Warning: This blog post will offend breeders. Read at your own risk.
In every professional field there are groups that butt heads. Architects and engineers, artists and art gallery managers; the relationship between breeders and veterinarians is no exception. I recently had a client make a very interesting comment that her dog was having diarrhea in the warmer weather to cool itself off. When I asked why the owner thought this, the owner replied, “oh the breeder told me.” When I tried to discuss the chronic diarrhea and low body condition score, the owner got very defensive and insisted her dog was eating fine and had no issues.
To many owners, the breeders’ knowledge is gold. To many veterinarians, the breeder is NOT a medically trained professional who pursued 8+ years advanced education. We, as veterinarians, must spend a lot of our time re-educating owners and explaining the truth behind what they already believe. Needless to say, this can make our already challenging jobs, even more demanding.
Responsible breeders who believe in the welfare of their animals and are not out for just a pretty penny, can really have an impact on wellness care for the life of that animal. Unfortunately, not all breeders take the time to work with veterinarians to educate themselves, thereby the owners. Many rely on Dr. Google. For example, many breeders do not follow recommended deworming protocols and do not inform the owner that deworming needs to occur multiple times. For many owners, their understanding is “my pet was dewormed, so how could they have intestinal parasites?” There is also a lot of circulation of information against spaying and neutering, including waiting until the animal is older. For dogs, spaying before their first heat significantly reduces the risks of ovarian and mammary cancer. With each heat cycle, however, that benefit declines. While there is debate, even among veterinary professionals, among the best time to spay/neuter, the full story is not always communicated to owners. Often, breeders recommend not fixing an animal or waiting too long.
Then there is the issue of vaccines. Unfortunately in Arizona, parvovirus and distemper virus are current infectious diseases. These diseases are essentially eradicated in certain geographic areas, where the majority of dogs receive the proper vaccination protocols. In Arizona, however, so many dogs do not receive the full puppy series or not vaccinated by a veterinarian and these diseases are all too common. While not all the blame relies on the breeder, it is the informed owners fault if they were told to have the next vaccine in x weeks with your veterinarian- not a feed store vaccine. I have seen expensive bulldogs and pure bred cats, that have never been to a veterinarian for an exam, much less a vaccination, because the owner can just call the breeder for advice.
Like any conflict, the welfare of the subject would be better served if both sides tried to make things right. Many veterinarians work with breeders closely and help educate them, to which some breeders are responsive.
Regrettably, in my experience, many breeders use Dr. Google to inform an owner not to seek a veterinary consult regarding chronic diarrhea and poor weight gain; it probably just is a cooling mechanism.