Without exception, each and every conversation I have with a new owner includes the following, from me:
“Do you have a vet? Are you happy with their care of your last dog? If not, please find a vet through good word of mouth, who can correctly diagnose and treat your pup as needed.”
The reason I do this is obvious. Veterinary medicine is a practice, just like human medicine. As such, the quality of the practitioner is the key to success. The mere fact that someone went to vet school does not qualify him as a good veterinarian.
I’m writing this post as I just wrapped up witnessing another sad, frustrating and costly adventure in the world of less than competent veterinary practice. I’ll relate the story, but first, please let me clarify that I am not against vets helping animals. I use a vet all the time. Vets have a distinct and vital role in the care of all animals. What I am against is the foolish, money motivated, dangerously amateurish and unprofessional practices of individuals who call themselves vets, yet who are obviously not qualified to claim that title.
Okay, here’s the story:
A wonderful family picked up a pup from my kennel recently. They knew enough about dogs and were more than willing to learn anything additional that would help their new, healthy pup. They were familiar with Rottweilers and had owned two before this pup. Unfortunately, they had also become aware that mis-diagnoses could occur, when their last vet diagnosed one of their previous dogs with a broken leg when in fact it had a bone cancer. So, they started going to another vet, at one of the largest vet hospitals in their area.
I had not heard anything from them for a little over a week before receiving a phone call on the weekend. It was the pup’s ‘mom’. She was obviously upset and when I asked her what was wrong, she simply said ‘We have a very sick puppy on our hands here’ .
After letting her tell me what that meant, I found that the pup had developed some sniffles about five days after pick up. I immediately knew this was a probable reaction to the bordatella vaccine, which is not uncommon. After all, it’s a live vaccine and that’s how the pup develops an immunity to kennel cough. Remember now, bordatella is also known by its medical name ‘infectious tracheobronchitis’ (hey, doesn’t the trachea swell up when it’s infected?).
Now, she initially did the right thing and took the pup to her vet, who was housed in this very large, seven day a week vet hospital. That’s when things went wrong. The vet misdiagnosed right off the bat and even ignored the fact that the health cert listed the bordatella vaccine as having been administered. No, you see, he knew better. So, he prescribed clavomox, which might be okay for other upper resp issues, but really is not effective for this particular case. But, what do I know. I’m only a stupid breeder, right?
So, from Tuesday until Friday night, the pup is not getting better, because he’s not on a decongestant and he’s not on the right meds for a bordatella reaction. So, the owner does what she has to do when the pup develops a full blown cough and takes him back to the big vet hospital.
There, the ‘vet’ who had been treating the pup earlier, gets xrays done and determines that the pup has pneumonia as well as a genetically caused condition called a ‘hypoplastic trachea’ – a congenital (present at birth) condition, in which the dog is born with a narrow or underdeveloped trachea. By the way, this condition is predominant in bulldog breeds. You know, dogs with short muzzles that ARE NOT ROTTWEILERS. The vet knows these conditions are correct because he outsources his xrays to vet students at a local university, who help in the misdiagnoses. Yes, that’s correct, a practicing vet who can’t read his own xrays. So, now we have not only a misdiagnosed health condition, but a misdiagnosed genetic condition.
So, now, the owner is paying three or four hundred dollars a day for a sick pup who is mostly sick due to an initial misdiagnoses and ensuing incorrect medication. Now, these doctors have to be totally right about their poor veterinary practicing skills. The put the pup in the oxygen room, with a nebulizer, on an intravenous feeding tube. They take more xrays and tell the owner that the trachea is worse than they initially saw on the first xray and that the pup would never be able breathe normally, blah, blah.
As an aside, bloodwork was done, and showed completely normal levels of white blood cells. The pup had normal temperature and was eating and drinking normally. Yet he had pneumonia. How odd is that.
I was pretty sure that this pup had been misdiagnosed and that the meds were wrong and that the dog’s trachea was probably not hypoplastic, but I called my own vet just to cover all the bases. It was a Monday morning, around seven thirty and he had just arrived at his clinic.
After explaining the events that had transpired so far, his first response was ‘These vets are idiots. Do they think this is a Pug or an English Bulldog? There’s no way that pup has a hypoplastic trachea.” I then told him my theory about the Bordatella reaction. “Of course. Any first year vet student would know that. The pup should be on Doxycycline and Mucinex.”
So, after an entire weekend of this madness, including several incidents where the owner was not allowed to talk to the vet on the case, even though she was led to believe that her pup was dying, and after my fourth or fifth pep talk to her, she decided to take matters into her own hands and demanded to see the new attending vet (the original one was probably off playing golf) and that vet’s superior, at the hospital. After explaining the outnesses to them and to the office manager there, the pup was miraculously put onto the correct medications – doxycycline and mucinex. Again, miraculously, the pup recovered in three days.
Also, sort of mind blowing – the vet now told the owner that the ‘hypoplastic trachea’ had magically reduced and was no longer there as a condition. How can that be? I mean, five days earlier they had told this woman that the pup she had just purchased was a genetic mess. You see, THEY KNEW BETTER.
I had asked the owner to pull all of the pup’s medical records, including the xrays and mail them to my vet. After looking at them, he told me the following:
“I looked at the film, and I’m not impressed (with their diagnoses)…. They keep talking about pneumonia and I don’t see that… On the very first day, they have (per the written medical records) that his lungs are normal. Not a thing about pneumonia. Nothing relating to pneumonia. Then, three days later, they have a ‘problem’…. Also, that thing about the trachea, is a bunch of bull. I wish I had this dog here (to treat).”
So do I, Doc, so do I.
Okay, so everything ended well, sort of. The pup is back home and will lead a normal life. I have agreed with the owner that she follow up and discuss this issue (along with her bill, which was in the vicinity of a few grand) with the owner of the hospital. In my opinion, she should also notify the State Board of Review for veterinary and professional practices and tell them this wonderful story.
That does it for now. I hope this has helped in some way.