Yeah, I know this story will sound petty but it’s been burning a hole in my soul for the past couple of days so bear with me as I exorcise this demon here.

Some of you will remember an old post where I profiled a local hospital (nameless, of course) refusing to divulge the information of its former veterinarians after a falling out. Clients were upset after making appointments without being told of their vets’ departure. They left in droves after calling around and finding their preferred providers’ new location.

The same hospital offers a boarding service I’d often recommend to my clients—before the previous vets left. I don’t know the vets or the management now (the former hospital manager had also defected), so I thought I’d get to know them before recommending their boarding facility anew.

But some of my clients still go there, of course, having been referred there in years past.

When one reliable client didn’t show up for her regular yearly exam I didn’t notice (can’t keep track of ‘em all 24/7). But when she did come in a couple of days ago for a simple follow-up to her dog’s chronic condition, turns out the boarding facility/hospital had done my work for me—sort of.

A new medication had been prescribed and it was revealed that she’d received it after her last boarding stint. I asked about her yearly visit and she said all vaccines had been taken care of at that time, too.

So you know, this is a dog who normally gets vaccines on a three-year staggered schedule so she never gets more than one vaccine at a time. Her immune system-related chronic condition makes that a necessity. And she wasn’t due for any vaccines this year; none except the Bordetella (kennel cough), a vaccine that should be administered at least one week prior to boarding for maximum effectiveness (which wasn’t the case in this situation).

The hospital had told her she needed the vaccines before she could drop her dog off (though she was technically compliant even by yearly vaccine schedules as a full year had not quite passed). Of course she consented, not understanding that her dog wasn’t actually due for vaccines. While they were at it they did her heartworm test and fecal exam, too.

Moreover, on picking up her dog, she’d been informed of a new diagnosis for her dog’s condition and accepted a new medication. Something which duplicated one of the medications she’d already been using for three years.

Clients aren’t expected to be savvy about medical terms and prescription products. Clients are increasingly becoming aware of issues surrounding over-vaccination but they can’t always be expected to remember their vaccine schedules and the rationale behind them, much as we may explain it. Most good clients just do what they’re told. Excellent clients may go one step further but I don’t expect that brand of understanding from everyone.

So it was that I didn’t get into an explanation with this client over the vaccines, simply describing the duplication of the medication and leaving it at that.

But the hospital? They had our records on hand. They had no reason to fail to understand our policies and procedures. All our vaccines are approved for three years, save the Bordetella vaccine. Their oversight put a dog at unnecessary risk (albeit small), their lack of collegiality in performing tests and prescribing medications for a chronic condition was infuriating and I was going to have my say.

I called to speak with the hospital manager to describe the problem and ask that she check with us before administering vaccines to our patients. I was going to leave it at that.

Guess what I was treated to? No apology. No description of their policy for my information when referring new clients. No discussion of their vaccine protocols. Instead, I received a politely delivered admonition for failing to diagnose this dog’s condition.

“Seriously?” I asked. “You have the records. Read them.”

“Your client informed us that she had never received a diagnosis for this condition and when we asked if it was OK to give her the vaccines and medication she consented immediately.”

The implication being, of course, that this client was unhappy with my services since I’d failed to make a diagnosis (which I hadn’t and she apparently wasn’t since she’d just come to see me) and wished to make a change of hospitals.

Having the presence of mind to hold my tongue while angry, I hung up the phone after thanking her for “understanding my position for future clients of ours.”

For your information there’s an unwritten rule governing referrals of clients between veterinarians. The referred-to vet does not perform services the referring vet routinely performs without express consent. It’s considered rude and unethical.

If a client wishes to switch vets, the referred-to hospital and the referring hospital must confer. That may seem strange but it helps preserve collegiality on matters both financial and health-related. We all practice slightly differently so it’s important to preserve the continuity of our recommendations through this method—so that the administration of unnecessary vaccines and duplication of medications, as in this case, doesn’t occur.

Needless to say I won’t be sending any more clients their way. A quick check with the local vets I’m friendly with confirmed my impression of this hospital’s aggressive tactics. (I should have known, right?) But should I write a formal letter explaining my position so this might happen less often to others?

And should I discuss the problem with my client? Will it sound petty? Does she deserve to know that she received extra vaccines and that I had not failed to diagnose a condition? I hate to think she harbors any doubt the other hospital might have planted.

I haven’t decided. Perhaps I should just leave it like it is. Those of you more experienced in diplomacy…please advise.