IMG_4121The woman stared blankly at me, clipboard gripped in her hand.

“I will not hospitalize my dog,” I said adamantly.

Her face flushed, and she met my response with quiet frustration.

She wanted me to leave my dog in her care, and I had flatly refused.

Working to maintain her composure, she proceeded to explain to me the severity of my dog’s condition. She discussed with me the results of the blood panel she had run, and held up X-rays which told us that my dog suffered from “gas bloat” and that her Vena Cava was greatly depressed due to the pressure from her swollen stomach. My dog’s condition was life threatening, and the vet was recommending immediate treatment and hospitalization.

I acknowledged her attempts at convincing me to leave my dog, but as she argued her case, I heard her words through a filter.

“She’s critical,” she said, as my mind drifted back to the moment when the vet tech attempted to drag the 120 lb dog to the back by a slip lead around her throat; the moment my dog was nearly choked out as the tech pulled, knowing full well she was unable to walk; the moment that two of us had to step in to carry my dog to the back, despite the constant arguments that came from the callous employee.

“I will not hospitalize my dog,” I repeated as the doctor paused, awaiting my response after her dramatic appeal to my conscience. But a guilt trip wouldn’t work. Not this time.

“Ok,” she said. “I’ll prepare an estimate for both hospitalization and outpatient treatment.” And before I could argue, she exited the room.

I was exasperated with the woman’s pushiness and complete disregard for the fact that I had repeatedly declined hospitalization. I was unhappy with the care my dog had received thus far, and, confident she would be more comfortable on her own bed, I wanted to take her home. This was my dog, and ultimately, this was my choice.

You see, this wasn’t the first time we had been in this situation. And this wasn’t the first vet who had treated us poorly when we refused their recommendation.

In fact, my dog had a medical history. And we didn’t get her to age 13 (she’s a Great Dane) without knowing a thing or two about her care and what is best for her.

Kira suffered from a condition that caused her to periodically regurgitate her food or water, and aspirate the material into her lungs. When this happened, she required immediate medical intervention with fluids and antibiotics. Every time I took her into a new vet, I was met with the same guilt trip when I refused hospitalization. In fact, at times, I was quite literally met with threats that if I took my dog home with me, I’d surely kill her.

But she always recovered. And if you ever saw this giant chicken of a dog at the vet, you’d understand why whenever I felt like I was able to manage her care at home, I’d promptly assume the risks and minimize her time at the vet. Fueled by past experiences, I knew that the stress she would feel if I left her in a critical state at a vet’s office without me there to hold her paw would surely be the end of her.

Moments after the vet left the room, another tech entered, ready to present me with my estimate. He was pleasant, kind, and had a sense of humor. I liked him. And, while I understood why they chose him, I felt bad he was the one tasked with the job of getting customers to agree to clean out their pockets to save their beloved pets.

He presented me with the estimate for hospitalization. The figures printed on the stark white paper were vague and offered no insight into the treatment plan whatsoever. While I knew I was going to decline the estimate, I needed to fully understand their “ideal” plan of treatment, so I asked him to spell out each line item in detail.

I asked what “Laboratory Fees” meant. I wanted to know what tests they wanted to run and why. I asked what “Medications” meant, as I wanted to know what they planned to dispense and how. I wanted to know exactly what they planned to do and why it couldn’t be done at home. I then respectfully and kindly declined the estimate and informed him once again that I would not be hospitalizing my dog.

He did not have with him an estimate for outpatient therapy, like the vet had promised. Perhaps she thought I would feel enough guilt by now that I’d agree to subjecting my dog to the overbearing and unnecessary treatment. Perhaps she didn’t want to give me another option. Perhaps she had a quota to meet. Whatever the reason, my frustration mounted as I had to wait another 10 minutes for a second estimate, and my critically ill dog had to wait another 10 minutes for treatment.

The second estimate was equally vague. Again, I had the tech spell out each line item, and again, I found myself striking items from the list. But this one didn’t include hospitalization. And since all of the medications were to be given orally, and the only real reason they wanted to keep her was so that she could “stay on fluids and be monitored throughout the course of the night”, I knew I would be taking her home. She would be more comfortable there, and I could monitor her just as well, if not better than the callous techs at the vet hospital who thought it perfectly acceptable to drag dogs who couldn’t walk around by their necks. (Yes, I am STILL upset about that).

As I signed the second estimate, I noted the items I disagreed with, specifically the bloodwork that they had already run without my permission and that I wouldn’t have agreed to in the first place. The tech then informed me that the doctor wanted to speak with me again about my decision.

At this point, I was downright infuriated with the woman. Not only had the care I had witnessed my dog receive thus far left me with a very strong feeling of distrust, but I had told her multiple times I would not be hospitalizing my dog. Why wouldn’t she leave it alone?

She entered the room again. She was missing the clipboard this time, and as she bounced in, she reminded me of an elementary school straight A student proudly marching up to the teacher to tattle on one of her classmates.

We talked for quite sometime.

She cautioned me repeatedly that my dog could die if I took her home, and I explained that I would take my chances and that I thought she was better off with me.

“She could continue to decline…” she told me.

“Is she declining now?” I asked.

“No,” was the answer. She was stabilized. The vet simply wanted to keep her under her “watchful eye” in case anything were to change.

“If I were to leave her, would you administer medications orally or intravenously?” I asked.

“Orally,” was the answer. Something I could easily accomplish at home.

It was becoming more apparent with every word she uttered that I could easily manage my dog’s care at home and that, while I understood that an emergency could arise over the course of the night, I was 5 minutes from the hospital and I could bring her back.

As her pleading fell on deaf ears, she finally gave up, telling me to grab a cup of coffee and some OTC meds and come on back to pick up my girl.

My dog survived the night. In fact, she thrived.

The next evening at about 6pm, the phone rang. It was the emergency vet calling to check on my dog.

At first, her call seemed innocent.

She asked me how Kira was feeling, slightly subduing my irritation with her and her clinic as I became convinced she was genuinely concerned for my dog’s well being.

In fact, that morning, my dog had visited our family vet where we developed a treatment plan that had my dog showing drastic improvements. The woman on the phone listened to our good news for a brief moment. She then cut me off, stopping me mid-sentence and crushing my enthusiasm with her latest theory. She informed me that she had sent my X-rays out for a second opinion and that there was a concern that my dog suffered from Mesenteric Torsion. She then urged me to get to my vet immediately for X-rays and to prepare for surgery.

But my vet was closed, as most vets are after 6pm. So inevitably, I’d have to return to the emergency vet, had her words concerned me enough to take action. Why had she waited until so late in the day? To ensure that my family vet was closed when she called? Given our interaction the night before, I found myself questioning her intentions at every turn.

I hung up the phone, my irritation peaking all over again. My dog is a 13 year old Great Dane with heart issues. Even I, with my limited veterinary knowledge, knew that she would likely never survive a surgery.

But once again, the emergency vet had planted a seed of self doubt.

Immediately, I began to research. In these instances, Google is my friend. I had never heard of Mesenteric Torsion so I wanted to know what the fuss was about, and I wanted to prepare myself if this was in fact a valid diagnosis.

Moments into my research, the phone rang again. This time, it was my family vet, calling after hours to check in on Kira. Her tone was sincere, and she legitimately wanted to know how my dog was doing.

I unloaded the latest news on her, barely letting her get a word in edgewise, emotionally explaining the emergency vet’s concerns and blasting her with a thousand questions.  

“Meagan… ” she stopped me as I spoke, her voice calm and unwavering.

“If she had Mesenteric Torsion, she wouldn’t be improving,” she continued. “I really don’t think that’s what we are dealing with.”

I breathed a sigh of relief as she instantly soothed my worry, and I hung up the phone, confident once again in the treatment plan we had developed.

The Vets Know Best….Right?

Just like any profession, there are good vets and there are not so good vets. Having raised and trained dogs for nearly two decades, I can tell you without a doubt that the not so good vets outweigh the great ones by a landslide. The sad part about this is that, wittingly or unwittingly, veterinarians prey on the love that dog owners feel for their K9 family members. They understand that these four legged creatures have our hearts, leaving our decision making capabilities clouded by emotions.

Couple that with the fact that they are the “experts”, and we find ourselves signing away our paychecks in an effort to do what they tell us is best for our dogs.

But the question remains…  Is it really what’s best?

Sometimes hospitalization may not be the best call. Sometimes it’s your only hope. Sometimes surgery is your only option. And sometimes it’s just plain unnecessary.

At the end of the day, you know your dog better than anyone. Vets included. If you feel strongly about something, speak up and don’t be afraid to go against the grain, no matter how much resistance you are met with.

10665665_10204790233054602_4154905256324012772_nHere are my recommendations:

  • Speak Up – If you don’t know what an item is on an estimate, ask. If you don’t know what a test is for, make the vet explain it to you. Take a deep breath, and get your wits about you so that you can be informed when you make your decisions. Remember, these vets work for you so don’t let them rush you through the process.
  • Is It Necessary? – When a vet prescribes a medication or decides to run a specific test, ask yourself these questions:
    • Is this test or medication necessary?
    • How will it improve my dog’s condition? How will it help?
    • Will knowing the results of this test change my course of treatment?
    • Will my dog’s condition worsen without it?
  • When All Else Fails, Google It! – I’m a big advocate for knowing about every pill that enters your dog’s system and for understanding test results inside and out. For this reason, I strongly recommend doing your research. While the plethora of information available online can be overwhelming and can leave you self diagnosing your pet with anything and everything, I’d still encourage you to use the net to get informed. As you do, simply look up the facts so you can have an educated discussion with your vet. Understand the medications and test results, but don’t start jumping to conclusions until you’ve had a chance to talk it over with an expert.
  • Don’t Be Afraid To Say “No” – Again, you know your dog better than anyone. Don’t let vets, or anyone for that matter, guilt you into doing something you aren’t comfortable with. It’s your dog and your choice.
  • Build Your Team – Find a vet who you trust, a vet who listens and isn’t threatened when you ask questions. Align yourself with experts who will keep you informed and will listen when you advocate for your dog, and don’t be afraid to lean on them if an emergency strikes.

I knew my dog would be stressed at the hospital. I knew she would be happier at home. As she is older now, I am preparing myself (as best I can) for the fact that one day she won’t recover. When I take her home, I know I am taking a risk. But it’s a risk I am willing to take to ensure she has the best possible care in a loving place where she is comfortable.

Today, my dog is well. She is still a 13 year old Great Dane, but thanks to Google, OCD research by a worried dog mom, and a family vet who views our treatment protocol as a team effort as opposed to a guilt-inducing dictatorship designed only to empty my wallet, we’ve come to a diagnosis and developed a plan that has her improving daily and enjoying excellent quality of life.

At the end of the day, it isn’t okay for a vet to make you feel guilty for advocating for your dog. It’s unacceptable for them to treat you with anything but respect when you make a decision, even if it goes against what they are recommending. And it’s never okay for them to question your judgement. Remember, it’s your dog, and it’s your choice. You are your dog’s greatest advocate. Not the vet whose paychecks you write.

Meagan Karnes
Meagan Karnes

Meagan has been training dogs professionally since 2002, most recently working with private security, military and law enforcement to provide K9s for high level applications. She owns both The Collared Scholar, an online dog training academy, and 690 Security Services, a company that trains and deploys Executive Security and Protection K9s to private customers. She recently partnered with both Average Frog and SM Leaders, who repurpose the proven performance principles of the Navy SEALs for individuals and organizations.

    26 replies to "Your Dog, Your Choice – Advocating for your Dog at the Vet"

    • Robert

      Thoughtfully written and honestly to the point…Our dogs are OUR family, and we are theirs. Their care is our responsibility, our privilege, and sometimes, our sadness. But being with them thru these experiences is what’s best for them. They need our support emotionally and physically…

    • Simba

      Well written with great tips at the end

    • Leslie Nichols

      Thank you.

    • Julie C.

      Meagan, excellent post. One of my followers Jessica B. passed this on to me and I posted it on my FB page early this morning. The views are already over 1,000 and climbing. It has really hit a nerve with pet owners and guardians who often find themselves in vulnerable positions when dealing with, shall we say, aggressive, manipulative, ignorant, or deceitful BadVets. I know how difficult it is to make that decision to leave or not to leave my pets, and if I could go back in time there is one instance in particular that doing so cost my cat her life when a monster vet put her in an induction box and gassed her with halothane and nitrous oxide while she was in kidney failure, then shot her up with steroid and left her in a cage to die — all without bothering to notify me of ANY of the above. She died a week later after real vets tried so hard to save her but too late. Later, when Suki’s killer sued me for telling her story, I had three veterinarians including a testifying expert witness corroborate in writing and on the record, the irreversible damage this monstrous, lying vet had done. Your tips at the end of your post are spot on, and btw, vets HATE Google lol. We know it’s not a substitute for expert diagnosis, as you responsibly point out, but there is no way I am NOT researching what my pets have. Again, thank you for a excellently written post that I’m sure will make many people think, and ultimately reassure them that no matter what, it is always, ALWAYS our choice — OUR choice — as pet guardians. My choice was taken away from me by a deceitful, destructive “doctor” who thought he knew better than I. To this day he continues to lie, and lie, and lie. But I know the truth of what he did to Suki, and so does every good vet who has heard or read her story. Thank you. — Julie C., Founder, Veterinary Abuse Network, founded in memory of Suki the Cat. Read Suki’s Story.

      • Meagan Karnes

        Wow. Thank you so much for sharing the post and thank you for your words. I am SO VERY SORRY to hear about your experience and your loss. I can’t imagine how painful that must have been. And yes, I can tell you that I made many vets very mad with this post but I feel its important for people to know that not all vets are the experts they claim to be. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope more people see it and I hope we can spread the word and educate the public as to the right questions to ask and how to approach vets when an emergency arises. THANK YOU!

        • Julie C.

          You are welcome, Meaghan. ITA on helping to spread the word and educate people. That’s really what it’s all about. Be prepared. There is a particular BadVet who has tailed, stalked, bullied, libeled, slandered and done measurable damage to my reputation and livelihood both online and IRL who claims she has posted a comment to this blog. Her real initials are LB but she goes by several aliases. PM me if you want more information on her. She is whack and seems to pop up wherever I do to “set things straight” lol. This has been going on for a year and a half and my attorney knows who and where she is and we have a bunch of screenshots of her lies about me and other advocates. Just a heads up – she doesn’t give up until she has bullied every last being on earth who disagrees with her.

    • Griffen

      You might want to see what Shirley Koshi experienced at the hands of Julie C. If you disagree, you will be subjected to the same.

      I also ask you to consider the perspective from a veterinarian’s perspective. A dog that we do not know well is brought to us for help and is in critical shape. The owner declines all of our offered recommendations, believing the dog will do better at home. Yours did, and I am THANKFUL for you! But what you don’t see are the numerous times the pet either comes back the next day or to their reg vet in distress and dies. The frustration, sorrow, and guilt felt by the veterinarian shouldn’t be discounted either.

      It is always and absolutely your right to decline hospitalization…but please don’t pillory someone who is genuinely trying to help you and has probably seen that condition more than you have.

      • Meagan Karnes

        Thanks for your comment. It seems there is quite a conflict that I have no interest in being involved in. That being said, I absolutely agree that it must be heartwrenching for GOOD vets to see dogs suffer. I can’t imagine how hard that is. I could never pursue that profession simply because my emotions would more often than not get in the way. I do believe strongly that, to be a veterinarian requires a level of professionalism that seems to be lacking at times. Regardless of the pain or frustration a good vet MUST feel when they see a dog in a critical state, it is their duty in my opinion to provide support and understanding to pet owners in way not driven by their emotions. They need to treat their pet parents with respect. And sadly, sometimes that just plain doesn’t happen. When a loving pet owner watches their pet struggle, the pain is surreal and it is absolutely not the time for a veterinarian to make them feel worse for the decisions they choose. I LOVE my vets. And I hope my post and thoughts don’t come across as “anti-vet”, because I’m not. But I’m sure you can agree that in the sea of veterinarians out there, there are some great ones, and some not so great ones. My goal in this post is to empower dog owners and the decisions they make and help absolve them of the guilt that they feel when they are only trying to do what they believe in their heart is best. When a person’s heart is breaking, it is never acceptable for anyone, especially people who hold a position of power, to make them feel bad for the choices they are already struggling to make. I hope to encourage people to take a proactive approach in their dog’s care. To understand it and to align themselves with a team of vets and experts that they can trust, and that work to support them with education and kindness – not emotion, judgement, and guilt.

        • Griffen

          I understand where your viewpoint comes from, I just think humans are inherently good, they’re just ignorant. :-). In any case, hug your dane for me (I miss mine!) and I wish you guys continued health and happiness.

          • Meagan Karnes

            Agreed (about the inherently good part!). And THANK YOU. I like to think people always have good intentions. And my dane sends you a huge hug back 🙂

    • Regret A Vet

      Great article with great tips……THANK YOU!

    • Dana

      While I applaud you for your firm stance and knowledge of how to best care for your dog, I have to say that I would worry about others reading about your experience thinking, “I could do that too! I won’t ever hospitalize MY dog! Vets don’t know best!” Not everyone has your level of expertise, and I think that should be the very first sentence your readers read.

      • Meagan Karnes

        Thanks for your comment. I totally understand your worries. I definitely think people can interpret blog posts in a variety of ways that at times, stray from the intentions of the author. I hope through the post that I can empower people to advocate for their dogs, ask questions, and get themselves informed while promoting the understanding that at the end of the day, their dog is exactly that – their dog. If readers pay attention to the article read what is written (it is clearly stated that sometimes hospitalization is required), I think they’ll be clear in understanding that I’m simply encouraging them to ask questions and not to be afraid to say no if they disagree 🙂

      • An angry vet

        I 100% agree with Dana on how is article reads. I got the same impression she did.

    • An angry vet

      I want to make a comment from a vet’s perspective about this. As someone who has done emergency work, 99% of the population does NOT know how to care for their dog at home when they are very sick. They really have no clue. I am reminded of this every day at my job. When you go to an emergency vet that you have no relationship with and they don’t really know you, they have no choice at all but to err on the side of extreme caution. Are you aware of how many emergency vets have had to deal with complaints from their state board due to situations EXACTLY like you are describing because the dog went home and died? You have no clue what that process entails. I have lived that nightmare and wasted a lot of money and stress and time on it. Because of that, when I don’t know a client super well, I am more like the emergency vet in your story. I have to be. I won’t risk my license on someone’s feelings. I am almost $200,000 in debt from school. How do you suggest I pay that bill if I can’t work because a client who thought they knew better than me ignored my requests, took their dog home to die, then turned me into the board who sided with the client over some little loophole? This happens way more frequently than you think. The state veterinary board is not always there to protect vets, in many states they often side with the client no matter what. Again, I have lived a nightmare like this, and I will not do it again to spare someone’s feelings or because a dog is scared.

      Also, often day time & emergency vets are very, very busy. I don’t have time to write out each medication on an estimate and tell someone exactly what it does. I give a general idea of the treatment plan and often just put a miscellaneous charge on the estimate for meds because I need to move to the next client who is complaining that they have been waiting a whole 15 minutes already, or maybe I have a pet who is literally dying in the next room and that takes precedence. I can come back and calculate dosages, enter meds, etc, later on. I would suggest that nobody make such criticisms of a field they have never worked in. I too had this ideallic dream about the kind of doctor I would be, the things I would do, etc before I went to vet school. Then reality hit. And reality is not what you think it is based on your descriptions in this story.

      • Meagan Karnes

        It’s unfortunate that our society is so litigious. My vets always have me sign paperwork declining treatment and I know the risks I am assuming – those are my burdens to bear. However, I have to remain firm that it is ultimately my dog and my choice and I will continue to speak up when people attempt to take that choice from me under the guise that “they know better.” The story here is that there are excellent vets out there….I just left one. I’ve had spectacular experiences with Emergency Veterinarians as well. But I’ve also had some really bad experiences – this was one of them. I’m tired, I’m busy and I don’t have time are not excuses for poor bedside manner. Nor are the excuses that “I’ve been burned” by previous clients. I’m a trainer and I’ve been burned by past clients and employees more than you know. But I don’t make my current customers suffer for those experiences. At the end of the day, even when behavior becomes life and death and euthanasia is on the table, or people are put in dangerous situations because they don’t want to take my advice, it is their dog and their choice and I will ALWAYS be respectful of that and I will always be kind, regardless of whether or not I disagree.

        • Still an angry vet

          No, there is not an excuse for poor bedside manner. I 100% agree. But I didn’t read your article with the idea that, that was your main complaint.

          You seem to think it’s good you made a lot of vets “mad” with this. It’s not good. It shouldn’t be us vs. them. We should work together for pet health. But that is not how your article reads.

          Not writing all meds and what they are and what they do on an estimate is not poor bedside manner–it’s a time constraint thing. If someone asks, and the vast majority don’t, then I’ll always explain verbally.

          I’d take a step back and look at what your article is actually saying vs what you think it is. Based on the comments, I don’t think they are one and the same.

          I actually like when clients Google things. Some times we are totally on the same page when that happens. Some times I have to explain why some illness that Google said their pet had based on symptoms isn’t possible. All I ask is that people believe me and treat me like a human that has the educational & work experience to back it up.

          I hate the us vs them mentality. I think the most trashy, immature, ridiculous thing clients can do is go on social media after taking their pet to the doctor, and complain about the visit or results, etc and then name the business or vet! Because 90% of the time, they are wrong on their assumptions, all because the education isn’t there. But the damage this does it irreparable. Next thing you know, there’s 50 comments about how terrible that vet must be, about how the client should sue, etc. Total mob mentality. These people are ready to go after the vet with pitch forks.

          It’s absolutely appalling behavior. And I don’t see it happening to human doctors or nurses, at least with no where near the frequency. Our society has become so obsessed with our pets that we are putting them above people. It’s sickening. And I don’t have children, love my dogs to death, but I am not out of control obsessed with them.

          Just the other day, I had a client I saw nearly an entire year ago, call in angry with me because her almost 14 year old dog is dying of an old age disease that she thinks I missed a year ago on exam (not possible at all due to this particular disease’s very quick progression, but that’s another story). She was really just upset that her old dog was dying and she was taking it out on me. That’s out of control; our pets HAVE TO die, and they have to die of something. And to claim your 14 year old dog “isn’t really that old” and shouldn’t be dying, is delusional and a slap in the face to the owner of the three year old dog I just euthanized because it was dying of Lymphoma.

          • Meagan Karnes

            I think we all tend to read, interpret, and get triggered by things based on our past experiences. I can put out an article and it will be interpreted 200 different ways by 200 sets of eyes. There is a lot of emotion in your responses, along with a significant amount of talk of past experiences and even more reading between the lines of what I wrote. I’m sorry if you have had some run ins with some bad clients. I can see where that would alter your interpretation of my article. And I’m sure this vet didn’t love me either. While I never released the name of the hospital who gave me such horrid care, I stand by the fact that dog owners need to advocate for their dogs at the vet and I hope to give them the tools to do so.

            • AAV

              It’s called “experience in the field,” which is what is lacking in the general public. Which that makes sense, but then the general public shouldn’t talk or act like they are experienced, or make assumptions about WHY professionals do certain things.

              I know you didn’t name anyone which I thought was very classy, but many do.

              Sorry if I got off topic, but there’s a reason that vets have one of the highest suicide rates. I want people to see how their actions affect the profession. I don’t disagree on clients advocating for their pets at all. However, I also agree whole heartedly with the above commenter that this reads like people should refuse to hospitalize their dogs, based on notions such as “I know what is best for my dog.” Realistically, no, most people have no clue what is best.

              There were 7 people total who commented on this article. Three of us got the same impression. So 42%. I don’t think I’m reading between any lines 😉

            • Meagan Karnes

              I appreciate your comments and your thoughtful responses. I can only imagine how difficult your profession must be. I did re-read the article taking your perspective into account as I did, and despite the statistics of those that commented, as I didn’t say that people should refuse to hospitalize their dogs, nor was that the intention of the article in the least, I have to stand by my original statement that coming to that conclusion is a result of reading between the lines. Especially when I say things in the article like “Sometimes hospitalization is not the right call. Sometimes its your only hope.”

              And saying things like “you seem to think its good you made a lot of vets mad” or alluding to the fact that I don’t feel we should be working together for pet health (considering I clearly called out my awesome family vet who “views our treatment protocol as a team effort”) are further statements of assumption as both are grossly untrue.

              The point of the article was to expose some VERY bad care I received which was not limited to medications not being spelled out – the point there was to get people in the habit of asking questions – that was hardly a concern as there were far worse infractions that evening. I want folks to speak up when they aren’t comfortable with the plan their vets provide. I want them to ask questions. And if they make a decision, I don’t want them to let other people make them feel guilty about it. Ultimately, it’s their dog, and their choice. I’m sorry if that wasn’t how you interpreted it.

    • another vet

      I got the feeling that you were upset that you weren’t treated respectfully enough as an owner. And your feelings may be valid, but here’s the other side: when I see an owner who doesn’t want to follow my recommendations and I feel VERY strongly that that pet’s health or comfort may be in jeopardy because of it….well, my job is to be advocate for the PET, even if your feelings get hurt. If I feel there is needless suffering going on, you bet I’m gonna say something about it.
      I can’t stop you from doing what you’re going to do, in the end. And there are plenty of times that you will be right and I will be wrong. But I have to make my recommendations based on my best judgement at the time. Sometimes I think the “bad vet” label is being placed a little too quickly. We ARE only human, we DON’T know everything, but dammit we are trying.

      • Meagan Karnes

        Yes! Absolutely. I was absolutely upset that I wasn’t treated with respect. I can only imagine how difficult your job must be. I absolutely look at my vet for their recommendations. I WANT to hear them. And I WANT my vet to advocate for my pet’s well being (which includes not dragging my dog by a slip lead after being repeatedly told that she could not walk – not much advocating going on there!). But I also want to be free to make choices for my dog without feeling bullied. Advocating for a pet is one thing – being rude and disrespectful and treating a patient poorly is another. At the end of the day, I feel very strongly that it is my responsibility (and my responsibility alone) to make choices for my dogs. I look to my vets to help educate me in making those choices. I want us to work as a team towards the best solution. But in too many instances, that relationship has felt very one sided.

    • Ruth

      Absolutely spot on. While I think that it is very important to take into account the educations and experience a vet has in terms of the medical care and treatment of our pets it is also important to take into account the familiarity we have with our animals as well as any other relevant experience we as owners have. And I am grateful that I have found a vet I trust who also takes into account my own background and will discuss things in detail with me. He will offer different ideas about treatment and what options might be out there but he also respects that I will make my own decisions. One of the many things I also appreciate about where I live is that there is no such thing as an emergency vet out here (not that I have anything against them I just like that I get to have my regular vet for emergencies too). I just call their after hours number, talk to the call taker, and then the vet calls me back. Sure it’s a 45 minute drive to the vet and I am WELL aware that that could really really suck someday but thats where I live. And then my regular vet meets me at the clinic and we’ll take care of my dog. I like that.

    • Sandi

      So enjoyed your article. I am a 20 year dog breeder and have encountered my share of emergencies. While I am always thankful for the emergency clinic they, unfortunately, do not treat us nor our dogs with any kind of respect and do not encourage much trust. In the door – first question – what’s wrong and then where’s your credit card – no treatment unless you have one. NO, you cannot come back with your dog – you just have to pass them over and hope you have put them in the hands of a complete stranger that knows what they are doing. I have taught two vets at a clinic how to tube feed a puppy when I went for a problem. The bills from this clinic are more than double of any other clinic, even allowing for the fact that they have one vet and maybe two techs on during the night should not send the bill from $1,500 to $4,000. I have had friends who have lost their dog and were so traumatized because they could not be with them in their final moments. I now drive two hours to another emergency clinic in another city “if I have to” for far better care, more empathy and I feel more confident that my dog will get what they need. Sadly it seems to be a trend in the past couple of years, younger vets are not as well trained – they may know the clinical and trainable stuff but they sure don’t have empathy nor understanding. My friend took her old old dog into this emerg clinic because she knew he was dying. No pain but she wanted to make sure of that. The vet threatened to call the SPCA and have her charged with animal cruelty because she wanted to take her dog home to gently and quietly die in her arms. He did, about two hours after she got home, never woke up, he just settled in her arms and slept his way over the bridge. Unfortunately what she remembers the most out of that last night was this vet looming over her while she cried her eyes out threatening to call the SPCA.

    • Sandi

      Thank you.

    • Deanna Friel

      Yes! Absolutely. I was absolutely upset that I wasn’t treated with respect. I can only imagine how difficult your job must be. I absolutely look at my vet for their recommendations. I WANT to hear them.Thank you for sharing your blog. If you interested to know more information please visit

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