Health or Wealth - What Motivates Your Vet Surgery?

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Health or Wealth - What Motivates Your Vet Surgery?

Post by zeta1454 »

Companion animals and most especially dogs have become big business these days in every possible way. Not just the proliferation of irresponsible and callous breeding establishments but in a more worrying takeover of the provision of those services which should be helping keep our animals healthy.

In recent years there has been an encouraging rise in the number of dedicated dog (and cat) food suppliers especially those offering raw meats and "complete" raw food but also some providing other forms of prepared dog food based on actual quality meat, fish and vegetables.

However the big kibble ( dry extruded feed) manufacturers through sponsorship and support deals continue to maintain a hold over much of the pet food market, having their products promoted in vet surgeries and via dog shows and the Kennel Club. They have the position they hold through their financial power and not through the quality of their product.

Looking behind the brand to who owns what is always interesting. How many of the big name pet feed manufacturers actually have anything other than a financial interest in companion animal health?

Mars the confectionery giant owns forty one brands in total, including four billion-dollar brands - PEDIGREE®, IAMS®, WHISKAS®, ROYAL CANIN® and BANFIELD®. Other leading brands include: KITEKAT®, CESAR®, NUTRO®, SHEBA®, CHAPPI®, CATSAN®, FROLIC®, PERFECT FIT®, GREENIES®, EUKANUBA®, CALIFORNIA NATURALS®, INNOVA® and EVO®.

Hills pet feed is now a subsidiary of Colgate Palmolive better known for soaps, detergents and other household cleaning products.

These are billion dollar companies with profit for their share holders as their number one priority. More worrying still is the fact that big business is now taking over the vet surgeries themselves. Small independent veterinary surgeries will soon become a thing of the past if the current trend continues and with it ( as with the big business owned pet food companies) comes a focus on profit not healthcare - how to bring in as much money as possible on a regular basis and if the result is more sickly animals with chronic ailments that too will help maintain profits ( whether or not that is the intention).

Vets4Pets (Now owned by Pets At Home through their Companion Care sector) is a franchise style business whereby those wanting to open their own surgery can become Joint Venture Partners and will be funded by Vets4Pets, repaying the money loaned to them from the profits of the surgery - the focus inevitably will be (guided by the business professionals they are indebted to) on how to bring in as much money as possible on a regular basis. Nick Wood, CEO of Pets at Home, was quoted as saying that there is ‘’a lot of growth potential’’ in the industry, which, in April 2013, comprised 2500 veterinary practices across the UK . During a 12-month period from March 2012 to 2013, the businesses ( Vets4Pets and RideAway an equestrian company also acquired by them) had combined sales of £100 million, with Companion Care being accountable for 57%.

CVS is an even more business oriented company which has been buying up small veterinary practices, offering to take over the "administrative" side of the surgery to allow the vets to concentrate on clinical care. While this might sound admirable, in practice this means finding ways of bringing in big profits and regular income. Their Chief Executive was formerly CE of Vision Express ( and has experience with Marks and Spencer, Hamleys and the British Army). In his profile for CVS he refers to applying the growth strategy he used at Vision Express to the "veterinary industry".

Their Finance Director was previously Finance Director at Genting Casinos UK a multi million pound business - now gambling with the health of the nation's pets through his directorship at CVS.

Not one of the Group directors have any knowledge or experience of veterinary care and their view of this area of animal health is as an industry to bring in profit. Welcome to the era of the Healthy Pet Club and other such money making schemes (scams).

Check out their website for full details of their company:

http://www.cvsukltd.co.uk/about-us/history/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I have no doubt that there are other examples throughout the country - whether clients are aware or not - of vet surgeries bring run as businesses, not as places where the primary and over-riding concern is with animal health. This is not to necessarily detract from the outstanding clinical work the actual veterinary surgeons may be doing but their clinics are becoming places where poor quality animal feed is sold as premium dog food and even more worrying, vaccines, flea treatments and worming products are being promoted to clients unnecessarily and to the long term detriment of their dog's health. Clients are being encouraged to sign up for direct debit schemes whereby they pay monthly for products their dogs do not need and which could actually be damaging them. Having got the client hooked by the scheme, they are far more likely to keep coming back every three months or more for their products and, even if they don't, the money is still coming in. Whatever happened to only taking your dog to the vets when they were injured or unwell? Now it seems through the fear merchant tactics of the big business owners of the surgeries, clients are persuaded that no animal can survive in a normal environment without constant medication and, (against all the warnings of the pharmaceutical companies that supply the products), they are being sold without a full health check on the dog at the time of sale and being used without real need which will lead to parasite resistance and loss of usefulness of the product.

Some of the still independent surgeries are now trying to compete by launching their own "loyalty" type schemes with a similar promotion of vaccine boosters; wormers and flea treatments but the only one I have seen that offered anything like a real health conscious approach to regular vet surgery visits was one that offered a faecal worm screen ( to test whether a dog had worms before prescribing a wormer) and a titre test ( to establish whether a dog had sufficient immunity not to need any "booster") before vaccinating, alongside the standard vet health check, and a discounted price for any medications.

Veterinary surgeries should be places where you can feel confident that the vet you are seeing has only the health of your pet as their priority. Once they are tied in to management companies who see vet surgeries as a part of a profitable "industry" how do you know what you are being sold and why? The vet clinic is not a supermarket or fashion store where you should be given tempting offers and loyalty schemes - it should be somewhere you go for clinical expertise when your dog has a health issue. I know vet surgeries need to bring in money to keep going and offer the best care but there has to be a better way than to sell out to business gurus with multi-million pound profits as their goal.
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Re: Health or Wealth - What Motivates Your Vet Surgery?

Post by Pennyblack »

I truly hope my local vet doesn't go down that route.

One thing I did notice when I was in with my cat today for his booster (3 years since he was last vaccinated and only being done because of the pup) was that there wasn't the normal stock of Hills Prescription food on the shelves that I'd seed on my last visit. When I was chatting with the nurse about getting my cat in to be groomed under sedation (if you saw my arms you'd know why it could be necessary), I was pleasantly surprised when she suggested a wee gadget to break the grass seed tats out at a cost of £4.50 instead of paying £90 for the sedation and groom.

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Re: Health or Wealth - What Motivates Your Vet Surgery?

Post by Champ629 »

We are with Companion Care Vets (at Pets at Home). This wasn't our first choice of vets when we moved here over two years ago, however, we needed a vet over the weekend and Companion Care is open 7 days a week, so we went there and have been going there since. The head vet who is the Joint Venture Partner is really good and no nonsense, which I like. When we first registered she gave us the time to explain all about our dogs ongoing/pre-existing conditions. We are never rushed during a consultation, sometimes we have been in the consulting room for half and hour. Several times we haven't even been charged for the consultation. We also get free prescriptions, our previous vets charged us £14 for a written prescription. When Jake was diagnosed with bladder crystals we were advised to give him a prescription diet, which we did for a short time, but when we put him back on his original food the vet accepted our decision. This is the third vets practice that we have used over the past eight years and I would say definitely the best we have encountered.
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Re: Health or Wealth - What Motivates Your Vet Surgery?

Post by Afbalad »

hi, I'm new here,(but an occasional lurker, and have found the forum to be a mine of information).
Our boy is 18 weeks now, and when looking for a vet for initial vaccinations all the local vets went completely blank at the idea of doing titre tests, and rolled out the stock answer that the 'companies' have licenced the drugs for yearly application. When I think of the problems that human children can have with vaccinations it does make me worry about just following blindly, and would be very interested to know where the vets who will do fecal screening and titre testes are? I'm just south of London, but there must be some gooduns around?
Thanks for all the info though!
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Re: Health or Wealth - What Motivates Your Vet Surgery?

Post by Maty »

In general, the big groups are only as good as the vet at the clinic you are attending. An example is we have several Medivet surgeries locally and I hear dreadful stories about one of them. I have concerns about Companion Care as they cannot provide a 24/7 service, I know of one very poorly dog that had to be taken in at 9am and collected at 6pm daily when IV fluids were needed.

We have a brilliant independent vet who I am very happy with, I would be gutted if they joined one of these larger groups. They do have the monthly plan but we have withdrawn from it as I am no longer flea or worm treating using chemicals and I have decided, after amazing research by Leigh, to stop vaccinating annually. Sadly, only one vet in the practice agrees with raw feeding though.
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Re: Health or Wealth - What Motivates Your Vet Surgery?

Post by Champ629 »

Our Companion Care vets provide a 24/7 emergency cover service. The head vet who is the Joint Venture Partner provides the out of hours cover, in an emergency you phone the vets surgery and get diverted to the head vets telephone, emergency consultations start from £60. The two previous independent vets surgeries we used, both gave poor service and were very expensive.
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Re: Health or Wealth - What Motivates Your Vet Surgery?

Post by zeta1454 »

Champ629 wrote:Our Companion Care vets provide a 24/7 emergency cover service. The head vet who is the Joint Venture Partner provides the out of hours cover, in an emergency you phone the vets surgery and get diverted to the head vets telephone, emergency consultations start from £60. The two previous independent vets surgeries we used, both gave poor service and were very expensive.
Without a doubt you do need to judge every vet surgery on the service they are giving and just because a vet surgery is independent does not mean it will be good. I am also sure (as I said in my original post ) that most individual vets give good quality clinical care and may choose to go the extra mile for particular clients. My concern is that it is not always obvious who is funding vet surgeries and, if it is a management company that has its focus firmly set on profits for their shareholders, they are going to be looking at ways of ensuring a continuous and regular source of income and this is going to be by promoting vaccination, flea treatments and wormers to clients preferably by signing them up to a direct debit regular payment scheme. Even if clients do not take this up they are likely to be subjected to waiting for appointments in a room with walls decorated with hideous posters of Alien type "worms" ; having a TV loop system continually promoting regular use of chemical anti-parasite treatments and leaflets encouraging clients even if they have missed a "booster"" vaccination not to worry because they can start all over again at a discount cost - or maybe this only happens in Yorkshire :))

It is not the quality of surgical or clinical treatment to sick or injured animals in management company run vet surgeries that bothers me, it is the risk to the long term health of our companion animals from the promotion of unnecessary chemical treatments and over-vaccination and the dangers of over prescribing ( without full health check each time) products that are already becoming ineffective against parasites and bacteria due to widespread and irresponsible over use. This may not be confined to management company run surgeries but it is most definitely one of the main ways this type of surgery is using to boost their income and IMO comes at an unacceptable cost to the health of our dogs.
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Re: Health or Wealth - What Motivates Your Vet Surgery?

Post by zeta1454 »

Afbalad wrote:hi, I'm new here,(but an occasional lurker, and have found the forum to be a mine of information).
Our boy is 18 weeks now, and when looking for a vet for initial vaccinations all the local vets went completely blank at the idea of doing titre tests, and rolled out the stock answer that the 'companies' have licenced the drugs for yearly application. When I think of the problems that human children can have with vaccinations it does make me worry about just following blindly, and would be very interested to know where the vets who will do fecal screening and titre testes are? I'm just south of London, but there must be some gooduns around?
Thanks for all the info though!
Hi and glad that you have found plenty of interesting information on the Forum :)

With regard to the fecal worm testing, you do not need to go through your vet to do this as there are companies that provide the service to individuals as well as to veterinary surgeries. The one we have used with our dogs is Wormcount.
http://wormcount.com" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Titre testing varies from vet practice to vet practice - some will offer the service at a high price and send the samples to a laboratory for testing. This was the case with our vet surgery who charged over £100 for a blood test to check for antibodies to Distemper; Hepatitis and Parvovirus in our 20 month old miniature schnauzer. She had only ever had one set of the vaccine (DHP) against these diseases at the age of 10 weeks ( as the vaccine manufacturer Nobivac states that at 10 weeks plus only one set of jabs is needed). Her titre test results took a couple of weeks to come through but, as she showed high immunity to these diseases, we will not need to vaccinate her again so the initial cost is not really that significant.

However there are a growing number of vet surgeries now offering the Vaccicheck testing system which is a simple in-house test kit which vets can use and give you the results within 20 minutes at a cost of around £30-£40 . I believe that some Medivet practices in the London area now stock this or you could check this link for other surgeries in the UK.

http://www.petwelfarealliance.org/vaccicheck-vets.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I hope this helps. There is absolutely no justification for annual "boosters" for Distemper; Hepatitis and Parvovirus. If you choose to accept Leptospirosis vaccination ( which we do not) you would need continual vaccination as these last anything from only 2 months to a year and are not regarded by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association as a core vaccine being unreliable and ( certainly for small breed dogs which we have) the most likely to cause adverse reactions.
http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/lepto-dogs-risk/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Good luck with finding a vet but ultimately the choice of what vaccines and other treatments you give to your dog is yours. You may have to just try keep true to your own beliefs in these areas if your vet is not sympathetic :)
Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. ~Roger Caras

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Re: Health or Wealth - What Motivates Your Vet Surgery?

Post by BeeBee »

I've found a huge difference in vet costs between the UK and France, massive. I share the concerns about big businesses and franchises in the vet sector, it just cannot be good in my view, but, like many things, it's hard to know what to do if you don't have good local independent you trust (we do thankfully).
Another difference I notice in France v. UK, is that there is not insurance cover as the norm in France as is happening in the UK.
Since investigating links between puppy insurance, companies offering this and the dishing out of policies to puppy buyers by obvious puppy dealers, which inevitably supports puppy farming and terrible breeding practices, I've become highly suspicious of the role pet insurance in the health of our pets. Yet another minefield to navigate X( :(
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Re: Health or Wealth - What Motivates Your Vet Surgery?

Post by Pennyblack »

Thankyou for the link re vacci-check. However, as there are only 4 practices shown for Scotland and the nearest being a two hour car journey away, I will be following this up with my local vet and asking him if he could consider doing it as standard.
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Re: Health or Wealth - What Motivates Your Vet Surgery?

Post by Afbalad »

Thanks 'Zeta1454', that's really helpful, and good to know that there is often no good reason to keep poisoning our dogs bodies. It's just common sense, I work in health care and my immunity is checked to see if I require a booster, and over the long term it's worth the initial cost.
Thanks for those links.
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Re: Health or Wealth - What Motivates Your Vet Surgery?

Post by Champ629 »

Just wondering, is it important for your chosen vet practice to be RCVS Accredited?
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Re: Health or Wealth - What Motivates Your Vet Surgery?

Post by zeta1454 »

Champ629 wrote:Just wondering, is it important for your chosen vet practice to be RCVS Accredited?
Yes - I would have thought that it is an extra plus if your vet practice is RCVS accredited - as it does seem from their website to to suggest they have to meet certain criteria and be inspected to a particular standard which may not apply to other surgeries. There are more details on this link:
http://findavet.rcvs.org.uk/accredited- ... ds-scheme/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Standards of care should be high and professional standards assured although it would not have any bearing on aspects such as links to pet food manufacturers and particular pharmaceutical companies which are common to pretty much all vet practices .
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Re: Health or Wealth - What Motivates Your Vet Surgery?

Post by Champ629 »

Thanks for your reply Leigh.

I am currently re-thinking the vets we are using, (Companion Care), the service they provide is good, but they are not RCVS Accredited and some of the vets ideas are a bit old school and I am thinking we might benefit from a younger approach to certain things. It is always a bit daunting thinking about changing to a different practice and I want to make sure I do enough research before I make a firm decision.
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Re: Health or Wealth - What Motivates Your Vet Surgery?

Post by Nika C »

Champ629 wrote:Thanks for your reply Leigh.

I am currently re-thinking the vets we are using, (Companion Care), the service they provide is good, but they are not RCVS Accredited and some of the vets ideas are a bit old school and I am thinking we might benefit from a younger approach to certain things. It is always a bit daunting thinking about changing to a different practice and I want to make sure I do enough research before I make a firm decision.
We've found some of the younger vets can be just as bad - and some of the 'old school' might just surprise you ;)
As with most things we've found personal recommendation the way to go - find people who follow the path you wish to follow (whether that's for vaccinations, feeding, general well-being) and find out who they use (and just as important - won't use!)
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