In Praise of Great Vets
A few years back, when Sean and I were still in a fairly new-ish relationship, we took in his elderly family cat. Misty had first been his sister’s cat, and then had sort of become his mother’s. Now that his mother was sick, Misty became ours. She was already elderly – 19, by his best estimate, and plagued with illnesses. Diabetes, a tumor on her jaw, hyperthyroidism – the list was fairly long, but in spite of it all, Misty was a happy, content little cat. We gave her her insulin, monitered her diet, tried to keep up her calorie intake and hoped for a few more good years.
In the spring of 2005, Misty seemed to go downhill. It was almost impossible to keep weight on her, so we moved her over to a pricey, vet recommended diet. I had my misgivings, but Misty was Sean’s cat, and I decided that the best move on my part was to step back and let him and his vet sort out her care. Sean isn’t like me – he doesn’t pester his vets with questions and second guessing and ‘but I read this on the web’ type statements. I suppose that makes him a better veterinary patient than me, although I’m not so sure that being ‘pesky’ isn’t frequently a good course to take when charting the care of our pets.
At any rate, a month or so later, Misty (who was now verging on twenty) had her first seizure. I called Sean at work, left a message, and rushed her in to the emergencey vet. Sean met me there barely an hour behind us, and we both held his old, thin, trembling cat and tried to give her what comfort we could.
I was fairly sure that this would be Misty’s last trip to the vet’s office. She was horribly thin, not eating well, obviously unhappy and now seizing. At age 20, I thought she’d had a rather good run for a cat, and that it was time to let her leave with some grace. Again, though, I knew that the ultimate decision had to come from Sean, and I knew that he’d make it with the slightest urging from his veterinarian.
The vet, though, had other ideas. Blood tests were ordered, xrays and ultrasounds suggested and new special diets urged on us. Thousands upon thousands of dollars in bills quickly racked up, while I sat quietly and fumed with anger, unable to believe that any vet with an iota of ethics would continue to put such a frail and elderly cat through such invasive procedures, and all with the promise of ‘maybe a few more months’. Most of all, I was furious that this vet would take advantage of Sean’s vulnerability. I had mentioned that the cat had belonged to Sean’s (very recently) deceased mother, and I had mentioned that the veterinarian would need to be clear about suggesting the most appropriate treatment. I can’t say for sure that the vet suggested this course of care out of mercenary intentions. It’s possible that this was simply a case of ‘we have the technology, we can extend her life’ – but at what price those few months, when you can see that the cat is suffering?
At any rate, we muddled by for a few more months, and shortly after that we moved out to the country, where we were fortunate enough to get a referral to a new vet. When Misty started seizing again that summer, we brought her in to Dr. Gomez, where Sean again made it clear that he’d do whatever was needed to keep her going. Dr. Gomez responded emphatically that Misty was an old cat who’d lived a long life, and that it was time to just do the right thing and let her go. Sean was visibly grateful to be finally given the advice he needed, and I was grateful to finally be dealing with a veterinarian who clearly put the suffering of the animal before the depths of the client’s pockets (or the limits on his credit card).
Like any of us who have owned pets for a great length of time, I have no lack of bad veterinarian stories to share. Too often, however, I think that we forget to praise our really great vets.
Mine are Doctors Gomez and Boyd, of Grey Bruce Pet Hospital.
Dr. Boyd, who also breeds top winning Gordon Setters under the ‘Duurstede‘ prefix, is a talented reproductive specialist. She uses every trick in the book, including some I’d never even heard of (Draminski readings, anyone?). As if that isn’t enough, she’s also a skilled alternative Veterinary Practitioner, who offers Chiropractic and Acupuncture, in addition to holistic and herbal remedies. This also means that she doesn’t recoil in shock when you tell her that you feed raw, or that you want to give your puppies minimal vaccinations. From the horror stories I’ve been getting from other breeders who feed raw, that sort of reaction is more uncommon than you’d think (like the breeder who was told by her vet that she was no longer welcome at her practice, so long she ‘insisted on feeding raw‘).
Dr. Gomez, who showed such compassion and common sense on one of very first meetings, has continued to be a paragon of everything a veterinary surgeon should be. He’s skilled, dedicated and works longs hours, frequently on call. I’ve had horrid experiences in the past with vets who simply ‘gave up’ on pups who were hard to revive, but not Dr. Gomez. I’ve watched him labor over slow starting puppies, doing mouth to mouth and chest massage until he finally hears that first puppy cry. As a breeder, we know first hand how much difference that ‘never give up’ attitude makes to our peace of mind. If he’ll work that hard on a tiny newborn, how hard will he work to save our adults?
Topping all of this off is the fact that, in spite of a skill level that makes clients drive literally for hours to get to their clinic, Drs. Gomez and Boyd have prices that are truly competitive with other local clinics. While they could conceivably charge much more, they don’t — a fact for which my credit limit is very grateful.
If this all sounds like some kind of ‘give me a discount’ commerical, it isn’t – it’s just a way of saying that, for every horrid vet out there, there are great vets who really deserve to have their praises sung. The good vets, just like the good breeders, tend to get overshadowed by their unethical counterparts. Sometimes I think we need to step back and help to balance out the bad with the good.
How about you? Do you have a really great vet you’d like to share?
Very strange you should write about this right now. We’re running the gamut now – our wonderful regular vet sent us to a specialist who should burn in hell. We’re headed for a third opinion this week. Wish us luck.
Hope’s last blog post..Dog Show!
A good vet is worth their weight in gold!
With the speed at which veterinary medical knowledge is changing and being shared via the internet, I think we’re going to see the face of the profession change a lot in the next several years, hopefully for the better.
All I know, is that I wouldn’t trade my current vet for the world!
Dr Christopher Taylor, owner and veterinarian at Abbotsford Veterinary Hospital in Abbotsford BC is not only my former boss but a skilled surgeon and runs a top notch clinic. Spotless, with well trained staff and a brilliant tech, they have taken care of my pets for the last 3 1/2 years, even when I worked at other clinics.
Not the cheapest, but the best , and I trust him.
Excellent post! It seems health care is getting more complicated for both humans and animals. I have been going to my vet for over a decade now. I am like you, I pester and ask questions. I fully expect to participate in my pets health.
I have had some alarming experiences in the past couple years that have me actually pondering about changing. I feel a loyalty and fear of leaving but at the same time wonder if I am doing my dog an injustice by staying.
I made the leap to visit a holistic vet. My dog suffers from an undetermined skin condition (that I suspect vaccines compromised his immune system?). Obviously it is immune related, however my dog has gone from being hairless in December after being put on prednizone (which led a severe breakout to worse) to now having the odd tiny flareup in localized areas.
The “miracle” vet I went to is Sharon Kopinak in Acton, Ont. She does amazing work and I highly recommend her for anyone suffering from the “what is it?” to “there is nothing else we can do”. I met a woman there with her Devon Rex cat. The cat was on deaths door (a young cat at the time). She had been sent away with no more options from Guelph but Dr. Kopinak brought this kitty back to life. She is doing well and this is 5 years after the fact! I don’t know the details but I was impressed.
We rely on our vet to give us the guidance in those tough times. I feel for you and your husband. Sometimes we need permission to do what we know is the ‘right thing’. Being vulnerable is a difficult position to be in, but one we as humans are in fairly regularly.
Going back to Misty and those last few months she muddled through, at great cost to Sean, I wonder if you won’t follow exactly the same path with Tessa? Just a few months can be so precious, that some people will not look at the suffering of the animal in question, but will instead simply be emotionally not prepared to let go.
I highly recommend Dr. Larry Wilder at Lawrence Park Animal Hospital in Toronto. He’s been my vet since I was 12 years old – over 20 years – long before Frenchies came into my life. He’s caring, compassionate and so knowlegable. He explains every little thing and manages to make it interesting. He prices are, well, Toronto prices. Not cheap, but I can’t imagine taking Lola and Sushi anywhere else. I love, love, LOVE him!!
Dr. Mark Dillworth, Beaches Animal Hospital, Toronto. He’s amazing: compassionate, truly caring and not into the money. We luckily went to this vet in an emergency situation (on a Sunday, of course) when our usual vet’s office (Banks Animal Hospital) was not open. Our old corgi/staff was suffering from a second bout of geriatric vestibular syndrome. They took him without an appointment and charged the regular appointment fee (not the inflated rate a 24-hour emergency clinic charges). The Beaches Animal Hospital is open 7AM to 10PM, 7 days a week and their prices are incredibly reasonable.
I can’t quite give my vet that accolade. But there is this: I trust him. He stays up to date on therapies. He listens to my views, doesn’t have a default setting of “undertreat” or “overtreat,” makes his recommendations — but he knows I make the decisions. Usually I follow his lead, but not always. He’s not opposed to raw feeding, which gives him bonus points for being open minded. He told ME about titering, recommended against the Lepto vaccine, and in general is a solid guy. I could switch to the new clinic right near my house, but I am not inclined to throw away a trusted relationship just to save a 15 minute drive.
My one moment of weakness: when he chipped Logan in the procedure room, and I could clearly hear my baby SCREAM in pain from the floor below. I had to grip my chair to keep from dashing upstairs.
I forgive him.
Dan Murphy, Capitol Hill Veterinary Clinic, Washington DC, DVM, Owner and proprietor.
Best vet is Geoff Toole, Village Gate, Toronto
Dr. Geoff Toole /owner
Dedicated, intelligent Toronto Vet
Village Gate Animal Hospital –