Over the years, we have talked to literally 1000’s of pet owners who have expressed their experiences with veterinarians. Some have expressed experiences with Vets that are wonderful, but the majority cause us to just, wonder about Vets. Like human doctors, there are some good ones, but they seem to be few and far between. At the risk of sounding like we have an axe to grind, we want to preface this article with an apology in advance. There's probably a little something here to offend everyone. I’m going to make a pretty bold statement right off the bat about human doctors, surgeons, hospitals, veterinarians, and vet clinics in general so hold on or, now might be the time to just click your way on to another page:
Let’s all be honest with one another by admitting a well-known fact that most of us tend to ignore for various reasons: The truth is and facts have clearly demonstrated, that unless we or our dogs regularly get sick or need some kind of treatment... doctors, veterinarians, and medical institutions will go broke. This has an overwhelming effect on how a clinic or hospital operates in order to pay rent, mortgages, salaries, insurance, and a wide variety of other bills and expenses.
Let me dial it back a notch because we don’t want to be found guilty of throwing out the baby with the bath water. There are always exceptions contrary to the norm and there are some very good veterinarians out there that haven’t succumbed to the almighty dollar. Some veterinarians may be well intentioned, or may have started out with a clean conscience and a pure heart… but over time, slowly find themselves in the grips of a money race and the need to accumulate more of it to buy the finer things in life. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; we all do it, right? But when the health and welfare of a living person or our beloved pet is the object of someone’s need to accumulate wealth, IT IS a very bad thing in our opinion.
So with that preface, we decided to put together a list of important guidelines or “feelers” if you will, to help our customers determine if a veterinarian has your Golden’s best interest at heart or is more in that group that we tend to “wonder” about.
First Clue – Dog Food: Veterinarians are medical doctors and have completed many years of education and training to practice in their profession as a DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine). They are not nutritionists or dietitians who are experts in dog food and dog food supplements. And yet, the vast majority of veterinarians will recommend you change your dog food usually by your second or third vet appointment. And coincidentally, they just happen to sell the brand they recommend stating that your dog absolutely needs this to have the best quality of life. A Vet will almost always recommend Hill’s Science Diet, or Royal Canin dog food. These are two of the most expensive dog foods on the market, which is why your Vet sells it and makes a handsome profit from these. Quite frankly in our opinion, they both are garbage brands with inferior ingredients compared to other lower priced dog foods. Your Vet will recommend these stating, “formulated specifically for your Golden Retriever” or, “to alleviate allergies,” or, “to aide gastrointestinal problems,” or even, “to prevent seizures.” Keep in mind your Vet is not a specialist of any kind like there are in the human world of medicine, and certainly not a highly trained and certified nutritionist. The majority of their information comes from a sales rep with a slick sales pitch. Your Vet knows you want the best for your pet and that you will spend the extra money on an over-priced dog food to ensure your pet is as healthy as possible.
Key point: Some Vets take advantage of the deep attachment you have to your pet to get the most money out of you.
Our Recommendation: If your Vet hits you up with the expensive dog food proposition, exit immediately. If other clues pop up, consider finding another Vet.
Second Clue – Birth Control: Most Vets will strongly recommend you to have your Golden spayed or neutered between 6 and 8 months of age. Why? Because they have partnered with the ASPCA to help control the dog population and reduce the number of euthanizations that are performed in animal shelters and dog rescues on a regular basis. Seems like a noble cause, right? But what they don’t tell you is that early spaying and neutering increases the chances of lymphoma, leukemia, cardiomyopathy, bone disease, dysplasia, and various other cancers by 25 percent (especially in Golden Retrievers). This significant increase in health issues is caused by the absence of hormones which are vital during the growing stage of puppies. Spaying and neutering removes the production of hormones altogether from a puppy. However from a Vet's perspective, it is believed that this is an acceptable compromise in order to control the dog population in shelters and rescues. Connect the dots… if your Golden is prone to a 25 percent increase in health issues as it grows older, who is going to profit from this?
Key point: Some Vets look at us as irresponsible pet owners, and see this as an opportunity to create future business.
Our Recommendation: Tell your Vet “No,” that you’re a responsible pet owner, and that you are going to wait until your Golden is two years old.
Third Clue – Vaccinations: There are many vaccinations a Veterinarian might recommend. The most common vaccinations build immunities for: Parvovirus, Distemper, Adenovirus Types I and II, Parainfluenza, Bordetella Bronchiseptica (kennel cough), and Rabies. Other vaccinations can also be given for Leptospirosis, Lime Disease, Coronavirus, Giardia, and Canine Flu Virus (H3N8). Most state laws only require a rabies vaccination for dogs. It usually takes four vaccination shots including the primary one usually given by the breeder, and 3 boosters given by a Vet spaced 3 to 4 weeks apart. After this series of vaccinations, your pet will have its immunities built up to defend against these infectious diseases. A good question is: “How long do these immunities remain in your dog?” The answer to this is determined by a “titer” test, pronounced TIGHT-er, which determines the level of residual antibodies present in a dog. Numerous studies have shown sufficient antibodies remain for at least 3 or 4 years and up to 8 years after the initial series of vaccinations. But most Veterinarians will recommend and give annual vaccinations. When the time comes to renew your Golden’s rabies vaccination for example, your Vet will ask you if you want the 1-year vaccine or the 3-year vaccine. But there is absolutely no difference whatsoever in the 1-year and 3-year vaccine contents or strength. Only the tag your Vet gives for your Golden to wear on its collar will show an expiration in 1 year, or 3 years. Why then are annual vaccinations recommended by your Vet? The answer is, “cha-ching, cha-ching, let the cash register ring.” The wholesale cost of a vaccine is around $2 to $3 per dose and a Vet typically charges anywhere from $15 to $50 per vaccination.
Key point: Some Vets value their profit more than the health and wellbeing of your pet.
Our Recommendation: After the initial set of vaccinations, get the 3-year Rabies vaccination, and if your Golden frequents doggie day care, doggie parks, or other high risk areas where strange dogs hang out regularly, get the intranasal kennel cough vaccine about every 6 months. As for the other vaccinations, once every 4 to 5 years is more than safe for your beloved furry family member.
Fourth Clue – Heartworm, Flea and Tick Preventatives: Now here is a biggie. There are preventatives for heartworms, fleas, and ticks that have been around for nearly 40 years, are tried, tested, and effective. But they are so generic that it’s hard to make a profit on them. The generic preventative for heartworms is an oral (O) combination of Ivermectin and Pyrantel Pamoate, which are the primary ingredients of Heartgard Plus, Tri-Heart Plus, and Iverhart Plus. These all require a prescription but can be bought on the internet if you can get your Vet to write the prescription. For fleas and ticks, the generic preventative is a topical (T) combination of Fipronil and S-Methoprene, which are the primary ingredients of Frontline Plus, Petamor Plus, ZoGuard Plus, Fiproguard Plus, and Onguard Plus. No prescription is required on these which means you can buy them on the internet and you don’t need to pay a Vet to be involved at all. That kinda sucks for Vets and pharmaceutical companies so what has been their response? Well, the pharmaceutical companies have come up with many new, improved, more effective, easier to administer, and longer lasting preventatives for heartworms, fleas, and ticks. This includes products like Interceptor (O), NexGard (O), Trifexis (O), Simparica (O), Sentinel (O), Revolution (T), Senergy (T), Credelio (O) and Revolt (T). These all require a prescription which means you have to make a Vet appointment. But have you been taking notice of all the new human medicines on TV these days? They all seem to have these horrible warnings like, “you may lose feeling in your fingers and toes, you may lose your sight, you may go into cardiac arrest, you may die!” They have to disclose all those things because the FDA requires it. However, dogs are considered property, not beings with rights that are protected by our constitution. Therefore, there FDA oversight and precautionary restrictions are not nearly as strict as they are with human medications. In short, all the warnings and precautions of these new pet meds aren’t required to be so blatantly and openly broadcasted to the public. But all the ill-effects and side-effects are astounding! These new meds (that I've listed above) which Vets have been prescribing in recent years almost all have one or more of the following side effects: seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, endless itching and scratching, hives, hair loss, lethargy, shaking, staggering, and loss of appetite. We get calls from some of our customers stating one or more of these symptoms and the first question we ask is, “What kind of heartworm, flea and tick preventative are you using?” Their answer is always without exception one of those new preventatives listed above. But to add insult to injury, their Vet tells them things like, “Oh, your Golden scratches because of allergies,” or, “the seizures are caused by elevated triglycerides,” and then recommends Hill’s Science Diet or Royal Canin dog food. Pleeeease, make it stop…..
Key point: Some Vets are in bed with pharmaceutical companies as well as dog food companies to increase their bottom line revenues.
Our Recommendation: Yes the newer stuff is easier and more convenient, but is it worth all the potential side effects? Stick with the old stuff that’s been around a lot longer and safer to use. Your Golden will thank you.
Fifth Clue – Anesthesia: Anesthesiology is a very complex and advanced field of medicine that requires even more education, training and certification than a regular doctor or general practitioner. The exception to this is in the field of Veterinary medicine. No advanced training is required. No anesthesiologist is present during an operation. With a veterinarian, the person holding the scalpel is the same person administering the anesthesia. So, should you be concerned? Yes. At some point in their life, every dog is going to have to undergo one or more procedures that require anesthesia. Spaying, neutering, teeth cleaning, X-rays, and various corrective surgeries are just a few of the procedures that will require anesthesia. Not all veterinary practices are actively taking all of the necessary precautions and steps to reduce the risk of death from anesthesia. If a human dies on the operating table due to anesthetic complications, a malpractice suit is inevitable. But with a Veterinarian, you just get the bad news along with some sympathy. We have written an excellent article on anesthesia which can be read here. In it we describe the pre-op tests that should be performed, the various anesthetic agents used to put a dog under, necessary monitoring that is vital during an operation, and the right questions to ask your Vet ahead of time.
Key point: Veterinarians are not scrutinized or monitored the same way as human doctors are in the medical profession which gives Veterinarians far more room for error without the risk of malpractice.
Our Recommendation: Ask all the right questions. Be bold and educate yourself first so your Vet can’t pull the wool over your eyes with a bunch of technical jargon. Your pet is worth you being assertive and possibly having to step on a few toes to get the answers you need in selecting the right Vet.
Okay. This article could go on for several pages but I think you get our point. We certainly don’t believe that veterinarians premeditate irresponsible practices or intentionally and knowingly involve themselves in any kind of malpractice. That would be criminal. But we do believe many over-step their boundaries in order to maximize their profits at the expense of our beloved pets and our pocket books. So what should you take away from all this?
- If you begin to notice several of the above clues occurring with your Vet, this should raise red flags and cause you to "wonder" if you have the right Vet;
- Do your homework and equip yourself to make intelligent decisions with your puppy;
- Ask your Vet a lot of questions, it ususally doesn't cost extra;
- Don’t assume that your Vet has all the right answers. Many times they just make up answers if they don't have a good solid one to give you. A little research on the internet will help you get to the truth (but be thorough); and
- Most of all, remember that the phonebook and internet give you a lot of choices.