Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I don’t think I’ll hear an argument from anyone when I say that paying a visit to your dog’s veterinarian can be very expensive. Sometimes an ordinary routine visit may find you paying for your dog to have expensive blood work done, stool samples checked, shots brought up to date, etc. Your vet may tell you he recommends that you do this for your dog or that for your dog. Before you know it, you walk out of the office having just laid out a couple of hundred dollars or more.

If you are lucky, you have a great veterinarian to take care of your animals and he has done so for many years. You’ve developed a friendship with him and if you’re a breeder, he’s willing to work with you and your breeding program. Some veterinarians do not look kindly on breeders. I know this to be true because I have a veterinarian right in my own town, not five minutes away from me. Once she found out that I was a breeder, she didn’t want to take care of my dogs any longer. One time she told me if I breed my bitch which I told her that I planned on doing, that she would not be there for me if the bitch had any problems while whelping her litter. She takes care of all of the shelter animals and is responsible for spaying and neutering them. She is very much against breeders. I should have asked her about all of the pure bred dogs that she takes care of; how does she think they got here? Needless to say, I no longer go to her. What a shame because here office is so close to me.

So we all know some very good veterinarians, but what about those that are not? What about those that make costly and sometimes deadly mistakes? Because there is no statistics on veterinary malpractice suits, it’s hard to know just how often this goes on. The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) collects not statistics on this.

For comparison purposes, many industry experts look to human medicine for data. This next information blew me away. Medical errors kill as many as 98,000 people a year and probably even more according to a decade-old Institute of Medicine report widely regarded as a baseline. Wow………..I just can’t believe that that many people seeking medical attention lose their lives because of a medical error. That really is unbelievable.

Veterinarians are human after all and mistakes do happen. But who wants to own the animal that has that mistake happen to him? It could be very costly financially and in some cases deadly to the animal. Following are some stories about some of these veterinarian mistakes.

A lawyer and his social worker wife suffered from extreme distress when a pathologist’s report from the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Veterinary Medicine said that their dog had osteosarcoma, an aggressive deadly bone cancer. They had discussed putting their dog to sleep so he wouldn’t suffer so much pain. They reluctantly even scheduled the euthanasia. The day before the dreaded appointment, they got a second opinion from an expert at the Ohio State University who ruled out cancer and said the dog was recovering from any injury!
Listen to this one. A woman’s dog required four surgeries to repair the damage caused when her vet mistakenly operated on the wrong leg and then to make matters worse botched that operation as well when a bone plate fractured during surgery!

Then there’s the woman’s cat that had diabetes. The poor cat spent the last two years of his life grappling with severe brain damage which cost the owner $16,000 to care for him. It turned out that her vet allowed his adult son, who was not licensed as a veterinary technician to administer insulin to the animal without supervision the records shows. The penalty that this vet received was a $250 fine and 30 day suspension of his license. Records show that he was placed on six months probation.

Animal lovers were outraged at the “slap on the wrist” type of discipline this veterinarian received. They feel that a $250 fine and a stayed suspension were completely inadequate as a deterrent. What would happen to a human medical doctor if that happened some wondered?

Even more stunning are those owners of injured animals discovering that state veterinary boards dismiss up to 80 percent of the complaints filed against their members with a legal system that regards pets as mere property. There is no way to recover damages for emotional loss.

Laws vary, but in most state courts animals are worth their market value and maybe any economic value they generate for their owners. That could be a considerable amount of money for show dogs for instance but not for most household pets.

Let’s say you have an older mixed breed dog, the value of that dog is generally considered to be under $100. It’s sad and unfair for people who care about their animals only to find out if their animal is killed or injured, they cannot sue.

These are just a few of the horror stories that some people and their beloved pets had to endure. Most vets are caring individuals and want the best for our animals. Some shouldn’t even be practicing. I used to know someone that worked for a veterinarian clinic and she once told me, “Barbara if you knew what went on here after people leave their animals, you’d be shocked!”

When we have to leave our animals over night for a procedure or operation, most of us are nervous wrecks about it. We’re concerned about our animals pulling through the operation, his recovery, etc. What we don’t need to be worrying about is if our animals are being treated properly. I remember many years ago taking someone’s cat into a vet that was sick while her owner was away. Now mind you this was the owner’s vet that she had been going to for years. I’ll never forget how that cat was taken out of his carrier and literally slammed on the table. Can I say that I was shocked? You bet I was. The owner gave him a piece of her mind on her return from her vacation and that’s the last time the vet ever saw her animal again.

If you have a great vet, then he is a God send. There’s nothing more rewarding than having a vet that cares and knows what the heck he’s doing. If he’s that good, people will travel the extra miles to go to him.

Dr. Witiak’s stories of the bond between the veterinarian, client, and pet take the reader into the exam room and on house calls to experience the laughable calamities, miscues, and surprises as well as the personal sorrows, revelations, and joys that treating animals can bring. This is a book of vignettes and personal commentary by a devoted veterinarian who is dedicated both to the science of his profession and to his personal belief in the importance of being loved and loving.
Dr. Witiak makes readers laugh when he checks a small dog’s breath and gets bitten on the nose and then makes them cry when he hugs an old man who has just lost his faithful canine friend. The stories give the reader a deeper understanding of how the unconditional love of our animals enables us to love each other better.
This is a joyous ride where readers bounce from one event to the other just like the veterinarian bounds from exam room to exam room — each with its own surprises. Readers discover just how organic caring is as Dr. Witiak works his magic, enjoying his tongue-in-cheek observations and self-deprecating humor along the way.

My rating: veterinarians: (1-4), veterinarians that work well with breeders: (4)


  1. How about the veterinarian in Kentucky who was found guilty of animal cruelty for euthanizing
    animals by heart stick methods without benefit of sedation? He is STILL PRACTICING! The state was paying him so much per animal for euthanization...he made THOUSANDS off of the misery of the animals that he killed. He was caught on undercover video by a volunteer stepping on the cats that were held by catch poles while he injected them. This from someone who takes a vow to "first do no harm"?
    If you read the American Veterinary Associations handbook on euthanization, it reads like the worst horror story you could imagine. I recently had a conversation with one of my Vets regarding the IP and IC methods of euth utilized by many shelters and actually APPROVED by the AVMA...she stood there with tears running down her face. I was heartened by her reaction.
    We worked for many months to come to the right med amounts for our GSD Kizzy...two veterinary clinics and 5 Vets later, we were able to get her condition into remission. It was wonderful as both Veterinary hospitals were not operating on an ego trip and worked in unison to help our dog. We are very blessed to have Hyannis Animal Hospital's Dr. Venezia as well as Slade Veterinary Hospitals Dr's. Anita Migday and Gail Schmeider.
    Dr. Migday and Dr. Schmeider are both breeders and show their dogs in AKC conformation; Dr. Schmeider breeds BIS Brittanys and Dr. Migday, Bullmastiffs; so they are VERY understanding of
    those of us who breed and the problems surrounding producing quality puppies.
    Dr. Venezia has been in GSDs for more than 30 years and has treated Kizzy with kindness and dignity.
    Finding a Veterinarian who is willing to collaborate with another Vet or animal hospital is paramount to providing the best possible care you can for your animal.

  2. Right you are Dawn.........there is no better person in your animals life (next to you) than a great vet!!!!!!

  3. Oh no - didn't want to hear those numbers. I have surgery scheduled on 9/1..
    There are good vet's and some not so good for sure. Hang onto the good one if you have one.
    Life is not fair for dogs of any breed. I retired as a senior claim supervisor for an insurance company and dogs are classified as property. As such when a dog dies it has no further value according to the law. Also if you claim damage the other side will find a breed dog at a pound for $50, -100 adoption fee and that is all you will be entitled to receive. That would be the appropriate replacement cost of property. It is the owners duty to prove any pain and suffering and loss of use or companionship. The cost to do that far exceeds what you might recover from pursuing a claim.
    It is a very lousy system and there simply is no justice under the law for any dog. Until the system is changed dogs will be considered property damage. In most courts it matters little the love lost, the breeding lost. It is pretty cut and dried because dogs are considered property. Extremely sad but regretfully true.