Sneaky questions rescue volunteers ask veterinarians
They want to know they can trust the business-owning practitioner, and I understand.
I had a long talk with an animal rescue volunteer today. We were talking about joining forces with the common goal of helping pets. After a long conversation, it seemed to me she was trying to assess where I stood on many “hot animal topics,” with questions centering around veterinarians providing more for less.
Her litmus test for me revolved around two questions.
Question No. 1: “How do you feel about vaccinations?”
Veterinarians use yearly vaccines as a way to get people into the office, she argued, and thus we over-vaccinate. Was I offended by the question? No, I wasn't at all surprised by it. I explained that at my clinic, we use a three-year distemper combo vaccine and a three-year rabies after the first year. That's my official answer. I gave her what she wanted to hear, but it isn't the whole truth.
Why don't other veterinarians use three-year vaccines? Because I think they believe most people won't bring their pet in for an annual physical examination unless a vaccine is needed. For this reason, there are veterinary practices now offering “free for life vaccines.” (Read about one example at dvm360.com/freevaccines.) I believe the most important part of bringing a pet to us is in the exam room conversation and the things pet tell me in a physical exam. The value is in that yearly examination, not the vaccines.
I often want to remind those seeking free and discounted pet services that I spent four years in high school and another four years in college getting As so I could get into vet school. It was decades of grueling, stressful sacrifice. And, after all of that I'm asked and often expected to work for free, undermine my own business and feel guilty about every decision.
Question No. 2: “How do you feel about raw diets?”
Do I think that some people believe their pet benefits from a raw diet? Yes. But did they try other diets? Did they get a professional opinion? Did they see a nutritionist? I don't know of one person on a raw diet because an accredited veterinary expert recommended it. People really hate that answer, I know.
The animal rescue advocate went on to regurgitate the same misleading jargon I hear every day about therapeutic diets being inferior because the label starts with X ingredient or how it's really important that a diet be “grain-free” or “holistic” or “all natural.”
I think the volunteer was really asking me about my motives. Do I make money off of the drugs I sell and the food I sell? Yes. I use prescription food exactly the same way I use prescription drugs. But I don't care where you buy them. You can buy your drugs from me and from the human pharmacy-and the same goes for food.
Somewhere along the line the people who spent decades learning about how to help people take care of their pets lost credibility, and the advocates for pets became the outspoken but untrained.
I believe there was something deeply important at the heart of this mission-driven client's questions: Trust. Trust defines everything we do, everything we are, and everything we hope to become.
In conversations with animal care advocates, I don't get offended by questions, even ones that question my motives. In conversations with animal care advocates, I stick to the belief that helping each other is a group effort and that infighting divides us from our goal. And I don't want to be a part of the problem as I try to be a part of the solution.
Dr. Krista Magnifico owns seven-doctor Jarrettsville Veterinary Center in Jarrettsville, Maryland, and is founder of Pawbly.com.