There is a brilliant article on the Bloomberg website by Jason Clenfield on the ‘corporatization of pet care’ (using the words of a vet John Robb). It’s a very long article so I’ll pick up on one illustrative topic in this article of mine. I’ll address another subject tomorrow. The word ‘peticide’ was also coined by John Robb. They are strong words but they convey an important development in pet care.
This is about that well discussed topic: pet vaccinations. As independent veterinary practices are progressively being swallowed up by big corporations such as Banfield and VCA, there has been a gradual shift towards prioritising profit over pet welfare. There are two goals for vets: pet welfare and profit. They vie for priority. Welfare should be the main aim and profit follows but with the corporatization of veterinary services profit tends to take precedent. This is made very apparent with pet vaccinations.
Clenfield writes that many animal doctors ignore AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) guidelines on pet vaccinations and have done so since 2003. In fact it has been known since the 1970s in research carried out by Ronald Schultz at the University of Wisconsin that vaccines provide long term immunity and don’t need yearly boosters. Decades of bombarding vaccinated dogs with viruses lead Schultz to conclude that a single series of shots is enough to protect dogs from the main canine diseases for seven or more years.
It was impossible to get vets to accept that so they bargained for a compromise: somewhere between seven years and one year and come up with three years as the protection afforded by vaccinations but actually it is longer than that.
When animal vaccinates were first created pets were treated as livestock which is why the US Dept. of Agriculture is still responsible for the safety of pet vaccines. And pet vaccines are the only medicines that are not scaled to body weight. Some vets asked if there was a safer method and still do.
In fact John Robb, who I mentioned at the top of the page and who ran a veterinary practice franchise under Banfield says that his practice was taken from him by Banfield because he started giving half doses of vaccines to smaller dogs in the interests of their wellbeing. This was against Banfield’s contract. Robb is suing Banfield for damages and the case is running today. More on that later perhaps.
The argument is that Banfield are ignoring AAHA guidelines for pet vaccinations. They deny this unequivocally but the evidence is there and Schultz says “They’ve paid lip service to it…but they are not listening.”
Arguably, this is the consequence of the corporatization of veterinary services. It is said that within a maximum of two generations there will be no independent veterinary clinics left in America. And pet welfare will be dispensed at clinics within big boxes as a discount service like buying pet food. In short: veterinary services by numbers and computers.
What is the rate of injury to cats and dogs by vaccines? Schultz thinks it is between 3 and 4 percent of cases or 1 in 200 dogs suffering from life-threatening reactions to vaccines. All the more reason to limit them which is not being done by Banfield. Even if the percentage are much lower there is still a risk and if the rate of vaccines is unnecessary the risk must not be taken.
“If you don’t need to vaccinate annually and you do, you’re taking unnecessary risks.” (Schultz).
Karen Faunt, Banfield’s vice president for medical quality, says that the company has been aligned with industry guidelines since 2010. But this seems to not reflect the true situation. Banfield introduced preventative care packages whereby pet owners pay a monthly fee of $30 to $60 which includes vaccinations which cost up to $40 each so the packages seem like a good deal but, as discussed, they are unnecessary so these deals are not financial effective from the client’s standpoint.
The overarching conclusion of this article is that the corporatization of veterinary services is not a progressive step in respect of pet health and welfare in America as the focus turns to financial profit. It will get worse.
Banfield is owned by Mars. Banfield admit that they are ‘economy class’ to coin an airline phrase. If you want first class go to an independent vet of renown. Banfield declaw cats when the cat cannot be trained to stop damaging furniture. That is their written, online policy.
Source: Bloomberg article.