Friday, November 21, 2008

The Difficulty of Finding a New Vet (revised to avoid lawsuits)

As many of you may know, I recently moved to the east side. Since doing so, I've replaced lots of "old" places with "new" places, from my dry cleaner to my bank to my grocer. Most recently, I contemplated changing vets, and took my baby dogder Ellie this week to Mandel's Veterinary Hospital. The appointment didn't take long, but it was long enough to ensure that I personally will not be going back.

At least, I won't be going back to let Dr. West see my pup. Everyone else there was kind and professional, and I didn't have the opportunity to meet the real Dr. Mandel. But Dr. West's professional performance was such that I'll not return.

My beloved Ellie is the nearest and dearest thing in my life. Sure, that's a function of my singleness and low-grade level of estrangement from my nuclear family, but it is also a testament to the deep affection I have for the young lady.

Poor Ellie is also plagued by less-than-perfect anal glands. (I'm sorry, I know this is a little gross.) About once a year or so, one will get impacted and she'll need to go in for manual expression (which is a nice way of saying something really gross). The first few times this happened I was a little slow on picking up the problem, and the glands became infected. The last few years, though, I pick up on it pretty quick and am usually able to get her into the vet to get everything cleaned out before she needs antibiotics. Over the years, between no small amount of independent research on both the breed and the disease, and enough conversations with vets and observed expressions, I know my way around the jargon, the options, and what to expect.

Which brings us to today. I noticed Ellie scooting and sniffing a couple days ago, took a look at her bum, and saw that one was pretty swollen. I made an appointment at the Mandel clinic for this afternoon. Went in, waited 10-15 minutes, and then were shown to an examination room. The tech came in and asked me for the second time (fourth in all that day from the staff) exactly what we were doing with Ellie today, and a few minutes later the vet, Dr. West, walked in. She asked, yet again, what we were doing with Ellie today -- apparently these folks don't believe in charts or, you know, communicating with one another. After I told her, she asked if this was the first time. I said no, as a beagle she has poorly developed anal sacs and this is a once a year or so problem.

At this point, I must've said the magic words, because before doing anything else, Dr. West said that surgery sounded appropriate. I said I was aware of the procedure but had been advised by previous vets that such a surgery would be expensive, invasive, and had a lot of downside. She responds, defensively and unconvincingly, that Dr. Mandel has done a lot of such surgeries and she has never seen any problem afterwards. I say thanks but no thanks and that I'm happy to just keep an eye on her and bring her in to have the glands expressed when they backfire.

She is visibly displeased, yet lubes up her finger, pokes around a bit, and comments about how swollen they feel (no kidding, doc), and how it just doesn't seem like she can get them expressed. She disengages and says the next step will be to schedule an appointment to put Ellie under sedation, flush her out, blah blah blah.

In other words, schedule another appointment, put the dog under anesthesia, and spend a lot of money to do what every other vet has done for regular office visit prices before, without needing to knock the dog out.

Medical care, whether for dogs or humans, should be thoughtful and not immediately jump to the most invasive (and most expensive) options. Yet that's what Dr. West did. Without really listening to my explanation of her problem or trying for more than about 30 seconds to do what I was in there paying to have done. When I didn't immediately embrace her rather draconian treatment advice, she got pissed and went through the motions. Her last words to me were that she would go prepare a steroid shot and antibiotic prescription and that someone, whether her office or another vet, should look at Ellie again in a few days. In other words, she'd failed in her attempt to express Ellie's glands, mostly because she barely tried, because she was irritated that I had the audacity to disagree with her feelings about surgery, which she had told me about before even looking at the dog's ass, and now that she had failed, she was throwing some drugs at the problem (which she knew wouldn't do a damn thing to express the impacted gland) and sending me elsewhere. Anywhere else.

Oh, and she said that feeding Ellie canned pumpkin would solve all her problems. Hmm. Call me skeptical, but this seems like an unlikely panacea.

Anyway, moral of the story. Don't switch vets just to save 30 minutes on the road. And if you must make a change, don't just do a little google searching to find out the nearest place with an operational website.

As for Ellie and I, we'll be calling Gateway and seeing if Dr. Abby is working Monday or Tuesday. And if not, we'll look into some east-side vets recommended by the irreplaceable Becca from the wonderful Mutt Hutt. A quick post-failed vet visit phone call to her got me plenty of reputable leads, which I should have done in the first place. Anyway, lessons learned, and all it cost me was $$97.93.


Bridget Callahan said...

As owner of a cat who likes to scoot too much, here's a tip that will save you some money. Learn to express the glands yourself (maybe, this is a cat vs dog of course, so ask your vet). It's really very simple, and you can buy gloves and lube (unless you already have some). Just bribe a very strong friend to go along with this. My friend from the Lakewood Animal Clinic taught me how.

But also don't discount the pumpkin thing. I've heard that before.

Bridget Callahan said...

Oh, but always listen to Becca. Becca is AWESOME.

CB said...

Yeah, Becca is really cool. I dig how caring she is when it comes to animals.

The self-expressing idea is a good one, but I can't bear to do it.

And the pumpkin thing is probably helpful at least in hardening the stool, but that isn't the problem with Ellie. Plus, I found it ironic that the doc was willing to either go home-style or surgery, but the middle ground was disinteresting to her.

paulius said...

My greyhound had that problem. It went away after 3 or 4 episodes.