Shocking Expose' - Veterinarians

"Why I’m ashamed to be a vet" - a shocking exposé of the profession that puts pets through ‘painful and unnecessary treatments to fleece their trusting owners.

For eight years Matthew Watkinson worked as a vet. But are vets really the saints they are made out to be? Here, Matthew, 32, now an author, exposes the uncuddly truth about vets that every animal lover should read...

He found himself so disgusted at the moneymaking practices that he left the profession altogether.

Dog with Bone Cancer
The greyhound’s soulful eyes seemed to plead with me to help him. His thin tail tucked between his legs, he stood still with fear on the examination table as the posse of fellow veterinary students listened to the chief lecturer.

Aged 12, he had bone cancer in a hind leg and it was advanced, we were told. Looking at the dog, I imagined he’d had a good life. Obviously, from the condition of his brushed coat, and his muscled body, he had an owner who knew how to care for him.

As a student vet who in a year was to graduate to work in my own practice, I knew what I would recommend if I were this dog’s owner – and that was a loving and peaceful death.

But putting the greyhound to sleep and out of his misery was not the correct answer, the lecturer told me quite sternly.

A humane death would not be the course of treatment offered to its owner. Well, at any rate, not yet. After all, didn’t I realize the advances that had been made in veterinary medicine? There were ‘options’ that could extend this old dog’s life.

No, instead, its leg was going to be amputated and then a course of chemotherapy would be tried to ensure that ‘all was done to save the dog’s life’ – at a cost of $1,000 to $2,000, or even more.

I have no idea what the owner thought of this. But, as the majority of pet owners want to do the best by their beloved dog, I can only imagine he or she took this ‘chief’ vet’s expensive advice to try to ‘save’ the pet.

Meanwhile, I remember pushing down the revulsion I felt about putting the dog through what we all knew would be punishing treatment that in all likelihood would not work.

And even if it did give that greyhound an extra year or so of life, how could anyone explain to it that the suffering was for a reason? That lying in a small cage, surgically maimed, and hooked up to a drip for weeks, perhaps months, would be ‘worth it’.

Today I look back on that lecture and realize that already I had begun to question the role of vets in animal ‘welfare’.

The point is yes, we could treat this dog’s cancer, but was it in the best interests of that dog? Morally, should we have even considered further treatment or was it all about making money?

On Becoming a Veterinarian
Of course, back then I avoided becoming embroiled in ethics. I was just thrilled to be one of the lucky few to have made it into the most prestigious vet school in the country – London’s Royal Veterinary College.

Back then, I had no concept that far from the saviors of animals they purport to be, the blame for much animal suffering in the UK and USA can be laid so firmly at the door of vets.

I had no idea that I would ultimately be driven to confess that I am ashamed to be a vet and that, eight years after qualifying, I would find myself so disgusted at the moneymaking practices that I would leave the profession altogether.

Of course, not all vets deliberately set out to make as much money as they can out of treating animals. But money $$$ – not the welfare of the animal – is often at the forefront of the vet’s mind.
Of course there are outright cowboys in any field and the veterinary profession is sadly no exception.

Today you will notice more and more practices have sprung up throughout the country – especially in those affluent areas where the middle-class residents treat their pets as part of their family.

One might imagine that because there are so many more vets that animals need more medical help than ever. But the truth is far simpler. A whole industry has arisen out of squeezing the most money out of treating family pets.

During the ‘health check’ that goes with a visit, it is amazing how many problems the vet might find.
It is not unheard of for vets to Google a pet owner’s home to see which area the family live in. Big house in a posh road – well, you can offer more treatment to that pet owner, of course. 

I never witnessed this in my practice, but I heard of it happening. Charge more for your services so a vaccination that costs a few pennies becomes a $50 ‘consultation’. And that isn’t all.

While the owner might believe he or she is only taking their cat for a vaccination (and I have no problem with sensible preventative healthcare) for the vet, this visit can be a way to make even more money out of a perfectly healthy animal.

Unnecessary Tests
So your vet discovers your cat has a seemingly innocuous chipped tooth?

I have known of cat owners told that despite the fact their cat is perfectly fine – and frankly animals in the wild break their teeth all the time and do not need expensive dentistry work – that to remove the tooth is justified ‘just in case’ it later causes a problem.

Having a tooth removed, especially a canine tooth, is major surgery – costing upwards of $100 – and should only be done if the cat is suffering because of it.

But more often than not, a loving owner will trust their vet and sadly go along with surgery that is not only unnecessary but plain risky for a pet who does not need it.

Similarly, I have known vets suggest doing an ‘exploratory’ operation on a cat just because it had been sick. But like humans, cats and dogs get sick from time to time. The best response is to wait and see, not offer a battery of blood tests and invasive operations.

Having allowed their pet to have such an operation, the owner when the pet recovers will put this down to the operation being a success.

It is not! If nothing was found, your pet would have begun feeling better anyway. Possibly sooner.

Small animals such as guinea pigs and rabbits should be put to sleep if they present with an illness that can’t be easily rectified with a dose of antibiotics. Their lives should not be prolonged at all cost.

Above All - Do No Harm

Nor should cats that are run over and experience a complex injury or bladder problems – sadly an all-too-common feature of road accidents as the car catches the back of the cat as it tries to escape – endure lots of operations in the hope that the problems can be cured.

Even if they can be – eventually – I believe putting any animal through this is BARBARIC!

Which brings me to another issue that helps vets to carry out these expensive and totally unnecessary procedures – pet insurance.

These days, pet insurance is pushed as a ‘necessity’. Sit in any vet’s surgery and you are left in no doubt as you survey the dozens of adverts for it that ‘good’ owners have it while ‘bad’ owners do not.