So many people tell me that they don’t trust vets…
And I can understand why, when they tell me the stories. I’ve seen a few. I believe lack of trust in vets in general is driven by two things. Disasters ( or more how the vet deals with the disaster) or cost (many people think vets are only in it for the money).
I remember someone calling me out to see their Rotti pup. It had been in hospital with parvo, and the bandage with the drip had gotten too tight. (This can happen a few ways – it can be put on too tight, or it can slip down and become a problem.) This happened over a long weekend.
Disasters happen. It’s rare, but it can happen pretty damn quickly, and if animals are in hospital over the weekend, then they are not checked overnight unless they are really critical. Add in a young, inexperienced vet (I suspect left on call on his own sooner than he should have been) who was probably fatigued, and it was a recipe for disaster.
So- the foot was damaged by the bandage. The skin on the top of the foot was killed by pressure necrosis, lack of blood supply. The owner noticed this and started asking questions.
The way the vet hospital handled it was beyond awful. The boss of the clinic refused to take any responsibility and ended up abusing the pet owner. That’s when I came into the picture. I found that the dog had a severely injured foot, with tendons exposed, and some of the small bones (not structural) called popliteal sesamoids falling out. Literally falling out. The owner was angry and upset and ended up making a formal complaint to the veterinary surgeon’s board. And fair enough, It was a bad situation, made worse by the vet not owning up for the mistake, even if it was an accident.
I have worked in a lot of hospitals, and I have seen (very few) vets who are more interested in money than the animals. Another pressure on vets is the boss. You see, the boss has overheads that would be enough to make anyone go pale and sweat a bit. Vet hospitals are screamingly expensive to run. The equipment, staff, the property. It all adds up, and even the best-run vet hospitals seldom make a profit margin of more than 5-10%. (As a comparison, the average profit margin for eye surgery clinics is 34%, and the average across all business in Australia is 10.9%)
Here in Australia, we have amazing free health care. That makes vet care seem expensive when really it’s pretty damned good value in most cases. A cruciate ligament repair in a dog, even a big dog, is going to max out at around$5-6,000. The price range for a human for the same op starts at $5,000 and can be as much as $13,000. But if you have health insurance, you pay a fraction of that. And if you can’t afford health insurance for you, the public system in Australia is fantastic and free.
I think this is at the root of one of the biggest issues – overservicing. I used to work in Greencross, back in the day, while it was just starting to become the behemoth it is today. The pressure on us vets to hit KPI’s was intense. We were pushed had to make sure we billed above a certain amount for each consultation. This does lead to over-servicing. And vets pressuring clients, which turns them right off.
The thing is, with a corporate structure, the emphasis moves from the animals, to profit – because there’s a big fat layer of high-level management sucking up huge salaries. The vets and the customers lose out big time, IMO.
Here’s the thing – if you want high-quality vet care, it’s going to cost you a fair bit of money. The veterinary industry is very competitive – so shop around a bit, BUT don’t go with the cheapest vet. Just don’t.
How to find a vet you can trust (or make the best of what you have)
I suggest finding a clinic that is independent. Then you have to find one that has a strong focus on the animals first, and not over-servicing. Go in and book a consult just to check them out. Insist on seeing one of the partners.
Feel into the vibe. Ask questions. Be a little demanding and see how they respond. Ask them about holistic care, integrative care. If they jib, but they are good in every other way, then you can always say no to anything that doesn’t suit you.
Does the vet talk down to you? If so, I suggest finding another vet.
Ask them how they deal with it when things go wrong. “What if my animal is in your care and a surgery goes badly? Can you talk to me about how your hospital responds to situations like this?” You’ll learn a hell of a lot about a vet practice with this question, AND a lot about the character of the vet.
Don’t be shy to try several hospitals. Sometimes one hospital will be good for one aspect of veterinary care, and another will be better for a different need.
Corporates can be fantastic hospitals, taken individually (as long as you’ve got no problem with saying NO to the sales pressure) – each one has different management, different vets, some will have vets who have holistic skills.
And please remember that the vets are nearly always doing the best they can to look after your animals. Your vet is often under a lot of pressure from management to charge more, fatigued from long hours, stressed for all sorts of reasons, and pretty damned poorly paid to boot (vets have one of tthe lowest incomes of all professionals.)
Another thing. Diagnosing problems is expensive, and you can very quickly spend a big fat wad of cash finding out what isn’t the problem. That’s frustrating for the vet, and frustrating and expensive for you. Always ask yourself this question before any diagnostics: “Will the test result change how I’m going to treat my animal?” Vets aren’t trying to rip you off with diagnostics (most of the time). They are trying to find out how to best help your pet!
And here’s the thing. I’m always here to act as your animals GP holistic vet, and for a second opinion when your animal needs hospital care, surgery, or specialist attention. You can use me to work out what is your best-informed choice. I’ll cut out the clutter, and tell you what I think is truly necessary for your animals.