what they think and give you, the pet owner, the opportunity to consider another view. All opinions are those of the Politically Incorrect Vet and not the views of and are not endorsed by

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Bev said...

As I started reading it, I was prepared to really dislike your post. I've gotten tired of reading on sites like Yahoo Answers that veterinarians are money grubbers who can't be trusted to give an honest answer. I thought your post would be just like all the rest--but I was WRONG!

I think you've written a very well-balanced piece. IMHO, veterinarians are like people doctors--mostly good, a few bad eggs, but a GP is all about an overview of what might be wrong, whereas a specialist is all about the specialty. There are more doctors available these days who practice alternative medicine and things like acupuncture are now more accepted by the medical community (I can remember a time when chiropractors were considered quacks!). As time goes by, I think we'll see more acceptance of alternative medicine in veterinary practices, too.

Very well done!

BTW--I share my life with a Bichon and I was delighted to see the photos of Wendy that you've posted! I am attending BlogHer this year and I hope to see you there---I think BlogHer needs a Bichon group!

silvieon4 said...

Hi, we did not write the article, we merely posted it- It is from DR JON and the article links to his web site.

Just for the record, we love our Dogtor!

JD has deadly allergies triggered by combined early vaccinations. Our wonderful Dr Klemm {Hickory Vet. Clinic] understands this and we work within a wider margin of safety.

All Bichons are more prone to allergies and sensitivities. I do believe that an educated owner makes a better owner and a good owner advocates for his/her pets.

I cannot even imagine being a vet confronted with an owner who is not observant, not knowledgeable of his/her pet.

There are lots of wonderful vets.
Like everything else out there, your experience will largely be effected by your input.

That having been said... The vet that over vaccinates and does so 7 months early causing your pet to vomit blood... does not need to be YOUR vet. [I have had that experience...]

As far as alternate veterinary medicine, it too has its place. Anything that would help or make any of my babies comfortable and healthier... it has a place.

This is Silvieon4's blog. Like Silvie, Wendy is a rescue from Tidewater Bichon Frise Rescue. JD
their "brother" is the poster dog for the wrong way to immunize your dog. I was advised to "put him down" at age 8 mo. He is now 5 and he is perfect as long as I keep him far far away from beef and chicken.

I do hope you come back again to this blog and enjoy Silvieon4's take on life.


silvieon4 said...

PSSSS... BEV, I agree with you about BlogHer needing a Bichon group!