See No Evil, Hear No Evil: When Vet Hospitals Perform Procedures Behind Closed Doors
You’re at the vet hospital discussing your pet’s problem with the vet and the next thing you know Fluffy is whisked away in a big pink towel by a scrub-clad technician who claims she’ll be right back.
Petnapping is standard procedure in many hospitals. Blood is drawn, stool is extracted, vaccines are administered and nails are clipped behind closed doors, supposedly to relieve the client — that's you — of the stress involved in being exposed to such harrowing procedures.
Some clients appreciate this. They don’t really want to see how the "sausage" is made and they certainly don’t want to witness the mess and stress of Fluffy’s degrading moments. Some clients just don’t want to be accused by their pets of the crime that’s committed each time they see the vet.
Usually this practice is undertaken to minimize the stress on hospital staff when pets act up or when blood vessels fail to cooperate (I never miss — it’s always the vein’s fault). Staff members do not like to see their vet questioned when a needle goes astray; nor do they like the look on your face when Fluffy expresses her anal glands all over the exam room (causing a mighty stink that follows you home on your shoes and/or clothing).
I, however, like to have my clients witness both my successes and failures. It’s a teaching opportunity as well as a chance to play the part of either experienced vet or Crocodile Hunter (may his soul rest in peace) — which role depends on your pet’s demeanor. But, most of all, it’s in the interest of full disclosure and a sense of fair play that I prefer to have clients watch.
Having worked in too many hospitals where back room tactics differ dramatically from those on display in the exam room, I now prefer to keep everything up front and visible. Exam room treatment fosters a feeling of calm and gentleness in both vet and technician when interacting physically with pets. We can’t afford to get upset or critical of a pet when we’re faced with a client’s feelings. I think it makes us more compassionate when we keep the pet and owner together.
A lot of hospitals disagree with this policy for the above-mentioned reasons. And I’m not saying that hospitals can’t do a fabulous job of compassionate back room treatment. A couple of hospitals I’ve worked at do great work out of the client’s line of sight.
For the record, emergency hospitals are usually required to provide out-of-sight care for a variety of reasons — they’re exempt from this discussion. Ditto that for procedures at general practice facilities where specialized equipment or surgery is required.
Although I have been known to remove warts and debride wounds in the exam room, I wouldn’t expect that clients would necessarily need to see these procedures. I leave it up to them in these cases. Surgery is another matter. Clients have to specifically request to view a procedure. I usually veto it if it’s not a routine one like a spay or neuter — even C-sections are okay if the client isn’t the type to freak out.
There’s one routine procedure, however, that I’ll never let a client watch, and that’s a collection — as in, semen collection. The last time I received a request to watch, the client asked me if he could videotape it. No thanks. That’s where I draw the line.
Dr. Patty Khuly