This topic surfaces around the veterinary facebook groups weekly. If you hunt hard enough you may even be able to find the topic daily.
People hitting up Veterinarians they know for free advice. Whether it be their dog has been vomiting for two weeks or their cat hasn’t urinated for 3 days, people are looking for free medical advice.
We as a profession are viewed as we should care more than anyone else. We do love animals and want to help, but we don’t want to do this job every single minute of our lives.
We are not just Veterinarians, our profession doesn’t declare who we are. The veterinary profession is apart of our lives, not our whole life. This is typically forgotten.
The messages typically start, “Hey! I hope you are doing so well. Your kids are adorable. I know we haven’t talked in a while, but my dog…” or you get the one, “I took Fluffy to the veterinarian and they said this, I wanted to get a second opinion, what do you think? I really trust your opinion.”
Stop right there. I trust your opinion. I hate this statement. I am sure you trust our opinion. If we give you our opinion you value it because it is free. The thing is without a valid client-patient relationship legally we cannot give you our opinion.
We have heard it all on why you cannot come to the office. You are too far, your animal gets way too anxious to go to the vet, the excuses go on. We see through this.
If you truly trusted our opinion you would come let us develop a relationship with your pet, give you an appropriate opinion and pay for our time. The time we spend on social media or through text message discussing your pet is time away from our family and personal life.
So when can you reach out to someone?
The short of the answer is you should see your regular veterinarian and stop reaching out to a veterinarian that you “know”.
Veterinarians spend time, money and extreme effort to get their degree. By providing free advice they are devaluing everything they worked for.
I can’t fully blame people for reaching out, in part, it is the veterinarian’s fault if it continues happening because they did not establish boundaries. I get it, it was very difficult at first as a new graduate setting these boundaries.
I was full of knowledge and loved it, so when people asked me for my opinion I would get happy. Then I realized people not only took advantage of it but didn’t listen to my advice and would come back and ask the same question.
So I set boundaries. If I am feeling nice I will answer the question, while I am working. So if you ask Saturday after 4 pm and I don’t go back to work until Tuesday, don’t expect an answer.
I have also answered the question in a blog post. If you have the question others will also, so why not put it out to the world.
Sometimes I just won’t answer. Why? Well, it isn’t a priority for me.
The biggest thing that people don’t understand is that our license is on the line when we give out free advice or really any advice. So if you don’t tell the full story and we give out the wrong advice technically we are liable. Which honestly, my license isn’t worth risking for your free answer.
I have good news though! There are new telehealth options out there that will let you ask a question for free. Even though seeing your regular veterinarian is always the best option.