We have recently had an all too familiar scenario occur at the clinic wherein a puppy was presented to us in a very ill state, having been purchased from the usual suspect sources, and was subsequently diagnosed as having parvovirus.
For anyone who knows a bit about parvovirus you’ll be aware that the prognosis is shockingly poor, although if you can initiate treatment quickly and aggressively then it is possible to save the occasional puppy, as we have indeed done. However, we always paint a very grave picture for owners and advise them, quite rightly, that the prognosis is very guarded to poor and that they may well end up spending up to 10,000 AED (about $2600) with no guarantee of even having a live dog at the end of it. We then routinely ask for a decent deposit, especially seeing as much of the costs are borne in those initial days, with aggressive fluid therapy, blood screening, gastrointestinal support, tube feeding and antibiotic therapy. If clients do not feel they can commit at this initial stage then it is sensitively suggested that perhaps euthanasia would be best, as tackling parvovirus needs to be an all-in or tap-out early affair. Most of our clients fully understand the seriousness of the situation and appreciate the financial implications of heading down the treatment path.
It is always devastating when we lose a parvo puppy, as we unfortunately did recently, but the pain is compounded by frustration and anger when some clients turn round and decide that in spite of the carefully explained warnings and explanations of potential costs and outcomes at the very start, and indeed through daily updates, that simply because we lost the battle and their pet succumbed to this terrible disease that this fact suddenly releases them from the obligation to actually pay their outstanding account. The response we had in the recent case was “Why should we have to pay if our dog died?” Erm…. how about because we don’t operate a personal injury lawyers type system of ‘No Win No Fee,’ or I guess in this case ‘No Pet No Pay!’
Losing an animal is gutting enough for any vet and their team but it is an extra slap in the face when people then insult us by refusing to honour their end of the bargain: we will do everything in our power to try and treat and save your pet, and in exchange you pay the fair rates for providing such care. The costs have already been incurred, in the form of vet and nurse time and expertise provided, costly medicines and supportive care administered, and facilities made use of. We have to pay for all of these things and, like any business in the world, pass on those costs to our customers, in our case pet owning clients. Refusing to pay for something you knowingly agreed to even if the outcome was not what everyone hoped for is simply poor form and just has the effect of reinforcing the misguided view of some that all vets care about is money, as it simply means we have to be even more careful and proactive in asking clients for larger deposits before initiating treatment. As ever, it is the actions of a few that adversely affects the experiences of the many.
As a vet who routinely rides the emotional rollercoaster that our professional lives involve, to work hard and then have that work thrown back in our faces leaves a very bitter taste in the mouth, all on top of the deep disappointment that we are all already feeling at having lost out to a horrible, yet preventable, disease.