I came across an article recently which was a sort of a “Vets Tell You What They Really Think” piece. It listed 50 things that the veterinarian would love to say, but can’t, because it would be either too forward or too unprofessional (or both).
One of these really stood out for me:
“Here’s a pet peeve: owners who don’t want to pay for diagnostic tests but then cop an attitude because you don’t know what’s wrong with the animal. Since you wouldn’t let me do the blood work or X-rays, how the heck do you expect me to know?”—A vet in South Carolina.
I’m in total agreement with this vet. If we don’t have a diagnosis how are we able to help?
Believe it or not, I get contacted fairly regularly from people who want me to come and work on their dog because they don’t want to pay for x-rays or other tests. In such cases, I tell them politely that I need a diagnosis to be able to confidently work with their animal. The risk is too high that, for example, if the dog has spinal injury I can make it worse rather than better.
Costs for veterinary care can be high, but you pay for the skills and the tools that are available to a veterinarian. The vet is your dog’s equivalent of the Family Doctor/General Practitioner and sometimes the Emergency Room Doctor combined. Your dog needs them!
There are times I’ve been caught. Such as the case where the owners said x-rays had been taken and we worked for quite a few weeks on the dog only to suffer setbacks. The owners were getting frustrated. I suggested other things within my scope of practice and I recommended they go back to the vet.
That’s when I found out that the owner had only allowed the vet to take a single x-ray to save money. The x-ray didn’t reveal anything in the lower spine and so the vet assumed a partial tear of the cruciate based solely on symptoms. And that’s the diagnosis I was working with, too.
When the owners returned to the vet, they were persuaded to do more scans and that’s when the problem (and a totally different diagnosis) was determined.
In the end, these owners probably spent more money than they saved. And their dog walked around with an injury that was even more difficult to address.
My advice to owners is to only bring a dog into your life when you are confident that you can pay for their care (and that’s means more than just vaccinations, food and flea treatments). And if you have concerns about your ability to pay for injuries and illness – get pet insurance. Some policies even cover costs of complementary care such as dog massage when these treatments are recommended by your vet.
I know that some owners like the idea of setting aside money regularly; my concern is that you would have to be setting fairly large amounts aside regularly for a bank balance with compounding interest to reach into the thousands. And that’s what some of my clients face when surgeries and special procedures are needed.
Your vet is an essential part of your health care team. We all need a solid diagnosis to help your dog feel better.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand