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Letter to dvm360: The veterinary profession needs more practical standards of care

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Harsh penalties hurt lower-income clients.

The letter to the editor titled “A case for specialists in veterinary medicine” (June 2015) made some very good proposals for improving the quality of pet healthcare. However, the stark reality for many demographic locales is that the proposed approach is both impractical and unrealistic.

The personal property status of pets results in multiple options available to pet owners, including euthanasia. Therefore, companion animal practice will always be significantly different from the human medicine model and we should stop trying to emulate it.

Veterinary specialists, though definitely needed, should not expect to dominate their respective specialty as is the case in human medicine. Pet owners with limited budgets and no insurance deserve the opportunity to try to save their sick or injured pet even if the standards of care are compromised. As the article states, many specialists recognize this need and do offer courses for general practitioners to improve their professional abilities.

Any general practitioner with the intelligence to earn a DVM degree has the ability to learn special techniques and practice acumens that might interest them and benefit their clients' pets. The result is fewer patients euthanized, many more saved and better practice satisfaction, and our profession gains respect from this class of pet owners.

State boards of veterinary medicine need to better understand that veterinary practitioners have the right to inform clients of the inherent risks of lower levels of veterinary care and to document it. Current standards are greatly influenced by specialists. There should be constraints placed on penalties assessed, as the standards need more flexibility so they don't infringe on the personal property rights of pet owners. Rigid standards are also an affront to the ethics adhered to by compassionate veterinarians seeking to satisfy the needs of lower-income pet owners.

I strongly believe that state boards enforcing standards of care need to better recognize and appreciate the harsh realities of companion animal practice in an era of declining middle class income throughout America.

Brian E. Toivola, DVM

Hibbing, Minnesota 

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