Last week I got into it (ever so gently) with a client. She’d arrived with six vaccines and three pups in tow, with the expectation that I would vaccinate them with her BYO* goods. 

That’s when an intrepid receptionist intervened, which usually makes any awkward situation ever so much less confrontational than it has to be. "Dr. Khuly does not vaccinate pets with vaccines obtained from outside sources," goes the party line. And usually, when a receptionist starts talking about "the doctor’s policy," the doctor usually doesn’t have to come right out and explain it again. Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of those times that I was able to get off that easy.

Because the trouble was, Drs. X and Y (at the very same practice) will usually do so — that is, as long as they know the client well.

Me? Nope. Never.

In last week’s case this occasioned a lengthy round of explanations — all of which the indignant owner barely internalized, seeing as she was so busy being put out by my unwillingness to set aside my policy, just this once. And then I was busy being on the receiving end of another round of recriminations — over how my professional betters (currently not in the building) would more ably handle this situation.

"I figured you were more enlightened than that. I guess you’re just like all those other vets that care more about the money than their patients."

Which is when I (ever so gently) left the room and closed the door behind me. I mean, who needs a client who makes you wonder whether another hole in your head might be a more appealing alternative than her patronage? Not me.

For the record, here’s a three-part summary of what I offered by way of an explanation for my personal policy:

1. Vaccines are unlike drugs in lots of ways. How they’re handled and stored can make a big difference in their safety and efficacy. In a controlled environment, like that of our hospital, the vaccines can be expected to meet all safety and efficacy guidelines. Outside a clinical scenario like ours, who knows?

2. A vaccine is not a vaccine is not a vaccine. Hence, a selection of vaccines — individualized for your pets’ needs — is lots of what you pay me for. It’s been my experience that when clients "bring their own," they’ve not thought to first consult with the veterinarian on their choice of vaccine.

3. Here’s the biggie: I wouldn’t want to be responsible for a vaccine’s potential untoward reaction (or failure) if I can’t personally vouch for its safety and efficacy. Why would I want to put myself in that position?

After all, you don’t pay me to just lock, load, and pull the trigger. You pay me for all the niceties, many of which include all those fuzzy intangibles that people who prefer to BYO sometimes don’t get.

Don’t get me wrong. If you buy your own vaccines carefully, and know what you’re doing, you can always count on me to support your decision to exercise your legal right to vaccinate your own pets. But I would expect you to do it all by yourself without the need for an intermediary — especially since that "middleman" is placing herself at legal risk when she acquiesces to your expectations.

Dr. Patty Khuly

*That's, "Bring Your Own," for the newbs.

Pic of the day: "Dr. Grindle gives a speech" by Chuckumentary