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The Animal Person Minute: On Getting Ripped Off at the Vet


I’m going to attempt to make The Animal Person Minute into a real podcast, possibly today, and use the podcast for general issues that might attract people new to considering animal rights. Kind of like the pamphlet. In fact, I might just create a series: Thinking Critically About Animal Rights, in an effort to help a larger audience think about why they use animals and if they should, and to whom they give their hard-earned cash if indeed they do want to help animals.

Today will be the last day with a photo and a Minute, although I’m going to increase my usage of photos the rest of the week. Also, I’m setting up a link to the most talked about posts such as Why Did YOU Go Vegan as well as the abolition-survey post on the sidebar so you can find it easily and keep discussing. At this point, that’s the best I can do within this blog, without going elsewhere to set up a forum, although I do reserve the right to do that at a later date.

Now, today’s topic. Our kitty, Emily, started vomiting about a week ago. A lot. Like six times a day. She couldn’t hold down any food, but she would drink water, from a scotch glass only I might add, and her behavior and mood were fine. After two days, I tried to get an appointment with a specialist in internal medicine, but there wasn’t one for a week. I ended up at my vet’s practice, but not with him, and I adore him. I got some new guy who worked with horses until this summer.

Here’s the problem, and it’s a legitimate one: the vet knows no more than I do. Either there’s an obstruction or she has some kind of intestinal distress, perhaps from eating a bad lizard (in South Florida, lizards and geckos are all over the place, including in your house). So the vet orders over $1,000 of tests and expects me to say yes, as I want to help my kitty. If I say no or try to negotiate, I must not want to help my kitty.

Here’s my solution: go test by test and say, do we really need this first? Or do we really need four of them, like with x-rays. Is there one x-ray that will tell us much of what we need and can we do that first and only do the others if there appears to be an issue (surprise! The answer is yes and you’ve just shaved almost two hundred dollars off the bill). If you send the bloodwork out rather than do it in-house, do you save money? ($100 at my vet.) Is there a test you can hold off on and only do if you get a helpful positive result on another test (yes, I could hold off on the barium and x-ray series, which was $450). Do you need to take an antibiotic with you if you don’t even know whether she has an infection (no you don’t, but I didn’t think of that so I paid for it like an idiot).

I’m joking when I say "getting ripped off at the vet." Because Emily can’t tell the doctor what she ate or how she feels, we have very little to go on and must do a bunch of diagnostic tests. However, we don’t have to do everything immediately, and we certainly don’t need antibiotics immediately, and we don’t need a complete set of x-rays immediately. When you’re at the vet you’re probably a bit distressed to begin with, but that doesn’t mean you should leave your common sense and good business sense at the door and agree to everything they suggest.

Emily is perfectly fine now. Her vomiting increased a bit when I took her home and I was concerned, but once I stopped giving her the anti-vomit medicine guess what happened: she stopped vomiting. And when I asked the vet if I should try to continue the antibiotic, which also made her vomit more, he said no, as there was no infection, and he prescribed it "just in case." Well, I’m going to make sure to ask for my regular vet, just in case someone tries to hand me off to that guy again.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dustin #

    Gosh, can I relate to that drama.

    First of all, I have to say that I had the best vet in the whole world (whom I miss with all my heart) in Asheville, NC. I could go on and on about how wonderful and practical this person is. But, for me, what makes her a truly extraordinary person and veterinarian was her complete honesty with me regarding diagnostics and the crap shoot that it is. She was always very conservative with tests—both because of cost and knowing that a lot of it is guess work. That, and she charmed the pants off of Lulu, Delilah and me. If she weren't my vet, I would have wanted to be her best friend.

    When I moved here to DC at the beginning of the summer, my new vet (who is now not my new vet) ordered $1000 worth of tests to confirm that my Boston Terrier has spay incontinence, which we already knew, but since it had gotten worse (very quickly), the vet wanted to rule out a host of other things. Along the way, we discovered that our Boston Terrier has bad arthritis, and the new vet scared us out of our minds in terms of what's next. This vet told us her spine might snap if she jumps off the couch. Somehow, we are to basically prevent her from any sudden movement. Anybody ever met a Boston Terrier? They're something like a 3 year old afflicted with hyperactivity disorder.

    Fast forward to me deciding that I hate the new vet and everyone that works in its office, I decide, on a lark, to start going to a new place. I take Lulu to the new-new vet, and she tells me that scary arthritis diagnosis is common among dogs Lulu's age, and to not expect things to happen regarding her health—because we won't know until something happens, if and when it does. Sigh of relief. We let Lulu run like crazy through the house again, although she is still banned (forever) from playing ball—her raison d'etre.

    Finding a good vet who has your dog's (and your wallet's) best interests at heart is no easy task. I am thankful, now, to have just found a great vet here in DC—knowing full well that nothing and no one here cares about my bank account.


    October 23, 2007
  2. Re: the expensive tests. Exactly the same approach is causing huga problems in human medicine too. They call it "defensive medicine"–much easier for the doctor to tick of a long string of expensive tests all at once and bill you for them, than invest their precious time in going through a diagnostic process. It is time everyone demanded not only to have all meds explained and compared with other options, but also all tests. 15 minutes is not an appointment, its more like what a sheep gets at dipping and drenching time.

    October 23, 2007
  3. Becca #

    I just went to the vet last week with one of my guinea pigs whose chewing was off. I wanted the vet to look at her teeth. I really like my regular vet, but I made an appt. with the first vet available, someone I hadn't seen before. I explained the situation to the vet tech, who told me she'd be back with an estimate of costs and then after that, the vet would come in and examine my pig. She came back with well over $100 worth of tests which didn't have anything to do with teeth. I was highly offended and made it clear that I wouldn't authorize anything until the vet actually examined my pig. Turns out, she just needed her teeth trimmed at a cost of $13 (not including the office visit, of course). I'm taking another pig in this week to look at a suspicious lump, and I made sure to make an appt. with my regular vet. I'm becoming more and more cranky about telling people that I only have a certain amount of money, so I'm not going to spend a lot unless its justified.

    October 23, 2007
  4. It is very important that you watch your dog's health carefully and notice any changes in your dog's behavior and need to consult a vet.If you feel problem with vet for any reason, it's worth investigating your options to find a new vet who you really like!

    December 4, 2007

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