Monday, May 14, 2012

Reader's Digest May 2012, Secret's 29 - 35

This is part 6 of the May 2012, Reader's Digest article, "50 Secret's Your Vet Won't Tell You," by Michelle Crouch

Secret number 29 through 35, entitled, “What you should know.”

Secret 29
"The biggest mistake pet owners make is calling the vet too late. Pets rarely get colds or the flu, and they almost never get food poisoning. So if they're sick for more than a day, call us." Sandy Willis, DVM, DACVIM
I feel so strongly about this particular secret that I am building a business around this exact problem. I guess that because animals can't talk and vocalize to their owners just what they are feeling and what their symptoms are that people under estimate the severity of their disease. I also think that many owners don't closely monitor the very basics enough. Like how much and when they last ate?, what their urine and feces look like?, how many times they have vomited, or had diarrhea?, etc..

The owners in most cases just don't understand what their pet is trying to tell them. I often don't charge for the really quick appointments. My rule is sort of "if it takes less then 3 minutes and we don't leave the waiting room, then I don't charge for it." Now I understand that this is not what everyone is going to do, and when my clients look at me quizzically and say, "What? you aren't going to charge me?" I say, "No, I would rather that you came in and we decided together that it wasn't something to worry about together, then you waited and it becomes a very big serious problem. because too many times people are afraid to come in, or post pone coming in, and it ends up a far more serious problem than it might have been." A quick "in and out" is always better than a "we waited and now we have a disaster on our hands," appointment. So the rule of thumb is to go as soon as you think there might be a problem. And have a good working relationship with your vet. They can help you understand what your pet is trying to tell you.

Secret 30
“If your animal is really sick, it’s better to bring him in during the morning. A vet I once worked with would do a huge workup when a sick animal came in early. But if the sick animal came in late in the day, the vet would actually encourage the owner to euthanize. But I would add that this is not common.” A vet in South Carolina

I don’t even know where to start with this one. I am as shocked and appalled as ever other reader out there is. I don’t know what to say. I can’t even begin to try to defend, explain, or even reason what kind of ridiculous train of thought or defense or unimaginable lack of common decency this represents.

I don’t know, I guess just don’t go to a vet in SC after 3 pm?

I have never seen anything like this, or heard anything like this. I hope I never do.

Number 31
“Unfortunatley, I've had to work in low cost clinics, and many of them are cutting corners to make a profit, some places give half doses of vaccines instead of full doses, which is totally illegal and ineffective.” A vet in Cal.

There is the old saying, “you get what you pay for.” But if you are paying for a vaccine, low cost or not, you get the whole vaccine. I don’t understand why people aren’t blowing the whistle on these places? How do you live with yourself if you work in a place that cheats and deceives people?

At our clinic we pull up the vaccines in front of our clients. I want them to see that we use the whole amount, we keep it refrigerated, and we check the labels before we give anything. It means there is a  degree of transparency, and a double checking procedure on place all to insure that your pet gets the right vaccine and the right amount.

Number 32
“The vets who work for most corporate-owned vet hospitals are paid a monthly bonus checks based on how much they bring in from clients. So if it seems like you are paying more at one of those hospitals, you likely are.” Jessica Stout-Harris

I frequently get clients from the corporate hospital that is about 20 minutes away from us because the client is given an estimate for a service that they cannot afford. Many corporate vet hospitals refer almost all of their surgeries, and most of their more complex and complicated cases, to a specialist. These specialists are very well trained and have a higher degree of skill level than a general practitioner possesses. But their cost is usually twice, (or more), than what a general practitioners is. For some clients it is the difference between being able to treat their pet at all.

For those of you who are not familiar with “corporate veterinary practices” we are usually referring to a veterinary hospital that is owned by a corporation like Banfield, or VCA. (There are others but these two are the largest.) Their policies and practices are designed and created on a corporate level. This has been reported to be the primary complaint of some the corporate clients. They feel that their options are not flexible and that they are not between you and your veterinarian to make. There is a complaint of a lack of flexibility and options and higher expense(s) for services. Some people opt for a monthly service plan as a way to spread out costs. Most small privately owned practices do not offer this option due to cost and logistics to implement.

Number 33
“Some people worry that paying for pet insurance will be a waste if they don’t use it. But when you renew your fire insurance on your house, you don’t say, ‘Shoot, my house didn’t burn down last year-I wasted all of that money’?” Phil Zeltzmann, DVM

I get a lot of people asking me about pet insurance. It is a great discussion to have with your vet. The vet industry encourages veterinarians to encourage our clients to purchase pet insurance plans. They report that clients with pet insurance are more likely to pursue treatment options if they have pet insurance. But I have to also tell my clients that I have seen many clients be denied reimbursement for treatments, or denied the treatment option. I also tell my clients that these are insurance "companies." They are for profit. They will never pay out more than they collect. At our clinic it is very unusual for a treatment plan to exceed $1500. I would rather see you create an emergency fund for your pet and deposit the $30-75 a month that the pet insurance companies will charge you for their “basic” coverage. That and having descent credit so you can be approved for CareCredit, just in case an emergency comes up, are the best advice I can give you. Oh, and if you do get an estimate for services, (these should always be written down, itemized, and given to you), feel free to go comparison price shopping, or ask for another “option” if you cannot afford, or are uncomfortable with the options that have been presented to you. Sometimes they exist. But make sure you are comparing apples to apples.

Secret 34
“If we wanted to go into it for the money, we’d have become human doctors.” Oscar Chavez, DVM

I went into veterinary medicine because I love animals (like every other 12 year old girl). I have since realized that I also love getting to know the families of my patients, feeling like I am a part of my community, and that I bring a service of healing, alleviating suffering, and helping to them. I protect my sense of compassion and empathy fervently. I know how easy it is to lose them. I always take a moment to tell my patients that they are cared for, and that I am here to help. This career has always been, and for me will always stay, as a sense of duty, love, and kindness.
I also own my practice so I also feel a deep sense of responsibility to my staff and their families, so I cannot run a non-profit.
When I am faced with a hard decision based on economics I never decide based on what is best for our bank account, but rather what is best for my patient, my client, and what is the kind thing to do. Owning a small animal veterinary hospital is not a quick way to get rich, (if we are talking in dollars). It is 8 years of college, hard work, emotionally and physically grueling, and if you are  in it for the money you will burn out and be miserable.

Secret 35
“Most vets put themselves through 8 to 12 years of school and have huge student debts. We love animals and we want to help them. Most of us start our day early, finish late, and are available for emergencies.” Phil Zimmerman, DVM

Completely true, and, I think I just said all of that in number 34.


  1. 29: I would have to agree with this one; people really don't know how to read and evaluate symptoms, and they also like to get in denial. I have always been paranoid and over time became even worse--I'd rather go to a vet and be told that it's nothing than neglect something important.

    Sidenote: it hasn't happened yet that I went to a vet and was told it's nothing.

    30: WOW I haven't seen anything like this, but sadly, I can picture it.

    32: I know a vet who quit such corporate hospital because of being put pressure on to "pad" bills

  2. Hi Y'all,

    We've had experience with the "corporate" vet hospital. Left because they were unwilling to discuss "not" giving a vaccine and any time you took your dog in, insisted you get a shot for "something". It was like they "had to" sell you something. When you go to pay they give you a huge bill with a discount which was still way more than the bill I was used to receiving.

    Y'all come by now,
    BrownDog's Human