Friday, May 02, 2008

A Business Plan Based on Fencing Out the Truth

Are dogs and children completely different things?

Some would say so.

My wife, for example, hates it when I compare child rearing to dog training.

That said, a mutual friend happens to be a child psychologist and he agrees with me; it's all about positive rewards, the consistency of simple messages, and fair and proportionate negative consequences.

Or, to put it in dog training terms, it's about operant conditioning.

That said, dogs and children are different, and not just because a smaller-sized choke chain is generally required for the dog.

Another factor is that dogs are basically visual animals who absorb almost all information through visual cues and scent.

Humans, however, are mostly auditory animals who absorb most complex ideas through the spoken word and its visual analog, writing.

This is not to say that sound plays no part in a dog's life, or that visuals are not important to a human.

It is to say, however, that dogs and humans have very different information-gathering systems that are tuned to very different frequencies.

Knowing this is important.

When we get to health care, of course, dogs and humans also share certain aspects, but are radically different in others.

For example, there are some dog diseases that humans cannot get, and vice-versa, and there are some problems that are more common in humans than in dogs, and vice-versa.

Finally, of course, there are some diseases that are easier or harder for a dog to get than a human, and vice-versa, and some diseases that present differently in a dog than a human, and vice-versa.

As a dog owner, it's important to understand what is the same and what is different between humans and dogs, but you will not get a lot of help from veterinarians in this quest.

You see, a lot of veterinarians like to artificially blur real differences between humans and dogs, and these same vets also tend to fabricate distinctions between dogs and humans that do not really exist.

And guess why?

Simple answer: For the money!

It's not that vets are ignorant. Quite the opposite. The vets know the truth, but they fence off the truth because perpetrating confusion and lies is where the money is.

Let's take teeth cleaning. Are human and dogs the same?

Think about it for a minute. What's the main dental difference between a human and a dog?

That's right! The human can be expected to live 80 years with adult teeth, while the dog will generally be dead after 12 or 13 years. That's a big difference!

But there's more.

You see, human teeth cleaning can be done with the human wide awake and sitting up in a chair, while canine dentistry generally has to be done with the dog completely knocked out under general anesthesia.

That's a big difference!

And the reason that's a big difference is that anesthesia is not safe for humans or dogs. In fact, complete general anesthesia is so unsafe that today when a human heart stent is put in, the patient is almost never put completely under. Ditto for laser eye surgery, most small tumor removals, and carpal tunnel surgery, to name just a few examples.

Yet, with dogs, a lot of vets are pushing for annual teeth cleaning in which the dog is put completely under, and the work itself is generally performed by the least experienced person in the veterinary practice (often a vet tech).

And here's the most outrageous part: almost all of this canine dentistry and teeth cleaning is completely medically unnecessary.

Canine teeth cleaning is a "problem" and practice invented about 15 years ago for the sole purpose of billing folks.

And the scam depends entirely on folks confusing human health care and canine health care (ignore the lifespan of the patient!) while ignoring the real financial costs and real medical dangers of the process itself.

Of course, the blurring of differences between dogs and people is not just relegated to canine dentistry, is it?

This morning, I came into work and a young associate was at the coffee pot. Deciding to have a little fun, I explained that his mother and I had been talking and that she had asked me to have a "little talk" with him about sex. Straight-faced I explained that "we realized he was at the time in his life when we was experimenting with young women," and so "just to be safe," we wanted him to be dosed with penicillin every month "because some girls are not clean." Oh, and another thing: since he spent a lot of time in the park, did a lot of gardening, and because he occasionally ate at slightly dodgy restaurants, we also wanted him to get wormed every month.

Of course, he burst out laughing.

And yet, isn't this exactly what we hear from veterinarians who counsel every client that their dog should be on year-round poisons so they can avoid heartworm in the warm months and roundworms the rest of the time?

More on worms and worming in a later post, but suffice it to say that in most of the U.S. heartworm is a seasonal problem that does not require year round "prevention," while roundworm is very uncommon in an adult dog, and dosing your dog on monthly basis is not needed unless you are feeding it the flesh of raw wild animals.

Vaccines are another area where veterinarians like to confuse things.

Those of you who have children know that after that first year of measles-mumps-and-rubella vaccines, you are pretty much done with vaccines.

So why are dogs different?

In truth, they are not. The first round of shots done in that first year of a dog's life are generally good for the life of the dog.

Distemper is not a worry in an adult dog that has its complete first-year round of shots. Neither is corona. Neither is parvo. Kennel cough? Forget it, unless you are boarding the dog and it is required, and even then it is probably useless if they are giving the vaccine the day you are dropping off the dog (it needs 72 hours before it kicks in and gives the dog immunity).

Again, more on this in a later post, but if your veterinarian is pushing disptemper, parvo, corona and other shots for your adult dog, he or she is ripping you off and billing you for medically unnecessary services.

G0 ahead and get a rabies shot every three years (it is required in all states), but don't go to the vet for that shot (he or she will mark it up well over 1,000 percent and add an office visit cost to boot) when the local animal shelter will generally give it for a fractional cost. And be advised that a three-year rabies shot is actually good for seven years or longer!

To be clear, I am not trying to indict all vets.

What I am saying is that folks can save a LOT of money if they simply realize that veterinarians are rarely telling them all the truth, or even half the truth, about their most common billing practices.

While not all vets are ripping off their customers, MOST ARE, and they are ripping them off routinely by billing them for medically unnecessary services, and price-gouging on much of the rest.

The good news is that an informed customers can "just say no" to a lot of things without compromising on their pet's health in the slightest. Other simple money-saving steps and tricks can save folks thousands of dollars per dog over the life a dog.

More on all that later.

For now, it's enough to make this simple point: Dogs and humans are both the same and different, depending on what we are talking about. Yet getting a clear picture on what is the same, and what is different, is not always easy because there is a lot of money to be made by creating and maintaining confusion.

Veterinarians are NOT a disinterested party when it comes to creating and maintaining this confusion. In fact, most veterinary practices have very little else to offer their typical canine customer except medically unnecessary procedures and over-priced medicines that can be gotten for a fraction of the cost elsewhere.


SeattleAmy said...

Love the post. I wish there was a way to test the dogs for what shots they have had because SOOOO many of my rescue dogs were strays...and usually not well cared for, so I always have to go back to the drawing board with the shots.

Of course, the ones dumped on the side of the road in the country that are obviously puppies and not fixed...odds are pretty good they haven't had ANY shots.

I personally keep my 3 dogs current on Bordetello because so many of the fosters that come in (currently at 4 with 2 more on the way in this weekend) from shelters have the nastiest cases of kennel cough. I never knew it could get so bad!! I had one almost die of pnemonia (required forced feeding twice a day, really heavy duty antibiotics for 2 months, and all sorts of other tricks).

Luckily, I have a GREAT vet that I have had since 1990 or so. Even though he works for a corporation, he doesn't do useless tests, can identify most things without doing the testing - or says, it's probably X so let's treat it and if it's not better in 3 days, we can reconsider either running tests or treating for the next most likely thing!

He's used to seeing ALL my dogs - permanent and foster a like and does an awesome job of cutting costs so the vet bills don't become astronomical or prohibitive of continuting to rescue dogs...even within the confines of a corportation!

Amy in Seattle

-J. said...

I can see the argument that many dogs do not require parvo/kennel cough shots, although I'm glad my dogs are on it - they (and I) spend a lot of time in rescue/shelter environments where kennel cough is common and parvo not unheard of - and when I saw the last outbreak of parvo, I saw a mature adult dog infected (not sure of it's vaccination status), which took me by surprise. Most folks don't come into contact with the things my dogs and I do, however.

I would never subject my dogs to yearly dental cleanings - they both have heart murmurs, which makes anesthesia even more risky - and hopefully now that I'm paying more attention to teeth brushing (working up to three times a week) they won't have to have one ever again.

PBurns said...

Parvo shots given after age 6 months are good for the life of the dog. Kennel cough is one of those things you may want you dog to get the nasal vaccine for if it is in a Kennel alot, but otherwise, it's just an expense. I will post more fully on vaccines and diseases in a bit.

If you want to do well for the dog's teeth and diet, a very low-tech way to do it is to toss your dog a frozen chicken wing one or twice a week. Great for the teeth, the dogs love them, and NO, the chicken bones are fine so long as they are NOT COOKED. Wings are cheap too.

Anonymous said...

Good bread too dry:
what remains of meals then placed to dry in oven or under the sun! Become an excellent and economical snacks to clean your teeth

REMEDIES antibacterial vermifuge economic and effective: The GARLIC - Allium sativum (antibacterial antiviral effect vermifugo).
Antibacterial activity of garlic: much more effective when it is fresh.
One clove per week.


Viatecio said...

I know this is an old post and probably long forgotten in some ways, but I do have to correct one small detail.

Vet techs, while lacking in some education (such as behavior, as properly noted in a recent blog about the day-long course in which one can become an "accredited behaviorist" or something of the sort) and taught to add on as many extra charges as possible (the dog NEEDS that shot of PenG and NEEDS that preanesthetic bloodwork...then again, even something as routine as endotracheal intubation is put on as an extra $35-40 charge in some practices), lessons in dentistry and tooth anatomy are actually a large part of the education. One of the toughest professors in my school is the dental king, and if you are not prepared for his station and any question he might ask regarding the mouth, the dental procedure, drugs involved with anesthesia, dental instruments, etc...woe unto that student.

You might be interested to know that dentistry itself is a part of the Vet Tech National Exam and comprises a (rather paltry, in some peoples' eyes) 8% of the test questions. You can read more about the test here, and page 15 lists what all will be on it and in what percentage.

I do agree that vet techs are used in some unethical ways, and the VT employee at school is emphatic about doing what is right rather than what is good...he's had conversations with us in which he too has bemoaned the unethical money-making schemes. One of the part-time professors who is still a practicing DVM sold his practice because he could no longer to afford to stay in business as a semi-ethical vet, or at least one to whom I'd take my dog. The morals are there, but money talks louder in the real world, unfortunately.

Just had to correct this one thing...unless the tech is one who scraped by school by the skin of his teeth--and indeed, there are people in this program that I question HOW they are staying in it, and if not HOW, then WHY--they are by no means the "least experienced."

Dog Man said...

Many small dogs suffer from poor tooth conditions later Iife which shortens their life. IF YOU CAN'T see your way through brushing and other dental care,I would endorse teeth cleaning at age 5 and 10 and carefull targeted extraction at the 10 year mark. It could add a couple of good years to the dog's life.
As for yearly, what are you thinking ?
Before my Pom died from complications of Certifect poisoning, which involved hypothyroidism,her teeth went right to hell after years of good dental condition, I felt so bad I did not notice in time !
ANYWAY I would endorse a tooth cleaning at the 5 and 10 year mark if you notice gum disease or other issues.

Olde New England said...

I appreciate your posts on scams perpetrated by animal professionals, particularly veterinarians.

Have you ever done a post on veterinarians who are scientologists? That bothers me a lot - that those unscrupulous con-men are convincing vets to take classes with the "Sterling Management Company" which is just Scientology by another name. Vets who are scientologists are notorious for prescribing treatments and drugs that do little or nothing, or do more harm than good. But what these treatments are best for is putting money into the pockets of the vets and also into the coffers or the scientologists.

When I found that my vet is a scientologist I left and never went back. When I asked my current vet if they are scientologists I got a great answer: "Eww, no way!"