We advise all of our owners to maintain close contact with us whenever taking their dog for veterinary care, whether due to an illness or for a routine visit like a physical or vaccinations. We strongly urge all of our owners not to administer any medications, even if the veterinarian desires to prescribe them, until consulting with us. We can always logically explain how and why something should or should not be done – whether it concerns diagnosis or treatment. And if we don’t know, we will say so and utilize our resources and our own licensed veterinarian experts to ensure we provide you with best possible advice. Please remember – we are the biggest advocate for your Grand Future American Bulldog’s health and well-being. We literally delivered that puppy into this beautiful world, we raised that puppy, we love that puppy. Some statements we make in this article may at first glance appear to be exaggerations or hyperbole – please be assured that they are not.
The United States stands out in the world in two significant ways :
1) US veterinary care is by far the most expensive in the world.
2) Veterinary malpractice in the US is significantly more prevalent than in any other country in the developed world. As a breeder since 2000 with hundreds of dogs living across the globe, we have a unique insight into this phenomenon. The extent is shocking and has left us speechless many times.
Many veterinarians appear to be extremely unqualified to practice medicine. Excellent veterinarians do exist, but a typical pet owner must simply get lucky to stumble upon such a veterinarian. Most pet owners, understandably so, do not have the necessary background to discern a good vet from a bad vet.
But if veterinary malpractice is so common, why do the veterinarians tend to not face any consequences? There is a rather simple explanation for this lack of accountability, and you can confirm this with your own attorney. Dogs are considered property under US law.
With human medical malpractice, demonstrating damages in a court of law is straightforward. There are compensatory damages and punitive damages, and the jury can of course empathize with the victim of the malpractice – a human being just like themselves.
With dogs, that is not so. In order to bring forth a successful lawsuit, the owner of the dog, who is the victim given that property cannot be a victim, must be able to prove damages in a court of law. Essentially maximum damages would typically be the “value” of the dog. To us, these dogs are our priceless family members, but legally, the dog’s value with some rare exceptions is going to be the price you paid to purchase the dog, or even less. Your legal fees in bringing forth a veterinary malpractice or negligence suit will easily surpass the price you paid for your beloved dog – you will lose money, potentially quite a bit, even if you get a favorable verdict in court. Unlike human medical lawsuits, the incentives are completely misaligned in the case of veterinary malpractice under the law.
Another avenue to seek recourse is to file a complaint with the veterinary board in your state, but it appears that system is far from perfect, and most veterinarians, even by committing gross negligence and medical malpractice seldom face any kind of meaningful sanction. A “public letter of reprimand” that no one will see unless they dig very hard is quite typical even for repeat offenders. And of course the owner cannot get any actual relief from the state board – only a very slim possibility that the offending veterinarian will not be able to harm others’ pets in the future in case their medical license is revoked.
A quick check of a given veterinarian’s record of disciplinary actions by their respective state veterinary board online can be helpful in avoiding the most egregious offenders. We have found that most bad veterinarians our owners have encountered have no record of any disciplinary actions, so this filter on its own is not too useful.
The most common veterinary medical malpractice that we have observed is vets simply not practicing the diagnostic method; they just guess and prescribe potentially life-altering medications to puppies and dogs. Another common type of malpractice is administering medication to your dog without your consent. These situations are aggravated by the fact that many veterinarians tend to want to separate you and your dog during examination. Do not allow them to do that. In your absence, they could administer unwanted medications, screw up simple diagnostic procedures, and do other types of damage to your dog potentially without you ever finding out. If they are uncomfortable with your presence as they conduct the kinds of diagnostics that can obviously be done in your presence, immediately look for another veterinarian. This is a huge red flag. Please understand that this is not normal veterinary care in almost any other civilized nation in the world.
The pet owner is at an immense disadvantage when receiving any kind of medical care from a licensed veterinarian. As a society we have been conditioned to believe that a licensed medical professional knows what they are doing and that we can and should trust them. From our own and our owners’ experiences all across the United States, the majority of veterinarians, if you were to just take a random sample, are absolutely horrible and cannot be relied upon. This is not an exaggeration.
This is exactly why we have even had to develop a methodology to help our owners around the country maximize the chances of finding a normal veterinarian that is not a danger to their dog. We also strongly urge all of our owners to contact us prior to taking their dog to the veterinarian for any reason, including for routine visits such as vaccinations. Yes – we have documented veterinary malpractice even at a straightforward rabies vaccination visit for a 3-month old puppy.
The following are just a small but illustrative selection of real situations that our owners and we have encountered. Please note that every one of these situations happened at various veterinary clinics across the United States.
IS CORTICOSTEROID A HORMONE?
Without first receiving consent from the owner, a veterinarian administered an injection to a 5-month old puppy for some minor ear inflammation that resulted from swimming . When the owner inquired if the veterinarian injected a hormone, because that is unnecessary and can be very damaging to the immune system, the veterinarian responded with a “No.” However, the injection turned out to be prednisone – a potent corticosteroid. When confronted by the owner, the veterinarian adamantly argued that a corticosteroid is not a hormone. This is a veterinarian that does not know that a corticosteroid, in this instance prednisone, is a hormone. This fact is not up for any kind of debate.
OH NO! THAT WOULD BE ILLEGAL!
A 3-month old puppy was presented at the vet for the rabies vaccination. Upon learning of the puppy’s age, the veterinarian refused and categorically told the owner that it would be against the law to vaccinate a 3-month old puppy against rabies, and that the owner must come back when the puppy is 4 months old. The owner contacted us and a quick search of Arizona statutes concerning pets showed that all dogs must be registered/licensed at 3 months old, and what must a dog have in order to be registered? Rabies vaccination. The veterinarian is wrong about his own state’s laws concerning rabies vaccinations and is offering terrible, unlicensed legal advice to a pet owner.
HERE – GIVE THIS TO YOUR PUPPY WHEN YOU GET HOME
A 3-month old puppy was presented at the vet for a rabies vaccination. Unlike the case above, this veterinarian did administer a rabies vaccine to a 3-month old puppy per state law. However, before the owner had a chance to leave, the veterinarian gave the owner oral deworming medication and oral flea/tick medication and instructed the owner to give both that same day to the puppy. The owner thankfully called us. Although this may not seem like malpractice at first glance, it certainly is. A 3-month old puppy’s immune system will be occupied in producing rabies antibodies due to the introduction of the rabies vaccine into his system. Introducing any other additional medications at the same time is absurd and only introduces risks. A 3-month old puppy’s immune system is still developing, and such chemicals may drastically affect the organism. See our vaccination and deworming schedule here. There is a specific reason why a dog should be dewormed 2 weeks prior to any vaccination, and definitely not the day-of. This would probably fall under the gross negligence category of malpractice, and could have potentially resulted in lasting if not permanent effects on the puppy’s immune system development if the owner had followed this veterinarian’s directions. Our recommendation: No matter the age of your dog, always space out administering routine medications, such as vaccinations, dewormers, flea/tick repellants, etc. by at least 10-14 days.
THAT’S ALLERGIES – HAVE SOME PILLS
A 6-month old puppy exhibited inflammation, redness, and loss of fur around the hocks on the rear legs. Home remedies of non-systemic over-the-counter antibiotic ointments did not resolve the symptoms. As the veterinarian enters the room and examines the puppy, she immediately eye-ball-diagnoses the puppy with “allergies.” Then leaves the room, and comes back with a bottle of Apoquel. The owner begins to research this drug online, where the manufacturer’s website specifically states that this IMMUNOSUPPRESANT drug, which is typically prescribed for life to dogs suffering from unmanageable allergies, to be taken every single day, cannot be prescribed to puppies under the age of 12 months old.
“FDA Warning: Do not use APOQUEL in dogs less than 12 months of age or those with serious infections. APOQUEL may increase the chances of developing serious infections, and may cause existing parasitic skin infestations or pre- existing cancers to get worse.”
When the veterinarian is reminded that the puppy is 6 months old, the veterinarian responds with “Oh I thought it was 8 months old.” The owner refuses this medication and dictates the diagnostic method to the veterinarian for the given situation: Collect skin scrapings to be cultured at a lab to determine the type of infection present. The veterinarian complies. Before the owner has a chance to leave the clinic, the veterinarian again comes back into the room with a bottle, this time antibiotics, which the owner refuses and explains that medication should not be given to a dog without a proper diagnosis. 2 weeks later, the veterinarian calls the owner as the lab results are in: Ringworm. Ringworm is athlete’s foot or jock itch in humans – a highly infectious fungus but easily treated with correct antifungal medication. Of course the veterinarian offered no apology for her medical malpractice. The puppy was quickly cured of the infection with proper antifungal medication. Not antibiotics. Not immunosuppressants.
Here’s a thought experiment – what do you think would have happened to this 6 month old puppy had the owner followed this licensed veterinarian’s prescriptions of Apoquel and antibiotics?
First, Apoquel, although not a steroid, is a highly potent immuno-suppressant. It suppresses the immune system, making it less capable of fighting infections. This is why Apoquel cannot be prescribed to dogs who suffer from an infection. This drug’s immune-suppression effect is so potent that developing various infections are one of the potential significant side effects of Apoquel. Just like steroids.
Apoquel’s function in treating allergy symptoms is quite simple – allergies at the very basic level are an auto-immune problem. The immune system is basically overreacting and misfiring by responding to the allergens as if they were some kind of harmful pathogens – an infection. Allergens are harmless to the organism if the immune system is properly developed and balanced – it should not react to allergens at all, as they are not harmful. Apoquel suppresses this improper immune response. Apoquel therefore has an anti-inflammatory function. Inflammation is the very basic of immune responses. Having consulted with several good veterinarians regarding this very interesting scenario – the consensus is the following: As an immuno-suppressant and an anti-inflammatory, Apoquel could quite possibly have reduced the inflammation on the puppy’s skin, masking the symptoms of the ongoing ringworm infection. The redness and inflammation could have been reduced – making it appear that the drug is actually working. An inexperienced owner would then have ample misguided reason to believe that in fact the dog is suffering from allergies. Because Apoquel appears to be working. And it’s an allergy medication. What about antibiotics? One of the most consequential side effects of antibiotic use – fungus/yeast overgrowth and weakening of the immune system.
So these two drugs, Apoquel and antibiotics, would have both further compromised the developing immune system of a 6-month old puppy, while possibly masking the symptoms of the inflammation and redness due to the underlying ringworm infection, and allowed the ringworm infection to grow much more aggressively, while the owner would have thought that the vet’s prescriptions are working – the symptoms are disappearing! Any kind of antibiotics will only make a fungal infection worse. A given antibiotic will only work against certain bacteria. And the culture showed that there was no bacterial infection whatsoever. It’s difficult to even imagine how the fungal implosion would have presented itself later on from the untreated and undiagnosed ringworm infection, most likely having become systemic rather than localized and possibly even putting the life of the puppy in danger, had the owner trusted this veterinarian. This is a perfect example of unqualified veterinarians who put the dog’s life and well-being at risk because they do not even know how to practice the very basic concept of medicine – the diagnostic method.
Also important to note – a developing immune system in a puppy, once drastically artificially suppressed like this, whether with steroids, immuno-suppressants like Apoquel, or unnecessary antibiotics, can potentially never stabilize or recover. The poor puppy’s life could have very well been unending hell with recurring infections forever – all because of this veterinarian’s malpractice of medicine.
TAKE THESE ANTIBIOTICS AND IF IT DOESN’T WORK COME BACK IN A FEW DAYS
We received a call from an owner of a 3.5-month old puppy. Symptoms: Severe diarrhea, vomiting, no appetite, lethargy. Immediately, we begin to collect as much background information as possible. When asked whether the puppy was unsupervised at any time when he could have ingested something during the previous 24 hours, after initially denying, the owner remembered that there was in fact a brief period when the puppy was unsupervised outside in the yard the previous day. We immediately had the owner measure the temperature of the puppy. Stable but low-grade fever. We advised that this is an emergency and that the puppy must be taken to the vet immediately. The way this entire scenario played out was so predictable it was comical.
- We explained to the owner that there are two most likely causes for these symptoms – ingestion of foreign matter causing indigestion and possibly blockage (which is often deadly) or an acute onset viral infection (possible but significantly less likely).
- As he was on the way to the vet, we explained to the owner what information must be specifically provided to the vet with regards to symptoms and relevant facts – to ensure there are no vital omissions.
- We then explained two most likely scenarios the owner will encounter at the vet. Bad vet scenario and Good vet scenario. Bad vet scenario: The veterinarian will not do any diagnostics, prescribe antibiotics and/or steroids, and send the puppy home. Good vet scenario: The veterinarian will immediately try to exclude ingestion of foreign matter via X-rays and/or Ultrasound as that is most the probable cause for these symptoms, and will then move on to excluding whatever viral infections are seen as most common in their region, such as Parvo until the cause is found. This is the diagnostic method.
- The owner arrives at the vet and we remain in contact by phone. The owner informs us that the vet is refusing to do X-rays or Ultrasound and is prescribing the puppy Amoxicillin – an antibiotic. We speak directly to the veterinarian on behalf of our owner to get more information in real-time. The vet explains that there is no chance that this puppy had ingested anything foreign and that it would be a waste of money to do an X-ray. We asked why Amoxicillin specifically? There are hundreds of antibiotics out there, and each antibiotic only has efficacy against certain types and groups of bacteria – there is no such thing as a universal antibiotic that is effective against all types of bacteria. How is the vet certain that if this puppy does in fact have a bacterial infection, despite the fact that there has not been any diagnostic work done to determine that, that the bacteria would be susceptible to this antibiotic – Amoxicillin? The vet responded that in her experience, with puppies presenting with these symptoms, this is the antibiotic that has worked in the past. So she’d like to put the puppy on Amoxicillin and if the the symptoms don’t improve then she’d want to see the puppy again in a few days.
- We immediately advised our owner to refuse all medication and to leave this vet as we got online to locate a legitimate veterinary practice in the area. We quickly found a promising practice and called on behalf of our owner. We explained the situation to the receptionist – symptoms of the puppy – severe diarrhea, vomiting, no appetite, lethargy, stable but low-grade fever and then went over what the previous vet prescribed. You could hear her jaw drop over the phone. That was definitely the right response to this situation and we felt confident that this veterinarian would be able to help this puppy. We informed her to expect the owner and puppy soon.
- As soon as the owner arrived at this 2nd veterinary practice, they needed to wait around 20 minutes to be seen by a vet. The temperature was still stable so it was clear the puppy was not yet in critical condition. Within that span of time, even before a vet became available, a parvo virus rapid test was done by the staff and the result came back negative. Then, once the veterinarian became available, he immediately took X-rays which showed a bunch of gravel in the puppy’s stomach.
- The puppy fully recovered with proper medication, and you can bet it was not Amoxicillin.
This is a pretty severe example of medical malpractice. Unfortunately it was also very predictable given our experience with vets all over the country. Had we not been actively involved in this process to protect our owners and their dogs from veterinarians, this situation could have ended in a tragedy. Had the owner trusted and followed the first veterinarian’s prescription and gone home, the puppy could have even died that night – while the owner was asleep. Deaths due to blockage from foreign matter ingestion are unfortunately very common and they can happen very suddenly – the blockage can easily cause the entire organism to shut down.
PRESCRIBED STEROID USE ENDS IN A TRAGEDY
This is a story we heard from an animal control police officer and we had no involvement with this situation. This officer has extensive experience in both veterinary care and animal control.
Out of nowhere, a dog mauled the owner to the point of requiring reconstructive surgery all over her body. An investigation and review of medical records followed. 6 months prior, the owner had taken the dog to a veterinary clinic due to some itchy skin. The veterinarian prescribed the dog oral systemic steroids, to be administered daily. This dog was on steroids for 6 months. The officer is quite certain that steroid use played a key role in this dog turning on the owner. It appears the officer has encountered such situations before. Although the officer did confront the veterinarian, we are not aware of any sanction against this vet.
This veterinarian still has an active license to practice.
Steroids are extremely serious because of their potency to affect the organism. If you were to read warnings and potential side effects for steroid use in humans, you will commonly find the following: recurring infections, diseases related to immune system function including allergies, and you guessed it – mania and psychosis. As mammals, dogs suffer very similar side effects from steroid use.
Our position on steroid use in dogs is as follows: Yes, steroids have a place in medicine. However, because of the potential severe side effects, especially from the use of systemic steroids, appropriate use in medicine is very narrow. Steroids can even permanently alter the immune system function of a dog after just one dose. The anti-inflammatory and immune-suppressing effect of steroids is typically almost immediate and is very drastic. If your dog got stung by a bee and the dog happened to develop an allergic reaction to the point that the entire face is swollen and the dog is wheezing and suffocating because the throat has closed up due to the swelling, then yes – a steroid is quite possibly necessary to safe the dog’s life. Life or death situations when there is no alternative – that’s the narrow scope of steroid use, with certain rare exceptions when using steroids locally to mitigate localized inflammation.
There is no veterinarian in the world that cares more about your Grand Future American Bulldog than us. Let us help you ensure that your puppy grows up healthy and can reach his or her full potential. Do not make the mistake of assuming that you, as a pet owner, can discern good vets from bad vets. We have decades of experience of working with hundreds of owners and have encountered countless veterinarians around the world. Very seldom is a pet owner equipped with the know-how, expertise, and confidence to adequately question the authority-figure that is the licensed veterinarian. Trust but verify.
And most crucially, we provide this invaluable service to all of our owners, any time, for free. If you are not a Grand Future American Bulldog owner but would like our advice for your situation – we do offer consultation as a paid service.
We have not even touched on another ugly side of the veterinary industry – price-gouging and charging pet owners for redundant and unnecessary services. That too is unfortunately commonplace and of course is within our purview in the guidance we provide our owners. You will often find 50% – 200% markup on commodity items, including prescriptions, at the vet’s office. In Japan for example, all pharmacies are mandated by law to be independent of hospitals and clinics to eliminate the conflict of interest of a prescribing doctor or an institution standing to financially benefit for issuing the prescription.