All businesses get complaints. Complaints to veterinarians are no exception.
After being in the veterinary profession for years, I've seen clients complain about a number of things. Their wait was too long, the receptionist was "rude", the shot hurt their cat more than last time, their bill was too high, their 20-year-old cat had treatment and died anyway. This is just to name a few. Other complaints may be that their hospitalized cat smells like urine or....the doctor didn't spend enough time talking to them. You name it and I've heard it.
There are a variety of types of complaints – customer service problems, facility problems, and medical care complaints. .
PLEASE NOTE – THIS ARTICLE WAS EDITED IN RESPONSE TO readers concerns about the bias of the article. Please go to:: Readers Respond with Anger to Irreverent Vet Speaks on If Vets Make Mistakes
to read the comments and my response.
In response to readers comments – I'll tell you this - Veterinarians do make mistakes. No one is perfect.
Here are a couple scenarios of complaints that may not necessary be the vets fault (and I'll follow this up with some real mistakes that vets have made):
1. A 15-year-old cat comes in with a history of not eating and vomiting for 5 days. The owners want to do everything. They are given an estimate for approximately $600.00 for 2 days of hospitalization and treatment. The cat is in the hospital for 4 days. Their bill is $892.00. At the end of the fourth day – the cat dies. The owner is very upset – their bill is over the estimate and they don't want to pay. Their cat died anyway and they don't have anything to show for their money.
2. A young cat is declawed. The owners were instructed to use paper litter only and to keep an E-collar on the kitty for 5 days after surgery. The owners used regular litter and did not keep the E-collar on the cat because he didn't like it. The wounds got infected. The owner went to the emergency clinic where they treated the wounds and started the cat on antibiotics. The emergency, wound care, injection of antibiotics and pills to go home totaled $137.80. Who is to blame? Is it the veterinarian's fault? Who should pay?
To be honest – this is complicated. Complications occur in human medicine all the time. The physician does not wave costs because a complication occurred.
In my experience, most serious complaints occur due to money. That is what it comes down to. If everything was free and the outcome was still good and there was no clear "fault" – there would be no complaints. But because there is money involved – there is fault or there tries to be "fault".
Here are some mistakes I've seen:
1. A dog has a bump that the other point out during a routine examination. The vet says not to worry about it. Two years later it turns out to be cancer.
2. A dog is diagnosed with epilepsy and is started on seizure medication. The wrong medication was filled in the pharmacy. The mediation was supposed to be Phenobarbital and instead an entirely different drug that has no effect on seizures called Phenoxybenamine was given. The dog continues to have seizures and the owner continues to give the medication (thinking it was helping). Phenoxybenamine does nothing to help the seizures. The dog eventually comes back in and the mistake is identified.
3. A dog with a history of seizures comes in to the clinic for thunderstorm anxiety. The dog is prescribed a sedative called Acepromazine. It works very well for anxiety. But it can decrease the seizure threshold and should not be used in seizure dogs. On a stormy night the Acepromazine is given and the dog goes on to seizure. He presents to the emergency clinic and the mistake is identified.
4. A 7 month old adorable dog comes in to a clinic I worked at for abdominal pain 3 weeks after she was spayed. An x-ray shows one VERY large kidney. A mistake was made during surgery that tied off the ureter (the tube that carries urine) which caused a very enlarged painful kidney. The kidney had to be removed.
5. A cat with glaucoma goes to the vet to have the painful eye reomvoed. When the client goes to pick up the cat – she screams as she sees the wrong eye was removed.
What do you do if you think your veterinarian really screwed up? One is not perfect and mistakes can happen.