Preventative Veterinary Medicine is NOT an Upsell!

KobeI’m not a veterinarian. I don’t even have a degree in veterinary technology. What I am is a veterinary professional who happens to be certified in practice management and veterinary journalism. “Oh—you’re the business side of veterinary medicine!”, you might be thinking to yourself. That might be true. But, I got into this profession for the same reason most every veterinarian and team member I’ve ever met did—-for our love of animals.

I missed last night’s airing of 20/20 and the inflammatory story about upselling veterinary services to pet owners with healthy dogs, but I did read the print version of the story today. I’m a little baffled about the story’s portrayal of the necessity, or lack thereof, for preventative dental care. I have a 13-year-old Papillon named Kobe. When experienced veterinary professionals ask me what kind of dog I have and I tell them, they invariably label him as a “periodontal disease poster child”—and he truly is. If he goes more than six months without a dental cleaning, his breath is foul and the tartar starts to look like stalagmites! He’s had more than 8 extractions in the past six years, and I’m sure there will be more in the future. And this is a dog who has been getting preventative dental cleanings since he was about four years old. Otherwise, he’s always been pretty healthy.

If I had waited until Kobe had “dental disease” to have his first cleaning done, I shudder to think how advanced his dental disease would be at the age of 13. Do we wait until we see signs of dental disease in our own mouths to see a dentist for a cleaning? Absolutely not! So, why is it that when a human dentist has us come in every six months for dental cleanings to PREVENT disease it’s accepted standard of care, but in veterinary medicine to start recommending preventative dental cleanings at the age of four in a healthy dog, with mild tartar it’s “unnecessary upselling”?

In the 17 years I’ve been in the veterinary field, and in all the practices I’ve worked and consulted with, I’ve never seen a doctor or team member recommend something that wasn’t part of their hospital’s standards of care, and in the best interests of the pet. I’m proud to be a part of this profession, and my dog will have his teeth cleaned as often as my veterinarian says it needs to be done. Why? I want him to live a long and healthy life, because he is a big part of my family.

You can read other responses to ABC’s story at: Bash’s blog post and PetED’s website

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