(Just was notified that Dr. Jones didn’t appear in this piece, “Barking Mad,” which appeared on Canadian TV. I regret the error. And my apologies to Dr. Jones (who never asked for an apology but merits one). Still my mistake doesn’t change the segment, what the focus was, how it was put together. My greatest fear is that pet owners will watch this segment, and based on it not visit their veterinarians for check ups….And that would not be in our pets’ best interest….simple as that.)
I am a journalist, not a veterinarian. At this moment, I am ashamed for my profession rather than the veterinary professional targeted in an ABC-TV “20/20” story called “Is Your Veterinarian Being Honest With You?” which aired November 24.
The “20/20” piece was essentially a replication of a report that recently aired on Canadian TV. What both segments have in common is Dr. Andrew Jones looking into the camera, and telling pet owners that veterinarians are essentially ripping them off and preying on their emotional attachments to their pets.
Jones, who has a checkered history practiced in British Columbia, Canada, and is hawking a book called “Veterinary Secrets Revealed,” and a DVD entitled “Healing Your Pets at Home.” More later on why that DVD title flies in the face of good medicine, and why I believe Jones is actually the one preying upon pet owners.
By the way – there’s no typo here – Jones no longer practices veterinary medicine. He quit in 2010, just after he was fined by the British Columbia Veterinary Medical Association (for multiple offenses, ranging from false claims on products with his name on them, to denigrating other veterinarians).
I can’t fathom how the “20/20” producers considered Jones a credible source in the first place.
Producers and the reporter followed two dogs, Maeby and Honey. First, to ensure Maeby and Honey were healthy, a New York City veterinarian initially examined them. Then, with hidden cameras in place, the canines wagged from clinic to clinic for what were supposed to be routine exams. The idea was to catch dastardly veterinarians ripping off clients.
For starters, most veterinarians – according to the TV report – agreed the dogs are healthy.
One veterinarian at a New Jersey clinic noticed that bit of tartar on Maeby’s teeth and recommended the pet owner come in for an annual teeth cleaning, which means a general anesthesia would be used. The veterinarian commented, “She could have a lot of worse stuff going on and I’d never see it unless she was under anesthesia.”
The narration in the segment with a comment from Jones suggested this was a “gotcha” moment, I suppose like catching a public official taking a bribe or a home repair guy suggesting an unneeded repair.
In fact, the veterinarian was spot on. Most dental disease does occur below the gum line. So, if a veterinarian visually can see a slight problem, it’s likely more may be going on which is out of sight and can only be determined under anesthesia. In fact, increasingly practices are purchasing X-Ray equipment equivalent to what human dentists use for similar reasons. This is regarded as good medicine, and nearly any veterinarian would concur.
The Jersey vet never suggested the dog needed a dental at that second; the implication is a year later. Maybe the veterinarian is guilty of not thoroughly explaining, or perhaps that explanation landed on the cutting room floor.
The “20/20” report also exploited pet owners’ longtime concern over anesthesia. Problems related to anesthesia occur about once in 5,000 to 10,000 times. When preventive blood work is done, those numbers may be even lower.
Of course, doing things dogs don’t need can be dangerous, as Dr. Marty Becker suggested in the segment, but the way his comment was framed made it seem as if Becker was agreeing that unneeded dentals are common, and anesthetic is problematic.
I’ve known Becker for nearly 20 years, and I also know he was taken out of context. In fact, Becker, who interestingly was associated for 17 years with ABC-TV as a “Good Morning America” contributor agrees, (based on dozens of conversations with my friend) that proactive dental care (or for that matter, preventive veterinary care in general) is not only good medicine, but can also can avoid unnecessary suffering, and ultimately saves pet owners money.
The “20/20” reporter continues, “Another big ticket item on vet bills, vaccination costs.”
Not true. Think about it, vaccines aren’t exactly up there with surgeries or cancer treatment. Sure, there’s a cost associated with vaccines, but veterinarians don’t exactly make their living on them.
The next “Gotcha moment,” at a New York clinic, the vet ordered Honey, who had the distemper vaccine two years ago, a new round of shots without asking about Honey’s vaccination status, and then told Honey’s owner that distemper was “typically an annual vaccine.”
True, the American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccine Guidelines suggests distemper vaccines every three years, but that is based on veterinary discretion.
Absolutely, that veterinarian should have inquired about previous vaccine history (unless those questions also could be found on the cutting room floor), and misinformed the pet owner that distemper is typically given annually – though perhaps that veterinarian does see frequent distemper, and is using medical discretion. I can’t say.
So, what if that one veterinarian was attempting to give the dog an unneeded vaccine? It is wrong. But also wrong is to assume over-vaccination is an industry-wide trend.
In fact, in my opinion, it’s Jones who is dangerous; his DVD “Healing Your Pets At Home” is indisputably contradictory to responsible medicine. Our pets can’t tell us when something is wrong, and no matter, until pet owners have stethoscopes at home and are trained to hear heart irregularities, can do blood work in their kitchens to test for the likes of tick or heartworm disease, avoiding regular veterinary check ups is medically not in our pets’ best interest.
Quite apparently, selling DVD’s and books is in Jones’ best interest.
©Steve Dale PetWorld, LLC; Tribune Content Agency, LLC