Changing Relationships Between Veterinarians and Their Clients

Many of my veterinary colleagues have been up in arms about a recent ABC 20/20 broadcast that asked the question, “Can you trust that your veterinarian is being honest with you?” During the episode, “secret shoppers” presented two overtly healthy dogs to multiple veterinarians. Two vets recommended anesthetic dental cleaning based on minimal tartar accumulation. Another vet was adamant about administering an annual distemper vaccination- this in spite of the fact that current vaccination guidelines recommend that this vaccine be given to adult dogs no more than once every three years. The show’s intended take home message appeared to be, “Buyer beware! Not all veterinarians are to be trusted. Some appear to be more interested in their financial bottom line than the welfare of their patients.”

Know that as I write this, I am exhaling a heavy sigh………  I recognize that part, if not all, of the 20/20 piece is “sensationalized journalism.” Nonetheless, it has left me feeling sad and disillusioned. Am I surprised by what the show portrayed? No, not in the least. Thanks to my many conversations with you, my readers, I’ve been well aware of the public’s growing mistrust of my beloved profession.

The way I see it, the pendulum of public perception has now swung both ways in terms of how veterinarians are viewed. When I graduated from vet school in 1982, animal docs were universally revered, all basking under the golden glow of “the James Herriot halo”. Rarely were we questioned or doubted by our clients. Now, here we are at the opposite end of the spectrum- client mistrust of veterinarians has become commonplace. Folks are opting to consult with “Dr. Google” rather than a doctor with a veterinary degree. The fact of the matter is, neither extreme is a healthy place to be. Blind trust and mistrust both undermine what brings all of us into the exam room, namely the desire to achieve the best medical outcomes for those animals we love so dearly.

My hope is that this swinging pendulum will come to rest at a place in the middle where veterinarians and their clients can experience open and honest dialogue, discussion of options, collaboration, and mutual respect. In fact, this is the description of “relationship centered care”, the style of professional communication and interaction that produces the very best medical outcomes.

So, what can all of us do to influence the swing of the pendulum? For those of you who are consumers of veterinary medicine, if not already doing so, I strongly encourage you to work with a veterinarian who provides “relationship centered care”. There are plenty such vets out there, and working with one will readily restore your faith in the profession. If you need help finding such a practitioner, Speaking for Spot will provide you with step-by-step guidance.

What can veterinarians do? According to a recent report, approximately 60 percent of veterinarians continue to vaccinate more frequently than is recommended by current professional guidelines. If you are a vet and your vaccination protocol lands you within this 60 percent category and/or you find yourself recommending tests or procedures that do not clearly serve the best interests of your patients, I respectfully encourage you to take an honest look at your motivation for doing so. Financial gain may not be the reason, as the 20/20 show would have us believe. Pressure from pharmaceutical company reps, fear of losing clients, aversion to change, or simply staying stuck in outdated veterinary school patterns are some of the factors that may be at play. Whatever the reason, it’s time to shake things up a bit. Positive or negative, the actions any one veterinarian takes ultimately reflects on each and every one of us.

What are your current perceptions of the veterinary profession?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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29 Comments on “Changing Relationships Between Veterinarians and Their Clients

  1. I think it’s true that there are a lot of mediocre or even dangerous vets out there. I doubt that it’s fair to say it’s a majority. My experience has been mostly very positive with a few exceptions but I’ve helped friends through some really awful situations where vets were making bad decisions and not allowing the pet owner to advocate for their pet. In fact, it was helping a friend in a situation like that that led me to SpeakingForSpot.

    So, is there room for improvement?… Absolutely. Having said that, I absolutely adore my vet. I’ve been with her for 13 years with two Chronic Renal Failure cats. She makes an effort to give me choices to help me manage costs. She respects my approach and input on treatment. I completely trust her to not only do the right thing for my pet but to listen and allow me to advocate for my pet. She’s willing to talk to other vets and she is always learning. Eight out of ten of the vets I’ve worked with have been great.

    I decided early on that I needed a vet that would respect my role as advocate for my pet. Just like I need human doctors that allow me to be involved with my own medical care. I’ve fortunately never had any trouble finding those kinds of vets but I live in a large city with a lot of choices. I’m not sure how easy it is when your choices are more limited. I very much believe in what SpeakingForSport is trying to accomplish.

    Short answer to the question… to paint all vets with that brush seems grossly unfair.

  2. “What are your current perceptions of the veterinary profession?”

    Oh well! Very mixed! My current vet and I have had knock down drag out fights. Now we’ve sort of come to an agreement. He knows I’m going to have something to say about what procedures we’re going to do – and questions. He took this as a lack of trust. In truth, I don’t know how much I trust him as I’ve caught him in some errors and he seems to have no natural curiosity about things he doesn’t know. OTOH I will ask him questions I wouldn’t have before. I don’t always believe his answers, but I’ll ask and put his answers in the mix.

    Here’s part of the problem with people and their vets. As an example I have a neighbor with cats who emailed me last night. She said one of her cats is “very ill” and that she thinks he has a hairball that he can’t pass. Personally, despite years of being owned by cats, I’ve had no experience with this scenario as cats usually vomit up hairballs and really doubt it’s true. So I asked, what do you mean he is very ill? What’s he doing? She wants to take him to the vet but has a Dr. appt first thing in the morning and is agonizing about it. Does the cat have a fever? (Put him on your lap, is he hot?) He’s not eating, but still drinking. Is he peeing? Is he dehydrated (I outlined how to tell). These are simple questions she ought to know the answers to.

    OTOH this person gets mad when she has to spend actual money on her cat. The cost of a full set of bloodwork (not warranted yet I think, depending on her answers to the questions) would upset her if it didn’t definitively give her a diagnosis. Yet she will be taking this cat to a vet who is a standard “don’t know what’s wrong?”, give steroid and antibiotic. Certainly it would be good to get all the vital signs checked on this cat, including if there are any bowel sounds. But people expect a diagnosis (or magic) and a cure without having to spend money.

    You just cannot have it both ways. In cases like this, if the cat is eating a little and peeing and doesn’t have a fever, keep trying the hairball goo and give it a few days.

    You have to keep up your half of the bargain, which is to pay attention to your animal and ask questions and not just drop the pet off and let them do whatever they want. And realize it may cost money to “fix” your pet.

    But the bottom line is you have to participate in the relationship. If you have no time in your life for this, you get what you get.

  3. I am fortunate to have wonderful vets. I have Norwegian lundehunds a breed which has a very serious inherited digestive problem. My vets had never seen a lundehund before and spent time studying the disease in order to give appropriate treatment. It is eventually terminal, but they were always very concerned and with me through the whole process.

  4. I did not think the 20/20 show was a “bad” show about veterinary service. What I wish they would have done as a follow-up is to do a show on how to screen your veterinarian to make sure he/she is a good match for you and your beloved pet (furry or feathered family member.)

    Dr. Kay’s book provides a GREAT list of questions to ask not only the clinic veterinarian, but also the RVT and the office manager. I remember how I shocked a few vet’s and staff with a full page of questions on a wellness visit. Because of this experience of being prepared with questions (thanks Dr. Kay) I was able to screen clinics until I found what I believe is best for me and my dog.

    I have no guessing about what services are provided, procedures followed and they know how I feel about how much I can pay and my expectations. — would not have happened with out the list that created such open dialogue!

    20/20 do your viewers a favor and produce an episode on how to “be your pet’s advocate.”

  5. I didn’t see the 20/20 show but after reading all of the James Herriot books, I have a high regard for all veterinarians. After reading the stories of what they have to endure with large animals out in the field, they don’t make nearly enough money. I believe anyone who applies to vet school does it for their love of animals, not to make money. I also agree with others that vets know a lot more than human doctors and that small practices are sometimes preferable since they get to know their clients and patients better. But large practices have more equipment and better hours. I do find that some practices will charge you a lot more for prescriptions than the price you’d purchase at online pet pharmacies. So, you have to be a wise shopper and check out the online prices before going to the vet.

    Back to James Herriot – I did learn a lot by reading his books and now read lots of books with true stories written by other vets. I did get to visit “The World of James Herriot” museum in Thirsk, England. You can just stop anyone on the street in that town who is walking a dog and they all knew him, even by his pen name. One townsman showed me where Mrs. Pumphrey’s house was.

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing what I’ve been thinking since this 20/20 report and the veterinary firestorm that followed it.

    To be sure, this was a shoddy piece of journalism (as a veterinary journalist I feel strongly about that), but let there be no mistake: We’ve brought some of this upon ourselves and it does little good to wring our hands over who said what and what a load of bull the public is being sold in the name of reputable reporting.

    Indeed, this should be a wake-up call for our profession: We ignore or discount high/modern standards of care at our own peril. And as to those who argue that our clients can’t afford these lofty standards, I have this to echo: Our goal should be to work with our clients hand in hand to let them decide what quality of care they can afford.

  7. One of the well-respected vets in our city that I’ve used (& like a lot) educated me when I asked him about vaccine protocols. He said his colleges know that unless their clients are notified that “annual” vaccines are due for their pets many of them won’t bother to come for an annual exam & checkup. It’s not hard to understand this line of logic because most people don’t think about bringing a pet in unless there’s a problem. This is an unfortunate situation with no easy answer. I use titer testing to avoid unnecessary vaccines for my dog but this is rather expensive & thus not an option for everyone.

  8. I am very fortunate to have the most wonderful vet. He has done titers for me instead of the vaccinations for well over 15 years. My dogs are therapy dogs and we have to have proof of vaccination – but the titers serve just as well. When one of my dogs had cushings, he worked with me when I wanted to use trilostane from the UK instead of lysodren. When my dog did very well on the trilostane (she was actually cured over a course of 2 years), he shared our experience with a vet teaching hospital with the end result that many more owners were offered the option of using trilostane. He’s a treasure…

  9. When i was in my twenties i believed Vets were Gods. They knew everything & could do no evil. After all they took an oath to help animals. Well after a Vet killed a horse of mine due to his negligence & inhuman behavior. Did i ever wake up.
    They are not God & unfortunately they make mistakes. These mistakes can take the breath from our best friends. I’m not saying all Vets are bad. But do your homework—get a second opinion —especially for surgery. Most surgeons love to cut. Sometimes, a little time & TLC is better than surgery.
    I have spent a lot of money on my animals (horses & dogs) enough to probably take a trip around the world. Unfortunately less than half was necessary.
    Remember some Vets think with there hearts, while most see dollar signs. Horrible to say! I’m now in my 60’s & wish I’d realized this sooner.
    Do research before agreeing to harmful drugs & unnecessary surgery.

    And above all don’t be afraid to speak up & voice your dislike for there protocols. Its your animal not theirs. If something goes wrong ,you will only get —-I’m SORRY !!

  10. As seems to be the norm, Dr. Kay has once again offered-up logical & insightful observation. Professions (Vets included) are certainly not immune from the full gamut of human frailities. When placed in the cross-hairs (such as that 20-20 piece), evidence of that fact is virtually inevitable.

  11. Thank you Dr. Kay for another great article. I could write a novel on this subject so won’t even get started. There are many good vets around and people just need to be educated and told how to find them. Another good piece of advice is don’t wait until you have an emergency to find out what your vet knows.

  12. Three recent experiences: my client noticed that her 2-year old female Labrador was limping and took her to her usual vet. After anaesthesia for the purpose of x-rays(?), complete blood work(?), etc, and a bill for $600, she was referrd to an orthopedic vet. Repeat the same. Fast forward: surgery required, there is a break in the leg which will require a pin to be placed and long stay at the hospital, The price quoted: $6000.
    Called me in despration and I referred her to my vet, but advised her to get her dog’s medical records from the first and second vets, which they were reluctant to give but did. My vet did an x-ray and for the life of him he could not find a fracture or a break. Recommended 4 weeks of cage rest (not easy with a Lab). After 4 weeks, the Lab is in excellent health, active as ever, the limp is gone and a repeat x-ray showed again, NO break or fracture. My client is angry, disillusioned, stayed with my vet and remodeled her kitchen with the money she saved.

    Second case: a client called me late at night that her 14 year old JR was in serious distress. I recommended that she take her to the emergency hospital in our city but unfortunately and sadly, the little dog died ON THE WAY TO THE HOSPITAL. She went in anyway to arrange for cremation and return of the ashes which they were willing to do BUT they have to exmine the dog first. Estimate foir the exam: $150, cremation is extra. When she questioned why would they examine a DEAD DOG for $150, they said that unless they do, they will not arrange for the cremation. In disgust and with tears in her eyes, she took her pet home and wewnt to her own vet the next morning. NO EXAMINATION REQUIRED!

    A third case: a client of mine needed the new edible flea repellent for her two Yorkies. Since she was due for their annual in a month or so, she asked for only two pills, one for each and then get the rest at the time of checkup. Yes, they sold the two pills, at $20 EACH.

    No, 20/20 did NOT exaggerate. I find that more and more veterinarians are becoming unrelistic in their services and charges. When a veterinarian gives out flyers offering spay/neuter “special” for $59, it is very attractive. However, they add to the published price anasthesia extra, nursing extra, antibiotic extra, cage space extra, boarding overnight extra, pain meds extra, E-collar extra and whatever else they can think of, the final bill is close to $400. Of course, the “extras” were never mentioned when the pup was left for the procedure. Surprise!!!!

    Such behaviour and practices by veterinarians (and others of course) is unacceptable, reprehensible, coercive, gouging, and might well be called bait-and-switch. It gives the ethical and caring vets a bad name and puts the profession in a bad light. No wonder then that many vets report that business has dropped, clients are sceptical and prefer to wait with treatments that may be necessary and urgent.

    No owner wants “freebies”. No owner begrudges the cost of their pets’ medical needs. But to take advantage of a very emotional relationship between the owner and his pet is bordering on cruelty. How sad!

  13. Last July while on vacation in Lake Tahoe California I discovered my 12 year old Dalmatian named Mickey had stage three kidney disease. Mickey was our fourth Dalmatian. We lost our first Dalmatian 25 years ago to kidney disease so we were well aware that the disease was associated with the breed. From the time Mickey was five years old we had blood labs done. Every year our Vet assured us their was nothing wrong with Mickey. When we got back from Lake Tahoe I went by my Vet and picked up copies of the lab reports. According to the lab reports Mickey had entered stage one/stage two kidney disease three years earlier. Mickey died on December 27th.

  14. I don’t watch 20/20, but it sounds like the report was not far off. Also, I love reading other’s comments, and on topics of particular interest, I will often check back for new comments.
    My first vet, Dr. Dale in Nevada (God rest his wonderful soul) was one of the most wonderful people I ever met. He could barely look at humans, and spoke directly to the animal, expecting the human would answer his queries. He was a devoted, caring man, and I miss him. Then I moved to California, and had to find a new vet. Suddenly my 3 year old lab needed small surgeries every couple of months. After the first two, I found a new vet, who assured me that these surgeries were not necessary, so I ceased to be a cash cow. The new vet was a 2 man office, and I loved and respected them both. They retired and sold the practice to a new vet about the time my second dog was elderly and ill. Newby was fairly fresh out of college, and had taken to heart the info on how to build finances. She theorized that my dog might have one of several problems, and recommended an MRI, CAT scan, and a few other te$t$. When I asked if any of those diseases were curable, she admitted they were not; at which point I had to educate her that I (and most others) could not afford thousands of dollars to determine which incurable disease my dog was dying of!…that if necessary, I would sell my house and live in my car to pay for needed care, but not for unnecessary procedures. Overnight, she became a better vet, and I adore her. When I had a dog in liver failure, she prescribed Hill’s Science Diet; after I read the ingredients, I returned it, and pointed out that it was made mostly of GMO ingredients, which have been shown to cause liver failure in animals!!! By the following month, she had discontinued her relationship with Hills and carried a different brand. (My dog recovered, and is perfectly healthy now, due to online research, herbs and vitamins as well as prescriptions)
    No one is perfect, and no one can know everything.
    I have had more than 10 dogs, and fostered over 50, plus several cats,so my vet knows that I am very knowledgeable, and can give sub-q fluids and some shots at home. Still, my vet knows a lot more than I do.
    It is crucial to find someone who you can trust and who will listen to you.
    Sometimes you have to interview and shop around, preferably BEFORE your animal companion needs to be seen.

  15. My issue with some vets is a bit different. For my 2 active golden retrievers I use a large (25 vets) practice that has appointments 7 days a week and is open for emergencies off hours. The advantage for us is that most visits seem to have some urgency and i can usually get in to see some one on short notice. For less urgent visits, i do have some favorites within the practice i prefer to see.

    But, just like in human health care delivered from a large clinic, i often feel that I/my dog is just a number without any persistent relationship at all. Once we had a lump removal scheduled and the day before i got a call from a vet i had never met saying the originally-scheduled vet could not do the procedure and he would instead. On another occasion a vet told me during an annual exam my dog had periodontal disease, gave me a piece of paper with some explanation and prices, and announced that, if she did the procedure, she would automatically pull any bad teeth, and gave no indication at the exam if any or which teeth might need to be pulled.

    I realize I have other vet choices and that staying with this group means that i must be pro-active and work to become knowledgeable. BTW, i chose to go with a dental specialist for the periodontal issue.

  16. I took a rescued 6 pound Yorkie to a vet who was adamant that she get all 3 vaccinations before his practice would clean her teeth. One day later she started to cough uncontrollably. After 10 days of expensive tests, drugs, etc., she died. The vet’s response? “She must have had something else going on.” Not his fault.

  17. The vets I use recommend procedures, the caretaker gets to choose, the responsibility for being an educated consumer is necessary in any buyer situation.

    I don’t watch 20-20. It, and several other long form news shows got to be too supermarket tabloid for me.

  18. My Bernese Mountain Dogs and I, like many of the responders here, are blessed with THE best veterinary clinic we could wish for. It took some time on MY end to finally find THE practice for us. The staff at “our” Alpine Animal Hospital in Gaylord, MI could not be more caring, discussion is always THE name of the game, and I NEVER have the feeling that unnecessary procedures are “pushed”. Vaccine protocols are evolving and have much to do with the lifestyle and possible exposure of any dog. The 20/20 program is a good wake up call for those who blindly trust their vet but it’s not just the medical profession that one needs to be intelligent about. Does anyone watch the HGTV home construction programs? Where $$ is at stake, there will always be those who take advantage of the uninformed. Not saying we should all go to vet school, but it’s a good idea to be as informed as possible and if something doesn’t “feel right”, ask questions, get a second opinion, etc — just as one would do for any human medical situations. We LOVE our vets. They have seen us through thick and thin and sent us on to Specialty Practices if the need was there. I have the utmost confidence in their abilities. We are so fortunate. :0)

  19. In my experience every profession has its charlatans. Some more some less. Madison Vet Hospital, Madison, AL is not cheap but I’ve never felt cheated. As a retired military man I am familiar with sensationalized and incorrect media reports. You’re profession is strong with a high percentage of dedicated and honest members. This flap will pass.

  20. I would second pretty much all of what KT has said. While I have found a vet and veterinary hospital that I believe is second to none, I know for a fact that there are vets out there that are in it mostly for the money as I am a relatively long time breeder of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and I have heard some of the horror stories that my puppy buyers have when taking their puppies to the vet. Most of the bad stories I hear of involve vets overprescribing vaccinations, way too early spay/neuter (3 or 4 months of age), etc…recommendations that fly in the face of the best research.
    I also know that there are hatchett job pieces done by the news media (as in the one done on AKC by the Today show), but there is some truth in what they reported.
    My vets know me and they respect the knowledge I’ve gained over the past 15 years. They also know that if I have a question, I come straight to them first to get their advice on any subject I’m unfamiliar with. We have a mutual trust and that is invaluable. They have over 20 vets on staff there and I also have to admit that there are some that I would not recommend my puppy buyers see, sadly (usually ones that are just out of vet school).
    So there is some sensationalism in the 20/20 piece, but there is a lot of truth as well. Our only defense is to gain as much knowledge as possible on your pets and do NOT be afraid to ask questions or intervene if you feel uncomfortable with what you are hearing from your vet. It also helps to develop a relationship with them. And, if you are not comfortable in what you’re being told, get a second opinion from another vet!

  21. As a certified dog behavior consultant and a breeder of pure bred Bouviers, I have the opportunity to use the services of several veterinarians as well as hear my clients show me their dogs’ health histories. I have a lot to say on this subject.
    FIrst, I wish that I could use a veterinarian as my primary doctor since I think that the good ones follow a model of diagnosis and treatment that is much closer to what I want for me…seeing the animal more as a whole. I have carefully chosen my veterinarians through the years because of several qualities: they respect my own knowlege and reporting of symptoms, they are thorough in their diagnosis but also conservative in their treatment at least until another tactic is warranted, they don’t try to sell me unnecessary add-ons and they are there for me, willing to research odd issues or refer, and they are reluctant to use things like steroids and other drugs that can have significant side effects.
    When I am communicating with clients, and I hear that their veterinarians are recommending all manner of shots and surgeries and dentals, and loading down their pets with steroids at the drop of a hat, I am appalled. In fact, I often politely suggest to those clients that they go to the AVMA website and print out the shot protocol and question their vet about it; and ask the vet to show them where on the dog’s teeth the problem areas are and what else they may do to avoid anesthesia, etc. If I think that their veterinarian is not using best practices, then I suggest that they may want to get a second opinion. I never outright say that a veterinarian is not doing a good job, but I try to guide the client into becoming more informed as well as asking more questions at the vet.
    So I while I was annoyed with the TV report, I found it all too real given the experiences of my clients. On the other hand, I find it amazing that so many pet owners have no clue about the meds their veterinarian has the pet on and have not bothered to find out anything independently to become an informed patient. To me, the buyer always has to beware because they are the principle advocate for their pet.
    To end, I love my veterinarians and respect them more than I respect most MD’s.

  22. Veterinarians are like people in any profession, there are those who are wonderful and do it because they love animals, there are those who do it in hopes of getting rich, there are brilliant vets and inept vets, caring vets and borderline psychotics. It is imperative that animal owners be the advocate for their pet, and ensure that the vet they trust to care for their animals is the best one for their particular circumstance.

    We each have to question the care being given, and the sad truth is that we can’t assume that we have James Herriot. Even if we are lucky enough to have a wonderful vet, we still have to question the care being advised for our pets. Some people, and therefor some vets, are not willing to say “I don’t know” and will advise care for situations that may be out of their realm of expertise.

    While the 20/20 piece may have been a bit sensationalist, the basic information they presented is sound – never assume, always question. And God bless the vets I’ve been lucky enough to find – they have been wonderful caring and common sense types that have given excellent care to all of my animals. I’ve been lucky – but I’ve still questioned when I felt it was warranted. And they have always been gracious enough to understand and take the time to explain. And I’ve always made sure to let them know just how much I appreciate them, AND their staff!

  23. PS… I agree with Amy about the value of Speaking for Spot books. I give that book to a lot of people. LOL

  24. I have the great fortune to have finally found a veterinary “home” where I trust MOST (not all) of the vets in the office. When I consult with them, they respect that I know my breed. They can see for themselves that even my old dogs are in fabulous condition. The questions I ask are appropriate. So when we talk, I have credibility, and that is a tremendous relief: I don’t have to do my vet’s job because I can’t trust them. (Same for my personal MD).

    And I don’t leave angry because of paternalistic a la “I know more than you, I’m the one who went through 5 years of vet school, not you” comments and dismissive “I see someone has an internet connection!” snarking. I have 9 years of post secondary school myself (undergrad and grad) in the sciences and I spend all my spare time learning about my breed. So chances are, there are things I know that my vet doesn’t. And vice versa.

    That said… I don’t think the report was sensationalized at all.

    I wish I still had the link where vets were being exhorted by a vet school to recommend annual dental cleanings to improve their profitability. Vets frequently give this work to their techs at $200+ a pop so that’s definitely the new profit center.

    I have personally been badgered to ahead of schedule over-vaccinate by one vet. I’ve been badgered and manipulated to vaccinate for diseases that are low risk and not always protected by said vaccine. I had another administer a 2nd rabies vaccination in the same year because “it won’t hurt” the cat simply because they didn’t keep good enough records to realize they’d already done it (or were simply to lazy to check). I’ve overheard a vet browbeating a client into giving unnecessary and ahead-of-schedule vaccinations. And I don’t think the pharmaceutical houses are interested in changing that, or they’d be offering to do challenge studies instead of fighting them.

    Not every client is interested in following protocols and for a variety of GOOD reasons… (doing something because it is “protocol” has always seemed stupid and thoughtless to me… protocols are guidelines to inform a process in the absence of full information)

    Dr. Nancy, you are dead on the money. Treating clients with respect is important. Understanding client concerns and questions… not dismissing them… is important. There is a huge spectrum of clients… from the completely clueless to the breed specialists and vet science nerds. It’s important for everyone to set their ego aside and work TOGETHER with us is critical for the real goal… taking care of animals.

    If vets want to ignore the client side of their business because they are only there for the animals, maybe they should find a job in a lab that does not involve working with human clients.

    To swing that pendulum even further, vets

  25. I also do not feel this is sensationalized. I see two
    Veterinarians who I believe do have my dog’s
    best interest at heart. However I teach dog training
    classes and I can’t believe the stories people come in
    with. Over vaccination is my biggest concern. And no
    real knowledge of how to feed a dog healthy food.
    It’s scary.

  26. I love veterinarians. I think they are better than medical doctors and I wish I could see one instead myself. I think veterinarians are awesome. I also do believe that not all of them graduated at the top of their class, nor they are all they could be. This is not different from any other profession. Not all veterinarians are good. But those who are, are awesome.

  27. I think the distrust is based mainly on the snake-oil purveyors of “alternative medicine” who accuse veterinarians of being greedy, poisoning pets with dangerous “toxins” (such as Capstar), selling foods that will make pets sick, etc. There’s a lot of money to be made in making people mistrust actual experts and buy products that can be produced with virtually no money or time invested. I have experienced a lot of this in online groups that I joined for mutual interest and then found that people who buy into this bully and shame others by accusing them of hurting their own pets by feeding kibble or using monthly parasite prevention. A similar movement in mistrust of human doctors started earlier, and then when charlatans realized they could make a fortune from untested “natural” remedies it really took off. They even argue against testing in general!

    My main problem with vets hasn’t been that they have been dishonest with me, but they can be dishonest about themselves. One was arrogant and just didn’t bother keeping up with new developments, or at least new developments in areas that didn’t interest him. He also felt qualified to perform a very complex surgery on my dog, and she had three complications afterward. Another was just plain uncurious, and I took her relaxed attitude as a cue for me not to worry. But she was relaxed about things that were really very serious and two of my dogs paid the ultimate price for this. (My biggest piece of advice to pet owners – get a necropsy done whenever you can afford to do it! This is how I knew my vet should have taken my dogs’ problems more seriously)

    Vets, like any professional, are supposed keep up with current standards. How would we know what those standards are? This is why I bought your book Dr. Kay and have given copies away. We need solid, readable information so we can tell whether we’re dealing with Dr. Badvet or not.

    My new vet’s receptionist didn’t take my last two oldies’ concerns seriously enough to make an appointment for them so I took them to the ER/VCA instead. One was a 15-year-old with a “cough” that turned out to be due to pericardial effusion and the other’s (at age 16-1/2) “vomiting” was due to her abdominal lymphoma tumor (that my vet had been monitoring) finally growing to the point that she couldn’t digest food. Neither could have waited a few days for an appointment.

    My one big wish for the profession would be for there to be a specialty or at least a journal in geriatrics. I’m a softie for the oldies and my misdiagnosed dogs were 13 & 15 years old. In the old days I suppose vets dealt mainly with young & middle aged dogs because animals died from heartworm, hit by car, etc., or just wouldn’t get treated when they got sick. Or if an elderly pet got sick “well it’s old age” would satisfy people.

    I’m far more worried about a vet not “selling” me a cure than in ripping me off!

  28. I disagree, the show 20/20 is not sensationalizing this story at all, I think things are worse than they showed. Many times it’s been my experience to have a vet try and upsell me using fear based tactics, or recommend procedures that are unnecessary and expensive. I’ve also had vets hold my animal hostage, refusing to give life-saving treatment to my pet until I put money in their hands (at 3 am in the emerg with a dog who was deathly ill, and I’d forgotten to stop at my bank and empty my account before we went there).

    Vets, by their own behavior, have put themselves one step above used car salesmen in the trust department. It is very expensive to become a vet, no arguments there, but to try and charge someone $150 for a 10 minute exam and a few shots… yes, they still try to get you to do it once a year… is nothing short of highway robbery, and totally out of the reach of the average working person, never mind the poor. There are so many animals waiting for a home, and there are lots of people who want to share their home with one, but the fees for animal care are too prohibitive.

    If a doctor charges only $35 for an office visit how does a vet justify charging $100?

  29. Color me biased as I work for my veterinarian. But before starting to work there, I was also a client of this clinic – for 30 years. I have also worked in the human medicine field for 40 years, so I am well aware of the changes in protocols, the state of the art equipment, and how important it is to have trained, knowledgeable personnel in your clinic. And I was not disappointed when I started work to discover that the welfare of the patient was, and is, THE most important ethic. Is veterinary medicine expensive? Yes, just like all other medicine. But to me the most important aspect of visiting my clinic over the years was being able to trust that the doctors were recommending care that would benefit my dogs. We follow the recommended vaccine protocols, and our doctors also listen to our clients and those who want titers are accommodated. The fact of the matter is that, just like human medicine, it is important for the patient/client to do some research too. Be aware of vaccine protocols, be aware of the importance of an annual exam, and understand that if you want the best treatment with state of art equipment and medications, you have to expect to pay for it.