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thinking about filing complaint against vet

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I went to a local vet about a year ago (11/05) when Twinkie was having a bout of lethargy, anorexia, weight loss, lack of grooming and was hiding under the bed. I was really concerned and the vet (an older guy, probably 60ish) said it was a hairball. He told me to give Twinks cat lax and be on my way.

Twinkie got worse. I took him back and then the vet said that he COULD do bloodwork but since it was a hairball probably wouldn't help. I said please do bloodwork and whatever you can for him, he is dying. The vet kind of brushed me off and I got the impression he just thought I was a neurotic pet owner. He made a couple comments like "oh he looks fine now" and that's because he was in the vet's office!! They perk up due to adrenaline.

They did a barium study with xrays, kept him overnight, did a blood panel and this totaled 600 some dollars. Still no answers and was sent him with him and told that I should give him cat lax twice a week to prevent this in the future. No real answers, just a bunch of expensive diagnostics.

Fast forward to this year, he was diagnosed with feline leukemia and that was a simple 50 dollar test that takes 8 minutes. Easy. Had that been done I could have treated the symptoms and at least had him a bit longer. Or at least I wouldn't have been brushed off and made to feel like I'm worrying too much about my very sick cat.

Twinkie died last week of feline leukemia and I am mourning my baby but also am upset at the vet's negligence.

Do you think this would be a reasonable thing to do? Or am I going overboard and possibly ruining some poor vet's practice? I just feel justified because of all the expensive tests and lack of an answer. And the possibility of prolonging his life and decreasing his suffering. thoughts? should I call the vet first or just go to the board or do nothing?
post #2 of 12
Hmm, well the FeLV made him more likely to get sick, but just because he was sick doesn't mean a cat would automatically have FeLV. I would think that if someone owns a cat that is theirs and it got sick, I don't think the vet would right away think, "oh we should test for FeLV, it is probably that". He did a lot of things, all the tests you wanted. FeLV is common in roaming unneutered male cats, not one to think of a cat who is owned by someone to have, unless he was intact and out roaming the world. I don't really see what the vet did wrong. It isn't really a common thing right away to test for FeLV if a cat comes in sick. If it was a shelter then yes, if you brought in a stray intact tom then yes, but your own cat, I don't think a vet would go right for the FeLV assumption. *This is all IMO, I am no expert on FeLV.

How old was he? Was he vaccinated and neutered and all that?
Was he long haired?
post #3 of 12
Wow. all I can say is Wow.

The practise of Medicine is still being developed. While we don't have all the answers, everyday it seems that new discoveries are being made in the medical field.

If you felt there was something more serious why didn't you get a second opinion a year ago?

I would write a letter to him and wait for a response regarding the situation. Perhaps he is nearing retirement and does not want to invest more money in new tests...or doesn't fully believe in or want to learn some of the newer tests.

If he doesn't respond then I would just go a head to the board. If he is near retirement though, just FYI probably not much will be done if he had a successful practise overall.

Either case though, if you're getting brushed off by any type of doctor there are always a ton of other doctors out there ready and willing to listen.
post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 
What does "wow, just wow" mean? Wow in terms of my post or the vet?

I went to three different vets in search of answers. The first said she had no idea and was very cold about it. the second was similar. I feel I was being very pro-active in my cat's health and asked many questions and pushed for tests that he didn't think were necessary (due to the hairball that would just pass).

If this vet were competent, I feel I shouldn't have to vet shop until the answers are found. This is why I feel the need to file a complaint against him. People with far less knowledge of animal health go to him everyday and trust him blindly. I feel that as a vet he should be competent enough for clients to not have to vet shop to find someone better. That's the whole reason I feel the need to voice my concern. Blaming me for not being proactive enough isn't helping me feel any better. I tried really hard to get answers and at the time the hairball idea made sense. After the barium study, he slowly recovered. But I was still left with many questions that were answered by "use cat lax." I still felt uneasy about it but felt he had experience and knew better than me.

When this issue recurred I went to a new vet and she found the problem right away. Hindsight is 20/20 and had i known that this vet would have the answers that I wanted (but was very sad to hear) I would have gone to her during the previous "episode."

I know FeLV is relatively rare but the way he treated me and brushed off my concerns bothers me. He had long fur and was about 2 and a half when he died. The vet I went to later on said that he most likely had it from birth (felv test negative back then). He has never been outside and didn't show overt signs of sickness until a few days before his death. Although he did have that bout a year ago.

The ELISA FeLV test is not new. It's relatively inexpensive and I took another cat into that vet and they did the ELISA on her. The PCR test is new and has to be sent out for diagnosis of latent infection. I can understand if he didn't want to do PCR due to the cost and inefficiency (and also lack of data) but I fail to see why a vet would neglect to perform a simple test on an animal showing hallmark signs of FeLV.
post #5 of 12
Honestly, it's not really a cut and dried case from what you have presented. I think it may be more of an issue of bad bedside manner than true malpractice.

To diagnose a "hairball" without doing bloodwork or x-rays to rule out something more serious is definitely not good medicine in anyone's book. However, there isn't necessarily anything wrong with offering someone the option of treating symptomatically and deferring more extensive diagnostics for a couple of days to see if symptoms resolve, especially for a young and basically healthy animal. The only issue I'd have in your situation is that it seems like he didn't talk to you about the option of running full diagnostics up front.

Basic practice is to test every cat for feline leukemia at least once since it is not an uncommon virus (affecting about 3% of all cats). However, once a cat has tested negative it is very rare for it to show up without any history of exposure (e.g. going outdoors or being around a positive or untested cat). So it would have been hard to make a case for re-testing for leukemia because on the list of possible causes of the illness he had last year, leukemia would have been very low on the list.

It's also pretty tough to make the case that the mistake contributed to your sweet kitty's death. Cats who are born with leukemia generally live from 1-3 years and when they show signs of leukemia related illness, it's almost always at the very end of the illness when there is nothing that can be done. It's entirely possible - and in fact rather likely - that his illness last year was just a routine flu-like illnesss unrelated to the leukemia. And even if the leukemia had been diagnosed, it is very hard to say if his life would have been prolonged. There are still no effective treatments for FeLV and his lifespan was on the long side of what would be typically expected for an FeLV kitty.

Vets know a lot but they're human and they make mistakes and miss obvious things sometimes. That's why in a multi-doctor practice you will often see doctors conferring about a case or saying things like "hey, can you double check this x-ray to make sure I'm not missing anything" and whatnot. In this case, I'd say that the leukemia was not obvious since he had previously tested negative and had no risk factors. It would have been a test to run once the other more likely causes of illness had been ruled out. I would have a hard time faulting a doctor for not thinking to run the test up front.

The first rule of diagnostics is "when you hear hoofbeats, look for horses and not zebras". Running bloodwork and a barium study was looking for horses. Running a leukemia test - while simple and relatively inexpensive - can still potentially be categorized as looking for a zebra in this case.

I think the most important lesson to take from this is to trust your instincts and if you don't like the care you are getting in one place, go somewhere else. You may not have been to vet school but you do know your cat so you shouldn't be afraid to keep pushing for answers. You have a right to expect your concerns to be taken seriously and you have a right to have whatever non-invasive tests run that you request (provided, of course, that you are willing to pay for them and won't complain if that don't show anything!), but failure to provide these things is more an issue of bedside manner than malpractice.

In short, I think filing a complaint would probably not be a good use of your time. It seems unlikely to me that the vet would be found guilty of violating state veterinary practice codes and even if he were, the consequences would certainly be just a slap on the wrist - a written reprimand and a fine of $100-$200. If it were me, I wouldn't do it.
post #6 of 12
I'm really sorry to hear about the loss of your kitty I know nothing about FeLV, so I can't give advice either way. I would only advise not taking any action until you have fully grieved over the loss of your poor boy, an emotion fueled complaint may not be the best thing right now. See how you feel in a month or so, and if then you truly feel as though the vet did something wrong, then look into it further.

Condolences again - no kitty should die young
post #7 of 12
I am sorry to hear your loss. I would have said yes about complaining until you said that he had already tested negative once for it, after that I can understand why the vet didn't immediately think about it - I dont know enough about FeLV to say if they were hallmark symptoms though. If your cat had it from birth, then there must have been something wrong with the initial test - I know the place that do the conclusive tests in the UK do recommend two tests on healthy cats 12 weeks apart in case they are harbouring it, that is the only thing that can explain a negative tested cat developing it with no outdoor or cat access. His attitude doesn't sound good, but I dont know if complaining will make you feel better - I had to complain about a vet in my practice and her excuses just made me even angrier, I had to ignore the second letter cos I couldnt have been polite enough about it.
post #8 of 12
He wasn't a very good vet but there really isn't anything that can be done about leukemia except keep the positive cat away from negative cats. I have a cat that had chronic episodes of digestive problems to the point of dehydration. Even though he is an inside cat the vet rechecked him for leukemia because he was really young when he was checked the first time so I know rechecking for leukemia is routinely done.
post #9 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by sarahp View Post
I'm really sorry to hear about the loss of your kitty I know nothing about FeLV, so I can't give advice either way. I would only advise not taking any action until you have fully grieved over the loss of your poor boy, an emotion fueled complaint may not be the best thing right now. See how you feel in a month or so, and if then you truly feel as though the vet did something wrong, then look into it further.

Condolences again - no kitty should die young
Well said.

My condolences as well.
post #10 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jen View Post
Hmm, well the FeLV made him more likely to get sick, but just because he was sick doesn't mean a cat would automatically have FeLV. I would think that if someone owns a cat that is theirs and it got sick, I don't think the vet would right away think, "oh we should test for FeLV, it is probably that". He did a lot of things, all the tests you wanted. FeLV is common in roaming unneutered male cats, not one to think of a cat who is owned by someone to have, unless he was intact and out roaming the world. I don't really see what the vet did wrong. It isn't really a common thing right away to test for FeLV if a cat comes in sick. If it was a shelter then yes, if you brought in a stray intact tom then yes, but your own cat, I don't think a vet would go right for the FeLV assumption. *This is all IMO, I am no expert on FeLV.

How old was he? Was he vaccinated and neutered and all that?
Was he long haired?
FeLV is not an intact tom disease, most of my cats right now are female and kittens when I got them, and also, it is not as uncommon as one might think

Quote:
Originally Posted by semiferal View Post
Honestly, it's not really a cut and dried case from what you have presented. I think it may be more of an issue of bad bedside manner than true malpractice.

To diagnose a "hairball" without doing bloodwork or x-rays to rule out something more serious is definitely not good medicine in anyone's book. However, there isn't necessarily anything wrong with offering someone the option of treating symptomatically and deferring more extensive diagnostics for a couple of days to see if symptoms resolve, especially for a young and basically healthy animal. The only issue I'd have in your situation is that it seems like he didn't talk to you about the option of running full diagnostics up front.

Basic practice is to test every cat for feline leukemia at least once since it is not an uncommon virus (affecting about 3% of all cats). However, once a cat has tested negative it is very rare for it to show up without any history of exposure (e.g. going outdoors or being around a positive or untested cat). So it would have been hard to make a case for re-testing for leukemia because on the list of possible causes of the illness he had last year, leukemia would have been very low on the list.

It's also pretty tough to make the case that the mistake contributed to your sweet kitty's death. Cats who are born with leukemia generally live from 1-3 years and when they show signs of leukemia related illness, it's almost always at the very end of the illness when there is nothing that can be done. It's entirely possible - and in fact rather likely - that his illness last year was just a routine flu-like illnesss unrelated to the leukemia. And even if the leukemia had been diagnosed, it is very hard to say if his life would have been prolonged. There are still no effective treatments for FeLV and his lifespan was on the long side of what would be typically expected for an FeLV kitty.

Vets know a lot but they're human and they make mistakes and miss obvious things sometimes. That's why in a multi-doctor practice you will often see doctors conferring about a case or saying things like "hey, can you double check this x-ray to make sure I'm not missing anything" and whatnot. In this case, I'd say that the leukemia was not obvious since he had previously tested negative and had no risk factors. It would have been a test to run once the other more likely causes of illness had been ruled out. I would have a hard time faulting a doctor for not thinking to run the test up front.

The first rule of diagnostics is "when you hear hoofbeats, look for horses and not zebras". Running bloodwork and a barium study was looking for horses. Running a leukemia test - while simple and relatively inexpensive - can still potentially be categorized as looking for a zebra in this case.

I think the most important lesson to take from this is to trust your instincts and if you don't like the care you are getting in one place, go somewhere else. You may not have been to vet school but you do know your cat so you shouldn't be afraid to keep pushing for answers. You have a right to expect your concerns to be taken seriously and you have a right to have whatever non-invasive tests run that you request (provided, of course, that you are willing to pay for them and won't complain if that don't show anything!), but failure to provide these things is more an issue of bedside manner than malpractice.

In short, I think filing a complaint would probably not be a good use of your time. It seems unlikely to me that the vet would be found guilty of violating state veterinary practice codes and even if he were, the consequences would certainly be just a slap on the wrist - a written reprimand and a fine of $100-$200. If it were me, I wouldn't do it.
Excellent post! basically everything you've said about leukemia is exactly what my research has led me to conclude also.
post #11 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by buffyfan View Post
What does "wow, just wow" mean? Wow in terms of my post or the vet?
I Just meant in "Wow, what you have had to go through"

Quote:
Originally Posted by buffyfan View Post
I went to three different vets in search of answers. The first said she had no idea and was very cold about it. the second was similar. I feel I was being very pro-active in my cat's health and asked many questions and pushed for tests that he didn't think were necessary (due to the hairball that would just pass).

...

When this issue recurred I went to a new vet and she found the problem right away. Hindsight is 20/20 and had i known that this vet would have the answers that I wanted (but was very sad to hear) I would have gone to her during the previous "episode."
.
OK, I had read the thread as you went to the vet you feel that brushed you off a year ago, kept going back to him and waited again until recently to go to a different vet.

I look at it this way: Medicine and doctors are not a perfect. There are measures that doctors can take to determine an issue and run from there. Sometimes it takes longer to figure out then others. If this doctor had FULL knowledge that your pet had FeLV and purposely avoided diagnosising it as such, then you would have a case to bring to the board.
However since he just saw it as a hairball that won't pass, its hard to determine.

With the bloodwork and such, most vets I experience usually like to wait a week before doing it as bloodwork can be very expensive. I don't know the timeframe from your original visit to when your poor kitty had the bloodwork.

Long story short though, I would still write a letter to the doctor stating how you felt during the time in his office, restate what you had requested at the time and that "such-and-such" doctor took the time to listen to me and FeLV was determined in the end. Then state something like "I really feel that FeLV tests though may or may not be standard in your office should still be performed at the request of the patient/owner to help rule out an additional threat to the animals. I also think that you need to your business practises and begin to look at the point of view of the pet owner."

See if you can't at least get his side of the story or an apology from the office. Otherwise like what semiferal said...your complaint probably isn't enough to help build a case against the guy and may just get lost in the "old circulatory files"....
post #12 of 12
Honey, something like what happened to you just plain hurts. And now, that you have lost your baby, it hurts even more.

I agree, perhaps the vet should have been more up to date, but they are only people too (sometimes overwhelmed people).

Nothing is going to bring your baby back. If you REALLY need to, why not go to the vet and have a long talk with him. Perhaps if you pointed out that if he had been more up to date, then your baby could have been made more comfortable.

Most vets are very caring people or else they wouldn't be in the profession that they are in.

The legal aspect of it, I know nothing about. You may want to check and see if there is a statute of limitations on something like this.

I know you are hurting. I know you are angry. Believe me, I would be too. TCS is here for you to vent, get more information as needed, experiences, whatever it is that you need.

Very sorry headbuts and please, calmness of spirit licks from KittenKiya's Clan.
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