Response to ‘Pets Undercover’

Firstly I’d like to thank everyone who’s contacted me with both their positive and negative comments about Monday night’s Tonight programme ‘Pets Undercover’.

An investigative programme like that was never going to go unnoticed and it seems to have ignited a discussion within the veterinary profession as well as the general public increasing widespread awareness of what appears to be a growing problem.

I made it quite clear in my interview that the “majority of vets are giving excellent service and value for money and it’s the minority who are tarring the rest of the profession with the same brush and causing loss in owner-confidence”, and meant it.

We humans have a huge responsibility to look after and respect as best we can the animals we chose to domesticate; and alongside the majority of vets, nurses and vet receptionists in this country I also enjoy promoting responsible pet ownership as much as I possibly can.

By using my fairly recently-attained media position to encourage this, I’m proud to front campaigns for issues including microchipping, anti-pet-obesity, rabbit nutrition, rescue shelters, National Pet Month as well as against the puppy farming trade.

Other interests include customer care, pet-friendliness and practice marketing and PR. I have written over 500 pet-related articles for the press and for the last ten years have regularly visited schools and youth clubs to educate children and young adults by talking about pets; and have definitely noticed a decline in the percentage of families out there who own pets.

By energizing the current and next generation of pet-lovers and embracing social media (including twitter, facebook and, we can explore countless other ways to reach and engage pet-owners, encouraging them to share their experiences and search for the best for their pet thus making sure they (and of course their beloved pet) gain the maximum benefit from pet-ownership possible.

My point is that there are so many of us out there doing good by promoting pet ownership it greatly concerns me that there exists a minority who do not appear to have the animal’s optimum welfare as their primary motivation.

Recently I was called to put down a 22-year-old cat that had only 6 days previously had over £2K worth of dental treatment done on her after the owner had been persuaded to, even though the cat had confirmed renal and liver failure by the same vet. Her worried owner had originally gone in to have her euthanized. She told me she’d had cats all her life but this experience has put her, and her family off ever owning another cat forever.

What Monday’s Tonight programme achieved using a ‘mystery shopper’ type of model – a method commonly used nowadays in every business to greatly improve customer service – showed that there is huge variation in attitudes about pets brought into various veterinary practices.

Awareness and education around the differing levels of quality of care and advice given to pet owners needed to be addressed, and those PR/marketing-aware vets out there will have already seized this opportunity to use the programme as a clever business tool to reinforce to their clients that they are not driven by bonus incentive schemes and how they are part of the majority who continue to proudly put the pet first and give excellent value for money.

All the feedback I’ve received from these vets and owners who proudly ‘love their vet’ has only proved that is the case.

A little known fact amongst pet-owners is that the veterinary industry is a service industry. People come to us for a service because they trust us, we give it to them as best we can and if they like the experience we’re providing they will repeat it – hopefully without hesitation or any need for doubt.

It’s this ‘experience’ that is of most concern to me as (and I’m sure made much worse by the current credit crunch), and there is just too much evidence out there now of pets and owners being exploited. This in turn will eventually lead to a reduction in pet replacement rate and fewer pets.

We must all protect our pet industry from those practicing vets who continue to exploit pets, owners, and insurance companies, giving us a bad reputation; and I was privileged to have been asked to voice that opinion, for the sake of the animals and the good-guys out there who continue day-in day-out to proudly put ‘pet before profit’, and the longevity of this country’s passionate pet-owning population in our consumer-driven society.

With regards to the individual treatments, examinations, histories and opinions shown in the programme I would like to stress that some material did not make the final cut, as in the case with any edited television programme but that doesn’t change the overall clear message to the viewer.

By informing the viewer that there is in fact a choice available to them enables the owner to seek out a vet that’s right for them and their pet and continue to enhance their pet-owning experience rather than destroy it and risk that animal never being treated again or being dumped instead.

Seeking second opinions from garages for any car maintenance or repair-work and builders for any home improvements are commonplace and commonsensical. There are too many non-treated and abandoned pets nowadays for this matter to be just overlooked and it’s them I feel most sorry for.

We all know that every vet has their own way of examining, treating and charging for every type of pet condition; but the point that needs to be stressed and awareness raised is that there’s a fine line between recommending further tests and work-ups that are completely justified and well-communicated to the owner, and taking advantage of a stressed pet-owner for a cut of increased overall company profit through overselling goods and services.

So it’s up to all of us to be aware of the current consumer climate and need for transparency when dealing with pets and their owners. It’s not after all the total bill that’s ever the problem, or even if the animal gets better; it’s whether the amount charged is seen as ‘worth it’ and the pet’s welfare has been paramount throughout.

For those who took the time to get in touch with their comments, both constructive comments and criticism, I hope it is now clear what everyone’s motivation was for making the show: by putting animal welfare first at all times will ensure we all, and all the vets to come, have pets to treat and look after well into all of our futures.

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201 replies

  1. Pamela, the RCVS deals with clinical complaints. ie they test the compentency of vets. Complaints and issues of fees are not for the RCVS but fall within the remit of civil law.

    What evidence do you have that the VDS are incompetant? You may not agree with John Hirds view but how does this make him incompetant?

  2. Now that I’ve cleared the good name of my chemist, a fabulous lady who, unlike some vets, wouldn’t recommend that gentian violet be applied to any human or animal for any reason (Boric acid and Witch hazel are very mild ingredients but work wonders) – I wonder what the vets on here think about the pet owner veterinary care awareness and training videos as provided online by Vestoria-

    Gladys – please note that even I wouldn’t try the cow caesarean one at home – just think of the mess in the living room !

    Additionally, why do you think so many people write to email forums such as Vetclick, Emma the vet, Trude Mostrue and Marc Abrahams etc, etc etc, asking for advice about their pet’s health, especially when they have usually consulted their own vet first?

    I was involved with a forum once where an old vet spat the dummy out when corresponding with younger vets and he said that the profession had been reduced to a nothing but a “trade”. Admittedly, having encountered young vets who are obviously instructed by the practice partners to sell as many products as they can to clients – a visit to the vets can remind you of the Harry Enfield ‘I saw you coming’ and Ronnie Barker ‘Open all hours’ (Arkwright’s Store)comedy sketches or those 16 year old, spotty faced shoe shop attendents who invariably always try to sell you polish with your new shoes!

    It’s encounters like this that have made me personally very untrusting of vets on the whole which is a sad reflection on the profession. Alf White (aka James Herriot) would, I’m sure, be very sorry to hear me say that. Pets and vets – who would have them ehh?

  3. Ian, I’ve never even worked in a practice that has gentian violet on the premises never mind advise it be applied anywhere!

    As a “younger vet” (just about!) I have never been instructed to sell. Just provide good clinical and client care. As a someone who has recently bought into a practice I ask the same of my staff.

    And oh yes the “old vets”…..we’ve all met them or rather had to deal with the messes they create at the end of their careers.

    Someone saying the profession has been reduced to a trade smacks of someone who is out of touch with modern medicine and diagonstics and harks back to the good old days when vet medicine was nothing more than an old boys club for ex public school types. And when I say boys i mean boys as the girls never got a look in.

    Well thankfully medicine and our attitudes to sexism have modernised. Maybe you need to as well?

    With regard to what you are charged for a 5 minute consult. Does the practice you use offer 5 or 15 min appointments? Find out and make sure you get your alloted time.

  4. Ian, I agree we have to be concerned about the motives of Vets since money is usually the main motive. I was told by a Vet who agrees that pet food is causing illness that his boss would not allow him to tell clients that pet food is causing illness and he told me he would be sacked if told clients the truth about pet food since Vets depend on selling it for about 20% of their annual profit. Another Vet though tells me Vets can make as much as 100% profit from the sale of pet food.

  5. On the subject of the majority of Vets being highly competent what about the Vet who told me a cat was riddled with cancer but when I asked for a biopsy it proved the cat did not have cancer at all. That is not being highly competent, it is being downright negligent and that was a Vet who also has a PhD. Vets should not be guessing that pets have cancer since the pet’s life depends on the diagnosis of the Vet and pets are being needlessly put to sleep because too many Vets are telling clients the pet has cancer when it doesn’t have cancer since numerous people have told me the Vet said the pet had cancer and told them it should be put to sleep but without a biopsy no Vet can be certain a pet has cancer.

  6. Wolvo vet “The RCVS deals with clinical complaints” I do not agree. How does it assess the clinical competency of vets?
    Incidently you misread my previous post. I did not say the VDS was incompetent. To the contrary. What I DID say was that I did not like Belgravia House and the VDS attitude to incompetence. There is a big difference here.

    You also link complaints and vet fees. These in my opinion are two different issues. I am more concerned about veterinary incompetence and how it is dealt with or not.

  7. Pamela, the RCVS deals with clinical complaints through the complaints procedure….see website…link above. It asseses the clinical competancy of vets by examining the relevant case files, seeking expert opinions on the cases and making judgement. The basic premise is has the vet approached the case in a logical safe and appropriate manner. Would his peers and colleagues act in a similar way? Also communication is a big factor. My personal view is that miscommunication and failure to convey realistic expectation to a pet owner are far more common than clinical incompetence.

    It is not the VDS’s place to have an attitude to incompetence. They are there to settle or defend malpractice suits depending on the case.

    Also a big part of both the RCVS and the VDS role is filtering out false and malicious claims from the genuine. We have become a society obsessed with sueing and as in other areas of life some people are just out to make a quick buck by bringing spurious legal action

  8. Oh, and Pamela on the contrary I was not linking clinical competance and fees…i was actually pointing out how seperate they were.

    Unlike the ITV program where the implication was a cheap vet was the best vet

  9. Wolvo vet I am afraid we have to beg to differ. It is my opinion that your regulatory body has failed in its duty to maintain the welfare of animals, failed the public and even more importantly failed your “profession”.

  10. Scott, you really are talking through a hole in your head by saying that pet food as recommended by the Vet is not causing illness. Well I have news for you which is that a certain MP who has responsibility for animal welfare has read all the proof I have given him and he is taking the matter very seriously. That MP has not ridiculed what I am saying and has thanked me for taking the matter of the illness pet food is causing up with him and says he wants it all properly investigated. You say I am a nutter, but you are the nutter since it is nuts to say that pet food is good for pets. Roger Meacock MRCVS said in the Veterinary Times dated 21.7.2008 that Vets should have a warning up in their surgeries about the illness pet food is causing. Scott, are you a Vet. If you are no doubt your reception is stacked high with pet food so you will naturally defend it but I am working on getting a stop to Vets being allowed to sell pet food. Doctors don’t sell food so why should Vets be allowed to sell food especially when that food is such rubbish it is causing the illness that keeps the Vets in business.

  11. Dear All,

    As a last post I would like to thank you all for your very valuable contributions to the discussion – life would be extremely boring if we all agreed on everything. Having moved my dogs from a veterinary practice which I wasn’t satisfied with to a more expensive one – I hope that I have made the right move and early indications are that I have indeed made the right decision. Time will tell and as I hope you will have gathered from my posts that I am fully capable of monitoring the situation. Remember all you vets out there, there is a client like me in every practice….lol! I’m much worse than the mystery shopper !

    I have dealt with a wide variety of vets over the years – young, middle aged, old, experience and inexperienced and found good and bad in all of them. In addition to having all of the necessary skills and knowledge to apply the science and patient care, I think vets have to be extremley good communicators where paying clients are involved otherwise everything else almost seems to go un-noticed. David Grant on Animal Hospital was in my view the kind of vet that all vets should strive to be like.

    Anyway, in addition to wishing you all a happy Easter I’ll leave you with an extract from a veterinary practice newsletter from across the pond (adapted for UK readership and I hope the author doesn’t mind me using) which the vets will like – I can guarantee it!

    Kindest regards


    PS I will keep reading the posts and chip in if deemed absolutely necessary but for the time being I feel I have voiced most of my main points.


    Over the years, I ‘ve had a number of regular clients who love to tease me about their vet bills. “So today I’m making another down payment on your Ferrari veterinary” is a favourite, and the ever popular “I’ve spent enough now to own a share in this practice”. I never had the heart to tell either of these clients that their total annual expenditure wouldn’t even pay for a month’s supply of paper towels! But the subject opens up a thought process for me about the kinds of things that pet owners do that really do contribute to the local economy. It’s kind of sad really, but after thirty years of trying to educate pet owners about pet care issues that will lead to healthier pets, I find that there is a seemingly endless supply of people who just won’t listen or learn.

    Here is my top 10 ways for you to fund my Caribbean Cruise –

    1. Over feed your pet. Thanks for all the ruptured knee ligaments, lameness, arthritis, liver disease, diabetes, and skin problems that are related to obesity.

    2. Feed raw diets. Thanks for the vomiting, diarrhoea, pancreatitis cases, Salmonella and E.coli infections, and parasite issues related to unprocessed raw foods.

    3. Letting your dog chew on or eat bones. Thanks for the constipation cases, intestinal surgeries to remove bones that are stuck and the dental extractions on cracked and broken teeth.

    4. Not sticking to the recommended vaccination schedules on puppies and kittens. Thanks for the puppies with parvovirus that needed intensive care for many days and for the kittens with distemper.

    5. Transporting your dog in the back of an open pickup truck. I’m not going to thank you for the broken bones, skin tears, crushed and broken bodies and pets euthanized because your stupidity led to injuries that are beyond repair. I feel sorry for the pet that got you for an owner, but I don’t feel sorry for you!

    6. Walking your dog off leash when there are strange dogs around. Thanks for all the bite wounds and lacerations requiring reconstructive surgery.

    7. Relying on brewers yeast or garlic for flea control. Thanks for the Flea Allergies, Hot Spots and Tapeworm infections. Come on!! get with the “Program” home remedies have no “Advantage”

    8. Buying a breed of dog that has a lot of genetic diseases. I won’t even start to list those. But when I see an American Cocker Spaniel pup, I don’t wonder IF it has a genetic disease, I just wonder WHICH genetic disease it has.

    9. Leaving rat poison, insecticides and antifreeze accessible to pets. This speaks for itself.

    10. Letting the vet at ‘Mandy’s Hot Dog Stall and Discount Vet Clinic’ vaccinate your dog for Lyme disease, Giardia and a host of other unnecessary treatments. Thanks for the second opinions on vaccine reactions and sick pets that are improperly vaccinated or over vaccinated with agents that have little or no medical or epidemiological merit. And you thought you were getting a bargain! Leaving me to clean up the mess while HE goes on the Caribbean Cruise!!!

  12. Remember all you vets out there, there is a client like me in every practice….lol! I’m much worse than the mystery shopper !

    I dont doubt you. And if your actions actually improved the welfare of animals by doing so, I would applaud you. But your criticisms of perfectly sensible veterinary policies and ideas, and your glib approval of idiocy mean that you just remain one of those barriers to good communication and a good working relationship between vet and owner.

    Given your somewhat overkeen desire for discipline, please let us know when you are going to report your pharmacist for her actions, or do you only criticise vets who break rules? and note that it was this disregard of the cascade (amongst other, more serious issues) that rightfully led to the striking off of a vet a few years ago.

  13. Hutch,

    As I said – I approached the VMD about the issue as they are responsible for the legislation and they said there was nothing wrong with what the pharmacist was doing. So as I said, again, I did report it and got a ruling from the experts. What else could I possibily have done…please, please, please enlighten me.


  14. enlightenment:

    ie the website of the royal pharmaceutical society

    page 6

    Veterinary prescriptions

    If there is no authorised Veterinary Medicinal Product (VMP) in the UK for a condition (WHICH THERE IS) , the
    veterinary surgeon responsible for the animal may, in particular to avoid unacceptable
    suffering, treat the animals concerned with the following (“the cascade”), cascaded in the
    following order:
    a) a VMP authorised in the UK for use with another animal species, or for another
    condition in the same species
    b) if, and only if, there is no such suitable product, either:
    i. A medicinal product authorised in the UK for human use,
    ii. A VMP not authorised in the UK but authorised in another Member State for use
    with any animal species
    c) if, and only if, there is no such suitable product, a VMP prepared
    extemporaneously by a pharmacist, a veterinary surgeon or a person holding a
    manufacturers authorisation, authorising the manufacture of that type of product.
    A VMP for use under the cascade must be prescribed by a veterinary surgeon and can only be
    supplied by a veterinary surgeon or pharmacist. A pharmacist faced with a prescription that
    contains a VMP prescribed under the cascade, must make sufficient checks to ensure that the
    veterinary surgeon has prescribed such a product under the cascade e.g. by contacting the
    veterinary surgeon directly.


    does that help?

  15. Hutch,

    I’m sure you agree that getting a good vet is very much like Karma. What you put out you get back.

  16. Hutch,

    Many thanks for that link – that is a useful piece of information. However, from my recollection of the correspondence with the VMD nearly two years ago now – an ear cleaner was not defined in law as a medical product ie it’s more akin a sanitary product like soap. That is why there is a host of products out there for pets and humans alike that claim to soothe itchy skin (Carmarosa or something similar) etc etc ,which is a last resort for individuals when “proper” medicine doesn’t work for very common medical complaints. These products have never been subjected to any clinical trials to test there efficacy and they lie outwith the regulations.

    Why do you think it is that nothing can be done legally (my specific question to the VMD) about the company selling an ear cleaner with gentian violet in it (a known carcinogenic substance) which runs with a worldwide website advert stating that it is “recomended by vets” (but not Wolvo vet apparently and never has been !)


  17. Ian

    Tut tut tut…you mean to say you believe adverts and everything you read in the media as truth?

    Have you learnt nothing from reading posts on here?

    Shame on you

  18. Hutch,

    One other important point that just occurred to me is that the pharmacist didn’t “prepare” anything either – I simply bought the individual ingredients ie boric acid comes in a white powder and can be applied directly to an open wound to keep it clean and it doesn’t sting (I’ve tried it) and witch hazel comes in a few sizes of bottles and is commonly used by the ladies to remove makeup. Preapation ie mixing the two substances together can be easily done it home.


  19. Wolvo vet,

    If legally challenged (and I sincerely hope that any vet worth their salt with animal welfare at heart would do) they would no doubt produce some vet who would stand by the claim. Large Pharmaceuticals can afford the very best Queen’s Counsel’s rates that are outhwith the reach of even the highest paid veterinary partners !


  20. Ian, as you say a lowly paid veterinary partner earning half the salary of a GP in a similar position, could not afford to go up against the worldwide conglomerate might of a pharmacuetical company.

    No, the best way forward is if you dont like a product, then hit the drug companies where it hurts most and don’t buy it!

    One final comment on you mixing your own ear cleaner. I take it your vet knows you do this and your dog has been checked to make sure his/her ear drum is intact? It needs to be pointed out that all ear preperations/cleaners are only designed for use on the external ear with a healthy ear drum providing a barrier to the sensitive and easily damaged structures of the middle ear. Even the weakest acid getting to the middle ear could cause deafness and neurological signs in a dog.

    I would hate for someone to read your recipe on here, think you knew more about it than their vet and use it on their dog with disastrous results

  21. Wolvo vet,

    You are quite correct – that was remiss of me not to say that you should tell your veterionary practioner that you are using on your pet in that post and I do apologise. I do use it with my vet’s blessing and indeed when refered to a specialist I drew his attention to it and he said it was a damn good cleaner and he used it on all of his dogs as well. He added that you do have to get the mix correct for it to be effective which I must do because it is very, very effective and I don’t have to use it often at all. I can’t recall the cost but for the small quantity that I bought it has lasted 2 years now. I make it up in small quantities as, as you probably know when the mixture settles the two ingredients seperate ie the powder sinks to the bottom and the witch hazel (or alcohol if you prefer) floats to the top so you need to shake well before use.
    Because on his condition my dog is seen on a regular basis (almost monthly) by our vet.

    I fully agree with you – hit pharmaceuticals and pet food producers where it hurts most and don’t but their products.

    Personally, I do feel sorry for vets as at times they must feel “owned” or at least largely controlled by pharmaceutical companies and pet food producers and that’s not a postion that I would like to be in.

    Out of interest how easy would it be for you to move into a GP’s position given that I’ve heard people say that students who fail veterinary school go for second best and become GP’s?


  22. Wolvo vet,

    On reflection of your earlier email I noted that Quistel Soothing Ear Cleaner gives no such warning about a dog’s ear drum being checked prior to use. Given that you rebuked me for ommiting the advice – will you know pursue Quistel with the same vigor for the sake of animal welfare and challenge them on the gentian violet issue which may be the higher health risk?

    Given your wish to exercise some control over me if you do not seek to exercise the same control over Quistel it becomes obvious as to who is calling the shots when it comes to veterinary medicine does it not and it certainly aint the vets in practice!


  23. Wolvo vet,

    Your statement ” a lowly paid veterinary partner earning half the salary of a GP in a similar position, could not afford to go up against the worldwide conglomerate might of a pharmacuetical company”, gives me serious cause for concern as I feel that this is exactly what Marc’s programme was all about.

    Marc had the guts and independence to stand up to and face the bully boy tactics of a veterinary partner who constructively dismissed him for failing to put profit before animal welfare.

    If you and your MRCVS colleagues do not have the guts and independence to stand up to worldwide conglomerate might of a pharmaceutical company then this calls into question the both the veterinary profession and the VMD’s ability to ensure the welfare of animals and it seriously undermines the recently introduced Animal Welfare Bill and the Defra Minister must now take action to address this.


  24. Well Ian, I see it was only “absolutely necessary” for you to post at least a dozen times since your sign-off.

    I have to admit, while you seem prepared to engage in some form research before treating your pets with your own concoctions, the majority of owners are not, and you can add to your “Caribbean Cruise” List the amount of messes I have had to clear up because of the home remedies that owners have tried… whether it’s the first thing they found in the cupboard, heard from Uncle Bob or read on the Internet, I have seen all manner of rubbish put into eyes, ears and wounds, sometimes with devastating results.

    They do this because people like yourself and your erstwhile buddy Marc make them feel like they are being ripped off, to the extent that concern about the finances over-rides the welfare of their pet. This becomes self-fulfilling when the straight-forward case that I could have fixed for 45 quid last week is now a 200 quid disaster.

    Fiona, might I extend that theory to your stance… even if it were conclusively proved that there was a better alternative, you simply couldn’t trust the majority of owners to get it right, with the understandable consequences.

    In the absence of hard evidence, you can quote all the vets you like, for every expert there is an equal and opposite expert, and I can’t help but get the impression that your fundamental premise is the old “my dog got vaccinated then developed cancer, ergo the vaccine caused the cancer” chestnut.

    I can only but agree with the sentiments of those predicting the outcome of your inquiry into veterinary fees. The scenario has been raised that veterinary fees may in fact rise. If your inquiry was to result in legislation to force vets to charge less (hideously unlikely), everyone will lose. If it was mandated to reduce fees by, for example 20%, this would not be enough to signicantly change client’s attitudes to vet bills, yet it would drive almost every veterinary practice out of business overnight.

    So I must ask you… considering all possible outcomes, what EXACTLY are you hoping to achieve with your agitation?

    PS Fiona – I thought your cat had cancer caused by commercial cat food, now it doesn’t have cancer after all. Would you care to clarify?

  25. I almost forgot Ian – in my state of Australia, it is NOT legal to supply vaccines over the counter.

  26. Oh dear, I seem to keep forgetting things.

    Fiona – I fear that you are only telling half the story about our “profiteering” on food. Your assertion that food is a large profit driver is simply untrue. Here’s how:

    Firstly, your instance of 100% mark-ups is either fictitious or extremely rare – this would make your prices unrealistic.

    Let’s work with a margin of 30%. That is, a 30% increase on the wholesale price of the total amount of food purchased.

    Any gains are only realised on food that is actually sold, so when you subtract the amount of food that is used in the clinic/hospital, that figure drops to 15-20%.

    Now here’s the rub: the amount of food sold contributes around 8% of our total income. 20% of that 8% means that the profit made on food is around 1.5% of turnover for the month.

    In real terms, profit on food equates to a few hundred dollars a month in a turnover of tens of thousands.

    You can then subtract from that the time, effort and cost in ordering it, storing it etc… add to that the fact that it is generally difficult to have owners change from whatever totally unsuitable diet they are currently feeding (because of habit/Uncle Bob/the breeder/internet experts such as yourself), and for the sake of maybe $150 a week, sometimes I wonder whether on a purely economic basis, it is worth the effort to have it at all.

    Reluctant as I am to make this all about the money, I feel it’s necessary to point out the realities of the numbers to scotch the myth you are propagating about food profits.

  27. I wasn’t going to bother commenting on here again but the thought of veterinary stocked / prescription diets as suitable for dogs and cats made me chuckle, what a joke!!!

  28. Z. Rhones, you know very little about nutrition for cats and dogs if you think Hills and Royal Canin are good for pets. On Hills my cats got cancer, kidney failure, fatty liver disease, cystitis and struvite crysals. Former Hills Vet, Elizabeth Hodgkins, says she would not recommend any Hills product. Royal Canin are currently being sued by pet owners over the illness and death of their pets from eating Royal Canin ie. are being sued for $50M by Rochon Genova, lawyers in Toronto. Neither of these foods is good for pets. A glance at the ingredient list should tell any Vet or pet owner that these foods will eventually create illness in pets of one kind or another.

  29. AJ, you are right that prescription diets are rubbish. Professor Marion Smart did research into them and found they are almost exactly the same as the usual food of the same company and was concerned that Vets just were quoting the pet food company claims for the prescription diets because her research showed that the pet food companies usually did not have research to back up the health claims made for prescription diets. Vet, Elizabeth Hodgkins, says that eg. Hills c/d can give cats calcium oxalate stones in their kidneys and so can create a completely new illness. Instead of putting pets on any prescription diet if the pets were fed real food instead of any kind of pet food they would not get the illnesses they are getting.

  30. Oh Fiona, you are no different to every other crank I’ve come across… when challenged, you have no recourse but to repeat your absurd claims.

    Your theory about c/d causing oxalate stones hinges on the incidence of the problem… if it occurs in 1 in 10 cats fed this food, it is a problem. If it is occurring in 3 out of 800,000 cats fed this food, it is not a problem. There is a point beyond which the benefit gained by the majority outweighs the risk to a small number of recipients. This is the same for any drug or food in the history of medicine, and we are unlikely to change that any time soon.

    In my experience, I have recommended these sorts of foods to many struvite cats, from the occasional spotters to the repeat blockers. These cats do much better, and I have not had one of them re-block while on it, much less develop oxalate stones. I have however had one or two owners revert to “real food” and guess what – blocked cat.

    You also don’t elaborate on what your “real food” is… but short of going out and killing your cat a bird or rabbit each day (and aside from the attendant parasite risk), anything you compose your “real food” out of will have many of the same issues. Sulphur dioxides spring immediately to mind, throw in the growth promotants, pesticides and all of the other things in “real food” that cause disease and it’s hard to see how you are any better off. Of course, this is all before you get the nutritional balance right… a task that would be beyond most pet owners.

    I see far too many animals on “real food” and their owners wonder why their dogs have gastrointestinal problems, terrible skin and are overweight, the many and undesirable sequelae of which are beyond doubt.

    I certainly don’t assume for a minute veterinary diets are perfect, and if I see irrefutable scientific and clinical evidence that they are inefficacious or harmful, I will stop using them. But until then, pet owners deserve a little bit better than “my mate Liz said”.

    One final question for you – I have two cats with renal disease, one with a toxic aetiology, the other inherited as an old cat with a pre-existing problem (presumably fed “real food” all his life). In the absence of a renal prescription diet, which so far seems to be doing an admirable job of keeping them not only alive but healthy, what “real food” would you advocate feeding them instead?

  31. Having been in a rush to set off for a weekend with the inlaws for the Easter weekend and having had constant interruptions from the kids – my pre departure posts were a bit piecemeal but I’m afraid that happens in family life and therefore I’m certainly not apologising for that! Especially not to an Aussie Vet but more of that latter if absolutely necessary. Home remedies have been commonplace for centuries (especially with Aboriginal tribesmen) and do of course remember the Yorkshire farmers that James Herriot used to deal with (eg Uncle Tom urinating in a lame cow’s ear to get it to walk and marshmallow ointment for Mallisons and Sanders Disease) it is inherent in human culture and will never ever be addressed unfortunately!

    I did manage to talk about this fees and charges subject with the inlaws as they to are pet owners and they have a very different set of circumstances to me when it comes to dealing with their vet as they are in a very remote country location and the vet operates a mixed large (farm) and small (companion) animal practice.

    The inlaws commented that the vet operates a Gold, Silver and Bronze treatment package to suit the pockets of their clients. Gold being the insurance cover package where the owner gets everything thrown in whether its absolutely essential or not since its not the owner’s paying for it – it is the insurance company.

    The Silver and Bronze packages present the grey areas which by their very nature are at the very heart of the cost issues being debated because they involve many assumptions and negotations and unless both vet and client are skilled in both of these attributes, problems are going to arise in my view.

    For example, the vet can assume that the client has a reasonable income and therefore can afford the Silver package and therefore he/she pushes this but unbeknown to them the client has had some hefty unplanned expenses which has blown the budget and therfore he aims to pay the Bronze package.

    There can be a large amount of permutations to this scenario as I’m sure you can image and that will inevitably lead to conflict and mis-trust between vet and client unless the communication between the two parties is particularly strong and has resulted in mutual trust.

    A need of the client is indeed a scale of charges that is reasonable for their pocket with the fixed tariff being available before treatment starts if this is required. Few practioners are in a position to give a quotation but an estimate of costs should be available.

    I personally have been in a position where a vet recommended that my dog had an operation costing £2000 (the Gold treatment) and I rejected the recommendation and went for the Bronze treament instead and that was 6 years ago and my decision has been proven to be correct.

    That sort of situation is reflected in Marc’s programme and it certainly gives me cause for concern, however, after my in depth conversation with the inlaws – I’m not so sure what the answer is, as it is a hugely complex matter.

    I know of some owners who travel absolutely ridiculous distances to visit a vet and that they pass a number of veterinary practices en-route but they do so because they feel that at last they have found a vet that they can trust. Cost is no object – its the trust in and competence shown by the vet that matters above everything else. That may be a unique situation because on most occassions if you are outwith a group of vets 24 hour emergency cover – they will refuse to accept you as a client.

    However, it does perhaps demonstrate the importance of shopping around to find the vet that fits your specific needs but of course “supersession” requirements make that a very burdensome task for all parties concerned.

    Perhaps veterinary practices having their own websites with information about the staff, services and costs will address this problem and indeed it is becoming more commonplace, so more development time and fine tuning may be required before a informed judgement can be made.


  32. Hehehe

    Well Ian you learn something new everyday. Today I first became aware of the existance of Quistel Soothing Ear Cleaner. I have not seen it in any of the vet practices or universities I have worked in or attended. Neither have I had a specialist recommend it. It is not used in many vet practices in the uk as far as Im aware. I suspect it is possibly used by old vets but in terms of its claims its very out of date in terms of ear cleaning products that are now available.

  33. I can tell you Wolvo vet that it first came onto the market last year and was brought to my attention through an advert in the Our Dogs email newsletter. I wrote to both Our Dogs and the VMD and requested that it be withdrawn because of gentian violet content. Our Dogs failed to comment. Quistel responded immediately saying that animal welfare was there number one concern and they hoped that they could continue to be of assistance to the pet owning public. The VMD replied saying that the regulations don’t cover these kinds of non medicinal products. No concern for animal welfare from the VMD then! Perhaps if the Defra Minister writes to them instead then they’ll do something about it. Afterall the VMD are due to be reviewed for compliance with Hampton principles and Macory charateristics and could end up being merged into core Defra, so being lambasted by the Minister might just do the trick !

    As you say there are other more up to date anti fungal treatments that can be used and I am the first to use them if necessary.

    But over the last two years due to occassional use of the boric acid/witch hazel mix I’ve never had to ask the vet for anything else. Indeed I had to stop using a steriod based ear cleaner (which was very expensive) because it caused more problems than it was worth and my vet agreed that a change was necessary and I’ve never looked back.

    So, yes I agree you learn something knew everyday. Indeed looking at the Vetclick website this evening there is another embarassing case of over-charging that has Walter Beswick sounding as if he is totally ashamed to be associated with today’s veterinary profession!


  34. I was sorry to see derogatory comments by bloggers about the Ancare surgery in Canterbury and the struck-off vet. These bloggers are completely ignorant of the true facts of the case.

    Mr R K Sanyal is regarded by the overwhelming majority of his clients as exceptionally gifted and as one of the best vets in South East England. His support organisation, FRIENDS OF ANCARE, came together spontaneously within days of his original disciplinary hearing with well over 300 supporters and will shortly hold its fourth AGM. It does not represent Mr Sanyal but its members are pledged to uphold his reputation.

    FRIENDS OF ANCARE has investigated the case papers and has found that every single charge brought against him was either completely false or backed by such flimsy evidence as to amount to nothing at all. There is also clear evidence of a group of about half a dozen persons in the Canterbury area who for reasons of their own have conducted a deliberate campaign of persecution against Mr Sanyal for more than five years. The following remarks offer only a few samples of the malice that pervades the case at every turn.

    Two ladies were interviewd by Jonathan Maitland in the programme, PETS UNDERCOVER. One, Mrs Sparrow, is known to have made racist remarks about Mr Sanyal while in his employ. The other, Ms Price-Tupper, was one of the complainants at the disciplinary hearing. Her puppy had internal bleeding due to an RTA. The bill she received was for £216 (not £500 as claimed in the programme) covering consultation, x-ray and four days’ residence in the surgery for observation while the bleeding drained. Ms Price-Tupper did not suggst the puppy had come to any harm, nor did she complain about her bill. For some reason that was not properly explained she got the idea that Mr Sanyal had told her the puppy had suffered fractures to its pelvis. Mr Sanyal denied having hold her this and there was no reason why he should have done so. About nine months later she made a scene at the surgery, had to be asked to leave and physically attacked him, causing an injury to his hand which required hospital treatment (her partner subsequently came and apologised for this). The scene was such that the staff summoned the police.

    In 2004 Mrs Sparrow seems to have struck up a close relationship with Claire Forman, a barrister, who at that time was Deputy Head of Professional Conduct at the RCVS. By the time of the hearing in April 2005 they were heard to greet each other as “Claire” and “Noddy” (Mrs Sparrow’s nickname). Mrs Sparrow and others in the group had apparently managed to persuade Miss Forman that Mr Sanyal was a menace to the animal population of the area and should be got rid of. This conviction seems to have taken hold of the Professional Conduct Department at the RCVS and to have been communicated to the Disciplinary Committee (DC) which accordingly determined to strike Mr Sanyal off.

    He had never previously been in trouble in some twenty-five years of practice. His legal defence team, comprising London solicitors Hill Dickinson and Liverpool barrister John Corless, seem to have been lulled into a false sense of security by the belief (expressed by Mr Corless) that the worst outcome would probably be a reprimand. About two days into the hearing they realised that the DC were after a striking-off, but by then it was too late to carry out a thorough investigation or revise the preparation of the case. The consequences for Mr Sanyal were disastrous and I shall give just two examples.

    The first is the charge alleging that Mr Sanyal had applied bandages too tightly to a Rottweiler bitch, Darcy, belonging to a Mr Bowles. Some time after Mr Sanyal saw Darcy, Mr Bowles took her to another vet with her leg in such an advanced state of necrosis (i.e. gangrene) that it had to be amputated immediately. Mr Bowles asserted in his original statement that he contacted the second vet on the same day that Darcy was last seen by Mr Sanyal. But the evidence recorded in the transcript of the case (which can be viewed in the RCVS library) shows that over four weeks elapsed between Darcy’s last visit to Mr Sanyal and her first visit to the second vet. Since gangrene results in death from septicaemia in ten days at the most, it necessarily follows that whatever caused Darcy’s condition could not have been any fault of Mr Sanyal’s.

    Astonishingly, no-one in either the legal defence team or the DC seems to have spotted this. The DC not only found Mr Sanyal guilty of something that the evidence showed he could not possibly have done but also pronounced all the witnesses to have been “witnesses of truth”, even though Mr Bowles admitted during his evidence that his statement was untrue in the crucial respect of the lapse of time.

    The second example relates to the disappearance of Mr Sanyal’s records, including an important x-ray and the record cards of several of the animals which were the subjects of charges aginst him. Mr Sanyal claimed that they had been stolen. The DC evidently concluded that Mr Sanyal was an inveterate liar, as they were at pains, in their published judgement, to emphasise their disbelief of his claims.

    They could not have been more mistaken. The records had indeed been unlawfully removed by members of Mr Sanyal’s own staff. This fact was known both by the RCVS and its solicitors, who chose not to inform the DC. The full truth was even worse. Miss Forman wrote in the autumn of 2004 to the Canterbury solicitors then representing Mr Sanyal, saying that she had authorised the removal. But for Mr Sanyal’s decision, apparently at the behest of the Veterinary Defence Association, to instruct Hill Dickinson in place of the local firm, these shabby and, indeed, almost incredible events would doubtless have been exposed and the entire case might well have collapsed.

    Unsurprisingly, the RCVS has not admitted that anything was wrong. It is known, however, that Miss Forman resigned her position a few months after the the original hearing and declined to be interviewed by a lawyer representing Mr Sanyal.

    The case must rank as one of the worst miscarriages of justice in the annals of any professional body.

  35. The answer to Hutch’s question is that no article has appeared in the Vet. Times or any similar publication, though there was at least one hard-hitting letter, viz., in the Vet. Times on July 30th 2007. The case papers are voluminous and complex and the task of analysing even the transcripts in the RCVS library would overwhelm any but the most determined investigative journalist.

    The objective of FRIENDS OF ANCARE has always been to support Mr Sanyal. We felt that it would serve no useful purpose to embarrass his enemies by publicising their unsavoury conduct and seeking revenge was certainly no part of our aims. We had assumed that, following his restoration to the Register, he would be able to resume the practice of his profession in peace. Unfortunately his enemies have continued to persecute him at every opportunity and the recent disgraceful TV programme has forced us to hit back by speaking out about the true facts of the case.

  36. Christopher Smith wrote-

    ‘Astonishingly, no-one in either the legal defence team or the DC seems to have spotted this. ……’

    Surely Mr Sanyal would have spotted this fact and drew it to the attention of both his legal team and the DC – afterall it was his career that was on the line!

  37. We understand that a complaint has been lodged with Offcom, but the result is not known yet. They apparently accept complaints only from injured parties.

  38. “Recently I was called to put down a 22-year-old cat that had only 6 days previously had over £2K worth of dental treatment done on her after the owner had been persuaded to, even though the cat had confirmed renal and liver failure by the same vet. Her worried owner had originally gone in to have her euthanized. She told me she’d had cats all her life but this experience has put her, and her family off ever owning another cat forever.”

    What a ridiculous scenario. Most people can’t afford £2K dental care for themselves.

    I’ve not seen the programme being debated (I don’t even have a TV…), but feel that it’s becoming impossible to offer decent veterinary services at an affordable rate. I believe the profession is reaching a stage where it can only offer services to the select middle and upper classes. This move is becoming entrenched by the increasing regulatory burden – for example, it is now illegal to prescribe cheaper generic versions of animal drugs – this is simply madness!

    I have frequently heard it said in response to the claim that vet bills are unaffordable for many, that if you can’t afford to look after a pet then you shouldn’t have one. NO! Vet services should be available (and be legally possible to provide!) to cater to people on all incomes. It is arrogant and incorrect to claim that homeless people shouldn’t be allowed to have pets.

    My complaint is that as a vet, I can’t see how I can maintain professional integrity and provide a much-wanted affordable service while fulfilling unnecessary legal requirements and avoid myself getting struck off the register. There is a real need for some common sense to cost effective veterinary practice to return to the profession. Those writing articles on ‘good practice’ and ‘minimum work-ups’ are frequently working in specialist referral settings and while there is nothing wrong with people spending this kind of money on their pets if they have it, making it appear a necessity is outrageous. One of the reasons vets spend so much on investigations etc is that they graduate knowing no other way – those who taught them worked in a university setting where frequently money was not considered an issue – not that it would be easy to consider money at this stage seeing as the cost of a given procedure / drug etc may be quite arbitrary and different amongst practices, which leads me to…

    Equally ‘pricing for good practice’ is something which goes missed. I frequently hear vets say something like, “we can’t do that as it’s too expensive”, and then proceed to do something else no less time-consuming for which they happen to charge less – the pricing structure was created to enable the practice to take in reasonable revenue and survive as a business, yet many vets seem to become a slave to their very own pricing structure!

  39. “This move is becoming entrenched by the increasing regulatory burden – for example, it is now illegal to prescribe cheaper generic versions of animal drugs – this is simply madness!”

    My complaint is that as a vet, I can’t see how I can maintain professional integrity and provide a much-wanted affordable service while fulfilling unnecessary legal requirements and avoid myself getting struck off the register.”

    From what you have said you appear to be indicating that the cascading legislation may be inhibiting the economic progress of veterinary practices in the UK and if this is the case when the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) is subjected to a Hampton Implementation Review by the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR) then perhaps this could be addressed.

    Animal Health (an agency of Defra) was subjected to a Hampton review last November and the report is available on BERR’s website at –

    During the review of the VMD veterinary practices and veterinary medicines wholesalers will be invited to attend stakeholders meetings and therefore this subject could be raised then. Perhaps the RCVS will co-ordinate this.

  40. I will reitereate what I said in my earlier post. This programme presented the Veterinary profession in a negative light. It was completely biased. I am saddened to read here that someone has been charged £2k and had their cat put through dental treatment when (s)he was suffering from severe renal and hepatic malfunction. I cannot imagine what kind of tests and treatment were given and how they were justified to come to this figure?
    I would like to present another side to the picture. There are often owners who will never let their beloved pet go. We recently had to refer (due to owner insistence) an elderly dog for MRI scan and the Practice I work for and the referral Practice BOTH recommended that the dog be euthanased. The owner refused and demanded brain surgery at a huge cost. The dog came through surgery and was put to sleep 2 weeks later.
    It is sometimes a difficult task judging how people will react to recommendations for their animals. I am in the final stages of becoming a qualified RVN and I happily work for a Practice that I feel runs effectively and ethically. We always try to offer various options and do take into account and sympathise with people’s financial restrictions offering standing orders and other payment options. Since this programme was aired, however, I feel slightly uncomfortable when offering pre-anaesthetic bloods and IVFT when admitting older animals almost as if the owner will think I am trying to get more money out of them.
    I also regularly see owners who have seen another vet and their animal has been on steroids for, for example, atopy and they think that the vet is trying to get money out of them when offering a proper work-up when all they want is that “magic” jab of dexafort or depemedrone. I also very regularly see owners bringing in dogs for subsidised neuters paid by animal charities but they have paid £800 for the pedigree dog!!! There is plenty to moan about in Veterinary Practice from both the people employed in it and the people using it as a service. I am sure there are unscrupulous vets out there just as I’m sure there are unscrupulous lawyers, doctors, MPs, shelf stackers, builders etc etc!!
    I just feel that this programme was an unnecessary, pretty useless waste of time!

  41. I think that it is fairly clear the vets can’t win here. If veterinary treatment is instituted sensibly based on an owner’s complaint – where is the harm? I have seen many pets that appeared normal on physical exam but were quite sick at a later date. Of course the treatment should be safe, and most drugs have possible side effects (even paracetamol and ibuprofen in humans). I personally find people become offended if you suggest nothing is wrong with the pet presented.

    Clearly some of the comments made here (about animals sick, passing away etc) suggest that the vet “didn’t do/know enough”. However this tv show suggests that the vets “did too much”. Clearly damned if you do damned if you don’t.

    Also, does anyone know how DAMN expensive a vet practice is to run? Compare that to a plumber who has a vehicle and materials… do you really expect your vet to get less than your plumber? Because in my experience I do!! (and not by a small margin)

    Regarding emergency vets asking for some payment: try and find me a plumber who will get out of bed at 3am in the morning, rush to your emergency leak and fix it without expecting or discussing payment on the first time they have met you!!

    One last point, I am quoting this from some site on the internet, probably some of the most accurate information contained on the web:
    “vets aren’t expensive, they’re priceless”

  42. I hear what you are saying and can agree with some of the points to a degree – especially the emergency cover.

    However, when you read Josh Artmeier’s ‘Pet Hates – The Shocking Truth about Pets and Vets’ and in particular the chapter on x-rays, which concludes – “If the boss finds out you’re not taking every opportunity to maximise profits…well so help you!” and then you read the posts on the Vetclick internet forum with Walter Beswick (retired vet) the words “rogue traders” certainly do spring to mind!

  43. “I’m certainly not apologising for that… especially not to an aussie vet”
    Hmmm, that says it all doesn’t it Ian, what a delightful member of society you are.

  44. That’s right youngvet – because it was an aussie vet locum who, when he couldn’t competently micro-chip my dog on the table, took him outside into a filthy kennel, terrified the living daylights out of him by forcing the needle into him in what I can only imagine was a brutal power struggle from the blood curling yelps that I heard from the waiting room. The “vet” then proceeded to present me with an exhausted, shaking, wreck of an animal covered in faeces and urine and he had the gall to charge me for the privilge.

    I should have had the b_ _ _ _ _ d struck off – the delightful member of society that he was !

  45. Extract From Vetclick Internet Email Forum

    Need advice on my dogs death – Please

    Posted by Eggs

    Forum List Message List New Topic
    Need advice on my dogs death – Please

    July 20, 2009 09:26PM Registered: 6 weeks ago
    Posts: 2

    Where do i start

    She wasn’t well, obviously, so went in for checks, she was losing weight, was at home on medicine but things were not better

    Went in to vets for a few night where they said as she was not eating she had some liver problems

    They said she could come home on steriods for 5 days and then have a check up, but vet wanted to take a needle sample before steriods to get a true reading.

    So I agreed ok, was told nothing about any risks, just that maybe they may not get a result from it. 3 Hours later my dogs dead.

    When I questioned the Vet she put phone down on me. She is now on holiday for 2 weeks, which only makes us feel that it’s convenient. My mum (who is a nurse) asked how she died and we have had no answer.

    They even at one stage said my dog was a ‘he’ and died at a vets 40 mile a way. The night she died my mum and dad went to say goodbye (I could not bring myself to deal with see in my dog in that manner)

    When they got there – she was laid dead in a kennel amongst other dogs, poo, sick, blood all over, her eyes were not even closed. As a nurse my mum has gone mental.

    She has been through some codes of practices – so there in a quick nutshell – is what’s happened and trust me there’s more things that they never did or never said

    The tip of ice berg was on Saturday morning when we got a call saying when can we pick up Eggzy’s Ashes

    They cremated her without asking us for our thoughts !

    To me it means – destroying the evidence of any mistake !

    So that’s a simply quickish explanation of what’s happened, I don’t know the code of practice so anything would be great please. It was my baby I lost and just need answers

    Walter Beswick
    Re: Need adive on my dogs death – Please
    July 21, 2009 08:33AM Moderator
    Registered: 3 years ago
    Posts: 4,530


    Contact the Professional Conduct Department, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Belgravia House, 64 Horseferry Road, LONDON, SW1P, 2AF, or telephone 020 7222 2001, saying that you wish to reigister a complaint against a veterinary surgeon,

    From what you tell me, I think that you have a very good case.


  46. What the documentary makers did not make clear was that Mrs Sparrow had sought to make a lot of money by taking Mr Sanyul to an industrial tribunal. It seems that she thought that by discrediting Mr Sanyul’s reputation as a vet she would be more likely to win her case. The local press reported Mrs Sparrow as saying that she thought she might get £100,000 in damages if she won her case. In the event she did win, though the chair of the tribunal stated that it was a case six of one and half a dozen of the other, but the damages she won were I believe equivalent to about 6 months pay. When the press took her up on her earlier statement that she thought she might get £100,000 she changed her story to it wasn’t about the money! When I asked the producers of this documentary whether they had paid Mrs Sparrow for her contribution they declined to comment.

  47. tsk tsk tsk

    why did i become a vet? to spend my whole life slaving away to TRY and do something useful and purposeful in my life. Of course, it is the first choice occupation for making TONS of money. Fiona, you ignorant twit, check the average salaries for professions. where do you see vet? down the bottom? yes, that is correct you fool. if i really wanted to maek money from pathetic individuals liek yourself,i would have gone into a truly unscrupulous profession like law (where thy charge you to read an email!!!) please people, get a grip. if you want to start complaining about unscupulous charging, i think other profressions need to be given a fair shake up aswell.

    lastly, i would like to make the point about owning a pet. i say this to all idiots who want us to do everything for free because we are differnet to everyone else and dont need money to live.

    owning an animal is a choice!!! It is not ocmpulsory

    if you CHOOSE to own an animal, realise that there is no NHS and that it WILL cost money to look after it.

    If you accept the above 2 very logical points, get insurance out so that you dont have to worry about vet bills.

    i would have thought that all this is very logical. unfortunately our society is littered with half wits who make our life misery

    my hell is other people

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