Do Veterinarians Treat Our Own Pets the Way We Treat Yours?

Dr. Patty Khuly's Belgian Malinois, Tika
Dr. Patty Khuly
After returning from a long weekend away from her Belgian Malinois, Tika, Dr. Patty Khuly noticed Tika had lost some weight. She almost let her emotions get in the way of properly caring for her dog.

If other veterinarians are like me, they’ve had plenty of cause to treat their own pets. After all, we know firsthand how expensive animal health care can be. Best to put our well-earned skills to good use! But should we really treat our own pets? Probably not.

I started thinking about this after returning from a long weekend and realizing that my 9-year-old Malinois had lost some weight. She’d been losing steadily for a couple of months before that, but that had been by design. She’d put on a few extra pounds, and I’d cut her rations. Now, however, she’d become so alarmingly thin, her ribs were conspicuous.

“Time for a full medical workup” is what my rational brain said. “Panic!” is what the rest of me screamed. Inaction is how the instinctual me responded.

In fact, had it not been for a colleague (an internal medicine specialist friend), I might still been evading the possibility that my dog had been transformed into a ticking time bomb.

In the end, Tika had checked out, I’ve changed her diet, and she’s since put on a bit of weight.

Emotions Can Interfere

Of course, this scenario begs the question: Why would a veterinarian outsource her own pet’s care?

And the answer: Because I’ve learned how utterly useless my clinical judgement can be when emotions intervene.

But could the same be true for my colleagues, I wondered? Do veterinarians inherently treat our own pets differently than we treat our patients?

In speaking with other veterinarians over the years, it’s become clear that many of us get overly emotional and might not always do for ours like we would for others’ pets.

What’s more, that seems to be the case when it comes to physicians for humans, too. When it comes making medical decisions for themselves, they don’t always practice what they preach.

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