Lanzarote Vet Jane Burke explains why a reliable diagnosis can sometimes be an expensive affair, and offers some useful advice on second opinions and getting clear information from your vet.
There are many conditions that vets see week after week. Experience enables them to be confident of their diagnosis and advice on treatment. So, whilst 70% of the cases I see can be treated successfully with a well-tested protocol, there are cases that do not respond, or which have complicated symptoms that do not fit a straightforward diagnosis.
In these cases I will request further tests and maybe suggest a visiting veterinary specialist. Without a clear diagnosis, no veterinary surgeon can be sure of the best treatment.
Laboratory findings (blood, urine, faeces, biopsies, X-rays, ultrasounds etc) all take time and expense. Fortunately, most of our larger veterinary practices have serious in-house lab equipment to run blood cell counts, biochemical assays etc; saving the expense and delay of using external island laboratories.
But you need to understand that this type of equipment is expensive.
As a simple example, whilst each blood cell count may cost the practice only 15€ in lab supplies, the owner must also pay for 15 minutes of lab preparation and cleaning by trained staff, as well as 15 minutes of veterinary attention. Every test must also contribute to the cost of the machine. These magic boxes cost thousands, and their purchase and maintenance has to be funded with the practice income. But they provide important, reliable results in hours.
I should also make it very clear that lab findings are similar to photographs. They can only ever be part of a full clinical picture. What this means is that nobody is repeating tests on your pet for financial gain – many problems can only be accurately diagnosed and evaluated by further tests.
I am extremely grateful for the help and cooperation of other local vets, Petsalud in particular, and I would like to take this opportunity to say a particular “Thank you” to Marga, who founded the practice, and wish her every happiness in retirement (with secret hopes she will be back soon).
Make sure you’re sure
In my practice in the UK, we once ran three weeks of confidential client questions to find out how well they felt their pets’ problems had been explained to them. The results were appalling. We found that over 50% of the information we thought we had explained clearly was not understood at all. My ratings were as low as my colleagues’ and persuaded me to attend courses to hopefully improve these skills.
That’s why my advice to you as the pet owner is to ask for anything you are not sure of to be written down for you. Ask for any words you do not recognise to be explained. Ask for written instructions if your pet will be spending time in the care of others.
I hope all your lives are getting easier as our world opens cautiously to make the most of these wonderful islands and fabulous weather. Let’s hope the anti-vaxxers don’t leave the world open to a second wave. Give your pets and children clean, cool water in clean bowls and raise a glass with me to a world that needs our attention and help now if we are to save her from our excesses.
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