April 2016 Issue: Letters to the Editor

Viewpoints from Veterinary Practice News readers.

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Hybrids, Mixed Breeds, Blends and Purebreds

When I read that “hybrid is defined as the progeny of two purebred dogs” [“When breeds cross, hybrid dogs appear,” January 2016], I had to check the cover of your publication to make sure that I was reading a professional publication called Veterinary Practice News and not some lay press pet magazine of puppy photos and feel-good dog stories. 

Our clients already are confused enough about the definition of purebred, crossbred, mixed breed and mutt without muddying the waters further by making up new definitions to words that already have long-standing scientific meanings. A hybrid is the progeny of two different species. 

Dog breeds are artificial constructs from selective breeding directed by humans. As a veterinarian, I have my personal reservations about the wisdom of selective breeding and its impact on the overall health of purebred animals, but I do know that breeders work to select across many generations to produce the breed traits desired, a process that is regulated by breed associations and peer reviewed through judging and showing. Some breed associations have been on the forefront of developing tests to reveal genetic disorders in order to remove the carriers from breeding stock and make their breeds healthier.

Now poor deluded owners are paying thousands of dollars for mixed-breed dogs of little or no pedigree and no breeding selection beyond the breed of their immediate parents. Apparently these thousands of dollars pay for the cachet of cutesy, made-up names: puggle, chiweenie, schnoodle and the fabricated names in your article. These dogs may be lovable pets, but they are not hybrids; they are not the result of generations of selective breeding, and they are not intrinsically worth more money than any mutt from the local shelter.

I’m surprised to see Veterinary Practice News promoting this scam by running an article spotlighting cross-breed dog branding and marketing. America still euthanizes 3 million unwanted dogs a year. It’s a shame when a publication touts cross-breed dogs and calls them by further made-up names like hybrid.

Cross breeds are no more hybrids than mixed breeds are blends (another made-up, anti-science term for “mixed breed” that is current in the pop press).

I’m reminded of the old joke attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have? Four, because calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.”

— Chari Wessel, DVM, San Diego 

Another Price Strategy 

The client’s reluctance to pay for the histopathology was well addressed in “To biopsy or not biopsy?” [Surgical Insights, February 2016]. Unfortunately, Dr. Phil Zeltzman gave only two options. Here is a third option you overlooked or perhaps were afraid to offer that, as someone in the article stated, “Let[s] the customer win so you win.”

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When the owner gave authorization to remove the tumor, I’m sure a price quote was given. Instead of giving an exact number, give a broad range that would include the histopathology cost. If the owner wants the histopath, then the surgery fee at the time of discharge would be the low range. If she opts against histopathology, then the higher fee is assessed and the tumor is sent to the laboratory anyway.

Upon receiving the results, call the owner and tell her that out of the goodness of your heart and the need to know you sent it to the laboratory at no charge. The end result will be a “customer that wins so you win.” The only exception would be if the client said she did not want to know the result in case it turns out to be bad news.

It may not be 100 percent honest, but it is in the best interest of the patient, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of my colleagues already are doing this.

— Alan W. Garett, DVM, Corpus Christi, Texas 

Call During Procedure 

I read with great interest “Improve the dental discharge experience” [Business Builder, February 2016]. Wendy S. Meyers outlined the dental visit, including the appointment phone call, the intake discussion and the conversation reviewing exam findings and home care suggestions.

In most animal hospitals in our country, dogs and cats are presented for dental care because of bad breath. Teeth are cleaned and in some cases diagnostics such as dental probing and X-rays are done.

Bad breath comes from pathology in the mouth. Wendy’s article rightfully reviewed some of the steps but not the most important step of the entire process: doing something with the exam findings.

In essence, that is the key to make a meaningful long-term benefit—treating what is seen.

Our clients need to understand that more than teeth cleaning and polishing is being performed. There is a reason for the halitosis in their dogs and cats that must be found and cared for either while the animal is anesthetized or at a later visit, which, unfortunately for all, often does not happen.

What works well is setting expectations in the client’s mind that the veterinarian will call during the procedure with diagnostic results once all the teeth have been evaluated one by one visually with a probe and dental radiographs. The veterinarian will make recommendations that may include application of a local antimicrobial or an extraction. The veterinarian also will discuss benefits and adverse effects if pathology found is not treated.

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In our office, we have found the easiest way to accomplish this is to advise the pet owner to give us a phone call at a predetermined time when we will have the information needed. We have the owner’s cell phone numbers to make sure contact is made. We also can send smart-phone images to the client as well as PDFs to review while the pet is anesthetized, if needed.

The 2013 AAHA Dental Guidelines for Dogs and Cats summarized it best: “If additional procedures are to be performed, discuss the diagnostic plan, including how decisions will be made and what additional therapies may be recommended based on further evaluations and fees involved. Emphasize to the client that this is a two-step process: first the patient assessment followed by the treatment plan, which has been based on a tooth-by-tooth examination with the patient under general anesthesia. Because studies clearly have demonstrated that much of the pathology present cannot be appreciated until dental radio-graphs are taken and assessed, have protocols in place within the practice to give clients ample time to make an informed decision on how they want the practice to proceed with the proposed treatment plan.”

I applaud your magazine for including Wendy’s client communication articles and look forward to reading more of her work.

— Jan Bellows, DVM, Dipl. AVDC, Dipl. ABVP 

Dr. Bellows practices at All Pets Dental in Weston, Fla., and is president of the Foundation for Veterinary Dentistry. 

It’s OK to Disagree 

I was so glad to read Dr. Marty Becker unapologetically speaking of God and God’s work in healing our patients. I want to comment on the letter to the editor from Dr. K-L Thomas from Waterloo, Canada [“Leave God out of treatment plan,” Viewpoint, March 2016].

I think for too long Christians and those who believe in God have been silenced in fear of offending others. Oppression begins with fear. I do not think Dr. Becker was using his fame to offend Dr. Thomas any more than veterinarians who believe in (and write about) Western medicine are trying to offend those who practice (and write about) Eastern medicine. In this country we are free to speak our hearts and write about our ideals.

The other thing we forget in our rush to silence those who offend us is that it is OK to disagree. The United States was founded on “God-given” rights. Our entire financial system is based on “In God we trust.” And yet, from Dr. Thomas’ perspective we are not allowed to engage our clients with faith?

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Notice that Dr. Becker does not suggest oppression or lack of compassion for any client with different beliefs. It is about opening a dialog. It is a sensitive dialog, and it is a responsibility that most veterinarians I know take very seriously. Dr. Becker likely wrestled with himself over the one client in 5,000 who was offended, as we all carry the memory of that once very special patient we lost.

As medical professionals we are leaders in our communities. People look to us for guidance, and I would submit that if we are “taking the lead from our clients” then we may be following slippery slopes in some situations.

Instead, I believe that we build our practices around our own moral and ethical standards and beliefs. Our clients and staff will choose to be with us for that very reason. Consider that they may be led in a direction of faith they had never before known.

Clients might find comfort in words that speak to their heart (especially recognizing that the majority of Americans believe in God). If clients find that philosophically they prefer a different perspective, they have the choice to follow another path or continue the dialog. Maybe that one conversation is the seed that client needs to ask questions, find solace or even believe.

— Blair Hollowell, DVM, Virginia Beach, Va. 

Proof is in Front of Us 

I am sorry that Dr. David Ackerman feels the way he does [“Too much focus on God,” Viewpoint, March 2016]. Perhaps he only works with one species. Many of us who work with multiple species see evidence of design in the wonder of tissue development and the diversity of organ systems in the different species.

I have attempted to share my thoughts on animals and man in my book “Kind Provision: A Fresh Perspective on Animals, Humans and Animal Rights.” My hope in researching and writing the book was to encourage those of faith to look at the creatures entrusted to our care as specifically designed creatures of a loving God.

I believe that this knowledge enables us to fully understand our calling with respect to both the animals we treat and the clients we serve.

Peter Winn Martin, DVM, Hinesville, Ga. 

WHAT DO YOU think?

Letters to the editor on anything published in Veterinary Practice News or on any other veterinary topic may be emailed to Ken Niedziela at kniedziela@luminamedia.com  or mailed to Ken Niedziela, Veterinary Practice News, 2030 Main St., Suite 1400, Irvine, CA 92614. 

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