Let me begin by stating that I believe that veterinarians are very useful and important in assisting dog owners with some health concerns of their animals. However, I believe there are limits to what are the learned skills and understandings of each individual practitioner.
The mere fact that someone attended veterinary med school and received a degree does not automatically mean that this person knows everything about dogs. They may know how to set a broken leg, but may have no idea about specifics concerning your particular breed of dog, nutrition, training, maintenance, etc.
Too many times I have received feedback from owners about ‘opinions’ voiced by their vets that, if actually stated, would cause the experienced dog owner to stop in their tracks, amazed at the audacity and lack of knowledge.
Here are a few samples of things apparently actually told to owners, relayed to me:
1. One owner who had a personal issue with a ‘thin’ puppy (not really thin, just growing, by the way) was told by his vet to ‘feed him as much as he wants’.
2. An owner who’s dog was limping in the front was told by their vet that the animal had ‘arthritis’ and then prescribed a heavy pain killing medication to be taken daily ‘for the life of the dog’. No x-rays or ultrasound was done. When I recommended that the dog be taken off the meds and simply put on buffered aspirin and MSM and crated for a couple of weeks, the dog fully recovered. By the way, the vet was paid for that visit while my help was given because I cared.
3. More vets than I can count have told owners that spaying and neutering their dog will result in the dog living longer. Not only is this not true, but has resulted in at least two known post op conditions with spayed females: incontinence.
4. Assorted vets telling owners of pups that their pup is ‘small for a Rottweiler’. Who do they think they’re kidding”? I guarantee you not one of them has ever fully read the breed standard for the Rottweiler, much less understood the growth pattern of this breed of dog.
5. Diagnosing bronchitis as pneumonia, resulting in a $1500 vet bill for the owner. Can you say malpractice? Apparently, it’s not malpractice if the dog survived, which it did, thanks to me and my own vet getting involved.
6. Charging for visits to clip a dog’s nails, which involved sedating the dog, costing the owner hundreds of dollars. Instead, why didn’t the vet consult with the owner and help her figure out how to do the nails herself? The answer? Because then the vet would have lost all that revenue. By the way, this owner got wise and finally figured out how to do it herself.
7. Telling owners that pups must be vaccinated three to four times prior to 16 weeks, to protect against various diseases. The truth of the matter is, the pup is already being protected by the mother’s colostrum until at least 16 weeks of age, at which time its own immune system kicks in fully. Why do vets scare people into over vaccinating? The answer is: each vaccination and visit costs the owner around $50-$70. This is the vet’s cash cow and the vaccine manufacturers are obviously happy with this as well.
Okay, I’ve had enough! What can you do to curb the high cost of going to the vet? Well, the first thing I would do when your dog comes up with a health related issue is to talk with your breeder. If they have an understanding of their particular breed (and they should), and of dogs in general, there should be some comfort and help given to you. I cannot tell you the number of owners I have assisted to handle a simple situation with their pup or dog, instead of rushing it to the vet for a battery of tests, etc.
Speaking of which, you should always demand that the vet not nickel and dime you on unnecessary drugs, screenings, exams if and when they are clearly not needed. The next thing is to demand the vet correctly diagnose the condition of your dog. If he or she cannot do this, your duty as an owner is to GO ELSEWHERE. Remember, you are not bound to stay with any particular veterinarian. Also remember that you are paying the vet, and should receive value for your money.
Find the good vets through word of mouth and avoid the bad ones like the plague.
Finally, do your research and learn how to do a lot of this basic preventative healthcare and maintenance yourself. It really is your responsibility!