I read an article today that upset me. In fact it did more than that, it made me MAD! Whilst I'm tempted not to post the link to the article (so that they aren't rewarded with more online traffic) my post will make a lot more sense once the article has been read. So here is the link.
A trip to the vet shouldn’t include a scalping – a rebuttal from a veterinarians perspective
“Dogs don’t need extreme makeovers” – well I’m sorry but we’ll have to agree to disagree on this point. There are many times that I find dogs in need of extreme makeovers. In cases of neglect for example. There is nothing more freeing than a nice short haircut to remove years of matting to help a dog feel alive again. In cases of severe dental disease. There is nothing more comforting than removing 20+ teeth from the horribly infected mouth of a dog that has been suffering from chronic pain whilst the owner was blissfully unaware. In the patient with a chronic vaginitis due a hooded vulva – giving her a “designer vagina” by performing a vulvoplasty & preventing chronic infections, pain & years of discomfort. These are three examples of what I call extreme makeovers and all are medically required. So yes, dogs DO need extreme makeovers.
I want to start by saying it is privilege not a right to own a pet. So you need to be financially aware and prepared to afford your pet. Part of being able to afford a pet is affording routine health care – which involves more than just dental health & nail trims. It also includes vaccinations, heartworm, worming, flea and tick prevention, appropriate nutrition, appropriate coat care and love. Lots of love and attention.
If we are simply comparing the cost of human dental health care against veterinary health care we are going to have a few problems. As it is not as simple as saying, this procedure on a human costs this much and therefore should cost the same at a veterinary clinic. I think if this was the case, all us vets would be jumping for joy as human dentists charge far more than us veterinary dentists. Does your $280 for 3 kids include any healthcare rebates? If yes, then why don’t you have health insurance for your pets? They will also provide you with a significant rebate making the $310 much more affordable.
What is included in $310 for a doggy dental? – it is more than just a scale & polish. That is part of it, it is also the cost of the day stay in hospital, the cost of pre-anaesthetic drugs, induction agents, oxygen and inhalational anaesthetics, placing an intravenous catheter, use of an endotracheal tube, anaesthetic machine, anaesthetic monitoring equipment (pulse oximeter and Parkes Doppler), it is the cost of nursing care before, during and after the procedure, the cost of the vets time to fully examine the animal and perform the procedure, the cost of us cleaning up after the procedure, us covering the costs of the initial outlay of the equipment and shock horror we are a business so there is going to be some profit in there too – mind you not much.
We are aware of the cost of veterinary care and to encourage people to do the right thing most vet practices discount the cost of preventative dental care – which I’m sure is the case here. We want to encourage people to have their pets teeth cleaned routinely as needed rather than waiting until tooth root abscesses form, they require multiple extractions and meanwhile suffer silently from chronic pain. It is not uncommon for a dental with extractions to cost between $700 and $1200. If we were to charge for a preventative dental without discounts as we charge for other procedures, it would likely cost you upwards of $600!
I don’t know your dad or his experiences as a vet, but being a small animal veterinarian, working in small animal practice, there is no way that my daughters (as the daughters of a vet) would have to ask any other veterinarian “What is a dental?” There is also no way in the world I would have a cattle prod in my car – my largest patient will only ever have paws, not hooves. Veterinary dental health has come a long way, in fact when your dad went through vet school over 40 years ago, it was probably non-existent, except for maybe filling down horses teeth. The term pre-emptive pain relief was also not around then, so many animals experienced painful operations without any pain relief whatsoever. Just because it was done then, does not mean that it is right now.
I don’t judge people on how much they spend on their pets. The fact that someone is so committed to a rescue rabbit that they are willing to provide it with the dental care that it needs is heart-warming. What you fail to recognise is that a $1500 dental bill generally doesn’t come out of nowhere. There have generally been PLENTY of warning signs that it is coming to that.
Just as I would never spend $100,000 on a car, I know that not all people will be able or willing to spend thousands of dollars on their animals. That is their choice. I am not here to judge, but I am here to make sure that their pet doesn’t suffer. And yes, sometimes that means euthanasing pets that I can fix because someone is unable or unwilling to spend the money on treatment.
I feel for your veterinarian, who was bullied into doing something that he knew in his heart was inappropriate or he would have offered it to you. Just because your father used that as a routine way of dealing with dental plaque, it doesn’t mean that it was the right thing to do. What we can’t do while your dog is conscious is scale the tartar that builds up under the gums and help to resolve the gingivitis, we certainly can’t probe into the gingival pockets to assess if any extractions are required, and there is no chance of polishing the enamel. So basically, what you managed to convince your vet to do, was provide your dog with a cosmetic procedure. It was of absolutely no medical benefit but it made it look better so you didn’t think there was a problem anymore. Congratulations, you may not like extreme makeovers for dogs, but apparently you like cosmetic dental procedures.
As veterinarians we simply can’t win. We’re told that we are ‘over-servicing’ when we offer best practice, then clients complain when we don’t. Personally, I will always recommend “gold standard” veterinary treatment to everyone, but then I will also go on to offer different possible treatment options. I will never guilt anyone into treating their animal but this does mean that I won’t be harsh when I need to. If someone is going to ignore a serious life threatening condition I will not sit back and say nothing.
As for your comments about providing pain relief, radiographing a puppy’s sore leg, and a fur singe costing $220. I think that it’s unfair to be painting vets in such a “money grabbing” light when this did not occur to your animals and you don’t know the full picture. As for the cost of $220 for a dog reversing into a fire guard, I would like to know what time of day or night was the consult? Did it include pain relief or just the consult? Was a house visit a part of the fee? There are a number of reasons that a consult could cost $220 – most likely being after hours or on a public holiday. We cannot diagnose over the phone and we should not, so if you are concerned enough to call the vet, then you should be prepared to pay the consult fee if we recommend that your animal has a check-up.
Of course there are shonky vets out there that aren’t doing the right thing by pets, but that would absolutely be the rarity. You know what I’m all for people having a whinge, yes the cost of living is going up, yes vet bills are expensive, but NO we are not trading on your ignorance and trying to scam you out of money so that we can do unnecessary tests on your animal. I am concerned that this article has gone a long way to damage the hard work that vets are doing to provide preventative health care for pets. As a scientific community, veterinarians are working harder than ever to continue research on preventing diseases as well as treating them. This means that the recommendations that your father made during his 40 year career are very likely outdated. As I am making assumptions about your father, you are making assumptions on what you think you know about the industry because you are “the daughter of a vet”.
I don’t rip people off, I recommend dentals and I perform them on a daily basis. By recommending prophylactic dental procedures I’m trying to prevent the need for extractions down the track, avoiding tooth root abscess, reducing the risk of bacteraemia & septicaemia, helping to keep pet’s hearts healthy & avoiding unnecessary chronic dental pain. I respect your dad. Every vet needs to be respected and he sounds like he has done an amazing job over a 40 year career. I certainly couldn’t have been a large animal vet and if I started out that way I know I wouldn’t have lasted 40 years. He’s also obviously raised a strong daughter who stands up for what she thinks is right (even if I respectfully disagree with your point of view).
The one thing that I have noticed about all vets, is that we are all here to improve the lives of our patients, and sometimes talking up for our patient’s means upsetting their humans. I’m sorry that you didn’t agree with your vet’s recommendation for a dental procedure, but I feel that you should have gained some more facts before jumping on the “vet bashing wagon”.
I love my job, I love my patients and I love most of my clients. At the end of the day most vets and owners want the same thing – for their pets to live long healthy lives free of suffering. The best way to do that is providing your pet with regularly veterinary health checks and working with your veterinarian to keep your pet as healthy as possible. Just because you think you know better (we all love Dr Google) doesn’t mean that you do. You are free to ask your vet why they have recommended something so that you can better understand the science behind their recommendation but I wouldn’t support pressuring your vet into doing procedures that they don’t want to and then not listening to the reasons as to why they haven’t done it.
Ok, so that’s enough of my rant – you found my button and pushed it 😆
Please feel free to leave your feedback below this post. I'd love to hear how you perceive your vets, or fellow vets how you feel about the original article. I hope I've done you proud!