“50 Things Your Vet Won’t Tell You” – A Controversial Article from Reader’s Digest

Whether or not you’ve read it before, I urge you to check out this article that appeared in Reader’s Digest not long ago. Why? Well, it rustled a few veterinary feathers, including mine.


The article is entitled, “50 Things Your Vet Won’t Tell You” and while I know some of the things mentioned are pretty accurate, enough of them are inaccurate that the article warranted a response from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

The AVMA’s response (HERE), took issue with the implication that indoor cats do not need to be vaccinated against rabies and the implcation that Caribbean vet schools are inferior to US vet schools and degrees from such institutions can simply be bought.

I am not even going to tackle the latter issue, but the previous one is near and dear to me having worked in the shelter community. Animal shelters exist for a reason – to provide basic necessities and care for animals that are without a home. Judging by behavior alone, the majority of the cats I’ve dealt with in shelters have been very domestic and clearly had a home at one point

The AVMA’s issues aside, I had a rather strong response to the many of the comments made by “Oscar Chavez, DVM” who is described as the“program director for the vet tech program at California Polytechnic State University in Pomona, California.” Overall, it wasn’t that his comments were so outrageous that they should be pulled from the article, it’s more so that he sounds jaded and the quote only gives you so much of the necessary information.

Here are some of his comments and my response to them…

“Most hospitals keep comprehensive records of behavior—of both your pet and you! If you are aggressive to the staff, you will be treated differently.” This is, in my opinion, a wording issue. People who are aggressive shouldn’t be treated differently (as in receive sub-par care or service) but rather they may be handled differently.

“The reason your pet is fat is because you are too. I would never say that to someone in an exam room, but the fact of the matter is, if you have an owner who overeats and is inactive, they are very likely to have an obese pet.” I will be the first to admit that pet obesity is a problem, but I cannot tell you the number of vets or vet students I know who are thin and have obese pets! I would just like to see the research (if it is out there) that shows definitively that there is a direct correlation between owner obesity and pet obesity.

“New staff or training students sometimes practice injections or catheter placements on your pet. If you’d rather not allow your pet to be used this way, make sure you say something beforehand.” Sure, this happens. However, just because someone is training or learning doesn’t mean they will automatically be bad and traumatize your pet. I have witnessed many DVMs have difficulty with IV injections or catheter placements when RVTs or students nail them every time! Just something to consider…

“Behavior issues are the No. 1 cause of pet re-homing, euthanasia, and death. Yet, because it’s not medical, most of us don’t learn much about that in veterinary school.” The first sentence is true – the second sentence is not generalizable. Dr. Chavez may have not received much of an education in vet school pertinent to behavioral issues, but at Davis we do get a fair amount of education on behavioral issues. We have a club devoted to behavior that brings in speakers for symposiums and other talks to provide further information and training on behavioral issues. There’s even a rotation in the hospital that you can choose to do during your 4th year that is strictly devoted to behavior.

“No regulation says vets have to check certain lists before they euthanize an animal, and lots of vets still do convenience euthanasia for owners who prefer the easy way out. We see a lot of euthanasia in November and December, for example, just because people are getting ready for the holidays. I refuse to do it.” Having not worked in private practice, I must say that the holiday influx of euthanasias doesn’t surprise me and he is correct in that we can euthanize an animal for any reason, but many of us have morals that stop us from euthanizing a healthy animal simply because it’s not convenient for the owner or the pet fails to match the new decor in the house. I applaud Dr. Chavez for refusing to perform convenience euthanasia!

“If we wanted to go into it for the money, we’d have become human doctors.” Maybe you, Dr. Chavez, but not me. I’m not here for money but I definitely wouldn’t choose to work with human patients if it meant making more money or if I simply couldn’t get into vet school. I would have found another path. It is true, though — vets don’t make much money; especially not compared to MDs.