Top 5 Things to Not Say To Your Vet

Not if you want to have a decent working relationship with them, that is.

1. If you cared about animals, you’d do this for free.

Vets hear this, on average, once a day. Many vets, like myself, are employees of a facility with no more ability to negotiate the cost than any other employee. That would akin to asking the ER doc for a discount on the OR fees at the hospital- even if I wanted to, I can’t give my employer’s services away.

Expressing concern about the costs of a service is one thing- money is tight these days, and that is understood- but the guilt trip doesn’t do anything except make me feel frustrated and give me flashbacks to my childhood.

2. $700?? Doc Hannaford down the road does that surgery for $15 and a can of Pabst!

Price shopping a procedure can be a dicey proposition unless you really understand the difference between the two estimates. Some facilities perform spay surgeries with injectable anesthesia and minimal pain medication; others use inhalant anesthesia, aggressive pain management, and close surgical monitoring. Shopping a knee surgery? Is the surgeon a board certified veterinary surgeon or a general practitioner? Are we talking a TPLO, TTA, or extracapsular repair? Does the price include post-op care?

I am happy to explain to you why costs are what they are here. We have a high standard of care and the costs, sometimes, reflect that. If you want the $15 estimate, that is your decision, but I interviewed at Doc Hannaford’s once… and yes, you get what you pay for.

3. Why are you sticking a thermometer up my dog’s rear? What are you, some kind of sicko?

Apparently I am. Now if you can get the dog to hold this under his tongue for a minute, I’d be happy to take it that way. Otherwise, hold him still and let me get his temperature.

4. If you don’t give me what I want, I’ll sue!

This type of threat always makes my hair curl. I can’t believe anyone would think this is a good way to create a good, trusting relationship with a medical professional. Sure, you will probably get your way- once. And then you will get a nice form letter along with a copy of your records, wishing you luck with whatever future veterinarian you end up using, because it won’t be me.

5. This is ridiculous! These x-rays cost more than they do at my own doctor!

Perhaps, if you are talking about your out of pocket expense, this is true. But if you’ve ever gone through an Explanation of Benefits from a hospital and seen the original charges, I guarantee you, human medicine still takes the cake. One time I took my daughter to Urgent Care for vomiting and it cost $1000 for the office visit and a Zofran injection. With insurance, I paid $30.

And one bonus statement- this is probably the worst thing you could say to any vet:

Why didn’t you become a real doctor?

If you have a masochistic streak and like enduring lectures about med school and vet school admission criteria, write that down and ask it at your next visit. Or ask your dentist that, just before a filling. I bet they like that question too.

If any of you other vet- types out there have something to add to the list, lay it on me. I’m sure there’s more.

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  • I came across your blog from the saturday blog hop. This post made me laugh so hard! Im lucky my vet is a childhood friend who I trust 100%, he tells me stories of what people say to him like these top 5 things – it just cracks me up. Like the old saying goes… you get more bees with honey 🙂

  • Cathey

    As I’ve said here before, people who ask any professional (read: lots of years of expensive education so you really are smarter than me in this area) these questions, only proves that they are NOT smarter than the Vet/Dentist/Doctor, AND that they have no thought for their animal/son/daughter’s welfare. And if they feel like this they should have been smart enough to not get/have an animal/son/daughter!

  • wikith

    Well, what on the estimate do is reallly have to do?

    WTF, I don’t recommend this shit for MY health.

  • Wow do people really say those things? That is nuts. People should find a vet they trust and then do just that…TRUST them! As far as the expense goes, yeah the bills can be expensive and I don’t always get everything on the list done all the time, but I always talk it over respectfully with my vet and we work out the best plan for my dog together. As for the last comment, I’m sorry that anyone has ever said that to you. Your eduction, training and expertise helps our pets feel better!

  • I can’t believe people really say “become a real doctor”… that’s nuts. I worked at the CSU Vet Teaching HOspital, where I created the senior schedules for the 4th year vet students. I always said to them, “I can make your schedule, but NO WAY could I work your schedule.” Becoming a veterinarian is hard work, and no one should belittle that!

  • Angela

    I knew people were ignorant, but this still amazes me. I adore my vet and trust them 100% with our two pitbulls. These individuals need to be a bit more respectful and thankful that there are wonderful people who want to take care of their family pet. If they are not willing to pay the cost in order to keep their pets healthy…they do not deserve the love of an animal.

  • Kristie

    Great post! I’m sorry you have to put up with that, though. FWIW, I question my mechanic, but I’d NEVER question a medical professional.

    • Honestly, I don’t mind questions- questions are important to ask! It’s just when they are THESE questions that I get a little…well, you know. 😉

  • Wow! It’s hard to imagine people saying those things, but some people are just plain dumb. Sorry you have to put up with it. We love vets and what they do.

  • Spyder

    We took Xander in to look at a tumor on his ear. Dr Beachner thought it was a histiocytomma. We wanted it removed & checked. She said she would be right back with an estimate on what it would cost. We said: “Don’t bother. Let’s just schedule the surgery.” We trust her. BTW: the tumor was benign! Yea!

  • Dr. Sarah

    Bob over at Pet Shop X said X food is better for Fluffy’s allergies, so I don’t want to switch.

    My neighbor’s brother’s nephew’s third cousin twice removed said Fluffy is probably losing hair because of the spray we used on our sofa, so I don’t want to pay for a skin scrape.

  • Dr. Sarah

    Oh, and this one just happened last weekend: Gosh, she’s never had all these fleas until just now. She must have gotten them here!!!

  • Jenni

    I think this is a pretty short list of gripes. Try being on the other end. Try being a patient with a vet with no bedside manner and who sighs exasperatedly at questions. I, as a dog caregiver, have no access to price. I can’t shop around in any real way. When I decide that the meds that my vet is pushing is not what I want for my dog (for reasons as benign as the dog preferring a chewable to a tablet) I am told the vet has no obligation to sign off on the med of my choice. That’s funny, because I had every obligation to pay him the hundred bucks for the annual to get the script. Why didn’t he tell me that when we discussed meds? I don’t ask for price reductions, but not scheduling too many appointments would be nice. I do not relish the hour wait time. Don’t tell me my dog is being dramatic either. those shots hurt you butthead, don’t blame it on my dog as though I’m not going to realize you are just an ass who gives shots worse than your assistants. And wash your hands! I saw you pick up that poo in the hall and then come get us. And remember that the majority of people you see in a day do not make what you make. This does not make them bad people or bad pet owners but it does mean they have to budget for treatment and yes, you do have to explain why the generic meds that cost 40 dollars less really aren’t as good. If the list above is the best vets have to fuss about I suggest they spend some time on the other side of that relationship. Try it from our perspective, with no real information, no real options, at the mercy of the person in that little room be they the best or worst vet available.

    • m_d

      I strongly doubt this list encompasses all of Dr. V’s gripes when it comes to clients. It is only the top 5.

      Yes, there are definitely bad vets, and there are definitely bad vets with a poor bedside manner. Unfortunately, most people went into our profession because they liked animals better than humans. Go figure. As a result, an unfortunately large percentage of us have to work at people skills.

      But here’s the rub: if you don’t like me, you always have the option of going somewhere else. Conversely, I will bend over backwards to try to accommodate you because I want to help your animal. I don’t usually have options as to which clients I get; only in the worst of circumstances would I ask them to go elsewhere. However, when a client makes personal attacks on my character, it really defeats my ability to do the best job that I can. While [almost] everything you list is a valid gripe, not one of those is a personal attack. Every single one of those things could be dealt with by using questions and constructive criticism.

      And for the record, I did not make our schedule. I am not in charge of scheduling or anything administrative as I do not own the hospital.

      Don’t insult your vet. If you don’t like him, just go elsewhere. We worked hard to get here, and contrary to popular belief we do not make a lot of money, especially considering the amount we paid for our education. Our profession has an insanely high suicide rate, and it’s because it is not all roses as some people might picture. It is a stressful and frequently thankless job. Most of us give all we can to help, and yet we’re frequently accused of gouging clients and told we don’t know what we’re talking about, even after all the years we spent learning the intricacies of your animals.

  • Kim

    I wish I trusted my docs with our health as much as I trusted our vets with our pets’ health! I’d love for my doc to be able to figure out that if I whine for no reason, refuse to tell him/her that I don’t feel good, and just don’t act “right”, that means a UTI. 😉

  • Liz

    I can’t believe people would actually say this to their vets! Please take comfort in the fact that most (i hope most!) loving pet parents are unendingly grateful to their vets for being there and able to help and some of our most stressful moments!

  • Deanna

    Wow, I’m a poor person, and I would NEVER say anything like that to my vet.. I respect what vets do so much, I can only imagine how difficult it can be (dealing with the STUPID PET OWNERS).
    Ughh. When I was a kid I wanted to be a vet, and my dad said “Don’t be a vet, being a human doctor is easier, there’s only male and female humans, never mind how many animals there are! Plus you know, humans can tell you where it hurts.” After that I was like damn, thanks for crushing my dreams DAD. (As I got older, I also realised there is the whole “you can’t save every animal” problem with being a vet, and I cry when fish die.)

  • When I was a nurse in a walk-in clinic I head the “I’ll sue if I don’t get my way”, on a regular basis. It usually came from someone wanting narcotics. It happened so often that we had all gotten to the point where we would chuckle and tell the person to feel free to try. I am lucky to have a mutually respectful relationship with all my vets. I would never say any of those things to them.

  • Kate

    WOW. I am totally and completely floored that people have the audacity to say these things. Work for free? Really?! Good grief…..

  • How about, What do you mean you won’t give me medication for my cat with worms, dog with ear mites, or insert pet here with insert ailment here unless the docter EXAMINES them first. You just want to make an extra buck! No kind sir, it’s called good medicine. If we DIDN’T examine your pet and the medication caused further problems we would be liable. ~sigh~ Or this one from the other day: My dog NEVER (in it’s whole life) had fleas before coming here!

  • k

    I think these relationships go both ways. And-there are jerks on both ends of the equation in all professions. Sadly, it’s the client you do the most for and give the deepest discounts to that often are most likely to file an unfounded ethics complaint and accompanying vexatious nuisance suit. I have switched docs- human and veterinary-for poor rapport with my personal needs. Let’s be honest- most of know when we are being jerks and going over the line. Doctors need patience dealing with patients (ha ha) and patients need to remember docs are people too, who have skills and knowledge we need to rely upon. NO one likes to be insulted and belittled. What you don’t know is that Dr. V has received honors for her outstanding customer service skills…soooo if she’s annoyed, someone is really working hard it.

  • JaneK

    Yea…..people are idiots and just want what they want, how the want it and want it for free! if you don’t like your vet…..switch…..don’t keep berating them with stupid questions. Although as some people have pointed out, some people do have sincere questions and ask them courteously and get curt, non-caring answers back. My old vet kept telling me my dog needed to lose weight. I did not disagree but he would only recommend one food that my dog didn’t like. At 12 years old, I was not going to lock him up at the vet for 2 weeks while he learned to like the food. Give me another option…….he didn’t and was rude… I left and have a wonderful vet who will discuss options when some treatment plan does not seem to be a good fit with my animals. Or he will explain why it is the only option. It’s all about respect from both sides!

  • Melissa

    Just wanted to say that I LOVE this post. 100% true.

  • Pikachu

    Wow , awsome post but oh so true 🙂 Sometimes people have no idea.

  • AAAAHHHHH! You are quite correct! Today I had a phone call from a lady who was most upset that I couldn’t just do the vaccines without the examination for her dog “I have NEVER done that! I always just go to Petco.” So, the point being is that the lady has never developed a relationship with a veterinarian to learn more about how to care for her pet but stuffs vaccines into the dog annually thinking that’s all she needs to do. Oh! Also, …..”I don’t want a house call I just want the shots!” Okey dokey, so why did you call my house call practice exactly? All I can think of now is an old decrepit something with disgusting oral health being held out for vaccinations year after year to a Petco Vaccine Clinic Hack. Blech! It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

    • *snap snap* Come on, lady! 2 parvo vaccines and a scone and make it quick!
      I would have thought the type of person who goes to a Petco clinic and the type who uses a house call practice would be polar opposites…guess not!

  • Natalie

    But what if we have no other option? What if the only other vet is a 45 mile drive from my house? Yep, we chose that option. We make the drive for annual visits, etc.

    The local vet has a vicious bedside manner. I even recently spoke to his front desk/office manager, who told me that she’s trying REALLY hard to get him to learn how to be polite to customers, because they’ve lost so much biz over his attitude. Please tell me, vets out there, why it is that I am an idiot and a horrible mom to ask why the $400 xray is necessary to tell me my puppy has pneumonia, when I already told you she tripped and fell into the cold water on the riverbank, choked on some water, was shivering for 30 minutes while I tried to get her warm (poor baby, we were out in the middle of nowhere and all I could do was carry her back to the car in my coat!), and 2 days later she’s coughing up a lung, is weak and lethargic.

    Come on, after that history you’re really going to tell me that we STILL need to do the xray to see whether she has pneumonia? REALLY? At the time, I was a scared 20-yr old who felt like a bad mom anyways for letting my girl get too close to the water. So I didn’t say anything like the above, but I still was confused over why the xray was necessary. I mean, what else could it have been? And for you to then say to me, “Well, it’s your dog. If you want her to die because she doesn’t get the medications she needs…” THAT is totally uncalled for, you *******. I left his office that day holding back tears, out $400 for a “duh” procedure, and have never been back.

    Horrible, horrible day.

    • m_d

      That is a very tough situation. The problem that vets face when we want to do diagnostics is that if we don’t do them and the animal turns out to have an entirely different problem that we missed and we are not treating, then it is a) bad medicine and b) a possible source of liability for us. There are times when it is appropriate to treat something empirically, but especially when an antibiotic course is involved we really need to nail down exactly where the problem is so we don’t indiscriminately treat something that doesn’t exist.

      Regarding the X-rays, they will tell us more than whether they have pneumonia. They tell us whether there is potentially a viral component to it or whether it is purely bacterial, whether it is a simple case of aspiration or whether kennel cough might be involved, which will affect our choices for treatment. They will tell us whether your animal is only coughing because of a case of tracheitis, or whether the lungs are truly affected. They will also tell you whether there is any heart involvement. All these things guide the decisions we make about treatment so that we don’t give you a lot of inappropriate therapies that are not going to help. There are quite a few reasons why an X-ray is really important when diagnosing a pneumonia case, but your vet should have explained them to you.

      It is very unfortunate that he made you feel so badly, but I will agree that doing that diagnostic is very appropriate. I have watched my own mother (who lives 1300 miles away from me) go through vets like candy trying to find one that she likes, and it can be very tough for people sometimes. I have found that our bedside manner accounts for probably 95% of whether we are perceived as good doctors or not, and the other 5% is only what quality of medicine we’re practicing. People frequently perceive us as good doctors by how well we communicate with them, not how good we are at the medicine itself.

    • With the history of falling in the water and near-drowning, the x-rays help tell if you have aspiration pneumonia and neurogenic edema from near-drowning, or just aspiration pneumonia, both of which are bad, but together, much, much worse.
      Also, the x-rays help tell if you are reasonably safe taking your pup home with oral medications vs thousands of dollars in intensive care in the pet hospital. Think of the $400 as ICU-avoidance testing.
      I’m sorry you had such a hard time with your veterinarian making you feel like crap. I feel it is our duty, as the health-care professionals, to meet you far more than half way and to understand how frightened and mis-behaved you might be in the emergency room. Many, many people have apologized to me for their over-the-top behavior when they are stressed out and their pet is sick. I appreciate the apology, even though most of the time, they really weren’t being that over-the-top!
      The guy that took a swing at me because the groomer said I misdiagnosed his daughter’s dog and made his daughter “look bad” in front of her friends….that guy got disinvited to the hospital by a friendly police officer. Plus, his daughter apologized to me the next day. Some people really are too much…

  • Celtic_Maenad

    This is the funniest thing I have seen yet, and fits right along with that last gripe: “why didn’t you become a real doctor?”

  • TimidDog

    Okay, I’d really never ask WHY you have to stick that thermometer there. But I have to wonder, when there have been soooo many medical advances the last few years, couldn’t some inventor come up with better way? My big timid girl’s tail was broken before she joined our family and not only does she hate having it messed with, the angle it’s broken at makes it really hard to move out of the way for, umm, access.