YOU Decide

Veterinarians (and journals) should advise, not pressure.


One of the great things about working with writer Susan Eskew, who prepared “Drawing Blood,” the informative article about blood testing in this issue, is that her articles always come with a veterinarian’s review for no extra charge. Eskew’s husband, Bill, is a veterinarian, and while he would never describe himself as a “holistic” veterinarian, he says he enjoys reading WDJ. “I was afraid the whole thing was going to be full of wacky stuff,” he once told me. “But most of the subjects you talk about are just common sense.”

That sounds like faint praise, but I was pleased. The description is just what we’re aiming for with WDJ: common-sense dog care, which includes the best of what every healing modality has to offer.

I was also pleased for personal reasons. Susan (and Bill) are more than just contributors, they are also relatives. Sue is my sister, Bill is my brother-in-law, and we all have to get along at family gatherings!

I have to admit that I secretly use family get-togethers as opportunities to try to convert Bill to holistic practice. I think he’s closer than he would admit; as a self-described “fitness nut,” he himself is a big proponent of eating fresh, healthy foods, and using dietary supplements as “neutraceuticals,” food substances that can heal.

But recently, I was worried when I faxed the final edit of Sue’s blood-testing article to the Eskew household for the author’s final review. I had added a sentence or two to the article that might be offensive to some veterinarians. I implied that while blood-testing is a supremely valuable diagnostic tool, there are some veterinarians who are assertive in their demands that their clients agree to the tests at times when the diagnostic may not be all that necessary.

My fears were realized when I next talked to Sue on the phone. I asked gingerly, “So, what did Bill think of this one?”

“Oh, he hated it!” Sue answered.

“What? What did he hate?” I spluttered, afraid I had strained the family bond.

“Here, you talk to him,” she said, putting Bill on the line.

“Uh, hi Bill,” I said cautiously. “What did you hate?”

“Well Nance, call me old-fashioned, but I think a LOT of veterinarians are pushing too hard for blood tests at times when it’s completely unnecessary!” said Bill, surprising me with a tack opposite to the one I feared.

“But Bill,” I countered, arguing a point I never anticipated having to defend, “If we say it’s unnecessary to have a healthy dog’s blood tested every year, we’ll get nothing but letters from readers who say, ‘If it weren’t for a routine blood test, I never would have discovered that my dog was in the early stage of Disease X.’ I mean, if it saves dogs’ lives . . .”

“You’re right,” said Bill. “You can’t say the tests are often unnecessary, and I can’t say it either, because clearly, sometimes they pick up early symptoms of a disease that would have gotten worse without early treatment. But you have to let people decide for themselves. What I resent are those practitioners who lean on their clients, making them feel like bad, irresponsible people if they don’t spring an extra $60 or $80 for a test that, often, doesn’t tell them anything that they don’t already know. I like to let my clients know about the benefits of testing a healthy dog, but I don’t lean on them.”

What my brother-in-law articulated was exactly the position I want to take with ALL of WDJ’s articles. We want to let you know about healing tools that are helpful, but we’re not going to try to make you feel guilty if you don’t avail yourselves of every one. Health is a personal matter; what works for one person (or dog) won’t necessarily work for the next. Your dog trusts you to make the right decision, and so do we.

-By Nancy Kerns