Thursday, December 17, 2009

How Much Power Do Vets Have?

One of my puppies, a beautiful yellow 5-month old, was hit by a car, breaking his right tibia and inflicting several bloody wounds.  Owner needed to rush Bear to a vet hospital from a remote area -- a nearly 2-hour drive. While driving toward Kailua-Kona vet hospitals, he telephoned every vet in the phone book.  His wife, who was at work in Kailua, made similar calls.  One vet practice said they are not taking new patients (even though they advertise emergency care).  Most simply did not respond to the emergency.  Only one vet returned their calls in time to get Bear the treatment he badly needed.

When they arrived at the vet hospital, Bear was diagnosed and treated.  He has a full leg cast on his right rear leg and some stitches to close wounds.  He was admitted to the vet hospital for a 4- to 5-day stay.  Owners asked to bring his raw-meaty-bones food for him.  They were told, Absolutely Not!  Vet delivered a salmonella and broken teeth lecture and told them they were irresponsible to feed him rmb. So, Bear was to be fed kibble for the duration of his hospitalization.

When they visited Bear in hospital, vet told them she will not release the puppy from hospital until they show her they have purchased "real dog food", by which she meant kibble.  Owners reluctantly purchased a large bag of kibble to retrieve their puppy.  After 5 days in the vet hospital, Bear was skinny.  His ribs and backbone showed through his coat.  His teeth were yellow. He was lying in a cage with a full bowl of kibble beside his head.  As soon as Bear got home, he ate rmb voraciously.

I took care of Bear yesterday, 5 days after he was released from hospital.  He is a handsome son of my lovely Ella (Gamefield Enchantress) and Am/Can Champion Timberline Ben of Fawnhaven, Senior Hunter.  Bear is still thin, but his backbone is no longer visible.  After a week on his raw-meaty-bones diet, he gained weight, and his teeth are only spotty yellow, on their way to white again.

This vet told Bear's owners she knows me.  Yes, she does, unfortunately.  Here are two incidents I had with this veterinarian.  In December 2007, I took my pregnant bitch Emily to this practice to have an x-ray to see how many puppies to expect.  Emily was due to deliver in about two weeks, and this vet had told me she could count the puppies at this point in the pregnancy.  After the x-ray was done, she told me that Emily's puppies were "poorly developed", because I was not feeding her a proper diet.  She told me to put Emily on puppy chow immediately, if I hoped to save this litter.  This was shocking news.

Rather than acquiesce to her demand to buy puppy chow, I asked, "What does puppy chow have in it that makes it essential food for a pregnant bitch?"  I was told that canine nutrition is very complex, that I could not possibly duplicate the nutrition in commercial pet foods.  "Which ingredients are so critical?", I asked.  Calcium, vitamins, and proteins, I was told.  She launched into a diatribe about kcals-and-43-essential ingredients.  She asserted I was ignorant about how to feed dogs properly, which had to be high-quality commercial pet foods, sold by the vet practice.  I didn't buy any kibble, but, unlike Bear, she was not holding Emily hostage.

When at home, I looked again at Internet sites on rawfeeding, gathered data on the values of the diet I feed and wrote a letter to the practice owners to complain about the treatment she dished out.  Emily had 10 fully developed, healthy puppies two weeks later.

In March 2008,  Bonnie was showing signs of advanced pregnancy, although I had not seen any signs of her coming into season and did not arrange for her to be mated at this time.  Evidently, Stormy and Bonnie had another plan.  I took Bonnie to the same vet practice, and unfortunately found this vet on duty.  After several hours, she found time to examine Bonnie.  She took her into an examining room and returned in less than a minute.  "It's a false pregnancy", she said.  "There are no puppies in there."  "What should I do about a false pregnancy?", I asked, never having seen one before.  "Nothing", she said, "the symptoms will go away in a few months."  If I had not been so surprised, I would have asked for an x-ray to confirm her diagnosis of false pregnancy.

That night, Bonnie was lying on her side on my bed,  I could see bulges in her abdomen, and when I felt along her side I could feel puppies inside.  Bonnie gave birth to 8 healthy puppies a week later.  Again, I wrote a letter to the practice owners complaining about the treatment I had received.  I met with them when the puppies were examined.  Their defense of her behavior was apologetic but unyielding.  It's very hard to diagnose pregnancies in dogs, they said -- yeah, so hard that I could feel the puppies the same day she diagnosed a false pregnancy.  The treatment this vet gave Bonnie is malpractice, in my opinion.

A dozen or so rawfeeders left this practice when another vet came to town.  These vets' opposition to raw-meaty-bones and BARF diets is so extreme they are not able to provide good care for our pets.  They are so brainwashed about commercial pet foods, they despise alternative diets. Their advocacy of junk pet foods is very emotional. They fail to see evidence (well-developed, healthy puppies; healthy older dogs with white teeth and sound gums).  They try to use their power over clients to force compliance to commercial diets. When the villainous vet, who treated Bear, feels she has leverage, she actually forces clients to buy bags of kibble. 

Vets do not have the power to retain a dog in hospital until owners comply with their diet "recommendations".  But picture a worried, young couple with their injured baby.  They are grateful to the vet for setting his leg and treating his wounds.  They feel guilty for allowing the accident to happen.  They want the best treatment for their beloved Bear.  If the vet demands they show proof of purchasing kibble, they comply for the sake of their baby. 

Imagine if a pediatrician gave emergency care and admitted a child to hospital.  The child's usual diet is fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, breads, and meats, the parents say.  May they supply these foods to the child while hospitalized? Pediatrician says, Absolutely Not!  In hospital, child will be fed only commercial cereals, which are "100% complete and balanced nutrition".  And child is not allowed to brush his teeth as long as he's in hospital. Parents have to purchase commercial cereals before pediatrician will release the child from hospital.   Child emerges from hospital thinner and with cereal-coated, yellow teeth.  I guarantee this physician would be reported to the disciplinary committee of the state medical society, and his license and hospital privileges would likely be revoked. 

So, what ethical boundaries are there in veterinary medicine to prevent the incidents described here or to levy consequences for bad behavior?.  None, it seems.

1 comment:

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