A Veterinarians Perspective – Rebuttal about scalpings

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!

What we are trying to avoid by providing prophylactic dental procedures
What we are trying to avoid by providing prophylactic dental procedures

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!

This is my dog Jack, anaesthetised to have his teeth cleaned. This was before the dental, and yes, it doesn't look like he had much tartar on his teeth, but he had bad breath & gingivitis. Despite it not looking like he needed teeth out prior to the dental procedure. I did find that I had to remove two of his teeth to ensure this 16 year old boy had a happy healthy mouth. Jack has received a dental procedure every 2-3 years to keep his teeth clean. Despite my best preventative efforts, Jack is one of those dogs prone to dental disease. By regular dental procedures, Jack has kept all of his molars & premolars, the only teeth that have been extracted have been incisors & he has never experienced a tooth root abscess or severe mouth infection. If I'm recommending it for my own dog, surely I wouldn't be over servicing him too?
This is my dog Jack, anaesthetised to have his teeth cleaned. This was before the dental, and yes, it doesn't look like he had much tartar on his teeth, but he had bad breath & gingivitis. Despite it not looking like he needed teeth out prior to the dental procedure. I did find that I had to remove two of his teeth to ensure this 16 year old boy had a happy healthy mouth. Jack has received a dental procedure every 2-3 years to keep his teeth clean. Despite my best preventative efforts, Jack is one of those dogs prone to dental disease. By regular dental procedures, Jack has kept all of his canines, molars & premolars, the only teeth that have been extracted have been incisors & he has never experienced a tooth root abscess or severe mouth infection. If I'm recommending it for my own dog, surely I wouldn't be over servicing him too?




114 Responses

  1. Kim

    Great article Belinda. Reminded me very much of something Linda would have thought and said and stood up for :). You are so in the right profession and our pets are lucky to have you as their dr.

    • admin

      Thanks so much Kim! I get so much inspiration from Linda. She was such a strong woman – so lucky to have had her as a mentor/supporter in my early years!

  2. Thank you do much Dr Belinda for writing a fair and balanced rebuttal to this ridiculous article. I have wanted to write to the newspaper myself but you’ve done such an awesome job- maybe you could submit it for their comments section? The original article really depressed me, as I could see how people may think she was right- without a vet to explain the importance of a proper procedure in this case. I found it depressing that an article such as this, obviously with no research (surely before publishing you’d speak to at least one more vet to get a balanced opinion?) can be published in such a widely-read sphere. The public is so misinformed about vet costs (how small our margins are, how long our hours are and how meagre our pay compared to similar professions) already, which articles such as this propagate. Yet we daily discount to allow people to afford care . How many doctors are expected to perform free treatment and are told they are uncaring if they don’t? While we reduce fees frequently, while also providing fee care to wildlife and strays. Ah, could go on forever, but you’ve written a great rebuttal so I can relax about this tonight!!

    • admin

      Thanks so much Mich! I’ve emailed the reporter directly & tweeted the newspaper – all done late last night. I think I’ll take you up on that suggestion to try and get it in the comments section. I completely agree with everything you’ve written. We all know too well that this occurs on a daily basis!

  3. JC

    Well said!! That vet bashing article really annoyed me too!

    • admin

      Thank you JC!

  4. I’m a vet (in the uk) who also read that article yesterday and it made me MAD too! Thank you so much for your eloquent reply, which I wholeheartedly agree with. You have certainly done us proud.

    • admin

      Thank you Hannah! I’m so happy that I did us proud!

  5. Thank you. You have put in to words what so many of us in the industry were thinking when this article came along.

    • admin

      Thank you Hades. I’m glad I was able to defend our profession!

  6. Very good argument! Always difficult to be a vet…. Offer gold standard and then go to an option suiting the willingness of the client …. And then after doing a compromise often involving 3 hours free work by the vet (because client was to cheap to begin with) then being accused of not doing more…. Well well .

    • admin

      Thank you Camilla. So true!

  7. Thank you for so eloquently stating what is so true for most hard working vets of today. I did start as a large animal vet and am now in small animal practice. As I have learned along the way, over twenty years, I am disgusted with the way things used to be done. Thank god for progress. This women put us all back five to ten years!

    • admin

      Thank you Dr Robyn! I always thought I would be a large animal vet before I started vet school. Once I got into vet school I soon learned that small animals were for me. At least 20 years ago you were doing what you did with the knowledge available at the time, to do that now would be negligent – which is what the journalist was inadvertently advocating.

  8. This is a wonderfully written rebuttal. Being born the “daughter of… fill in the blank” does not make you an expert on what your parents chose as a career. I wouldn’t want the son of a surgeon to operate on me! My biggest issue with veterinary medicine is the OWNERS. No one seems to understand that it is a privilege, not a right to care for any living thing. Also, google and other online “sources” did not attend veterinary school, and neither (likely) did the owner. Our job is not to please you, or yes, even save you money. Our job is to help your pet, most of the time because you as an owner have NOT. Prices get a lot higher when most procedure require anesthesia and sedation, combined with a lack of insurance. You cannot compare animal medicine to human medicine – which is extremely subsidized.

    • admin

      Thank you Libby. I agree completely! Thank you for feedback. Definitely, at the end of the day yes we are there for the owners too, but at the end of the day we are there to ensure their pets are well looked after.

  9. Well written 🙂 I am so sick of these articles that complain about the cost of veterinary treatment! The same as I am sick and tired of people moaning at me when I tell them how much treatment will be! 99% of complaints in veterinary practices are to do with money – if you can’t afford a pet, don’t get one! Pet insurance costs about £20 a month for a good policy (£4000 per condition per year) but people still need to afford basic veterinary care that insurances don’t pay for i.e. vaccinations, flea and worm treatment, dental treatment and neutering! It makes me so mad that people think that giving their animal a pain relief injection ‘when it doesn’t look like its in pain’ because its not screaming the place down is ‘over-treating’ even though your dog just tried to bite me when I touched it’s ear. If people were more informed then maybe they wouldn’t moan about such things – and this article goes a long way to helping 🙂 Well done! First article I have read about veterinary treatment costs that hasn’t made we want to punch someone – in a LONG time!! I have shared this and I hope people will do the same! x

    • admin

      Thank you very much. I think it’s a battle we’re having to face on a daily basis. I think it is so important to educate owners before they even purchase their pet about the costs of looking after it. There is no point spending all of your money on getting the dog/cat and not being able to afford to vaccinate or neuter it. Thank you for sharing!

  10. Well said Belinda. It is so disheartening to read articles like the original one & your response was spot on. Thank you on behalf of all vets who want the best for their patients.

    • admin

      Thank you very much Debbie!

  11. Great post Belinda. I actually didn’t read the original article because I knew how it would give me a whole lot of negative emotions that would ruin my day. I think as vets one of the most important things we can do for every patient is communicate well with their owners, and do our best to make sure they understand why we want to do this test or that procedure.
    Sadly we still need a thick skin, because no matter how evident it is that we’re advocating for the pet and their best interests only, there will always be people who are ignorant or just assholes out there. Now excuse me while I hop into my BMW are go home to the enormous mansion my veterinary wages have paid for 😉

    • admin

      LOL! I love it Joanna. We do need to have thick skins and be able to laugh at times don’t we. If we don’t laugh we’ll just cry – I’d rather cry from laughter personally!
      And yes, as you say communication is the most important skill we as vets can learn.

  12. Well put Belinda.
    Apparently there will be a follow up article, after the writer discusses the situation again with people more knowledgeable than herself.
    I would like to make the point that the Vet in the article (from the writer’s descriptions) did not do themselves any services by not being able to explain what was going on. Belinda clearly knows what is going on, but I am not so sure the Vet in the article did. Understand what you are offering, and particularly what your cost structure is! Most of all. like Belinda said, DO NOT be bullied into offering negligent and fraudulent treatments. If it is wrong, it is wrong!

    • admin

      Thank you Aaron. I guess we all know that clients to a degree hear what they want to hear. Some clients simply believe they know better and don’t want anything else done. I was disappointed with the reporter & her lack of balanced reporting. I think I’ve made my point though 🙂

  13. Very well written and accurate. I feel so sorry for her poor vet who was bullied into risking his own health (eyes and hands) by scaling off that plaque – how completely ignorant of her… it also makes me very mad. Thank you for posting this.

    • admin

      Thank you Sarah. I felt really sorry for the vet too. As a new grad I would have been easily bullied into something like that. These days there is no chance.

  14. As a fellow veterinarian I was also extremely frustrated and angered by the original article! Your response could not have been better. Thank you for writing it!

    • admin

      Thank you Renae!

  15. Thank you!!!!!
    You wrote a beautiful articulate reply that was time consuming and I’m incredibly grateful.
    Thank you so much!
    You put in to words perfectly how I feel.

    • admin

      Thank you Naomi! I really appreciate that you took the time to read my rant and I hope that clients will too so they can see the truth behind the false assumptions made by the reporter.

  16. Wonderful response. I gnashed my teeth and postulated to myself when I read the original article. I started to write all sorts of responses. None of which I could possibly publish as they were far from the professional polite response you have written. Thank you for this fantastic rebuttal.
    I do wonder if her vet would have asked her to sign a treatment waiver form if he had known the article that would follow 🙂

    • admin

      Thank you Sonja. Believe me a few edits went into this. I had to re-write a few bits and I managed to avoid profanities which is a near miracle for me. LOL

  17. Great article, thank you! Agree with Aaron, but I can understand giving in when you’ve been bullied, mocked and emotionally manipulated by an arrogant client. We are human and some days it’s very hard to rise above it.

    • admin

      Thank you Jessamy – that’s so true. We are human and we can only take so much!

  18. The initial article infuriated me! I am a nurse and manage a small practice.
    We constantly hear clients comment about the cost of veterinary care. “I cant afford vto see a vet” but ofthen the client will light up a ciggarette as soon as tgey step out the door. This comes down to pets being a privelege and if you want to own a pet, yoh need to be prepared to own the costs. If you cant afford the costs, get pet insurance or here’s another option, dont own a pet!
    We work weekends, nights, public holidays to provide animals with the best possible care.
    Medicare is amazing but its not for animals! So of course vet bills will be more!
    Thank you belinda for taking the time to set this misinformed person straight and defending the veterinary industry!

    • admin

      Thank you Holly. I really appreciate your feedback. That’s so right about the crazy hours we work. Let’s face it, pets don’t only get sick from 9-5, so that means we have to cover these other times too. It’s so true about Medicare, it’s fantastic but people don’t realise how much procedures cost when they are subsidised through medicare.

  19. Great rebuttal!!! Very well written. I just hope the sad reporter who wrote the article gets to see this and just maybe think twice. Thank You

    • admin

      Thank you Miranda! I’ve emailed her directly and the editor in chief at the newspaper & tweeted the newspaper as well. So yes, hopefully she has read my response : )

  20. See, and I just wanted to give her a right telling off! Your articulate, considered and rational approach was much more effective. The only person in this whole episode “selling out” is the reporter who hasn’t let the facts get in the way of a “good” (and I use the term VERY loosely) story. If you want to target the lowest common denominator you need – reporters for want of a more accurate term – to deliver sensationalist stories loosely based on existing preconceptions.
    Thanks for defending the profession – we are all in your debt.

    • admin

      Thank you Lisa! There were a few versions of this rant but I finally settled on this version as the most “friendly yet firm” version. LOL. The other versions may have been more suited to the late night bar scene…

  21. A common accusation leveled at vets is “its just about the money” ….I have always found the people that throw that accusation are the ones that are more concerned about the money. My partner is of another occupation listed in the original article and has some tricky clients that have big projects that seem to think because they have a big project they should get a hefty discount. and then if they take their time to pay and we have the termosity to ask for payment, we get accused of it “always being about the money” with us…..it seems to me over the years working in the vet clinic and with what I know my partner has to put up with as well, that it is usually the ones that have issues about the money that accuse others of “only thinking about the money”! And it’s interesting that those types are also the ones that attempt to “guilt” us into cutting corners or reducing bills by making the accusations.
    As for dental’s…most people don’t see what is happening at the back of their pets mouth and we very often cannot really tell either unless the animal is under a GA to have a proper look!
    I have had clients tell me “well if it’s still eating, so it must be ok, I’m not spending money on a dental” when poor animal has the most disgusting mouth, you would have to wonder how on earth it could actually eat!
    I wonder how the author of the original article would feel if someone wrote that journalists are all hacks that do not properly research articles (I imagine she would be pretty cheesed of considering she is supposed to be a Walkley’s Winner

    • admin

      It’s so true Gillian. I find that if people are honest and up front I will always try to find a solution that suits them, their pet and the business. It’s the ones who demand it that are the problem. It’s amazing the difference removing those horrible teeth make – if only we had a crystal ball that we could show the owners how much happier their pet will be with a disease free mouth. Interesting about the author… I doubt she’ll be winning awards for this article. LOL

  22. Recently my dog was completely paralysed by a disc rupturing explosively in his neck, the insurance only just covered the operation with no guarantee of success but he is young and we went for it. ALL the vets, physios and nurses were amazing to me and my dog and money was the last thing on their minds, I would’ve sold the house if I had to. Now, 6 months later he is back on his feet, happy and I reckon about 98% recovered and still improving-i thank God for my vet because without his help Jack would be dead and me broken!

    • admin

      Julie, I’m so sorry that your dog had to go through that but it sounds like he is in brilliant hands with your care and the care of his vets, physios and nurses. I’m so very happy to hear that Jack has nearly completely recovered (great name by the way :-)) It is so distressing to see them like that. Thank goodness you’re so committed to him. On a side note the acupuncturist in me can’t sit by and not suggest if he has any further issues with his neck that it can help in addition to everything else that you’re already doing. My Jack loves it when I give him acupuncture.

  23. Vic

    Great work Belinda! I wish the author of this article could have a day working as a vet. I wonder whether they would change their opinion after doing a canine and carnassial extraction on an old, inappetant, agressive cat that takes 2 hours of drilling, sweating, cursing…. We dont put ourselves (or the cat) through this pain for fun and/or money! If it wasnt for the welfare of the animals i dont think ANY vet would CHOOSE to do a dental!

    • admin

      Thanks Vic! Tell me about it. I think if she saw what we went through extracting those teeth she’ll know that it’s simply not worth the money. If we could avoid it we would!

  24. Thank you from a fellow vet! I read the article yesterday, and like you I was furious! I was also dismayed, that this woman’s ill educated opinion had the potential to mislead so many people.

    I tried writing directly to the author but could not express myself adequately. I hope she has seen your reply, please let us know if she replies to you.

    Kat (small animal surgery)

    • admin

      So far I’ve heard nothing back. Thank you for your support. I’m planning on tweeting up a storm shortly to see if I can get it some media coverage so that more pet owners are able to hear our perspective. I’ll definitely keep you posted.

  25. Whole-heartedly agree with your comments Belinda. Well said!

    • admin

      Thank you Lydia!

  26. Beautifully and eloquently phrased! I am a 2nd year vet student in Australia and this is one of the hot topics that angers me more than any other as I am introduced to the profession. I hope that with articles like yours people will start to become educated and realise the amazing, above and beyond care that they receive from their vets and stop expecting treatment for free! If owners claim their pets are members of the family, they should start providing them with care accordingly!

    • admin

      Thanks Catherine. Good luck with your uni studies. I went to Sydney University. It’s a long haul but definitely worth it in the end! I look forward to you joining the vet ranks in the coming years!

  27. Hi Belinda. Thank you so much for your professional response to this article. I have been a vet nurse for 10 years and it was so disheartening to read an article like that. Unless you have worked in this industry it can be very hard to understand behind the scenes. Thank you for trying to further educate people and stand up for all the brilliant vets out there!

    • admin

      Thanks Gemma! You are spot on about the public not understanding how the behind the scenes work. Thank you again for your kind words!

  28. Thanks for writing that – her article was extremely thoughtless and damaging – yours is very thoughtful and hopefully does more than enough to counteract her ignorance

    • admin

      Thank you Clare!

  29. Good on you! Having worked at a veterinary hospital for 13 years I have had to put up with so much of this twaddle from people that have never worked at a veterinary hospital a day in their lives. One thing that really bugs me is that the ‘reality’ TV vet shows always show great outcomes and never, ever mention how much it costed, just happy people picking up their pet. No sign of the tantrums and abuse that staff often have to deal with daily. This is an issue that pushes my buttons too!

    • admin

      Thank you Jules! Yes they could do with a little more reality in their reality TV shows – although I don’t know how the viewing public would cope. Though I guess we all love a good drama and there is plenty of that in a vet clinic : )

  30. Beautifully written Belinda. Couldn’t have said it better myself!!!

    • admin

      Thank you Connie!

  31. Fully agree with you and great to see you’re so passionate about the work you do.

    ” 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”

    My Border Collie had to have this done. She is now as energetic as she was in her puppy days. Great seeing her out of pain, prior to the treatment we thought we’d lose her. To think if we’d lost her, she wouldn’t have been around that day she saved my life!

    My Corgi gets issues with his paws. I couldn’t thank his vet enough for clipping between the paws.

    To all the vets out there, who are sensible like the person who wrote the above article. I appreciate you…

    • admin

      Hi Catherine! Thank you for your comments. I’m so glad your Border Collie has benefited from her “designer vagina”. She sounds like an amazing dog, particularly amazing that she saved your life! They are such important parts of our lives. I know all the vets on here are grateful for pet owners like you. So thank you!

  32. I’m glad I came across your post here, Belinda. We recently had a very similar media story in the U.S. that painted an equally poor picture of our profession. Lots of work for us to do in educating the public about what we do and why we do it!

    • admin

      Thanks Elliot. I absolutely agree about our need to educate the public. It’s partly why I have started this blog – so that I can be putting the right information out there. Communication is key.

  33. Thank you for this article Dr Belinda. Wonderfully written. I agree with every single bit.

    • admin

      Thank you Jennifer!

  34. The article in question is obviously nothing more then an individuals opinion with no real factual knowledge on (animal) health and welfare. Your response in this blog is (understandably) emotional and straight to the point. Nicely done. It symbolizes the incredible professionalization and specialization of veterinarians in the past decades. This article -should- be pushing the buttons of any modern vet.

    Still, articles like this also teach something. The reputation and integrity of veterinarians (world wide, apparently) is not as good as it should be. Society thinks vets make too much money and sell unnecessary treatments* (hence the car parts analogy in the article). This is an issue that needs way more attention then it currently gets. I think the biggest issue is, as is proven once again in the article, the lack of transparency when it comes to costs of veterinary healthcare.

    *Unfortunately partly true: there is an increasing amount of veterinarians practicing alternative veterinary medicine (-> meet my red button).

    • admin

      Thank you Dutch Vet. You’re spot on about us needing to be transparent and explaining better to clients what the cost of treatment includes. I couldn’t help but smile a little bit when I read that alternative medicine vets press your buttons – I’m a Veterinary Acupuncturist. However, I don’t perform alternative medicine but COMPLEMENTARY medicine. So it works hand in hand in with Western Medicine to better improve the patients quality of life and treatment. My benefits of acupuncture rant is for another day : )

  35. Hi Belinda.
    Thankyou for taking up the reins and writing a rebuttal back to this article, but more so for follpwing through to the author herself and the editor.
    Myself and MANY vet & even non-vet friends have also taken offense to this article, and poor Ruth by this stage must have her inbox overflowing with upset replies to her article. The editor in chief will have a hard job deciding what to put in letters to the editor after his submissings have skyrocketed many many %!
    I have posted by response to Ruth and the editor below.
    I love your idea to work up a media storm over this, as for all the hard work, sleepless nights and long hours we put in, it is unfair for some uneducated ‘journalist’ to go out and create this much damage.
    Dear Ruth.
    I was saddened and disappointed by your uneducated and misguided article in the Herald Sun recently.
    It is fantastic to hear that your Dad was a vet many moons ago, but the depth of knowledge and skill level in the veterinary industry has changed dramatically since the James Herriot days of no injectable antibiotics, minimal options for pain relief and meagre diagnostics aids.
    It is interesting that you got your vet to ‘scrape’ the plaque off your dog’s teeth. Since the neanderthalic process of ‘scraping’ teeth was around, our understanding of dental disease has improved significantly, and now we know that chipping and scratching the visible ‘plaque’ as you call it (more correctly it would be classed as calculus) provides an instant and visible improvement, this process is is not treating the disease which is ongoing below the gums. This is where the real concern lies. Also, having a non-sterile set of instruments which you claim your Dad used in consult to clean animal’s teeth would not even be allowable with today’s high standards of veterinary care. A vet would likely have his licence revoked if the Veterinary Surgeons Board were to hear of such malpractice, especially with some of the infectious diseases that this would subject your dog or cat to. Would you get a tattoo if the tattoo artist used the same dirty instruments on each patient? When an animal is treated properly with a dental scale and polish (true treatment of dental disease – what your pooch is showing), the underlying disease process is addressed, minimising gingivitis and the bacterial load that is lying under the gums. This in term ensures that the bacterial load in your poor dog’s blood stream is minimised, leading to less blood born bacteria flowing through your dog’s kidneys, liver and heart, which in tern means your dog will live a longer, happier, healthier, and more painfree existence in your loving care.
    The veterinarian no doubt did a quick scrape as he believed that you were so narrow minded and stubborn that you would not be up listening to the reasons behind why things are done. But, surely you must know best. You have obviously spent 5 or 6 years at university studying these disease processes.
    You say that your kids teeth are treated by your dentist for less than your dog’s.  Have you ever sat back and thought about this? Do you realise that the government and health care providers subsidize the true cost of these treatments. And why not just use a kitchen knife and treat your kids’ teeth at home? Surely you can just scrape the heck out of their teeth until you think they are clean? Or do you go to your dentist who uses their knowledge (learned at university) and high tech equipment such as ultrasonic scalers and the like? You need to take off your rose coloured glasses Ruth.
    Your cat has a ingrown toe nail? No doubt you have been watching your cat limp around the house for the last few days, or weeks, most likely chewing at his paw pad trying to relieve the severe pain and discomfort caused by a dirty nail growing INTO your toe. But surely, providing some pain relief to this poor kitty would be ripping his/her owner off, right?
    Your puppy’s leg is sore, question is how long has the poor bugger been limping around the house before you eventually took him to the vet. Probably a lot longer than you would usually take to reach for some pain relief in that little cupboard above the fridge. Why do an xray? Because the likelihood of finding a chip of bone is reasonable (or even more suprising, a fracture), depending on the injury. And what happens if this poor little puppy does not have this diagnosis found, he will develop a chronic lameness that will be with that poor little guy for the rest of his life. Would you like to put up with that?
    So if you look a little deeper into the story you have told, the vet who probably earns an income far lower than yours, and works hours far longer than yours, is offering these treatment options because his true concern is in the comfort of the animals that has been trustingly brought to him, and in the knowledge that this owner has brought their beloved pet in for professional advice, and should be offered the best treatment options for a long, painfree and healthy life.
    But, surely as a journalist, you know best.
    Kind regards,
    Dr Andrew Hemming.
    Again Belinda, thankyou forspeaking up not only for yourself, but for the hardworking vets in our profession but for the animals that we went I to this profession to help.
    Regards, Andrew.

    • admin

      Thank you Andrew. I love your response. Thank you for sharing it on here. I really hope they pick up someones response to at least provide a balanced retort!

  36. Good on you Belinda!
    I’m not a vet, but a nurse in a small animal practice and what makes my blood boil is people (like the woman who wrote the ridiculous article you’re responding to) whinge over veterinary costs, when alot of the time procedures like pyometras, dentals with extractions, large lump removals that have riddled the body with cancer etc. can be avoided if clients listen to veterinary advice in the first place and desex their pets, clean their pets teeth or get that small lump checked out as soon as it shows up.
    Human health care and surgical procedures cost way more, but were lucky enough to automatically have Medicare.
    I quote you in saying “It is a privilege not a right to own a pet” so I hope this article opens up people’s eyes a bit more. Vets and nurses work hard, and wages are low to average. We do it because we love and want to help animals, not to be millionaires.

    • admin

      Thank you Kelly! Vet nurses do an amazing job. My clinic would literally grind to a holt without our nurses. They keep me in line and pretty much run the clinic. They just tell me where I need to be. You all do great work and get very little thanks. Such a valid point about medicare!

  37. Thank you Belinda! You’re standing up for the provision of gold standard veterinary medicine, and I for one love it.
    What this vet’s daughter has done is restrict the vet from performing the gold standard treatment option for her dog, instead requesting that he perform what is essentially a substandard treatment option. Why on earth you would settle for (or REQUEST) a substandard treatment option for your pet, assuming you could afford the gold standard treatment option, is beyond me!

    • admin

      Thanks Alana. I agree completely. I think it shows how her assumptions were her and her dogs downfall.

  38. Thank you for your educated rebuttal. You were respectful and honest. I find it discouraging that so many people can ignore facts and choose to believe in whatever they want. Your article will hopefully help convince others that vets are decent people who want to make pets AND their owners happy. I graduated with $300,000 in debt, which I knew would affect my future life choices (not owning a house, not having kids, living paycheck to paycheck) but I did it for the love of helping animals. However, every day clients accuse me of being expensive or ripping them off, they say I’m just in it for the money, vets are so expensive, who would pay that much for a dental?Obviously all of that education I paid for and sacrificed for WAS for the love of animals and it WOULD BE completely worth it if people didn’t constantly make me out to be the bad guy. Hopefully people will read this article and understand vet medicine has changed just like technology and we can now do more than ever to help our furry loved ones. Please don’t judge your vet for offering the latest and greatest in health care and charging appropriately for it (last time I checked Iphones weren’t free and I certainly don’t recall my parents rotary phone costing $400)

    • admin

      Thank you Clare! It’s shocking the cost of getting an education isn’t it! It is sad that vets have to put themselves in such dire financial positions to do a job they love and be told they are only in it for the money. Communication is key. The more we explain our charges the more the general public will understand and the easier our everyday consults will be. I really hope that for all of the grief you get given, you have more than double that in praise from your clients about how you changed their and their pets lives for the better. Sometimes it is hard to realise just how much we do help our clients and our patients. I have been fortunate to have some amazing clients that give me very honest positive feedback and that makes it’s all worthwhile. Their praise is worth a thousand complaints!

  39. Thankyou Belinda! I am a small animal vet in Qld and am fed up with people assuming prophylactic dentistry is a money grabbing scheme by vets. Your response reflects the sentiment of the majority of our profession … I just hope more people read it and learn what vet dentistry is really about!

    • admin

      Thank you Kathryn! I hope you’re having a great weekend up in the sunshine state. We definitely need to stand up for ourselves as a profession and set the record straight!

  40. It’s good to have a considered and educated response to such a demeaning article. Vet do not use ansethetic unnecessarily, there is inherit risk in any treatment. They are aware of the costs of treatments and generally do their best offer affordable treatments but they have to make a living and pay for extremely expensive equipment, insurance etc. They are a doctor, a surgeon and a pharmacist all in one! I think the pricing is more than reasonable and I would pay extra for the level that I receive at my vet. You can also get insurance to cover part of the cost and it’s reasonably priced for piece of mind.

    • admin

      Thank you Charles! Absolutely agree. Thank goodness for pet owners like yourself!

  41. Niq

    From one vet to another…thank you for taking the time to write this 🙂

    • admin

      Thanks Niq!

  42. Well said B 🙂

    • admin

      Thanks Yas! It’s been ages. I hope all is well with you!

  43. DB

    Her article actually says more about the sad state of journalism in this country than it does about the veterinary profession. Looking for a quick sensationalist headline with little or no substance in the article.
    Let’s just hope she gets charged an a***hole tax when her dog needs it’s canine tooth extracted.
    There will always be people like this in society and they should be charged a premium.
    Well written by the way.!

    • admin

      Thanks DB. LOL – oh how I wish we could do that at times 🙂

  44. Couldn’t agree more with you Belinda. I don’t often get on the soapbox, but your response prompted me to put pen to paper in response to the article as well. Ambulance chasing, especially when it has to do with the veterinary industry, should be shown up for what it is.


    • admin

      Thank you Mark. I just read your response – I loved it. Brilliant. I love the extent you went to disprove her points! It sounds like you had a brilliant childhood growing up as the son of two vets! I thought it was bizarre as well that she had to ask the vet what a dental was… that on it’s own screamed alarm bells to me particularly given that she was the ‘daughter of a vet’ – 99% large animal maybe?

      • I”m sure he was a great vet, and he probably did his fair share of small animal dentals, but I’m not at all sure that Ruth’s flashbacks to her past are anything more than convenient fabrications. Perhaps she held an animal’s mouth open here and there to have a quick look, but serious dental work was done on the end of a needle (i.e. under anaesthetic Ruth, if you’re reading this, but of the intravenous kind, which is more dangerous than gas anaesthesia. Cheaper yes, but your pet is at greater chance of pet arresting and may die). My parents’ practice got their first ultrasonic scaler back in the 80s and it was a big deal. Finally they could effectively remove plaque and tartar from their patients’ teeth rather than attempting to scrape it off while injuring the gums and causing the animal further significant discomfort upon waking up. 30-40 years on things have changed so much. It is now agreed that pets feel pain (and therefore need pain relief) and that they need things like fluids to support blood pressure during anaesthesia to stop renal failure a week down the track. Hang on, we knew all these things back then too… It’s what human doctors have been doing for the better part of 100 years (probably longer).

        • admin

          Such valid points Mark!

  45. As a large animal vet that went to vet school 40 years ago I like your article except for a few faulty assumptions on your part. We always tried to minimize an animals pain, even 40 years ago. There is such a thing as continuing education; you seemed to imply that we do not keep up with the improvements in knowledge that have occurred.

    • admin

      Hi Dr Dan, I have so much respect for my fellow large animal vet! I made those assumptions to aggravate the reporter to some degree (as I was aggravated with her comments about us). I certainly didn’t mean to imply that you don’t keep up with improvements in knowledge. I meant that she didn’t. As continuing education is a part of our continued registration requirements I know that you large animal vets are having to do the same amount of ongoing education that us smallies are. I’m sorry that you got that impression but I assure you that wasn’t my intention. Cheers, Belinda

      • Agreed Dr Dan,
        My father used to do mixed practice. He still practices in the small animal arena and keeps up to date with things. Things have changed since the 1970s/1980s, regardless of whether you do largies or smallies and any good vet has kept up to date. If veterinary medicine was practiced now as it was then, well, I shudder to think for a whole range of reasons from medical outcomes to staff safety to legal issues. For heaven’s sake, let’s just pump the room full of halothane with the pregnant nurse… Scavengers and iso cost money after all. This journo’s view simply implies that we knew everything half a century ago and anything more is overservicing or price gouging. Things have changed for the better regardless of which field a vet works in.

  46. Reading the article made me MAD MAD MAD! Not just because it was vet-bashing, but also that a ‘responsible’ public medium would allow such extreme and ignorant article to be published without investigating the facts, or to allow the vets’ point of view. Thank you for an eloquent, well-reasoned and factual rebuttal.

    • admin

      Thanks Paik! I totally agree with your comments!

  47. RL

    What an amazing article Belinda. There is nothing worse than misinformed people with loud voices. You have articulated what I at times find incredibly frustrating about what is otherwise a great profession. It is comforting to know I’m not alone in this. Thanks again.

    • admin

      Thank you RL – you’re definitely not alone! Just check out all of the comments on here!

  48. As the husband of a vet who studied hard for many years and is a very clever lady, I can vouch for the fact that she performa her job out of love for the animals alone! I have seen the pay check, experienced the awful hours and have witnessed the levels of stress which can accompany the job. Any talk of a money grabbing vet is simply ridiculous.

    Good article.

    • admin

      Thank you Scott. I agree completely. We all do it for the love of the animals and certainly not the pay or those lovely hours and stress the come along with it.

  49. […] A journalist in Australia who refused to provide appropriate dental care for her pet due to costs has suffered a backlash from veterinarians.  See here and here. […]

  50. I am so happy you posted a vets perspective Belinda. As a vet nurse I get annoyed when people try to undermine out profession. They think that vets are only in it for the money, when in fact we do it for the wellbeing of the pets. It irritates me when they are so disrespectful of the work we do.

    • admin

      Thanks Kylie!

  51. Thank you for taking the time to reply to this horrid preliminary article focusing on veterinarians over-servicing. Sadly, one aspect missed by the public is the high burn out rate of veterinarians and nurses, due to compassion fatigue. We all know what this is based on: financial restraints of owner, the unnecessary and necessary euthanasia of pets, the emotional strain and sense of lose and failure during “Tick Season”, the driving need to be perfect, the fear of making a mistake, the endless nights of insomnia worrying about a patient, the sadness shared with our clients, along with a myriad of other aspects that are rarely mentioned outside of the professional walls of the clinic.

    I have worked nationally and internationally, volunteered my time, knowledge and own finances towards the health and welfare of animals. I wanted to be a veterinarian, since I was a child and I was bestowed with the great privilege of studying Veterinary Medicine and Surgery. I have watched the strain of responsibility weigh heavily on my nurses, receptionists and fellow veterinarians. And, after always speaking with non-veterinarian people, they rarely know this side of the profession. If we were truly in it for the money – we would have become Engineers, Human Doctors, Plumbers, Electricians, Teachers, opened a Milk Shop – anything but Veterinarians. We all know we aren’t in it for the money – but to make a difference to the health and welfare of animals and the improvement of our global community.

    I applaud you for taking the to write your response and thank you for your efforts.

    • admin

      Thank you Figgy. It’s unfortunate reality of veterinary practice these days. It seems that very few of us are immune. I know that I’m not. Thank you for your kind words!

  52. Thankyou so much for your response to the article. I was fuming for over 24hrs when I read it and I hardly ever get angry…..and I don’t think I could have written it the way you did!
    I was assuming that the AVA or the vet dental group would follow up on it…. and I still hope that they do… have you heard if it has gone further?.

    Well done

    • admin

      Hi Penny, the AVA have done a media release http://www.ava.com.au/node/12926 I never heard back from the journalists or newspapers or the AVA for that matter. Thank you for your kind words!

  53. Very well said Belinda, hit the nail on the head! Along with most vets I’m sick of hearing how much of a rip off we are and how we manage to charge such high prices, and more so that we earn so much money working as a vet. I don’t even waste my breath trying to explain sometimes as I know they won’t even take it on board. Thanks for your Excellent rebuttal.

    • admin

      Thanks Dr Scooter!

  54. Well said Dr Belinda
    I had worked in country Victoria, but now working in Hong Kong; and let me tell you, the condition is just as bad, in some cases worse. People / pet owners would rather listen and take advice from their pharmacist, pet shop staff, neighbours rather than the local vet.

    Harris C

  55. Thank you for writing this! That original article was infuriating. None of her points made any sense, and were only backed up by anecdotes.

  56. Hi again Belinda,

    In some spare time I’ve thrown together something positive about this topic, but also preventive healthcare in general. If you could take a look, and share if you feel it would benefit, that would be great.


    Hopefully initiatives like this will assist in showing there are many thousands of people out there who actually believe in healthcare. That’s the intent anyway…

    • Hi Mark,
      I love it! Fantastic work. It’s to the point, very well laid out and clearly presents our side of the argument. Thank you! I’ll be putting a blog post about it and sharing it on Facebook, twitter etc as well.
      Excellent work! Let’s hope it takes off. I”ll be doing my best to get it going from my end.

  57. Thank you so much for such a perfect response.

  58. Amy

    I’m currently studying Veterinary Science and my dad is a vet who learnt 40 years ago, so I’m in a similar situation to this women who wrote that article. I understand where she is coming from since I’ve watched my dad practice as she described. If appropriate my dad will always choose the simplest approach that will get the job done. At first I also believed that modern vets give unnecessary and expensive treatments. However since I’ve got further into my degree and been on placement at various modern clinics i’ve realised it’s not the case at all! I think the women that wrote this article was simply uneducated on the topic and narrow minded. I totally agree with what you’re saying. The profession has changed! It’s more heavily medicine related now and I think that is an exciting thing! We can treat our animals better now then we ever have been able to.

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