Thursday, March 13, 2014

The dark side

I thought a lot about whether or not to post this.  But in end, I decided it needed to be said.  As a disclaimer this is not to garner sympathy or express any regrets about my career choice (I may not make the same decision if I had to do it over again, but that's different than regret).  Anyway...

I have, to be very blunt, killed a number of beloved pets while family members stand around me with tears streaming down their face.

I have given bad news to virtual strangers.

I have told people their pet has cancer, that it's organs are failing, that they are too badly injured or sick to help.

I have had to call people and tell them their pet died.  Sometimes it was expected, sometimes not.  Do you know what it's like to make that phone call?  Probably not.  And you are lucky.

Like most veterinarians I spent a large amount of time and money on my education.  Like most veterinarians I am still paying for it.  Some will spend their entire career paying for it.  And these are the things we get to do.  How many people pay to enter a careeer that takes this much of an emotional toll?  

Most of us attend veterinary school with the idea of helping pets live better, longer lives.  And yet every day I see pets go home with less than optimal treatment, untreated chornic diseases, and limited preventive care.  Do you know how many times I write "owner declined" in a day?  Do you know how worthwhile that makes all those long nights of studying seem?  The holidays I missed with my family? The disrupted evenings at home with my spouce?

There isn't one of us who hasn't seen puppies die.  Or kittens.  Or animal abuse or neglect.  Again, what kind of person chooses this for their life?  Veterinarians, as a whole are, people who love animals.  People who are willing to live with the day to day sadness in order to try and provide quality care for pets.  

And there are certainly plenty of people who do take good care of their pets, who appreciate their veterinarian, and many more happy stories than sad.  But there are still days where it's downright depressing to think about all the time and money we spent in school just so that people can disregard science in favor of what they learned on some angry and fear based internet site or facebook post.  I will grant you that there are some veterinarians who are lazy, greedy, or out-dated.  But if you don't trust your vet, find another one. We are largely people who want what is best for animals.  I think the above examples should illustrate that no one who didn't want to help pets would stay in this career, or even get started in it.  It's not like we're all getting rich laughing about all the clients we suckered that day.  It's more like we spend all day working to find an affordable solution for someone with limited funds so that their pet gets at least some care. And there isn't one of us that hasn't taken in a charity case, given away services or adopted a pet that was otherwise abandoned or destined for a preventable euthanasia.  So it pains me that so many people would think that we would recommend medications or procedures that are harmful to a pet.  And it's frustrating to look at all the anti-"x" posts and websites and read explanations that are clearly biologically and scientifically flawed as to why "x" is so bad for your pet.  And some are just plain wrong and rooted in a total lack of knowledge and common sense. 

Modern medicine has vastly improved both the quality and length of life of humans and animals.  Is it perfect? No, but really, what is?  Is it evolving? Yes.  Are veterinarians trying to hurt your pet? No.

Likely the people who already agree with this will continue do so, and those that don't won't have their mind changed.  But maybe they will at least think about it from another perspective before they choose internet rampage over science, school, and the veterinarian that will be there, without fail, the day you are that family in tears.  


Sara said...

I dont think people realize how hard it is to get into a veterinary school. That many who don't make the cut go into human medicine! That speaks volumes to me. Vets are smart people!

Treating your dog off google is never a good plan.

Melinda Wichmann said...

Please know how much you and others in your profession are appreciated. I am eternally grateful for my all my vets' help over the years and especially so on the final day when there just isn't anything else they can do except prevent suffering.

Kristine said...

I don't have anything to add because I am not a vet myself but I just want you to know that I have nothing but respect for your profession. When I worked in animal welfare I met quite a few vets who gave so much of their valuable time and resources. I am so grateful there are people like yourself who are willing to spend the time and money studying and then again to give up so much in order to keep our animals healthy as long as possible. Thank you for caring and for dedicating your life to this emotionally exhausting, and too often thankless, work.

Diana said...

People are wackos. That's all there is to it! If you read Dr Grumpy's blog , you see how many crazy people there are. You know what is scarier , those people have kids and treat them the same. I spent the whole week trying to get the parent to take the kid to the doctor because his hand looked broken . Happened at home on the weekend. What is wrong with people. Another kid had come to me saying his arm had been hurting for 3 weeks. He had a non-movable lump on his arm. ( I'm thinking cancer). Couldn't reach mom but got grandma and had to tell her they had to take him to the doctor. That this was serious. ( I couldn't tell her I thought it could be cancer) I told her she had till tomorrow to get it done. Sad part was, he had cancer. Even sadder that he had been complaining for 3 weeks and the school nurse has to call you and make you take him to the doctor. ( yes they had insurance)

It's just depressing. And then parents come in and complain , yell at me and report me for stupid crap. Depressing.

Kriszty said...

Oooh I hear you.. as 1 vet to another I have also been very saddened by the number of anti-vet internet propaganda out there at the moment :( We all do the best we can for your animals.. I also would not choose vet if I had my time again. Plenty of much higher paying less stressful professions out there, that dont involve working weekends, public holidays and after hours!

Sue said...

There are people who believe anything they hear or read, regardless of the source. They will never change and there are many others who keep feeding them garbage for their own benefit.

As one who desperately wanted to be a vet but was born before it was acceptable for women, I don't know how I would respond to the issues you bring up. I'm not fond of people in general and would probably lose my temper with the idiots, but I've had wonderful working relationships with a number of vets in my life and they have made life better for my animals and for me.

Nicki said...

Thanks for all the great comments guys. And yes, people are wackos.