How do you feel about vet clinics’ COVID rules? If your dog needs vet care, most clinics now make you turn over your dog in the parking lot … along with your credit card.
Do you think this is OK? I don’t!
Dentists can manage to treat us … poking around in our unmasked, germy open mouths. Yet the vet can’t allow you to come into the clinic with your dogs. Not even into the waiting room!
Even when you take your car for service, they call you for permission before they do repairs. Is your living, breathing pet really less important than your lifeless car? It seems like some vets think so!
Vet Clinic COVID Rules
Here’s a pretty typical set of COVID rules from a conventional vet clinic.
- Please remain in your vehicle when you arrive at the hospital and call us. We will check your pet in over the phone.
- A staff member will retrieve your pet from you and bring him/her into the hospital for treatment/care.
- If your pet’s appointment is an examination with one of our veterinarians, your pet’s veterinarian will communicate with you via phone following the examination.
- We will take payment information over the phone and your pet will be returned to you at the conclusion of the appointment.
Don’t you wonder why the vet can’t communicate with you via phone during the exam, instead of afterwards? Just as if you were there in the room during a normal visit.
Instead, this order of things means it’s highly likely your dog could get a treatment you don’t want … because they didn’t ask you while the vet was with your dog. They just went ahead and did what they thought was best … not what you wanted.
Vets Make Mistakes
Even if you’re there, mistakes happen. I’ve had some near-misses myself.
A dog I adopted a few years ago came into rescue positive for Lyme disease. So I asked for a blood draw for re-testing. The vet tech walked into the exam room with a large syringe full of pink fluid. I said, “What’s that?” and she replied, “The Lyme vaccine you ordered.”
I hadn’t ordered any such thing! Why would they even think of vaccinating a dog for a disease he supposedly already had? And how does that kind of mistake happen? Did the vet write the order wrong? Or did the vet tech misread it?
It doesn’t matter. The clinic’s still responsible for mistakes. And giving a dog a potentially harmful and unnecessary vaccination is a bad mistake.
Mistakes Are More Likely If You Aren’t There
So when you’re not allowed to supervise your dog’s care … what can happen?
Well there are now countless stories. Many of them are about vet clinics giving unwanted treatments during curbside drop-off appointments.
Sometimes vets or vet techs just ignore the client’s instructions and do what they think the pet needs. Other times, they make real mistakes. With modern electronic client management software, it’s all too easy for someone to click the wrong item.
So there’s a strong likelihood your dog will get a vaccine she didn’t need or conventional treatment you didn’t want. Without your permission!
Holistic vet Dee Blanco DVM wonders if there’ll be more malpractice suits because of weak communication by many clinics. She’s heard many stories of vets vaccinating animals without permission … or even performing expensive, unnecessary surgeries. She explains, “It’s poor medicine … and so far from natural, individualized, humane veterinary care.”
Real Life Vet Clinic Mistakes
Here are some examples of stories from Dogs Naturally readers. These experiences illustrate the risk you take when you let your dog go into the clinic without you.
One owner took her 16-week-old dog for the distemper and parvo vaccines. Nothing else. The vets gave a DHPP combo without permission … because they “couldn’t separate the vaccines.”
Another person took her dog in for a persistent UTI. The vet prescribed antibiotics … and bullied the owner into vaccinating. (Apparently the vet “forgot” the vaccine label warns that they’re only for healthy animals.) The owner specifically instructed the clinic not to give a leptospirosis shot. But when she got the bill, there was the lepto vaccine … against her stated wishes.
One woman wanted blood work for her dog but couldn’t get into her regular vet. So she went to a different vet. Without asking the owner … the clinic gave the dog a 3-year rabies shot, plus a combo vaccine that included lepto. But the dog had already had the rabies shot 3 months earlier at the other clinic! When the client complained, they apologized and refunded her money. But it’s not about the money … it’s about the damage to the dog from over-vaccination!
A dog went in for spaying. The owner clearly instructed “no vaccines.” The clinic gave the dog a distemper vaccine against her instructions.
It’s Careless Veterinary Care
These clinics could have easily avoided the errors. All it takes is a phone call to the client waiting in the parking lot! The clinics weren’t just sloppy … they acted like they didn’t care. They were were careless in every sense of the word.
And all of these clinics violated the “informed consent” doctrine. The AVMA’s policy recommends vets “document verbal or written informed consent and the client’s understanding.” And some states have laws that require vets to get written consent for certain treatments.
RELATED: What happened to informed consent?
Why Vets Want To Keep You Out Of The Clinic
I spoke with a few holistic vets for this article. Several of them suggested that a lot of vets prefer not having the owners in the room. Perhaps these practitioners went into veterinary medicine because they loved animals. But they’re not so keen on dealing with people!
Dog owners are a picky bunch. You love your dog a lot. So you ask questions and want to have a say in your dog’s care. Some vets don’t like you questioning their recommendations. They’d rather treat your dog and move on to the next patient … without having to discuss or explain what they’re doing.
Dr Blanco believes some vets are using the pandemic as an excuse to keep clients at arm’s length. Many medical procedures already do this. The laboratory analysis, the x-rays, the surgeries … all keep you at a subtle distance. So the vet staff doesn’t have to sit and answer the hard questions or feel the tougher emotions.
And if this is true, it suggests some vets will resist going back to the old ways. Even after COVID rules are no longer warranted … there may be some clinics that stick with drop-off care.
Dr Todd Cooney thinks curbside drop-off appeals to vets with a more authoritative streak. And he thinks those vets will continue it after the pandemic.
If that happens, don’t give these clinics your business. You pay your vet to care for your dog. And that means you get to make the decisions. Of course, you’ll listen to your vet’s recommendations. But then you get to say yes or no.
So … what choice do you have?
5 Ways To Avoid Curbside Vet Drop-off Mistakes
Your dog needs the vet, for whatever reason. And your vet has COVID rules preventing you from going too. Here are some ways to prevent mistakes.
#1 Do A Remote Consult With A Holistic Vet
This is an ideal solution for anybody who can’t find a good holistic vet locally. Many holistic vets routinely do phone consults. They include vets who practice herbalism, homeopathy or Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. So find someone who fits your healthcare philosophy for your dog.
But sometimes you need hands-on work. In that case …
#2 Find A Holistic Vet To See Your Dog
I talked with several holistic vets when I was researching this article. And every one of them who has a clinic said they’re allowing owners to come in with their pets. There’s a downloadable list below to help you.
Again, if you don’t know a holistic vet, ask your friends, or check the AHVMA and AVH directories. Always read their websites and ask questions before you choose a vet. You want to know their healthcare philosophy. Then you won’t get surprised by “faux-listic” vets. Because some vets claim they use natural healthcare … but then give vaccinations and other pharmaceuticals.
#3 Find A Mobile Vet
Dr Blanco says she’s advising her clients to work with a house call vet. And It’s getting easier to find mobile vets. If a vet comes to your home, you’ll be in the room and can have a say in your dog’s exam or treatment. Your dog will be less stressed at home too.
Many mobile vets have well-equipped vans and can do more complex diagnostics. Others can even do procedures like teeth cleaning.
To find a mobile vet locally, the internet is your friend. A quick search using your city or zip code should bring up some local options. You may want to check Yelp reviews as well.
There are also some directories that list mobile or house call vets. Here’s one I found.
#4 Give Instructions In Writing
Even if you do phone consults with a holistic vet or you use a mobile vet … sometimes you might need a service they can’t provide. And then you’re stuck with a local clinic.
If that happens, be prepared before you drop your dog off. Try to use a vet you have a relationship with. They’ll be more likely to respect your wishes if they know you.
Then, write down your clear detailed instructions.
- Specify exactly what services you do and don’t want (and what you will and won’t pay for!).
- Write your name – and your dog’s – on the instructions.
- Provide your mobile phone number so they can reach you while your dog’s at the clinic.
- Ask the vet to call you while she’s in the exam room with your dog. She can still do her job while she’s on speakerphone.
- State in bold or large letters … “No vaccinations or treatments without owner’s express permission.”
Then comes the hard part. How to make sure your vet actually sees your instructions. Here are some suggestions on how to make that happen. Multiple approaches are a good idea.
- If your vet reads email, email the instructions to her at least a day before your appointment.
- Give a copy of the instructions to the staff member who takes your dog. Be friendly and ask them to make sure the vet gets it. Ask this person for their name … and use it when you talk to them. This helps create a personal connection with the individual. And you’ll also know who’s to blame if the message doesn’t get through to the vet.
- Put the instructions in an envelope and tape it to your dog’s collar or harness.
- Write the instructions on a big tag and tie it to your dog’s collar or harness.
The Best Way To Deliver Your Instructions
Or even better … use a great suggestion from holistic veterinarian Dr Odette Suter. I love this idea!
- Use a marker to write your instructions on a white t-shirt.
- Include your mobile phone number.
- Then put the t-shirt on your dog.
This will make it much harder for the clinic to lose, forget or ignore your wishes!
#5 How To Handle Emergencies
This is more difficult. In an emergency, you won’t have time to prepare instructions. In a true emergency they’ll whisk your dog away and you won’t get any news for a while. Sometimes it could be hours before you get an update.
But you should still ask the staff to try to keep you informed. And tell them you want to speak to the vet as soon as they have some news.
Dr Barrie Sands is a holistic vet who also works at an emergency clinic.
If it’s a true emergency (like a car accident) the vets will go ahead and triage to save the patient’s life. Meanwhile the front desk gets the client’s approval for treatment that can cost $800 to $1000.
For animals in critical condition, the vets will stabilize them before they call the owners. Dr Sands says she calls as soon as she can turn her back without risking the pet dying.
Don’t Use The ER For Non-Emergencies
Dr Sands also said many people are coming to the ER for non-emergencies. They’ve learned to use buzzwords that get them in. Like “my pug is hypoxic.” And then the pug trots in, breathing normally.
Try not to use emergency clinics for non-emergencies. It’s not fair to the pets who have true emergencies. And it’s not fair to the vets, who are already overwhelmed with cases.
In fact, Dr Sands told me most emergencies could be avoided if dogs were on better diets. A huge percentage of ER cases are GI problems like diarrhea or vomiting.
What Holistic Vets Say About Curbside Care
Dr Dee Blanco told me “I’m not seeing patients, but I haven’t for a few years now. If I had an office I would be … and I probably would tell people to leave their masks at home!”
Dr Odette Suter understands that specialty and ER clinics can’t let owners in. If they had just one COVID case, they’d have to shut down.
But Dr Judy Jasek says there’s no reason for clinics not to let you in with your dog. And you should have the right to talk to your dog’s doctor before agreeing to any treatment.
It’s especially bad with the big corporate clinics who are profit-driven. Sometimes they’re dragging scared animals into the clinic … then sedating them for their visit to make their jobs easier.
Dr Katie Kangas had a client whose dog was at the vet with a serious condition. Yet, after 9 phone calls she still didn’t get to talk to the vet. She was stuck communicating through the receptionist.
Homeopath Brenda Tobin asks clients what the vet said. And the answer is often, “I don’t know, I didn’t get to talk to her.”
It it any wonder people say they don’t trust their vet?
We’re Stressing Our Dogs
Dr PJ Broadfoot observes that a lot of the rules are fear-based. But fear is the worst thing because it pushes you into sympathetic overdrive. That means you’re stressed … and so is your dog.
Every single holistic vet I spoke with agreed … pets are getting sicker because their families are so stressed during the pandemic. And that stress is rubbing off on our dogs. They’re also getting less rest because we’re with them 24/7.
Vet clinics are getting busier. So this isn’t an easy situation. Many vets are overwhelmed with patients. They’ve lost staff and are getting burned out.
But aren’t they making their lives harder with these rules? Wouldn’t it be simpler to have the owner in the clinic with their dog? Instead, clinics are too busy to communicate with owners … and potentially harming pets as a result.
So … it’s not easy getting vets to work with you in the pandemic environment. But there are ways to work around it.
Above all, get a holistic vet on board for most of your dog’s care. You may need a conventional vet sometimes for diagnostics … or even treatment. But you’ll have a holistic vet on your side to help you negotiate the process.
Here’s a downloadable list of the holistic vets I spoke with. If you’re local, these vets will all see you in person with your dog.