It was my birthday this last week, which meant I received a years' worth of texts, phone calls and messages from friends and family. In a way, it puts me to shame, because I'm the worst person for remembering others' birthdays, but my tribe is a forgiving sort, and so year after year they continue to remember me and my day anyway.
But with one of my friends, our birthday conversation turned to our animals and the veterinary care they receive. I stated that after our current dog and cat pass away, we're going to take a break from domestic pets for awhile, in no small part due to troubles we've had with veterinarians "over-serving" us. It's a "New School" approach to treatment.
She concurred, and told me she and her husband have decided the same thing. They recently took their terminally ill dog into the emergency vet's office on a Sunday afternoon to get the dog some pain killers, since he had awoken that morning in great discomfort. Instead of just dispensing the meds, the emergency vet basically ran every test the original vet had to confirm the diagnosis (at a cost of nearly $1,000) before agreeing to dispense the pain meds. Yes, even though the tests had already been run and a diagnosis of a terminal liver tumor had been confirmed, the emergency vet insisted he had to run all his own tests before agreeing to provide pain medication to the dog, who was clearly old and suffering.
Here's an example another friend of mine recently experienced: She has a cat that appeared to have a bladder infection -- urinating constantly, seemingly in discomfort. I happen to know her Old School vet personally, and worked for him for a time. I know for a fact he would have seen the cat, done a general physical exam and then sent Kitty home with some antibiotics, telling my friend that if the cat was not improved in three days to return for more testing. And with 98 percent cats, the antibiotics would do the trick.
Unfortunately, my friend saw a New School Vet. New School Vet saw Kitty and ordered up a complete blood panel, a urinalysis, a kidney ultrasound and an overnight at the animal hospital before diagnosing a bladder infection and, you guessed it, sending Kitty home with the same antibiotics Old School Vet would have given her.
Old School Vet's treatment plan would have cost about $65. New School Vet's protocol cost about $1,000. My friend is a senior citizen on a fixed income, and this devastated her financially for the month. Yet both scenarios ($65 versus $1,000) end with the same result -- Kitty going home with antibiotics and getting better.
The problem is that New School Vets take advantage of us by 1) blocking the way to treatment by demanding extensive testing, and 2) preying on the responsibility we feel towards our household pets. And honestly, it's gotten to a point where I no longer feel comfortable having a pet in a vulnerable state where both of us can be taken advantage of.
So while we'll continue to keep chickens and other small livestock, we'll probably be taking a pass on any animal that may someday require a trip to the small-animal vet. Because you just never know anymore if you're going to get Old School or New School, and while I appreciate that both probably think they are doing the best for their four-footed patients, New School Vets leave me feeling victimized at a time when both me and my best animal friend are in distress -- a time when our only option is to trust the doctor we see. And with Old School Vets hitting their senior years themselves and retiring, we're going to see more and more New School Vets on the scene.
Not a good scenario for either ourselves or the house pets we love.