Bullmarket French Bulldog Breeders

WTF, Veterinarians?

Let me preface this rant by saying: I love most of the veterinarians I have ever dealt with. The majority have been pleasant, intelligent, and have dealt with me rationally. I have been happy to put the life of my pets into their hands.

Lately, however, a few glaring exceptions have reared their ugly heads.

Recently, I got a phone call from someone who had purchased a French Bulldog (not from me) a few years ago. Since their own breeder has gone awol, we’ve developed sort of a surrogate help line relationship. At any rate, one morning they noticed that Albert was limping. This was a clear limp – he was favoring his left leg, and walking with a sort of hop-skip step that usually says to me “ouch, something is hurting me”. It’s not to be mistaken with the “complete foot lifted off the ground, I can’t put any weight on this at all” step, but it’s still a limp.

Immediately, they made an appointment to take Albert in to the vet’s office, which is located in Manhattan and shall – for now – remain nameless. This is a really modern clinic – they have all of the bells and whistles, including some stuff I’ve never even heard of. At the appointment, Albert’s examining vet manipulates his leg, agrees that yes, it looks painful, and immediately recommends treatment consisting of a $3500.00 MRI, and patella replacement surgery – likely on both knees, including the one Albert wasn’t limping on. This was after a cursory diagnosis consisting of a five minute manipulation, and a twenty second case history.

Estimated cost of double patella surgery? $10,000 minimum, and possibly more.

Now, Albert’s parents are good people, and if $13,000 worth of surgery were required to save his life, I have no doubt that they’d beg, borrow and max out credit cards to raise it – but $13,000 for a limp? They called me in a panic, and wanted to know what to do. Should they do the MRI? The vet said the MRI was ‘just a formality’, and that Albert would definitely need the surgery.

OK, first of all – since when is an MRI a formality? Why would you bother doing it, if you’d already decided ahead of time that you were going to operate on this dog, no matter what the MRI results showed? I’m sure it could not possibly have anything to do with the fact that this MRI machine is rather new, and comes with a hefty price tag. I do like the way that the vet explained that a ‘pre surgical MRI is sort of like pre surgical blood panels’, giving the vets a base line idea of what is going on. Of course, the big difference is that blood panels don’t come with a $3500 price tag, but that’s a minor quibble.

Secondly, since when is the instant reaction to a relatively mild limp in an another wise healthy and asymptomatic dog “Let’s cut him open”? How is this reasonable? What happened to the ‘let’s watch and see if it gets worse’ school of thought? Would it hurt the dog to leave it for a day or two? If this really is patellar luxation, what’s a week or two?

My suggestion (as a non veterinary layperson) was what I usually recommend for anything ouchy – crate rest and anti inflammatories. My second suggestion was more emphatic – find a new vet, at least for a second opinion. More exactly, my reaction was “try crate rest and anti inflammatories for a few days, and if he doesn’t seem any better in 48 hours, go see a different vet for a second opinion”.

They did, after borrowing a crate from friends, and in less than 48 hours Albert was walking normally again. They still got a second opinion, this time from an old time veterinarian out in Queens that Bulldog owning friends suggested. He didn’t have a shiny, high tech clinic, but he acted like he enjoyed meeting their dog, and he told them that Albert seemed just fine to him.

Sometimes, less really is more – less veterinary care, less invasive methods of treatment, less panic. Sadly, this is NOT the first time I’ve heard MRIs “prescribed” for minimal issues, including one other case of slight limping. I tell people to apply the ‘what would you do it were YOU?’ rule – if it was your knee, and you had a slight limp, would you run out and get a $3500 MRI – and would you let your doctor cut your knee open immediately, or would you take some aspirin, apply a cold pack, and wait it out?

My second encounter with veterinary stupidity came in the form of some vet records I read just recently. Overall, they illustrated a case history of a vet who had routinely fleeced his well meaning owners for every dollar he could get, but one item stuck out like a sore thumb – he had made them come in monthly to get their dog’s flea medication applied.

In office. For a fee. And no, he didn’t make this optional, but rather seemed to suggest that this is just how it’s done.

Seriously, vets – WTF? It’s hard to stick up for you as a profession that I like and respect, when some of you are acting like snake oil salesmen.

And speaking of malfeasance, I am happy to report that I have heard back from the CVMO, and that they have deemed my report against the veterinarian who tried to have Teddy killed worthy of a full investigation. Since they only proceed on about 10% of the cases they have reported to them, this feels like a major milestone to me. Let’s hope we can get his license pulled.

Speaking of Teddy, here’s his photo update from this week. Proud mom Hope reports that he is the absolute best puppy in the universe. Who am I to argue? I still think it might have just a little something to do with who owns him.

Teddy on the table

Teddy on the table

11 replies
  1. muffintops
    muffintops says:

    Ok, as someone who lives in NYC with a Frenchie (and previous elderly Boston Terrier)…a vet in nyc with an in-house MRI is *%&@in fancy! There are only a few in the city that have those fancy doodads… so its not hard to guess who with that price tag.

    Thank god they got a second opinion / didn’t buy into the bullshit. I love my vet to death & doubt he’d ever pull that, but if he did… I’d be giving him a flat out ‘Um, No’.

  2. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    I had an experience with Sadie this past winter that was similar to what Albert’s owners went through. Sadie just hadn’t seemed her self for several weeks. She wasn’t as active and wouldn’t do circles(racing up and down the hallway and then doing figure 8’s between the dining room and living room). And then she started having issues going up stairs. Usually she would push herself with her back legs and hop right up, but now she was almost using her front legs to pull herself up, one step at a time. I took Sadie in to her normal Vet. Fairly new facility, bells and whistles, similar to the one described in Manhattan. They xrayed her and didn’t do the best job of trying to manipulate her hip. Based on the Xray and a shoddy job of manipulating her hip, they said she needed surgery and that they could schedule it for tomorrow. I was torn. The Vet said she had probably been in pain for months but only recently exhibited obvious symptoms. I felt guilty that I hadn’t known and that she had been hurting. I just wanted to make it better. I decided to hold off on scheduling the surgery and thought a second opinion would be helpful. I took Sadie to a facility that was recommended by a coworker who’s dog has seizures. I never knew a place like this existed. It had different wards, just like a human hospital. Dermatology, Oncology, general surgery. They even had a hydrotherapy unit. I expected a similar experience to what Albert’s parents experienced in Manhattan. I was pleasantly surprised. The Vet/surgeon took an extensive history and spent a solid 10-15 minutes manipulating both her hips, having her walk, repeating. He also examined her Xray. I knew we were in good hands when he said, “I don’t treat Xrays, I treat the dog.” He concluded that immediate surgery was not necessary. He prescribed some meds and suggested I keep an eye out for any change in gait or that she might be favoring her hip. After two weeks on the meds, Sadie was her old self again. Bounding about like a little rabbit. She’s no longer on meds, is doing circles and is more energetic than most 6.5 year old dogs I know. The morale of the story is to trust your gut and it never hurts to get a second opinion.

  3. KicknKnit
    KicknKnit says:

    Holy crap.. that is bullshit. BTW, if you EVER need a recommendation for a vet on the East Coast for something structural, I have a dear friend who has a traveling veterinary chiropractic clinic. I can let you know where she is when.. Dr. SueAnn Lesser.

    (BTW: I used to be “Fuzzy Logic”.. if you are wondering who I am)

  4. Marie
    Marie says:

    Good Lord! That is insane! The people that blindly listen to vets thinking they are God’s are the ones filling those vets wallets. I work for a vet (thankfully NOT the fleecing kind!) and I cannot imagine this happening there. Heck we sometimes TELL clients to get a second opinion and routinely refer them to specialists.

    And the story about Teddy is just horrifying.

    I’m totally telling these stories in rounds tomorrow.

  5. JenniferJ
    JenniferJ says:

    Timely subject!

    A gentleman with a dog I placed 3 years ago emailed me out of the blue (we’ve stayed in touch and everything was previously reported as fine) to accuse me of selling him a defective dog, unworthy of the breed, the pedigree etc…

    Why? well, the dog has seasonal flank alopecia. Very common in EBs. It is only annoying to the humans involved, strictly cosmetic and can be corrected most of the time with a bit of inexpensive husbandry.
    As the dog lives in foggy San Francisco and the dog is indoors much of it’s life under artificial lights, SFA is not a big surprise.

    “Treatment” is usually some melatonin but it’s thought that that improvement is usually coincidental to the supplement. The sun comes out, the days get longer it gets warm and the hair grows back. In cloudy, cooler climates, most people who don’t want a bald spot on the dogs’ sides can put in full spectrum lighting in the area the dog likes to hang out indoors. I’ve seen sun deprived dogs bliss out the first time one of these is turned on.

    But no, his vet says it’s apparently an un-named progressive condition and he’ll someday be as hairless as a crested. Because it does not go away in the summer. Well, in spite of the name, SFA is only seasonal where you have real seasons. Some dogs respond to minor changes, others need a good seasonal kick in the pants to grow hair back in. The dog has a beautiful, glossy coat everywhere but his flanks. No signs of irritation, no itching. No eye problems, ear problems, infections, breathing, orthopedic issue, allergies etc…

    I offered to pay to have the dog examined by a veterinarian familiar with the condition or a board certified veterinary dermatologist, including biopsy if it was deemed required. Nope, he, the owner, is “ashamed” to walk his dog and apparently his vet walks on water. Oh, and this has been going on for two years but he only now decided to let me know there was a problem. God knows how much he’s spent at the vet! Since the dog, in his opinion, is not up to snuff, he wants financial reimbursement as his vet tells him he is entitled.

    So at this point I’d like the dog back please. No puppy of mine needs to live with someone ashamed of it. His response was that he is very happy with the dog! (WTF indeed!)

    So why, why, why waste two years with a non-specialist vet getting nowhere? From the emails, it appears that his vet essentially told him he was scammed by both myself and the co-breeder and not to listen to us or even mention it to us. Aughh!! And why not take me up on an all expenses paid-for visit to a specialist? Embarassment? What? And why didn’t the SF vet send him to a dermatologist??? Of course, I probably know the answer to that one… Le sigh.

    • JenniferJ
      JenniferJ says:

      OK, thanks for a place to vent. 🙂

      As for the OMGWTF situations with outrageous bills, well we have dogs surrendered to rescue every year because a relatively minor issue has been mishandled to the tune of thousands of dollars in vet bills, not to mention the pain and suffering of the dog and family.

      Now, I love my veterinarian, I love the ortho specialist and the eye specialists I have found over the years. I really like and appreciate and regularly recommend a number of veterinarians statewide but there are some real hacks out there…

      -5000.00 US dollars to (unsuccessfully ) repair a cherry eye over the course of two years (I wish to heaven that was was made up) (fixed by rescue helping vet for $250.00)

      -a diagnosis of megaesophagus that, to make a long story short, was a foreign body causing a blockage, hence the vomiting. NO films, studies or contrasts ever done (died, obstruction found post mortem)

      The dog that was treated for “resistant bacterial infections” which had a fungal infection that was made worse by the antibiotics. Never cultured. Cost to owners over $2000.00 Cost to rescue to diagnose and treat? about $150.00

      I rely on my vets, I love my vets, I trust my vets, but I sure don’t love or trust all of them.

  6. YesBiscuit!
    YesBiscuit! says:

    I couldn’t raise $13k to save my own life – or anyone else’s. I’ve been suffering a wicked bout of tendinitis these past few months. I’ve been through the “you need immediate surgery” routine before (when I had health insurance). I didn’t opt for it then and I haven’t even seen the Dr. over this current bout. I do think we (people, dogs) can manage pain of this nature pretty well. I’m not at all impressed with a recommendation of “immediate surgery” unless a person/pet is going to die or suffer terribly without it.

  7. Aline Nolasco
    Aline Nolasco says:

    The first dog I owned was a labrador. I knew nothing about dogs apart from the love I always felt for these furry creatures. I studied everything I could when I first got Nikita, but when we took her to a vet just for a first check-up, he asked immediately: is it a Fila???
    Ok, Nikita wasn’t the best in show, but she was a very fine “Labradorette”. The second thing I heard was just incredible: as she was sleeping on his table and moving her eyelids, moving her paws very rapidly, he “diagnosed” her with CDV, and she’d probably die…
    Needless to say I never returned to that guy’s clinic. We had taken her there because of diarrhea, which we later discovered it was Giardia. But my poor little girl who was just “playing in her dreams” had been diagnosed with a terrible disease… Incredible.

  8. Ian
    Ian says:

    I think moving forward that this type of behaviour may become more common in vets. With pets growing in popularity and their owners increasing in income and usually lacking in research skills (let’s be honest–who in their right mind gets a puggle!?), there will be vets that will take advantage of the situation.

    When it comes to money, people can get greedy. If a greedy vet can take advantage of your relationship with your pet, he will–especially if you are not willing to get a second or third opinion. I live in Toronto and there are at least 5 clinics within walking distance. Some are fancy, some are sketchy… but that’s 5 different clinics with 5 opinions. I’m aware that the rural areas have less choice (I grew up in Palmerston, the vet clinic was not exactly close – 20 kms), but this seems to be a common theme in cities where there is usually plenty of choice.

    Use common sense. Get another opinion. Consult other owners. If you’re sharp, you’ll be fine. It’s just unfortunate that there are enough people that don’t use common sense, and therefore the greedy vets will continue to be greedy. I mean, they have to pay for that fancy MRI machine somehow…

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