So I waited until I was sure I hadn’t had any asks in a while before making this post, because I don’t want anyone to think that I am accusing them of this. None of my askers have been anything but polite—although a couple have stopped following me. No, I’m preparing this post as a back-up for those people who could get snarky. Because believe me—I’ve seen my fair share of it happening by watching other veterinarians.
So what’s the post about, you ask?
It’s about the Valid Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR) how it pertains to Tumblr, and how words are not the same thing.
From the AVMA website:
A VCPR is established only when your veterinarian examines your animal in person, and is maintained by regular veterinary visits as needed to monitor your animal’s health.
Bold is my emphasis. Most VCPRs are invalidated if we haven’t seen your pet in over a year, but that’s not my point. My point is that as much as we would LOVE to help you and your pet with any illness they have, and as much as we HATE that we can’t help you… there is usually very little advice that we as veterinarians can give over the internet. This is because… and yes, it’s selfish… we like our jobs. We like doing veterinary work. And if we got sued because we gave advice out on a pet we hadn’t seen, it’s our jobs on the line.
Example (totally made up):
Someone messages a Tumblr vet, asking for advice on a dog that’s vomiting. This vet figures what’s the harm, they probably just ate something gross, and recommends some bland food and a little bit of an antacid. Well, this dog DID eat something—a big old corn cob. But because the owner didn’t go to a vet and have an exam in person (thinking the tumblr vet’s advice was perfect), there was no way to know that and the dog got very sick, and the eventual bill was much worse because of all the supportive care that was needed. So this owner now has the right to sue that veterinarian because their pet was very poorly taken care of based on the advice of a professional.
Not saying this would happen but have you seen some of the social justice posts out there? People get angry quickly and it COULD happen, and as I said… we like our jobs.
You might think “well if I describe it all really well, surely they will know what’s going on.” Maaaaaaybe—but likely not. Do you know what the difference between firm and hard is on a body? Do you know what marijuana toxicities look like? How about what it means to smell ammonia on breath, or the many different reasons an abdomen can be swollen, or how to test for those reasons. How to interpret those tests.
It’s one thing to tell us to try and do all of this over the internet, and another to have us there, in person, able to feel/see/smell/taste (in horrible instances) what is going on. And when an owner declines diagnostics of any kind while the pet is there in the office, that is the owner’s decision and they are the ones failing the VCPR, not the doctor. Whatever the reason may be.
So. My point is this… please don’t think we don’t want to help. Don’t think that when we say “I can’t help you” that we aren’t wishing we COULD do something. We can offer up hypotheticals on what the problem might be (and some of the hypotheticals can be dire) but we cannot tell you which one is most likely or what to do other than to go see your veterinarian as soon as possible.
I know that I personally would love to hear what happens, though. Tell me they got better! Tell me what the vet said! I am rooting for your kiddo and for you.