Why I’m ashamed to be a vet: a shocking exposé of the profession
Why I’m ashamed to be a vet: a shocking exposé of the profession that puts pets through ‘painful and unnecessary treatments to fleece their trusting owners
Source: Daily Mail Online
For eight years Matthew Watkinson worked as a vet. But are vets really the saints they are made out to be? Here, Matthew, 32, now an author, exposes the uncuddly truth about vets that every animal lover should read. . .
He found himself so disgusted at the moneymaking practices that he left the profession altogether
Dog with Bone Cancer
The greyhound’s soulful eyes seemed to plead with me to help him. His thin tail tucked between his legs, he stood still with fear on the examination table as the posse of fellow veterinary students listened to the chief lecturer.
Aged 12, he had bone cancer in a hind leg and it was advanced, we were told. Looking at the dog, I imagined he’d had a good life. Obviously, from the condition of his brushed coat, and his muscled body, he had an owner who knew how to care for him.
As a student vet who in a year was to graduate to work in my own practice, I knew what I would recommend if I were this dog’s owner – and that was a loving and peaceful death.
But putting the greyhound to sleep and out of his misery was not the correct answer, the lecturer told me quite sternly.
A humane death would not be the course of treatment offered to its owner. Well, at any rate, not yet. After all, didn’t I realise the advances that had been made in veterinary medicine? There were ‘options’ that could extend this old dog’s life.
No, instead, its leg was going to be amputated and then a course of chemotherapy would be tried to ensure that ‘all was done to save the dog’s life’ – at a cost of £1,000 to £2,000, or even more.
I have no idea what the owner thought of this. But, as the majority of pet owners want to do the best by their beloved dog, I can only imagine he or she took this ‘chief’ vet’s expensive advice to try to ‘save’ the pet.
Meanwhile, I remember pushing down the revulsion I felt about putting the dog through what we all knew would be punishing treatment that in all likelihood would not work.
And even if it did give that greyhound an extra year or so of life, how could anyone explain to it that the suffering was for a reason? That lying in a small cage, surgically maimed, and hooked up to a drip for weeks, perhaps months, would be ‘worth it’.
Today I look back on that lecture and realise that already I had begun to question the role of vets in animal ‘welfare’.
The point is yes, we could treat this dog’s cancer, but was it in the best interests of that dog? Morally, should we have even considered further treatment or was it all about making money?
On becoming a veterinarian
Of course, back then I avoided becoming embroiled in ethics. I was just thrilled to be one of the lucky few to have made it into the most prestigious vet school in the country – London’s Royal Veterinary College.
Having had a comprehensive school education, I went into the job because I was fascinated by biology and genuinely wanted to help animals. And although my parents had good jobs – my mother was a nurse and my father a radiographer – I was the first person in my family to go to university, and understandably my family was incredibly proud of my achievement.
So, despite the doubts already beginning to form in my mind, I ploughed on. A year after the greyhound incident I graduated and took my veterinary oath, which all vets swear to, promising ‘to ensure the welfare of animals committed to my care’.
Back then, I had no concept that far from the saviours of animals they purport to be, the blame for much animal suffering in the UK can be laid so firmly at the door of vets.
I had no idea that I would ultimately be driven to confess that I am ashamed to be a vet and that, eight years after qualifying, I would find myself so disgusted at the moneymaking practices that I would leave the profession altogether.
Of course, not all vets deliberately set out to make as much money as they can out of treating animals. But money – not the welfare of the animal – is often at the forefront of the vet’s mind.
Of course there are outright cowboys in any field and the veterinary profession is sadly no exception.
Today you will notice more and more practices have sprung up throughout the country – especially in those affluent areas where the middle-class residents treat their pets as part of their family.
One might imagine that because there are so many more vets that animals need more medical help than ever. But the truth is far simpler. A whole industry has arisen out of squeezing the most money out of treating family pets.
During the ‘health check’ that goes with a jab visit, it is amazing how many problems the vet might find
During the ‘health check’ that goes with a jab visit, it is amazing how many problems the vet might find
It is not unheard of for vets to Google a pet owner’s home to see which area the family live in. Big house in a posh road – well, you can offer more treatment to that pet owner, of course. I never witnessed this in my practice, but I heard of it happening. Charge more for your services so a vaccination that costs a few pence becomes a £35 ‘consultation’. And that isn’t all.
While the owner might believe he or she is only taking their cat for a vaccination (and I have no problem with sensible preventative healthcare) for the vet, this visit can be a way to make even more money out of a perfectly healthy animal.
During the ‘health check’ which accompanies the vaccination visit, it is amazing the potential ‘problems’ the vet might find.
So your vet discovers your cat has a seemingly innocuous chipped tooth? I have known of cat owners told that despite the fact their cat is perfectly fine – and frankly animals in the wild break their teeth all the time and do not need expensive dentistry work – that to remove the tooth is justified ‘just in case’ it later causes a problem.
Having a tooth removed, especially a canine tooth, is major surgery – costing upwards if £100 – and should only be done if the cat is suffering because of it.
But more often than not, a loving owner will trust their vet and sadly go along with surgery that is not only unnecessary but plain risky for a pet who does not need it. Similarly, I have known vets suggest doing an ‘exploratory’ operation on a cat just because it had been sick. But like humans, cats and dogs get sick from time to time. The best response is to wait and see, not offer a battery of blood tests and invasive operations.
Having allowed their pet to have such an operation, the owner when the pet recovers will put this down to the operation being a success. It is not: if nothing was found, your pet would have begun feeling better anyway. Possibly sooner.
Sadly, the best way to deal with many problems is not to treat at all. Small animals such as guinea pigs and rabbits should be put to sleep if they present with an illness that can’t be easily rectified with a dose of antibiotics. Their lives should not be prolonged at all cost.
Above all- Do no harm
If your cat or dog gets cancer you should not, in my opinion, subject it to long, torturous treatment. Nor should cats that are run over and experience a complex injury or bladder problems – sadly an all-too-common feature of road accidents as the car catches the back of the cat as it tries to escape – endure lots of operations in the hope that the problems can be cured.
Even if they can be – eventually – I believe putting any animal through this is barbaric.
One problem is that overtreating pets has been made to look as if it is normal by programmes such as the BBC’s Super Vets, last shown in 2007, where it was usual to subject animals that, frankly, should have been put to sleep to whatever it took to get them well. This is cruel as caging an animal for a long time is not, in my view, thinking of its ‘welfare’.
Which brings me to another issue that helps vets to carry out these expensive and totally unnecessary procedures – pet insurance.
These days, pet insurance is pushed as a ‘necessity’. Sit in any vet’s surgery and you are left in no doubt as you survey the dozens of adverts for it that ‘good’ owners have it while ‘bad’ owners do not.
Pet insurance is simply a licence to print money
So unsurprisingly, the average middle-class family feels more comfortable having this insurance. They have medical insurance for their children, so it’s only natural that they want the same for their family dog or cat. Insurance for a pet dog or cat costs on average from £60 to £250 a year. Worryingly, if you have pet insurance you can be sure your vet is more likely to offer your pet treatments – because your vet knows you won’t be paying so you can afford it.
But, however you look at it, insurance is simply a licence to print money. Unfortunately, the only creatures insurance helps are vets. If you are a loving owner you will not want to put your pet through cruel, lengthy and costly procedures.
And as this is all insurers cover – they do not provide for any useful essentials such as neutering, vaccinations or teeth cleaning – there is no point to them.
But vets aren’t only guilty of treating animals when there is no problem. Sadly they are guilty of creating problems in the first place. Take bulldogs. They have been hideously bred to have a characteristic collapsed face. This restricts breathing and stops them panting properly.
Ridiculous as it may seem, they have also created an animal that can’t breathe fast enough to have sex. So a bulldog must be artificially inseminated by a vet using a general anaesthetic.
Once pregnant, the bulldog faces another dreadful side effect, again caused by breeding. Bulldogs have such a small pelvis that most are unable to give birth naturally. So 90 per cent of bulldogs require a Caesarean.
If the vet were truly putting the animal first, he would refuse to inseminate a bulldog in the first place. Instead, to ensure the welfare of the bulldog, vets should be insisting that pregnancies only occur in bulldogs that can mate naturally.
But, of course, they won’t say that or refuse the breeder’s wishes – after all, as a vet you are making money out of all of these medical procedures. An insemination costs around £80 to £300 depending on the exact procedure and a Caesarean £500.
Vets have created their own market
One of the reasons there are so many vets now is that vets have created their own market.
I find it outrageous that, given their role, any vet criticises Cruft’s for exhibiting these dog breeds. After all, it is the vets themselves who have aided and abetted these atrocities.
And this practice certainly isn’t confined to bulldogs. We have daschunds bred with elongated spines so they look ‘attractive’ for their breed. But these sausage dogs are prone to slipped discs and back problems which, in turn, makes more money for vets who do many operations a year to ‘help’ these issues (most of which do not work and cause more suffering to the dog.)
We have cats that can’t breathe because of their overly flat noses and weep constantly from eyes that are too large, other cats and dogs without fur that can’t go out in the sunshine as they will burn.
The current fashionable craze for miniature dogs is also damaging. These dogs are prized on their tininess – so the smallest dogs are chosen but in reality these are the runts of the litter that used to be allowed to die as they were so weak.
In turn vets are simply creating weaker animals. They are going against the force of nature, Charles Darwin’s natural selection. And because weaker animals are surviving they need more medical care from vets who force them to survive.
This is great news for vets and the reason for their proliferation. But surely not for animal welfare, which they pledged, when they took their veterinary oath, to put first.
So where does the loving pet owner stand in all this?
Common sense must prevail. A loving pet owner does not humanise their cat or dog but realises it is an animal.
The loving owner does not want to maximise their pet’s life at any cost but puts their animal’s welfare first.
Do not fear the death of your pet when the time comes. Instead, embrace it and ensure your pet has a good death in the same way you gave it a good life.
Dr Andrew Jones is also a former practicing veterinarian, and his new book called ‘Veterinary Secrets’ exposes many of the same concerns Mathew has written about and seen. Dr Jones’ book also is a comprehensive resource of natural home remedies you can use on your own dogs or cats at home, saving hundreds in veterinary fees.
You can get your copy here:
18 thoughts on “Why I’m ashamed to be a vet: a shocking exposé of the profession”
Amazing Article. THank you, Mr. Jones…. :*)
As we’ve gone to vets over the years, I can see they’re just like any other
business, trying to sell or upsell you goods and services. Only in this case
it’s to the detriment of your pet. Dr. Jones has it totally correct, no one
knows or cares about your pet more than you. If you care about your pet, become
involved in their health. You just need to exercise some common sense and a little
investigation. There’s an incredible amount of information out there easily
Andrew Jones is a doctor, not a Mr. I’m not sure why the vet who wrote this article had to leave the profession – it seems a complete shame that one of the very few completely honest vets would stop being a vet. It has gotten so bad where I live that I rarely take my dogs to the vet and treat them holistically instead. That has led to some great results, but also some not so great results. It’s not that I don’t want to take them or can’t take them – I just can’t afford $1700 bills for an overnight stay, which is what happened one of the last times I took a dog to an animal hospital. I would love to be able to have a knowledgeable vet I could trust who would also recommend when it is time to say good-bye without advising treatment that is only going to lead to the animal’s longterm suffering.
I do have a very trustworthy vet but she has no knowledge of alternative treatments, which is a shame.
I completely agree that a lot of Vets treat their patients owners like potential cash cows. I’m constantly being made to feel like I ”don’t care” because I question all the chemicals vets try to push onto me for my Old English Sheepdog and my Newfoundland Landseer. But I feel it only fair to share a cancer related story and a Vet who was honest and direct about the situation from the get go.
I had a wonderful large, muscular Standard Poodle (Sammy Bear) who at age 2 1/2 started screaming in agony each time he passed a motion at first due to not ”feeling a lump” the vet diagnosed Colitis gave me tablets and away I went. 4 days later as the dog was passing blood only I took him back and said this is NOT Colitis. This time there was a lump which upon X-Ray exam turned out to be a double insussception when they operated they cut the withered part of the bowel out and rejoined it (fantastic surgeon!) they then removed another lump evident on the X-Ray from the bowel, Sammy recovered very quickly from the op then the histology came back it was high grade malignancy I was told I could just leave it in which case he would die very quickly and horribly or I could go for Chemo which is massively expensive (my bill totalled 6,000 Uk pounds) after putting him through such a harrowing operation I couldn’t just give up and let him die, so I agreed to the 20 weeks Chemo, which he weathered with humbling stoicism. Sammy lived another 4 happy, healthy and loved years. I treated every day with him as the privillege it was. His death at 6 1/2 was a massive blow he really was very fit (could run behind my bicycle for miles happily) and muscular right up to the end but when he became very sick over a 12 hour period I knew it was time and I did ”the right thing” it totally broke my heart but I’m happy for him because the end was a good one for him. The point of my epic saga is yes common sense is vital, knowing your animal is key and being able to trust in your vet is priceless. I take my dogs to the vet annually for Lepto jabs because they go in a river daily but I take everything I’m advised with a pinch of salt since the trusted vet retired, I know my animals and know when they are sick. People should always listen to their concience and face the unpleasant decision to euthanase when ”it is time” that is real love and compassion. I miss Sammy who died over a year ago every single day he was my best friend and companion but I am guilt free because I was brave enough to hurt myself and do the right thing for him.
This was eventually going to come out, just like what is happening with the CDC and the MMR vaccines …. The truth always, always comes to the surface. I commend any professional who has the courage to step up and let the truth be known ….. This is good for all concerned, well almost everyone … The family who gets to treat their beloved pet with dignity, ‘money spent does not equate to value or love’ …. The much loved family member, receives what is needed and doesn’t get to die from all the toxicity caused from continual vaccinations that are just not needed….. I feel a change coming as people everywhere are starting to wake up …… Thank you for your courage and facing the fear of ridicule … I have purchased Dr Andrew Jones book , and what a great read… A terrific book to have on hand ….. Nothing more can be said other than ‘ Awesome’
Sadly I also see that far too often when it comes to horses…I have seen some real cash cows that ended up not making it, due to misguided treatment (usually incorrect , traditional founder care that completely ignores newer, and more effective treatment methods) and I have a hard time believing this is done on purpose , but sadly it appears to be. I have a peer who is convinced that this is the case far too often and you just now confirmed it as well.
I must be too naïve thinking that if someone wants to be in a healing profession than this would be their main focus healing and doing what in the best interest of the animal/human.
Wow Thanks for sharing that with us Dr.Jones…
We have chosen not to acquire another dog because we spent over a thousand dollars on our last dog for a 24-hour stay, without getting a diagnosis of the cause (that would have been another $500 out of pocket). For insurance, we would have had to pay $70 a month because he was over 10 years old. Luckily, our low income over the years meant that he had very seldom been to the vet and only been revaccinated for rabies or bordetella. He was clearly miserable the night he was in the hospital so we vowed not to take him back except to euthanize him. He lived another six months, constantly losing weight despite a cancer diet and Dr. Jones’s supplement, but remained bright eyed and bushy tailed – still chasing deer, cats and other dogs till his last day – he died at home with dignity.
Bless you Dr. Jones for being YOU! I feel so lucky to have found you (few years back) and grateful for your books, courses, DVD’s that have helped me so much with my dogs. You are one of the too few veterinarians who stand up for common sense in pet care. You are truly a TRAIL BLAZER for better pet care. Very proud to know of you, and your material has helped me help others as well with their pets. Thank you for helping me feel more empowered as a pet parent to better help my furluvs with a level mindset.
I read this with interest and also a great sense of disappointment. As a dog and horse “mom” I’ve been hit with my share of monstrous vet bills. While I happen to believe that both my small animal & equine vet are honest & ethical, the issue of how to pay for costly or emergency procedures has been a stumbling block for me, as well as many friends & acquaintances. As a result, about a year ago, I decided to launch a service, offered through veterinary practices, that allows clients to set up interest-free installment payments (my company has provided payment processing services to various businesses for over 27 years.) We set up automatic drafts to a client’s checking, savings or credit card account, so the vet doesn’t have to do any billing or administrative tasks associated with receiving deferred payments. The process of getting vets to accept this system has been quite difficult, however. A few, who I would describe as very “client-centered” and empathic, embraced the system readily. They are offering the payment plan system with great success, and their clients are relieved that they have this alternative. Most vets I talk to, though, want all their money up front, and say “for every client who really needs a payment plan, there is another one who doesn’t and can pay in full immediately. I only want to serve THOSE clients.” This has been utterly disappointing, to say the least. I understand that vets are running a business and they can’t, of course, afford to accept payment plans from everyone. But for the few who really need it, why not help them? And I am further puzzled by the reluctance to offer this because we don’t charge the vet ANYTHING to offer our service: it’s free! (Unless clients do a credit card payment plan, the vet must pay the merchant fees but that would have to be paid with any credit card transaction.). I must admit, since introducing my service I have seen a side of veterinarians that I would rather not know about. The truth hurts, as they say. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this post, Dr Jones (& everyone who has commented as well.)
The vets put my 1 year old on 10 months of cortisone (macrolone) at triple doses and she developed neurological damage and had to be put to sleep. I wish they had just told us to love her rather than create an aggressive 40kg dog that went completely mad. They even desexed her… two weeks before we had to have her put to sleep. Money theives really. I miss my girl and I cant believe I let this happen to her.
Meanwhile in this part of the world in the US and Canada we have the vet-sponsored practice of declawing (amputation) going on; this is nothing less than a legalized form of animal cruelty which has no medical or therapeutic reason for existing but is still widely promoted by many vets and their associations…even in spite of widespread opposition by animal rights activists and many vets themselves; it makes a SHAM of the veterinary oath to do no harm and reveals the GREED and moral bankruptcy that has taken root in what should be an honorable profession dedicated to serving all animals.
I don’t know what type of pet insurance you are referring to in your article, but I have pet insurance on all 3 of my dogs and it is the best investment I have ever made. It covers all accidents & illnesses that they may have. For one of my dogs last year, I was reimbursed over $14,000, so you can’t put all pet insurance companies into one category!!!
There are reputable companies out there who provide good service to pet owners!!
You don’t mention the worst things vets do. They sell kibble and encourage way too many shots and monthly chemicals. Dogs are 99.9% WOLF carnivorous and thrive on protein. Kibble, grain, corn, root vegetables and most fruit cause yeast overgrowth and itching and ear problems. Vets say the itching is allergies because they sell kibble crap but it’s yeast. Dogs used to live to 19 and 20 years old but now they last half that long and get cancer and have seizures from the inappropriate food. One set of shots, skip the chemicals and feed meat, fish, eggs and chicken. I buy liquid vitamins and minerals, calcium. All my dogs lived to 19.
Thank you for your honesty and for the article. Instead of leaving the profession, could you run your own practice while upholding your own standards? I live on Hawaii Island, I know our island would treasure a vet with your knowledge and ethics. I have a 48 acre parcel and would happily lease part to you for your practice. I foster for a non-profit, and currently work with five different veterinary practices. Would love to welcome you. Thanks again for your honesty.
Vaccines, pesticides (worming) and bad diet (tin food) cause the most illness in pets (and humans).
Holistic vets all started out studying at vet school with conventional vets and chose to do better. There are good and bad in all professions, such a shame Andrew did not choose to study further and offer an ethical affordable pet centered veterinary service. His drive to put the animals long term well being at the front of veterinary care is needed more than ever as corporate ownership overtakes veterinary ownership of clinics. Maybe with this book done Andrew you could return to the coal face and straddle the veterinary and the writers world’s? Dr Judy Morgan, Dr Mark Elliot, Dr Nick Thompson, Dr Karen Beckerand Dr Julie Ann Lee are doing it and using seminars, conferences, and social media to educate pet parents and spear head a new wave of vet clinics and hospitals.
Book was published in 2014 and has been running a Youtube channel called Veterinary Secrets that empowers pet parents with knowledge to treat their pets condition with natural remedies. You can find the book here: https://amzn.to/37uCdzf