The miraculous mess of veterinary medicine

June 1, 2019
Michael Nappier, DVM, DABVP
Michael Nappier, DVM, DABVP

Michael Nappier is assistant professor of community practice in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Have we done ourselves a disservice by shielding veterinary clients from the amount of blood, sweat and tears involved in keeping their pets healthy?

chalabala/stock.adobe.comWe live in an age of general complacency where the miracles of modern medicine don't seem miraculous anymore. From antivaxxers to science deniers to celebrities who peddle snake oil cures to shove into various bodily orifices, we are surrounded by public distrust or perhaps a simple lack of societal memory of the terrors of illnesses vanquished in previous generations.

As veterinary professionals, we come face to face with this complacency when listening to our clients refuse potentially life-saving preventive care for their pets. Whether due to apathy or the vehement belief that we are in the business of pushing poisons, it's our patients who pay the price.

This may be our reality, but it doesn't mean we have to sit idly by while our profession is thrown into suspicion. And that's why I'm asking myself the following question: How can we connect with our clients to make the mundane seem miraculous again?

There may not be a perfect answer, but my suggestion is that it's time to retreat from our sparkling depictions of veterinary medicine to reveal some of its rough edges. We've done a lot to sanitize what we do to make it more palatable to the outside world, portraying veterinary medicine as a clean, calculated endeavor. Unfortunately, we've been so successful that some of our clients have forgotten how much blood, sweat and tears (not to mention urine and feces) are involved in keeping their pets healthy. 

So how do we go about roughening veterinary medicine's image? It's not all cute, happy puppies and kittens, so simply pull back the curtain to show what it's really like.

Show the puppy with canine parvovirus in isolation. Show the kittens with upper respiratory viruses. Show the rotten teeth and necrotic tumors. Show it all. Find ways to let your clients see what goes on behind exam room doors and in treatment areas. Let them see you hard at work. Let them see how much you care. Let them see what it's really like. Let them see the miraculous mess of veterinary medicine.

Dr. Michael Nappier is assistant professor of community practice in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, Virginia.