Going to Paul Simon’s final concert of his life in a week. Flushing Meadow in Queens is just around the corner from where I grew up. My twins were baptized in Corona. Me and Julio could have been down by the schoolyard at their christening.
I also went to veterinary school in “the days of miracle and wonder.” I was taught by the best and the brightest at Penn, and I cherish my veterinary education. But a lot has changed in the last 30 years, and I need to keep up. You, the pet lover and consumer, have to keep up with the changes as well.
Referrals and state-of-the-art medical and surgical options are now normal practice for your pets, huge advances to prolong their lives and quality of life. Your mind and your bank account, however, must be ready for these changes too.
In other words, your good ol’ country vet hospital or doc down the street ain’t what they used to be.
Evaluating Your Local Vet’s Facilities
In 2018, a person should know what will happen at their local vet when their pet has a problem. Veterinary hospitals are vastly different in their philosophies and the services they offer.
I think a lot of the general public think all vet hospitals are the same — it’s just whether you like the vet or not, right? Wrong. That’s not true at all.
My friends and relatives love to talk to me about their vet. “I really like my old doctor because he’s known me for 20 years.” OK, but that has nothing to do with the vet’s qualifications, specialties or what the hospital has to offer if the pet gets in trouble.
Relatives are always a great source for “man on the street” kind of opinions, and they trust me because I am “the vet in the family.” If they thought I could do surgery over the phone from New York to Florida, they would opt for that rather than take their pet to a vet. Gotta love families!
Trends of the Times
No More Overnight Care Unless in a 24-Hour Facility
Many vets will not hospitalize a patient overnight if they are not a 24-hour facility.
If they don’t have a technician or doctor staying at the hospital and awake all night, they will not keep your pet overnight. This means if a surgical procedure is performed at your local hospital or if your pet is ill and requires IV fluids and monitoring overnight, you will be asked to transfer your pet to a 24-hour facility when your regular vet closes for the night.
This is a surprise for some clients. Obviously, the 24-hour care at the emergency or referral practice is more complete care for your pet, but it comes with an additional price tag on top of what you’ve already paid your local vet. You need to be prepared and have this in your estimate.
Referrals Should Always Be Offered
There are many, many more specialists, referral hospitals and 24-hour facilities available today than even 10–15 years ago.
Veterinarians are now trained to always offer a referral for certain surgical procedures or involved medical issues if the patient can be referred responsibly. If you, as a client, refuse the referral, you need to have an excellent and truthful relationship with your vet to figure out what to do next.
This is very different from my first jobs in the 1980s. I was chastised by my first 2 practice-owning vets because I wanted to refer some critical or highly involved cases. They wanted to keep the case in the hospital.
You should always be offered the referral and weigh all options in the context of how comfortable your vet feels with the situation and how accessible, affordable and necessary the referral.
The Reason for Referrals
When you visit your family practice doc or internist, you are almost always referred to a specialist for any problem, such as:
- Gastrointestinal docs
- General surgeons
- Specialty surgeons
And specialists may refer you to even more specialists. An ophthalmologist might refer you to a retinologist. Just about anything that’s wrong with you means you get referred.
This referral trend is the state of veterinary medicine as well. It means better care for your pet but a much bigger bill for you.
Veterinary Education Has Changed
The country and the world has become more litigious.
- Vets are taught excellent medicine, but they are also taught to cover their behinds more now than ever before, like every profession today. People might challenge, threaten lawsuits or go after professional licenses in a heartbeat.
- Veterinary medicine, of all the medical professions, used to be the most trusted field. Now, everybody in any profession must be aware that anyone can sue them at any time, whether it be a highly legitimate complaint or the ravings of a lunatic client.
- Social media has changed the world. Veterinarians are now taught that people can begin a social media campaign against them or at least give them intense professional anxiety and personal stress, again, for either legitimate or wacko complaints.
Clients usually love their vet’s Facebook page, communicating with the clinic, getting emails and/or personal texts about how their pet is doing, etc. But some people like to troll or use social media as a tool of destruction.
Any doctor or business owner would rather get a phone call or personal correspondence with a complaint before someone posts negatively about them on social media. Unfortunately, some folks just like to go straight for the internet jugular.
Check out the skills of this veterinary specialist:
Poetry Always Helps
I can’t wait to hear Paul Simon. It will definitely be a great stress reducer — unless the tail of the hurricane hits Long Island that night. We have lawn seats, meaning sitting on the possibly soaked ground.
But even if it’s raining, I’ll see angels in the architecture from my vet school days and think about a missing verse from “The Boxer”: “After changes upon changes, we are more or less the same.”
I think this goes for pet lovers and responsible vets through the ages. Keep up with the times. Stay human. Stay pet-loving.
This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was last reviewed Sept. 26, 2018.