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Your thoughts - A trip to the vet shouldn't involve a scalping

Posted in Guest Blogger @ Feb 27th 2014 - By Various
Our Community

After reading Dr Belinda's blog post: A Veterinarian's Perpective - Rebuttal About Scalpings I sent an email out to Vetanswers members asking for their opinions and offering to publish their thoughts in a blog post......


My name is Kay, I have been a vet nurse in the same clinic for over 20 years, (yes it makes me sound old!!).  I really found this topic interesting, and since you’re asking for our opinions, I thought why not!

It really frustrates me how some clients dismiss the need for a dental, even if you show them photos and explain how much better off their pet would be with a scale and polish, and the rotten teeth pulled out.

In this case, there is a fairly intelligent young lady who has been told that her dog needs a dental procedure.  She has seen her father as a vet, do procedures YEARS ago by cracking the tartar off the teeth.  Well yes, this can be done in minor cases, but not many pets will let you do this, and quite frankly not all the tartar comes off.  What is she going to do when there is gingivitis, and what would have happened if the vet had accidently broken a tooth in the process?

To publicly criticize a vet I think is just wrong.  We all have overheads, often more than other businesses.  If only the people that complain had to pay our bills from our suppliers, I am sure they would see things differently then. I have seen the cost of ear drops increase  from $10 to $44 over the years, let alone the cost of anaesthetics!

I think her article deserved an answer.  She put in in there, surely she expected a response!

Unfortunately we can’t run a clinic if we don’t charge appropriately.  Also we don’t get government hand outs!!

Kay Challis,

Practice Manager, Kings Meadows Veterinary Clinic,

Thanks for bringing attention to Dr Belinda’s blog rebuttal.

The AVA has issued a media release today regarding this.

It makes me angry, frustrated and disheartened when I read articles such as this ill-informed rant.  I don’t drive a new car, my house is “average” to say the least and the bank owns more of it than I do, I’m lucky to get a 2 or 3 week holiday once a year and despite my years of training and decades of experience I take home less money each week than many unskilled workers in this country.  Yet still we are accused of being money grubbing low lifes who guilt owners into things they don’t need.  The general public has absolutely no idea of the overhead cost of operating a veterinary practice – my friends are usually flabbergasted when I start talking costs of equipment, licencing and regulation. 

It’s articles such as this that tempt me to throw my hands in the air and go get a job where I am paid appropriately and appreciated for what I do – like filling shelves at Coles.

Yours in disgust and disappointment

Leisa J Denaro BVSc

Lamington Terrace Veterinary Surgery

I have had a chance to contemplate my feelings on the recent “opinion” piece in the Herald Sun.

The important factor here is it was purely an opinion piece but it did rattle a few chains on both sides of the fence, thus given the author of the piece what all journalists crave – attention for their work. It created drama and then of course once trying to “clear the air” by allowing the AVA to say their piece – hey why bother letting the truth get in the way of a good bit of drama! I truly believe if the veterinary industry hadn’t done any rebuttals, it probably would have all gone away (maybe... although I understand the author claims to have received multiple contacts from people supposedly “ripped off” by vets); the old saying “one doth protest too much” rings in my ears.

Interestingly the other day on Vetanswers a piece was posted about using gory photos on veterinary posts to draw attention (The Power of Cute & "Ewww..." when Communicating with your Veterinary Clients). Basically it said “cute and cuddly is fine and does create attention but nothing creates attention like guts & gory detail!”  What it all boils down to is it seems to be human nature to focus on the negative – we all love a good “B…..” A good example is Facebook where people will often put up a seemingly innocent photo or video, only to have someone come along and pick something to criticise.

Just today I was reading an article about a US policeman that had charges of murder and undue force dropped against him, after he shot a man in self defence. It clearly was self defence, but the comments on the article had become an “anti-cop” tirade, labelling them all trigger happy thugs basically.

In the Veterinary world we deal with all sorts.  Who hasn’t groaned at the words “spare no expense”, thinking to yourself “yep that means I am not going to get paid” – but we go ahead and do the best we can for the patient, whist trying to keep our own losses down. Then again we may be just as pleasantly surprised when someone we least expected to pay does. We could see the same condition in five patients and we would have five different responses to the appropriate treatment. In the Herald Sun’s piece, the main issue involved a dental treatment.  I have had a client say to me “well the dog is still eating so it can't be all that bad, so I’m not going to fork out for a dental” while their dog had one of the most disgusting mouth’s I have ever seen and heavens knows how the poor thing was still eating. Sometimes I think people subconsciously think “well I can’t feel it so it doesn’t hurt” and since our animals are so good at using coping strategies we sometimes forget the fact that they are sentient beings.

My personal feeling with regards to people proclaiming that we “are only interested in the money” is that this is more a reflection on the person saying it than the person it is directed too. My partner runs a mechanical repair shop (yes, I know mechanic’s just like to rip people off!)  He had a very wealthy client that would come up with wonderful, extended and expensive projects, which at one stage became a full time occupation. Long story short, finances was always an issue, getting the client to pay on time or even the full amount was a challenge. And the client whilst constantly bemoaning how much his projects were costing, demanding “cost price”, arguing over GST payments, and self discounting invoices,  would accuse my partner of “always being about the money”. My partner finally realised it wasn’t worth his health, sanity and integrity to continue working with this particular client. 

I've experienced several service related industries and have found the "You're only in it for the money" accusation is heard in them all. The people that  make these accusations often only say it because a) they themselves are the ones that have an issue about money and b) it is a emotional blackmail of sorts so they can get you to back down and they get their own way. It is also perhaps an indication of the value that person places upon a certain object or life of the pet. I truly believe that deep, deep, DEEEEEP down people cannot get away from the fact that it “is just an animal”.

We have had clients tell us, “spare no expense, and do everything possible, as Jinxie is an important member of our family” but when we have done everything, saved the pets life, and the bill is handed over they say ” that's ridiculous, it’s just an animal, I don’t pay that much for my own health care”.

In Australia we like to blame the fact that people do not understand the true costs of health care because we have such a great public health system, but this exact same controversy actually happened recently in the USA with a so called “expose’” on the programme 20/20, and a well renowned veterinarian was completely misrepresented.

You cannot please all of the people all of the time.  Just yesterday we caught a blast from a disgruntled client because their dog developed kennel cough after boarding at a facility that has a very high incidence of KC, despite the dog being vaccinated one month earlier. In the clients eyes it was a vaccine failure and completely our fault and he should not have to pay for treatment. And the same day another client was upset because Dr Google told her she should treat her dog's symptoms while we were suggesting to wait until the blood results came back.  But she continued to search Dr Google and even took the dog to an emergency clinic in a state of panic claiming she had to turn to Google to work out what to treat her dog with. Surprise surprise the blood tests did indicate we were correct, not Dr Google!

Our days are filled with a wide and weird variety of people and personalities!

I now choose to look at the many wonderful clients we have that really don’t mind how much it costs because their pet is genuinely a very important part of the family.  The ones that say to you “that's much less than I expected are you sure it's right?” when you hand them the invoice. The ones that bring you chocolates, flowers, wine or whatever other gift they can think of simply because they appreciate what you have done. And the ones that bring you Christmas gifts even though you haven’t seen them for almost a year. They're the ones I choose to remember!

Gillian Shippen, Nurse Manager, Director Pets Need A Life Too

Thanks to all our contributors who took the time to share their thoughts with our community - we really appreciate your time.

If you would like to add your thoughts - it's not too late, we'd love to hear from you and you can just add them to the comments section below. 




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