The veterinary profession: who’s in charge?

Have you ever wondered what to do if you aren’t happy with the actions of your vet? Most people realise that vets have codes of conduct and ethics that they need to adhere to, but how does this work in practice? What happens to a vet if they stray from the correct professional path?
Vets are a “self regulating” profession, like many other professions such as doctors, lawyers and dentists. The phrase “self regulating” does not fit well with twenty first century concepts of fairness and objective justice. It sounds as if vets are allowed to just get on with their own thing, putting their own interests first. After all, how can someone be expected to regulate themselves as firmly as they would be if controlled by an independent third party?
The historical basis behind self regulation is the concept that the professions operate in a market where the consumer can never have full and equal knowledge with the professional. Whereas anyone can see if a grocery product is adequate, if your doctor tells you that some complex test is needed, or your dentist tells you that you need a filling, or your vet tells you that your dog needs an MRI scan, how can you tell? To address this imbalance in the market place, governments need to have a system that forces the professions to adhere to certain standards. And the only people who know enough about a specific profession, in order to be able to understand what’s going on, are members of that profession. Hence the concept of “self regulation”……………………………..

Part 3: Surgical Colic

As we saw in the previous part of this series, Medical colics are those which can be managed medically, usually on the yard. However, about 1 in 10 cases of colic require emergency referral to an equine hospital for surgery.

This is what most horse owners are terrified of. The general indicators that a horse has a surgical colic are:

1) Heart rate over 60 that isn’t relieved by injectable painkillers.

2) Dilated loops of small intestine on rectal exam

3) Positive stomach reflux from the stomach tube

4) A definite rectal diagnosis of a surgical problem.

5) “Toxic rings” – dark red or purple gums, that indicate that the horse is going into toxic shock.

Of course, it varies between horses, and the vet has to make a judgment call based on all the evidence available.

We also have to talk to the (by now usually frantic) owners about costs. Colic surgery usually costs between £4000 and £5000, but can easily be a lot more. Even if the horse is insured, it is important to check how much the insurance company will cover – there are a couple of companies out there who will only cover part of the costs of emergency surgery. If in doubt, always call your insurer’s helpline.

However, colic surgery is one of the most genuine emergency operations there is – and it can be truly life-saving….

The death of Ben Fogle’s dog: his honest grief is helpful to us all

Ben Fogle has written a moving piece in the Sunday Telegraph about the loss of his Black Labrador, Inca. At twelve years of age, she had lost the power in both hind legs. Ben made the right decision for Inca, but it was still terribly difficult to go through the process of euthanasia. His article is unusually frank, with Ben describing how he “burst into uncontrollable tears” on the telephone when talking to his veterinary surgeon father, Bruce, about the situation. Then later, Ben describes the actual act of euthanasia:
“I carried her from the car into the house, burying my face into her fur, and laid her on the kitchen floor. Mum, Dad and my sister were all there. “I lay on the floor, hugging Inca while Dad injected her. Her breathing became heavy. I could feel her heart pounding and the warm blood beneath her skin. I breathed the familiar scent of her fur as I nuzzled into her thick coat. I have never sobbed like that in my life. It was a primal, uncontrollable, guttural sob as I felt her heart stop beating.I lay there on the kitchen floor clutching my best friend, unable to move. Wishing, hoping it was a dream, I held her lifeless body.”
Many readers have commented on the online version of Ben’s article, with some describing how tears were streaming down their face as they read his words.
Ben’s account will come as no surprise to vets and nurses: we witness people going through the emotional trauma of losing a pet every day, or even several times in one day. Perhaps the only surprising aspect is that the depth of grief isn’t discussed more commonly in public. It’s as if it’s only behind closed doors that it’s acceptable to express this level of grief for an animal……………………….

More Useful Information

Examining your pet

Simple ways to check the health of your pet. Vets use these techniques as part of their clinical examiniation.

Medicating your pet

Arming you with the same simple techniques for stress free pill giving.

Worming & Flea Treatment

Information and advice in treating your pet for worms and fleas.