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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Vet For A Vet

New reader Rockjdog made this comment about my recent post on my own dog's illness.

I am sure you have been told this but would'nt the best course of action be to have another vet treat the dog?

That's actually a very valid question, and it's one that we have to wrestle with periodically.  On one hand it does make sense to give the main clinical duties over to another doctor.  As I mentioned when dealing with my own pet, when you have that close emotional tie it's difficult to maintain good clinical objectivity.  The feelings that run through you as you fret and worry can make it hard to keep good judgment.  Last year I had another vet I know have her husband bring her dog to me for a second opinion.  The dog was in congestive heart failure and she was scared that she wasn't making an objective decision because of how close she was to her dog.  She wanted to hear from another vet what she really knew but couldn't bring herself to relate to her own dog.

However, as a vet we don't like to give those decisions over to another person.  We know how to work through a case, and have a hard time letting go of that when it's a personal pet.  It's a corollary to the above point...because were so emotionally invested we have a hard time letting go, as well as a hard time being objective.  We kind of feel like we'd be letting our own pet down if we didn't handle it ourselves.  In my career I've had to euthanize two of my own cats.  Even though it was the hardest thing I've had to do, in both cases I pushed the plunger and put my own cat to sleep.  Yes, that emotionally draining and hurt immensely.  But I couldn't bring myself to let a colleague be the one to do it.  It was my own pet and I felt that I had the responsibility to do the task myself.

So it's not a clear-cut decision.  For a veterinarian, letting another vet work on your own pet may be the best in some cases to allow clear clinical judgment, but it is difficult to completely let go and trust that to anyone else.  I don't think there is an easy way to handle it, but I dare say that most vets would react similarly to me.

So what about my vet readers?  How have you handled similar situations?


  1. I usually treat my own pets for medical or minor cases, or I certainly did when in practice - but have always decided that the surgery parts were best left to carefully chosen colleagues! I do not trust myself to remain impartial and in control during an emergency....
    Since moving into teaching instead, I have handed over more work to other vets, who respect me enough to include me in the diagnosis and application of treatments; for instance taking one home on s/c pethidine after a shotgun injury...and allowing me to help when the other was in intensive care with AIHA.

    I also euthanised both my animals when the time came - both at home alone. I knew when the time was right.... The thought of distressing them by handing them over to another vet or travelling into town was too hard - they died peacefully and trustingly, my dog wagging her tail lovingly to the last. You stay strong until they are gone and you can't upset them any more - then you weep.
    I dread the next ones - the ones when I no longer have the means and materials at home... when I have to call out a vet friend or take them to the clinic and become an owner, not the vet in charge!

  2. I do most things myself, but don't hesitate to seek a specialist or trusted friend when I need a second opinion or advanced procedure (like Icy's diaphragmatic hernia) performed. I euthanized my rabbit myself, but not my dog. I place a catheter and then just held him while my tech gave the actual injectino through the cath.


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