Back To Practicing Medicine

In case you haven’t noticed, the veterinary profession is changing…dramatically.

In case you haven’t noticed, the veterinary profession is changing…dramatically. But then change is nothing new to us. It wasn’t that many years ago when dogs just died in the backyard of “old age,” because many conditions afflicting geriatric dogs were not diagnosed or treated.

Barn cats had a short lifespan because they didn’t receive immunizations and were exposed to a sometimes traumatic lifestyle. We’ve watched as more and more Americans have taken pets from outside their house, into their beds, literally, and become members of the family living in the house.

Veterinary medicine

Veterinary medicine followed suit, and we’ve been on an amazing journey thus far in what we can now diagnose and treat. However, the profession has still depended on the staples of veterinary medicine, and many veterinarians kept their practices growing by providing routine spays, neuters and vaccinations.

When I entered veterinary medicine nearly 20 years ago, there were some other “routine” surgeries that kept us profitable, including declaws, ear crops, tail docks and some vets even provided debarking on a routine basis. Now, society has taken the love of pets to a whole different level from the days of those yard dogs and barn cats, and it has become unethical to do some of these formerly routine surgeries. Who knew?

Along the way, we worked hard to teach our pet-owning clients that animals need round-the-year care to prevent illness and disease, in the form of vaccinations and preventive medications for parasites. We even surprised some folks who came to find out we were treating Fluffy with the same antibiotic that their daughter takes, or a steroid that they themselves take. They see this as a revolutionary advance in veterinary medicine!

Then, when they can buy those drugs for their human family members at a pharmacy for $4 a bottle, why should it surprise us that they get angry when they pay us four times that much for the same pills for Fluffy? While we’re trying to convince clients to administer preventives to their dogs and cats, some of these topicals are being sold by stores and online pharmacies.

If we want the best for pets in America, why should we care where they are buying their meds, as long as they are following our recommendations? An even bigger question may be on the horizon. I suspect it won’t be long that surgical methods of sterilization will become obsolete. What will our profession do then, rise up in arms against the company that produces the non-surgical product that will sterilize these animals?

I often have mixed feelings about issues affecting our profession, and sometimes I like to look at things from both sides to really get an all-around grasp at an issue. In the most recent AAHA NEWStat email, it was reported that Pet Med Express pulled out of NAVC 2012. They had decided to exhibit this year to demonstrate a commitment to working better with the veterinary profession. Yet NAVC received so many disparaging comments from our community, that Pet Med Express has since decided to pull out; this in the same year that NAVC is offering a panel for there to be an open discussion with Pet Med Express about their place in our profession.

Yes, we have to find ways to keep our doors open…but as we lose some of these age-old ways of making money on routine care for pets, we may find ourselves having to go back to the basics, and actually “practice medicine.” What does that mean for your practice?

(FYI, Rosy is holding her own...and is glad the holidays are over!)

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