DEAR DR. FOX: I just read an article about the lady who got overcharged for her sick dog’s treatment. I had a similar thing happen to me this summer.
My dog was limping, and I thought he had hurt his foot, so we took him to Blue Pearl specialty hospital late that night. When we got there, they told us that my dog had a fractured bone in his neck! We were so upset to hear this, as he had seemed fine except for a sore foot.
I asked if they did any X-rays to determine that. They said no, but they wanted me to take him to another doctor to have a scan Monday morning. So I called and set up an appointment with this other doctor, who said they could do surgery on him — the cost would be $2,000 for the scan and $6,000 to $7,000 for the surgery. I canceled that appointment, as I could see he did not have a fractured neck.
Blue Pearl had given me some pills ($374) to give my dog, but he would not take them. I took him home, crying my eyes out, and we put him in bed with us. Come morning, the dog jumps out of bed, never having taken any pills, and seemed to be in great shape, no problem. A few neighbors came by and I told my story, and they were shocked — no one saw any problems with my dog. He is still doing just fine.
I feel like something should be done with this type of thing. What this vet is doing is not right — just to make money off people who love their dogs. — J.A., Bonita Springs, Florida
DEAR J.A.: What you document with your dog’s misdiagnosis, proposed treatment and costs, and the inflated cost of the medication prescribed, is totally outrageous. It is also a blight on the veterinary profession. You should file a complaint with the state board of veterinary examiners and the Better Business Bureau for a start, with full details — including the name of the attending veterinarian and anything that was provided to you in writing. But first, you should politely contact this veterinary clinic for a copy of your dog’s records.
Clearly, this is a money-driven racket. It is tragic that your dog could have fallen victim to unwarranted surgical intervention and risk, for which you would have been out of pocket — and for what?
Read on for another reader’s experience with Blue Pearl.
DEAR DR. FOX: My wife and I have had to utilize Blue Pearl on a number of occasions when our cats became gravely ill. When you need after-hours emergency care for your pet, there are very few options available. I am concerned that Blue Pearl might be taking advantage of that fact.
Our cats were old and were suffering from chronic conditions when we made the decision to put them down. And, as these things often work out, our pets went into crisis in the middle of the night on a weekend. As expensive as the services were, we were fortunate they were not the $5,000 mentioned in your last column.
Thirty years ago, we had a dog who suddenly started throwing up blood and bleeding internally. At that time, there was a local emergency hospital that was owned and operated by a graduate of the Oklahoma State University vet school. They were very clear about our dog’s poor prognosis in the beginning, and were upfront about what they could attempt, how much it would cost, and what the chances were it would be successful. The treatment wasn’t inexpensive, but I felt they did the best that they could. It was clear that their concern was our pet, not the money.
Ironically, this emergency pet hospital was purchased by Blue Pearl shortly before we had the emergency with our cats. We are fortunate to have the resources to pay for our emergency pet care; at those moments, you would be willing to pay a substantial amount to get your pet well. My worry with these corporate-owned hospitals is that they are aware that pet owners just want their pet to be well, and they take advantage of that.
I believe there are many pet hospitals out there that do put the patient first. But I am concerned they’re all going to be bought up by corporations that put the dollar first. — J.H., Edmond, Oklahoma
DEAR J.H.: Thanks for sharing your experiences dealing with emergency veterinary care services with your animal companions. I am afraid your concerns about corporate entities putting profits first are valid, as this seems to be the way of the times. Profits rule over ethics! This is the essence of spiritual corruption.
It is a crisis indeed when animals in need of veterinary care are not examined or treated because their owners lack the financial resources to cover these inflated costs. But there are glimmers of hope in some communities, where charities and veterinarians are collaborating to bring essential veterinary services to all in need.
Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.