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In Response to Barking Mad, Last Week’s CBC Marketplace Episode

An October 4th news broadcast on CBC Marketplace titled, “Barking Mad,” shined a negative light on the veterinary profession. The segment took a dog with a hidden camera to ten Toronto veterinarians to see what health recommendations were suggested in the first check-up. According to the show’s host, the veterinarians all provided various recommendations that did not align. The host also “surveyed” the ten veterinarians asking them various questions about vaccinations, exams and medication. They made several anecdotal statements based on the ten veterinarians they questioned, calling the data “black and white.” Nothing is “black and white,” as the report suggests.

Trupanion disagrees with the statements and overall accusations made against the veterinary profession in this news broadcast. This is not what we have seen in our 15 years of experience with veterinarians. We have hundreds of thousands of pet health claims that contradict this newscast and much evidence of the incredible value pet owners receive from the work done by veterinarians who have treated, healed and in some cases, saved their beloved pet.

CBC Marketplace compared the veterinarians’ recommendations to the opinions of an outspoken critic of vaccinations, and declared them facts. They surveyed and evaluated only ten veterinarians out of 12,500 currently in small animal practice in Canada. This is .08% of the general veterinarian population. The real story should be about the other 99.92% of the population, the veterinarians that serve nearly 10 million pets each year. We know them as an extremely honorable and trustworthy group of people. We expect there will be an outrage from pet owners who have had generations of pets lovingly, competently and compassionately cared for by their family veterinarian, who charged only a fraction of what an MD would charge for the same procedures.  Veterinarians have long subsidized the high quality of care pets receive in North America and it is unfair for CBC to attack the most trusted professionals. The data cited is narrowly constructed to advance a negative point of view.

The average salary of a veterinarian was $82,040 in May 2010 according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook. The average debt of new veterinary graduates is $150,000 (JAVMA September 15, 2008). They use medicine and equipment that costs the same used in human medicine. Often acting as the ultimate safety net for the care of pets in disadvantaged circumstances, many discount their salaries and pull from their own wallets to pay those costs for their patients.

It’s disheartening to see this respected and trusted profession criticized through a sensationalized news story by some members of the media that fails to display tangible evidence to back their statements. Just as CBC surveyed Toronto veterinarians, we set out to survey our policy holders in Canada in an effort to provide evidence of the quality care and attention veterinarians provide our pets. However, unlike CBC’s sample size of 10, we surveyed thousands of policy holders.

We sent policy holders in Canada an e-mail survey with 3 short questions. Of those who responded, 93% said they always receive a great level of service and care from their veterinarian. When asked if they trust their veterinarian to give the best veterinary care, 94% said yes. Lastly, 93% of respondents said they would recommend their veterinarian to their friends and family to treat their pets.

We support veterinarians across the world and stand by their practices as they continue to maintain the health and wellness of our four-legged family members.

Please share your stories and experiences in the comment box below to show our veterinarians support.

12 Responses to In Response to Barking Mad, Last Week’s CBC Marketplace Episode

  1. Britta and everyone at Trupanion. Special thanks for the letter of clairification and support for a profession that continues to advocate for their patients, that can’t speak for themselves. As someone who has been awarded the privilege of representing my colleagues for over 43 years, I know it will help their feelings of self worth, when attacked by a badly researched and pointedly biased piece of journalism meant to sensationalize for ratings purposes, rather than improve the state of veterinary medicine today.

  2. We appreciated receiving your email statement on Friday night after this show aired. After watching this program, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association felt it would be important to educate pet owners on some of the issues we believe require further clarification in order for pet owners to make the best decisions for the health and welfare of their pets. We have provided further information on our website: http://www.canadianveterinarians.net/news-events/news/canadas-veterinarians-provide-healthcare-options-for-pet-owners
    Thank you again for your support.

    • Sonia Pereira says:

      I think that veterinaries fees are too high. Besides this I have a great doubt regarding animal foods. I am 65 years old and I remember my mother’s dog. He ate everything we ate and he lived for almost 16 years. He liked some foods more than others, but certainly, my mother prepared exclusively for him “bacalaitos fritos” (a Puerto Rican dish made with all-purpose flour with cod pieces seasoned with salt, garlic and other different exquisite spices. He never got sick. When my mother noticed that there was something wrong, she immediately prepared a home remedy and everything was OK. How come that now animals can’t eat the same things we eat?

      • sheila says:

        I agree. It is sad that our gov’t does not product our pets. Marketplace showed the food, treats from china causing kidney failure. I approached Costco and they said no recall until gov’t says it is not safe. LIKE THAT IS GOING TOO HAPPEN. We treat the life of our pets like owning a chattel like a microwave…in Canada… Petfood companies use sick meat, but top name a few “so called food products” and preservatives in food. People abuse and kill pets and don’t go to jail… The guy in Whistler slaughtered his sled dogs and buried them in a pile…he got off no jail time.
        Vets need to be affordable for everyone who has a pet rather than let animals suffer if people don’t pay…. Over priced and not affordable…animals suffer and look at cost to insure??? Not really affordable either.

  3. Marguerite Vail says:

    When I responded to the survey, I was speaking about my present vet. However, in my experience many of the vets are coming up with problems that they say must be treated and when you check with another vet there is really no problem. They would appear to be manufacturing ways, at the expense and endangerment of the pet and the pet’s owner to grab more money. I also feel that vets fees are too high and it is making it a problem for people to keep pets and look after their health properly. Many people have to give up their pets because they just can’t afford to keep them.

    The industry needs a governing body to dictate these costs and make them fair. Also, there should be resources for people to go to when they just don’t have the money. We have enough abandoned cats in our city dying of all kinds of diseases.

    • Lisa says:

      The body that governs the veterinary industry in Canada is the Canadian Veterinary Organization (CVO). They offer guidelines on what should be charged at a veterinary clinic, and often times clinics are charging far below what the industry says we should be.

      While veterinarians care about the well-being of all patients, we still are a business and must charge to keep practising. There will be bad apples in every profession, but the majority of veterinarians aren’t trying to empty your bank account, and are simply looking out for what is best with your pet.

      Animals, not unlike the cost of all medical care, are expensive, if owners are unable to afford an animal then they should look into resources such as trupanion, or perhaps postpone purchasing an animal.

      • Lisa says:

        Sorry just one correction. The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) is who I meant to refer to when talking about the fee guides.

  4. Ryan says:

    I would like to point out a bit of irony in Marguerite’s post. She commented that she wished there were resources for pet owners to help pay, on a pet insurance website- a resource to help pay for pet care.

    Also, there are laws preventing price fixing to protect customers from being overcharged in all businesses. As with any business, prices are set based on sales margins that account for overhead costs and other expenses. Usually, when prices are a lot lower than the other businesses, there are corners being cut to maintain margins.

  5. Heather Pye says:

    I too watched the programme. I have a wonderful vet now, who works with me, listens to me, and together we decide an “action plan”. I trust his advice. However, in past years (the mid to late 90s) I DID encounter some of the things “exposed” on Marketplace, and when I got 2nd, and in some cases 3rd opinions, it did indeed seem that the vet in question was charging for unnecessary services. It is what ultimately led me to the clinic I now use, and I can’t praise them enough!

  6. Darlene Douglass says:

    I watched that show with interest to make sure I knew the protocol for vaccinations as I knew it was changing or had changed. What a disappointing and biased show that was! To just point out that the veterinary diet foods or foods in general are overpriced without any supporting documentation is not right. Don’t they remember the terrible recalls of just a few short years ago when many treasured pets died from contamination? As I recall not one single veterinary food was on that list. All costs are explained and treatments and tests are suggested, not forced on you. They only provided a random sample of the results from the vets, too, with the most scathing presentations. They did not show the questions that the owner asked so that we could justify the results the vets found. Our vet just biked 100 km to raise funds for Farley. Is that not going above and beyond? Do they not have after hour calls that they get a very small fee for upsetting their evening but we are relieved to know that they are at our beck and call in an emergency? I have used that service for a porcupine attack in years past and was so relieved to have the call answered promptly and to be met at the clinic. We have grown to take all of these things for granted. We need to make a list before we go in much like we would to a Doctor appointment so questions are brief and don’t hold up their day. They allot time for us and we need to make full use of it. If costs need to be spread out maybe some of the treatments can be done another day with the technician. We value their services and need to find ways to help. Bad show, bad acting and as one sided as journalism can ever be. For shame! We love our vets and truly appreciate our pet care! Let’s do our counter show!

  7. Mirta Romberg says:

    Long time ago a veterinarian told me that my dog had brain cancer. I did not believe him and the dog lived until she was 16 years old. she died of old age.
    Namaste

  8. Diane Boyle says:

    Thank you for this post/forum. I too was unimpressed by the coverage given – very frustrating for those of us in the profession who work hard to be fair and honourable. A more balanced view would have been more appropriate. Bulldogs’ health (as I am sure most insurance companies know) is in fact routinely compromised by obesity (and their genetically poor structures!). The show did not share the huge volume of independent research supporting many recommendations and therapeutic diets. Almost all of my colleagues are hardworking, dedicated professionals who are most certainly not all about the money. It is about the patients and their families, and how best to help them. We try to give options when possible. Whether we like it or not, it does cost money to run a full hospital, with properly trained staff and equipment.
    In teaching veterinary nursing/technology, I encounter daily 60 young people who are knowingly entering a difficult, fascinating, and responsible profession that is not particularly financially rewarding compared to human nursing/medicine.
    In the last 30 years (since high school), I have worked with wonderful people in veterinary medicine- some quirky (aren’t we all?), but all intelligent, compassionate and loving people. Spent 9 years in university to learn as much as possible, attend CE events every year, and read extensively to stay up to date in this wonderful and increasingly complex field. Do find it a little frustrating that many people are so accepting of unproven internet claims and what they are told at the dog park or pet store -and now apparently on our national television broadcasts. Slanted journalism does a disservice to all, and won’t make helping patients any easier. Education will. Thanks again for trying to let people know the “other side” of our field.

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