Ten pet owner complaints that really annoy veterinarians
In my column for USA Today last week, I couldn't help but offer up the ways in which some clients can perturb us with their protests. I'd had a hectic week so the column just kind of wrote itself and got itself e-mailed before I had a chance to take it back. This is always a bad thing.
For my efforts, I got treated to disparaging e-mails and comments regarding my compassion for my clients, from people saying they would never want to see a veterinarian who thought so poorly of them. Hmmm, I thought ... maybe they're right and I was too harsh. And maybe they're not. Either way, I figured Fully Vetted readers would be the best equipped to judge.
To that end, here's a reworking of the column for your perusal:
Some pet owners really get my goat. They're the ones whose moans, lamentations and outsized hand-wringing makes me and my staff want to wring their necks. You know who they are. They're not your favorites, either. They're just as willing to regularly return food at restaurants and routinely declare war against anyone behind a counter. Tiresome, right?
In a veterinary environment, such whining takes on very specific forms. In an effort to exorcise the demons of a difficult week (and for your infotainment, of course), here's a list of the most common pet owner complaints I hear:
1. The free pet wail
"This FREE [fill in the blank species] is costing me hundreds of dollars!"
Need I explain why this grievance grates like nails on a chalkboard?
2. Dental extraction denial
"But I've had dogs my entire life and none has ever needed all this expensive dentistry — and all those extractions!"
Are you sure about that?
These owners want their pet to keep all her teeth but they're unwilling or unable to do what's necessary to mitigate the root cause: periodontal disease. Nor are they willing to accept that sometimes diseases truly are beyond our control.
3. The sick pet protest
A corollary to number two:
"Why do all my pets get sick?"
"How can this be?"
"What are you going to do about it?"
"Why isn't he getting any better?"
To which I can only answer, "With your help, we will do our utmost to get your pets well again. We can only do as much as our technology and your cooperation (funds, sometimes) allows."
I understand this one, really I do, partly because my (animal) family is commonly afflicted with all kinds of bizarre and stressful issues that aren't always treatable. But to lodge a complaint against the veterinarian, as if it's effectively the vet's fault that your pet has X disease, (as many clients are wont to do) is completely unfair and highly counterproductive.
4. The obesity whine
"But she eats almost nothing! How am I supposed to get her to lose weight?"
I don't know, but something about her waistline tells me you're feeding her too much, regardless of what you consider a reasonable volume.
5. The lost hair lament
"You did NOT clip the hair between her toes!" or, "Did you have to take off all that hair just to ultrasound her belly?"
Step away from the ledge and get a grip: It's just hair!
6. She's been vomiting for two weeks but I need an appointment NOW
It might be easy to say, "Your emergency is not our problem!" but the reality is otherwise, seeing as it's not the patient's fault his owner waited until the last minute.
7. "I found her by the side of the road ...
... is it OK if I just leave her here?"
Much as I would like to help you (and I will), this is not a shelter. I expect you to do your part, too.
8. "I need a payment plan..."
Which is a perfectly acceptable request most of us can accommodate in some form or another (CareCredit is the one our hospital uses). But expecting the payment plan of your choice is another story. After all, a veterinary hospital shouldn't have to play healthcare provider and banker.
9. The pet shop puppy nightmare
You might be surprised by all the negativity I get from some owners as I explain the many problems their "well researched" Internet purchase or "high quality" (read: expensive) pet shop puppy possesses. Everything from congenital eye diseases and heart murmurs to hereditary hip and knee diseases ... people can get kind of testy.
But I'm just the messenger!
10. Impatience is not a virtue
When you show up twenty minutes after your appointment and expect to be seen quickly ... well ... let's just say your expectations are unrealistic.
So can you tell I've had a bad week? Even so, perhaps I should take my own advice and keep my grumblings to myself. But then, it's already too late for that.
So whaddaya think? Did I go too far?
Dr. Patty Khuly
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