Thursday, October 10, 2013

Are You Shocked and Outraged Yet?

When professional standards of behavior are clear, and a professional violates those standards, we are shocked and outraged.  As an example, if a physician refused to offer life-saving treatment to an injured person, we would be shocked and outraged, because physicians are pledged (and required by law) to provide emergency care. 

If an attorney leaked a client's confession to the press and caused the client to be found guilty of a crime, we would be shocked and outraged, because attorneys are required by professional ethics to maintain client confidentiality. 

Priests are not allowed by the standards of their profession to gossip about what they hear from parishioners in confessions. 

What do we expect of veterinarians?  Vets are pledged professionally to provide the best care for animals brought to their practices.  What standards of conduct does the public expect?  Pet owners expect vets to provide preventive care for healthy pets, medical interventions for illnesses and injuries, and good advice about raising pets.  How well do many veterinarians meet public expectations of professional conduct?

More often than not these days, pet owners are shocked and outraged at the large bills veterinarians generate to provide routine pet care,  the enormous charges for laboratory tests, prescription drugs, surgeries, and hospitalizations for sick pets, and the disastrous advice veterinarians give about how to keep pets healthy.

Let's take routine inoculations as an example.  When a person acquires an 8-week-old puppy from a reputable breeder, the puppy has had a thorough veterinary exam and its first inoculation against 4 or 5 dreaded diseases in that area.  New owner is instructed to make sure the puppy receives additional inoculations at 12- and 16-weeks of age to provide long-lasting immunities.

When the new owners takes healthy puppy to the new vet at 12-weeks of age, he will likely end up with a $100 to $150 bill.  For what?  The bill will itemize a vet exam at $45, a stool sample test at $15, and the 12-week inoculation at $60.  If the puppy has a small infestation of round or hook worms, and chances are good he does, vet will add $25 for prescription worming medication.  What did the owner really need for the 12-week old puppy?
  • A $60 inoculation?  The same vaccine can be purchased online and at local feed stores for about $6.00.  No prescription needed.  
  • A $45 vet exam?  Puppy already had a vet exam for heart, lungs, joints, bite, eyes, and any anomalies a vet can detect at 8-weeks of age.  Puppy was declared fit for placement with no health problems.  Puppy's basic health conditions have not changed in 4 weeks.  
  • A $15 stool sample test?  Breeder wormed the puppy several times before placement.  Owner can give puppy another dose or two or harmless worming medication (available for less than $5.00 at Walmart and local pet shops) or use a heartworm medication that also treats other worms as well. 
  • Why pay for a stool test and then prescription worming medication (another $25), when less expensive and equally effective options are available?
So, the first veterinary rip-off new pet owners encounter is when their new puppy is  12-weeks of age.  They are then subjected to a repeat rip-off at 16-weeks of age.  Again, one year later, when the puppy has a booster shot for canine diseases, pet owners get the same scenario, same inflated bill, same unnecessary expenses.

Sitll worse, veterinarians often require annual booster inoculations, which the American Veterinary Medical Association says are unnecessary.  With one booster after a 16-week inoculation, the dog likely has lifetime immunity to the most prevalent canine diseases.  

Dogs are often over-immunized, which carries its own danger of allergic reactions to ingredients in the vaccine and suppression of immune responses to disease.  It goes without saying that the bill for annual visits is enormously inflated by heartworm tests (totally unnecessary for dogs on routine heartworm medication), blood tests, stool tests, and more.

Which brings me to diet.  It is likely that the waiting room at the vet clinic is lined with shelves of commercial pet foods.  Starchy, inappropriate foods for carnivorous pets.  Pet food sales make up as much as 40% of the revenue in a vet practice, and the profit margin is over 100%.  Only laboratory tests rival pet foods as a profit source for vets.

Commercial pet foods create still other sources of revenue for vets, because they cause allergic reactions in pets that vets treat with anti-histamines, steroids, and prescription diets that are even more profitable than ordinary kibbles.  Ear infections are another common symptom of inappropriate diet.  Allergies and ear infections call for lab tests and diet elimination trials -- all very expensive for  pet owners. 

In the long run, commercial pet foods will lead to chronic degenerative diseases -- cancers, heart,, liver, digestive disorders -- that require even more expensive veterinary treatment.  These chronic degenerative diseases are painful for pets, financially disastrous for pet owners, and very lucrative for vets.  Losing a pet to an awful disease is heartbreaking.  Knowing it would likely been avoided with proper diet is enraging.

How well do many veterinarians meet public expectations of professional conduct?  What's your experience?