In May, 2012, Reader’s Digest did an article title “50 Secrets Your Vet Won’t Tell You”. This is my analysis of that article both generally and specifically. If you are not familiar with the 50 “secrets” I have included the veterinary comments minus the peoples’ names who made them as they weren’t pertinent to the discussion except where I bring it up (I’m looking at you “anonymous California vet”). Interestingly, since I did this analysis originally, Reader’s Digest has modified the article quite a bit and I cannot find it in it first incarnation. This Reader’s Digest page, however, softens a lot of the original’s extremism.
First off, way to sell more magazines by putting an inflammatory title that negatively affects our profession! Aw, crud, I bought a copy too so I could write about it! Shoot! It works. This “article” is just lazy journalism. Go get quotes from veterinarians and veterinary technicians and slap them together under a misleading title. And, by the way, eighteen vets and vet techs do not make a cohesive group on which everyone in the veterinary profession will agree. Again: lazy. And, vet techs? You were short-changed as there were only two of you represented as opposed to 16 veterinarians. In the opening paragraph I did appreciate the honesty in this phrase: “Does calling the office every hour for a status report make us good pet owners – or a nightmare? (Well, maybe we don’t care, actually.)” That’s a client writing the article right there. I’m sure they don’t care if they’re being disruptive. I wonder if they’d care if some other client was calling up and interfering in the time spent caring on their own animal? What do they think is happening if you’re calling every hour? It’s taking someone away from doing their job. Maybe you should care.
All right. To the list. It must first be said that the title is so wrong for this article it is laughable. It makes me wonder what the vets and vet techs were asked in order to elicit the comments used here. I would be curious to see the comments that weren’t included also. Did the respondents not understand the question posed? The question was about secrets right? Maybe they didn’t have any secrets, but felt compelled to say something. You’ll see what I mean.
1. “The dogs that scare me most are the little Chihuahuas.” Little dogs scare you more? No, large ones are scarier because they can do more damage. Little dogs are certainly more prone to bite, I’ll give you that, but still – not a secret. More like an opinion or maybe even a hang up.
2. “We know when you’re twisting the facts.” Knowing when a client is not being truthful? Yep. I like this one, because it’s true. It’s really only a secret though because we don’t call them on it.
3. “Most hospitals keep comprehensive records of behavior – of both your pet and you!” Keeping track of a client’s behavior as well? Also, true and, yes, a “secret” in every medical profession.
4. “Looking for a way to say thank you to your vet? Last year, one pet owner gave us a check for $100, saying we could use it at our discretion for an animal in need.” This is just an anecdote, not a secret. Also, I don’t understand how giving money toward someone else’s animal’s need is a thank you to the vet. It’s like going to a friend’s house party and giving a gift to your friend’s neighbor instead of the friend. It’s nice, but the thank you is enough, because it so rarely happens anyway. Notice even that the most recent memory of a thank you with this respondent was from a year ago.
5. “The reason your pet is fat is because you are fat too.” This one’s just mean. Overweight pets have many different variables as to why they are that way, many of which can be laid at the foot of the owners, but not just because the owner may be fat too.
6. “We’re a vet hospital, not a dog hotel. People will get upset because their dog got a sheet instead of two fluffy blankets or because their dog didn’t get hand-fed. We’re just trying to get your dog better so he can come home and you can spoil him.” Not really a secret – more of a statement about owner psychology, perception, whims, and ignorance.
7. “Here’s a pet peeve: owners who don’t want to pay for diagnostic tests but then cop an attitude because you don’t know whats wrong with the animal. Since you wouldn’t let me do the blood work or X-rays, how the heck do you expect me to know?” As this vet says, this is a pet peeve. Not a secret. More akin to what I said for number six above.
8. “If you’re visiting your pet in the hospital, and we say something along the lines of ‘OK, it’s time to let Fluffy sleep now,’ often what we really mean is that you’re in our way, and we’re trying to treat other patients.” Maybe at your place you mean something different, but we say it to mean Fluffy needs to rest now. Again, not a secret, just a tactic. Unless it’s a secret to use discretion and politeness instead of bluntness. Seems more like manners to me.
9. “I understand the value of dog parks, but I personally wouldn’t take my dog there. We see a lot of dogs who were injured at dog parks.” This is a secret about dog parks? Why aren’t you telling people this? I do.
10. “Every time I save a life, every time I fix a patient, that makes everything worth it. And I love it when a client says, “I wish my physician would treat me as nice as you treat my pets.” Not a secret. I would hope. Why wouldn’t people just assume we feel good about doing a good job? Though I do hear that sentence a lot about us being better in treating pets than physicians are with people. And still, clients don’t seem to give us due respect and credit.
11. “A lot of veterinarians have told me matter-of-factly that they still don’t use pain killers for procedures that they know are painful. They think that dogs and cats don’t need it, or that feeling pain after surgery is good because it keeps them from moving around too much. But research has shown that pets who are in less pain heal faster, sleep better, and don’t move around as much.” Not a secret. More of an opinion and judgment about other vets.
12. “At a veterinary meeting I attended, it came to light that more than half of the vets there had not licensed their dogs, which is required by law.” Someone in the veterinary field not licensing their pet is a secret? Whether you are or not, it really isn’t a client’s business is it? So, yes, maybe a secret.
13. “You should never give pets chocolate, because its toxic to most of them. But my cat is obsessed with it and is all over me when I’m eating it, so sometimes I give her a sliver. Just an itsy-bitsy, tiny one.” Ugh. Really? Yes, if I were you I would keep this a secret. Any time you’re doing things wrong that you then lecture owners they shouldn’t be doing, you should probably keep that secret. I hope revealing this secret of yours doesn’t make clients figure they don’t have to listen to a vet’s advice. Oh, wait. They already don’t listen. Keep track of this “anonymous vet in California’s” comments – they add up.
14. “Every time we help a pet, we help a person. The classic example is the 80-year-old grandma who has nothing left in life but her cat. She’s a widow with very limited social contact, and the cat is what connects her to life. So when we help her cat, she’s really the one we are helping.” Not a secret. Helping a person when we help a pet. Pretty obvious. In fact, I would go as far as to say, “Duh!”
15. “When people surrender their pets because they can’t afford their problems, I often end up with them. I’ve got a three legged cat, a one eyed cat, three dogs that required major surgeries, one goat, and 11 chickens.” Oh, god. This is a personal problem and not much of a secret because at least 17 clients have pulled this on this vet (by counting the number of animals admitted to here). Also, let’s make sure we underscore to any clients reading this Reader’s Digest article that if you can’t afford something with your pet, don’t worry. Just give your animal to the vet. Problem solved!
Go to part 2