Friday, June 15, 2007

Rapacious vets?

How widespread do we think greedy vets are?

I ask because I think I went to a very greedy veterinary clinic on Wednesday after Mr. K had his accident. I would rather have taken him to our usual, loved and trusted vet. But that clinic is on the other side of the city from where I am living at the moment. And I was taking care of my friends' big dog that day, and couldn't fathom what to do with her while I bundled a bleeding Mr. K into a taxi. So I figured I'd walk to the nearest vet clinic, at which my friend A says she had a positive experience recently. I had to go to another vet as a walk-in before, when Mr. K was bitten two summers ago and my vet was on vacation, and that had worked out fine.

I am used to my own vet clinic and sweet vet, who spends much of each visit delighted by and giggling at Mr. K, and feeds him about a dozen treats on a given appointment.* The other staff, the vet techs, are equally enthusiastic and loving to every animal in there. The care is always exemplary. Though the clinic is very small and modest, it's very well-respected. They sent us a condolence card when I called them to let them know our previous dog had died after being run over (not on our watch but in the care of R's mother - what a nightmare). They have links to tiny, local animal advocacy groups. The clinic feels like a labour of love. I am sometimes not charged for services, there.

This new one I went to on Wednesday? I wasn't feeling the love. What I was feeling was a money-grab. First of all, the doctor didn't seem all that thrilled with Mr. K. I know, I know, he's not there to be fawned over - but the guy just felt dismissive. Of a dog with an injury, no less, bleeding onto the floor. Then, when I was paying a deposit, the receptionist/vet tech started talking up the place to me, sounding like some kind of professional seller. Telling me to look up the place on the web to find out more about their services, spelling out the web address, etc. I'd been very clear that I was treating this as an emergency visit, that I have a regular vet. And more importantly, I think of this as a service, not a for-profit enterprise. (Obviously, there is a blurry to non-existent line between these two ways of looking at it, for vet clinics...)

Then the vet phoned me twice that afternoon to tell me about other "health problems" he'd discovered on Mr. K, which would conveniently require me to buy products to fix them. This was dubious to me. One of the alleged problems was an eye infection. This dog and the previous one have a history of eye problems, so I damn well schooled in what infected eyes look like, by now. He doesn't have an infection! Yes, his eyes were very red when he arrived, but that was from the stress of the ordeal. They're just fine, their normal pale pink, now. And why, if he has this chronic gum disease, has my own vet never said so, even though he always examines Mr. K's gums, including quite recently? It just seems as if I was being cajoled into buying products he doesn't need. Yuck - I find that sickening.

When we went to pick up Mr. K at dinnertime, both R and I just had a bad taste in our mouths. The staff didn't feel friendly. They didn't feel like animal people. Their way of handling Mr. K was, again, dismissive. There were also some puppies and kittens for adoption in cages in the corner, which I had thought was heartning. But R went to say hi to the puppy and saw that they were charging $500 for it!!! So this vet clinic is making a profit from finding homes for stray animals? You've got to be kidding. Finally, when I looked at the bill, I saw that on the bottom corner, it said, "Mr. K is due for shots, checkup, etc. in September 2007." They've just kind of claimed him as a client. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

I've had animals for most of my life, including as an adult dealing with vet clinics on my own - and for many years before I encountered my current, wonderful vet. I've never encountered this kind of ethic before, though I've heard intimations of it. How widespread is this kind of thing? Do people really become vets to make lots of money??? It seems grotesque to me.

*The reason I chose this vet is because he was the vet of an old girlfriend. Once, that GF's cat was very, very ill. She was at the clinic fighting for her life. The clinic, of course, is closed on Sundays - and the cat couldn't be left alone. So the vet took her home with him for the weekend, and brought her on a family outing to a provincial park on the Sunday. She came in a little carrier, they carried her with them, and she got to be let out to sit in the sun in the grass while they picnicked. I love this man. And the cat pulled through, in the end!


dbm/gaa said...

Is your super-vet named Gary? If so he was our wonderful vet too. I agree that the other clinic sounds horrific, no one wants The Big Sell when their animal is hurt and needs compassionate attention.

Hilaire said...

Oh, our great vet is named Attila. But I think I've heard tell of a great one named Gary!

Tiruncula said...

OMG you go to Attila too! I looooove him! He treated my cats - he may remember my very dim, very squashy diabetic cream tabby (the twin brother of VOC) - and ED, whom you met, the whole time I lived there. Say hi to him for me.

Fortunately I've never had the greedy vet/bad vet problem except for dealing with incredibly expensive emergency clinics ("hook up IV, suction cash" is how I think of them). I'm very fortunate now to have a regular vet clinic that provides their own around-the-clock emergency service. It just violates everything about my worldview when vets are not the most caring and generous people.

Hilaire said...

Oh my, what a great coincidence. Yes, he is the absolute best man there is. I adore him.

squadratomagico said...

I also have a great vet whom I really trust. But there are huge, mainly-for-profit vet clinic chains out there, which often have the vibe you mention. They come into neighborhoods and drive the "mom and pop" vet clinics out of business -- this happened to my vet, actually. For a year, I took my baby to another clinic, which also was quite good, but quite far away, because I wouldn 't patronize the VCA office. (I think it stands for Veterinary Clinics of America -- it's a big vet conglomerate.) Anyway, my old vet eventually re-opened in a new location, so I'm back with her now.

I also have a close friend who is an extremely caring veterinary technician, but she's worked in some offices where she thought the people were just awful. I guess not all vets love animals. Sorry you had a bad experience at such a stressful moment.

Anonymous said...

While most of the vets I've taken my animals to have been wonderful, I ran into a greedy one in New Jersey when I was in grad school. My beloved seven-year-old gray longhair cat started vomiting (not hairballs) and hiding under furniture, which as cat owners know, is a BAD sign. We took her to a small clinic that was nearby, where after several hundred dollars worth of tests, we were told that she had a liver problem but that there was a surgery that would "probably resolve the problem." This cat was one of those soul mate animals, and I wanted to do anything if it would cure her. So we let the guy do surgery, without being very clear what that entailed. It was horrible! She had her whole torso shaved, and a feeding tube directly into her abdomen, and died four days later. When she died, it was the day before Christmas Eve, and we just got a phone message saying she was gone and they had disposed of the body! The next thing we got was a huge bill - no "we're sorry for your loss" or anything!! Needless to say, we never went back to that vet! The worst part is that a few months later, when we told our new vet what had happened, he told us that there was no surgery for the problem she had had - so the other guy had done an unnecessary surgery and put her through unnecessary pain just to make a buck! Bastard!

Hope Mr. K is feeling better!

Hilaire said...

Oh my goodness, Barb - what a *terrible* story...God, I'm so sorry. Bastard is right!

Bardiac said...


I've been mostly lucky, but some vets seem really into the marketing thing.

medieval woman said...

Oh God, Barb, that's HORRIBLE!!! And H, I feel a bit like there's a big money vibe going on at the shite-eating vet I took the Furballs too recently. They were in the middle of a big and expensive remodel and kept trying to give me all these "maintenance" pills for the "aging felines".

A pox on them all! I'm glad Mr. K is doing well, tho!