Feedback on a recent vet visit

June 2012

Dear [Vet],

A few weeks back I brought my dog Iris in for a check up. Specifically, I wanted a mysterious lump on her paw checked out. I’d never been to your clinic before but you came recommended by a friend. You fit me in same day which was nice.

I’m writing to tell you that unfortunately my first visit will be my last visit. My experience was not so great. While I will not be coming back to your clinic, I did want to let you know why.

Despite my being present in the room when you examined Iris, you barely said a word about her heath as you felt around her body and listened to her heart. When I’ve been present for exams in the past, vets have always given feedback such as, “Her heart sounds good”, etc. Feeling awkward with the complete lack of communication, I said you that I find it funny how people are always asking me if she’s blind in her blue eye. The only feedback you offered me during the examination was after shining a bright light in her eyes. You told me she is not blind in that eye. I thought that joking about this made it clear I was already aware of this fact. I chalked it up to a nuance lost somewhere in my delivery.

Once the general exam was over – I think she came through with flying colours although I’m still not entirely sure because you didn’t say much about the exam – you took a look at the lump on her paw. I asked you what you thought it could be – infection, benign tumor, cancer, etc. You offered no guesses, not even a range of potential ailments. The only thing you said was that I had two options: aspirate and send the sample in for testing, or put my dog under, cut the lump off and send it in for testing. I was a bit surprised considering I was expecting a bit more information about what it could possibly be and the potential gravity of the condition before being asked to decide which of the two procedures to put her through.

As you elaborated on these options and manipulated the lump between your fingers, it suddenly burst. “So, I guess it’s nothing too serious. Nothing to worry about, yes? Clearly not a tumor, right?” I asked. You still offered no information, but you cleaned it and bandaged it up with the new directive being to keep an eye on it. I’m still wondering how much each of those proposed procedures would have cost me.

After the pustule was cleaned and dressed you were now the one with all the questions. “Why do you not vaccinate your dog? Why do you not have your dog on flea medication? Do you not believe in preventative measures?”

Before I came in to see you I told your assistant that I do not vaccinate my dog nor do I wish to. I asked if that would be in conflict with your clinic’s policy. She said no. So I came in to see you and was expecting I would not be given the hard sell on medications I’d already been clear about not wanting.

I explained that I didn’t want my dog pumped full of chemicals for ailments she didn’t have. I’ve heard too many stories of dogs having adverse reactions to vaccines, especially the way most clinics give them, as a giant cocktail, all at once. Some dogs, like my friend Illona’s, die from getting vaccines. I know the reactions can be severe. I’d rather not put my dog through that if I don’t have to. Vets often neglect to mention that many of the ailments dogs are vaccinated for are easily treatable so this begs the question, why vaccinate for something like kennel cough when it’s easily treated?

I justified my decision not to have Iris on flea medication because for an entire year she wasn’t on flea meds and she didn’t get fleas so why medicate?

To fuel your argument for getting her on an all-in-one preventative medication for critters like fleas and heartworm, you pulled a vial out of your cabinet that contained a heartworm. “We pulled this out of a puppy,” you said. You didn’t say where the puppy was from or when you collected this specimen. I was pretty sure heartworm was almost non-existant in these parts because it doesn’t get hot enough for long enough for heartworm to be a problem. If we lived in Florida, maybe, but not coastal BC.

However, on a whim, and to satisfy my own curiosity, I did allow you to draw blood from my dog to do a test for heartworm. I watched as your assistant straddled my dog to keep her still and you put a needle into her throat to look for her jugular vein which you didn’t find despite many attempts to reposition the needle. In all the years I’ve taken my pets to the vet, I’ve never once seen a vet go in through the throat to draw blood. Vets have always gone in through the paw in my experience. So you said you’d try a second time but this time through the paw. I saw Iris’ panic after that first attempt and I went over to assist in calming and holding her as I did for my previous dog when I’d had her at other clinics but you said she would be more calm if I was not there, so I went back to the examining room and you drew the blood successfully this time.

I’m surprised that you believe a beloved animal would be more calm without its owner by her side than with. I remember holding my previous dog as she was put under for x-rays and I held her as vets took blood numerous times. I am not sure where your idea comes from but I would have liked to hold and comfort my dog after a failed injection that clearly stressed her out.

Two days later the heartworm test came back negative. No surprise there because we don’t live in the tropics or in a desert.

As for the flea problem that my dog doesn’t have but for which you would like to medicate her, I did a bit more research and I discovered that dogs who are raw-fed are much less likely to suffer from flea infestations as their kibble-fed counterparts. High carb diets attract fleas, high protein diets do not. Since the high protein diet has worked thus far for my dog and gives her the ancillary benefit of a flealess experience, I’ll stick with raw food as my flea medication of choice. In the event that she does get fleas sometime in future, I’ll comb them out and will then consider putting her on medication for a month or two but certainly not year round.

In conclusion, my feedback is this. You didn’t offer up the information or knowledge that I asked for as you were examining my dog, yet you offered up all kinds of information when it came to selling me on procedures and on medications I specifically told you and your assistant I did not want. You also denied me the opportunity to be with my dog when she was panicked from a botched first effort to draw blood.

I offer you this feedback in the hopes that you might consider a different and perhaps slightly more mindful approach with your clients and allow them to take an active and informed role in the care of their pet. After I left your clinic I felt compelled to research my decisions even more thoroughly just to ensure that my stance on the issue of fleas, heartworm prevalence and vaccines were based on sound fact. I learned that they are.

I wish you well with your practice. It would have been lovely to establish a connection with a vet clinic conveniently located in my neighbourhood and within walking distance but I shall continue my search elsewhere.