If I asked you what vets were for, you would probably tell me they were to care for sick animals and try to make them better. That’s what I thought too. But when my own animal got ill a few weeks ago, I realised some of them were all about business and money.
I’d had issues with my usual vet in the past and had actually taken Cedric to a different vet recently. I’d been worrying about him for a while and knew he would need to go to the vet again. Then on a Saturday afternoon a month ago, I realised he was really ill. So I looked around for a vet. I tried my usual one and they had no appointments for the same day. I booked an appointment for the following day, but I really wanted him to see someone that day. So I tried calling other vets.
I rang one vet on the outskirts of town, but it went through to a different vet in Gloucester. They could see me the same afternoon.
Until it turned out I wasn’t registered with them. That I was, in fact, registered with a chain vets closer to where I live. They told me I had to call the chain in Gloucester and then come back to them if they didn’t have any appointments. The chain was closed, so I called back the vet I’d just spoken to in Gloucester.
‘Did you listen to the full message?’
No, I didn’t listen to the full message. I heard the bit about it being closed, and I put the phone down and called the other vet back. As agreed.
But they couldn’t see me because I wasn’t registered with them.
What did it matter?
Naively I thought all that mattered was that I had a very poorly pet who needed to see a vet the same day. Don’t vets exist to treat poorly animals?
Because this vet wasn’t the emergency vets for the chain vet.
I had to call back the chain vet in Gloucester and listen to the full message. The full message would give me an emergency number and I had to call that emergency number. Not the vet I was speaking to. Because they couldn’t be seen to be ‘poaching clients’.
It wasn’t about poaching clients! It was about a desperate pet owner in need of urgent care for her beloved guinea pig.
And as I wasn’t actually registered with the chain vet in Gloucester anyway, it might be that the emergency vet wouldn’t see me.
My original local vet had given me an emergency number for a vet much closer to home. So why would I want to see the emergency vet in Gloucester? In the end, I felt like I was left with no option but to wait and hope. If the worst was going to happen, it was probably going to happen. Vet or no vet.
Huge credit to my original chain vet who didn’t do what this vet in Gloucester did. They told me Cedric needed a procedure on his teeth, which would cost £300. The other local vet told me it would be £110, so I went to them. They told me to contact the chain vet and ask them to send Cedric’s notes through to them. I thought I would get this horrible reaction about ‘poaching clients’. I didn’t. They simply sent the notes over, which I am very grateful for.
My issue with my original chain vet is nothing to do with the care they give to the animal and the owner at the time. It’s about the customer service and the after care. Every animal that goes to that vet is someone’s beloved pet and every owner is distraught. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hamster, a budgie, a guinea pig or a dog. That animal means a lot to that owner.
When my old guinea pig, Eric, was put down at the vet’s, I thought a candle would be lit for him. It wasn’t. That made me sad. It was like he didn’t matter as much as other pets.
Wilfred died within hours of being discharged after a day in ‘hospital’ at the vet’s. I had to call and let them know that he wouldn’t make his appointment that morning. Saying those words was heartbreaking. And there was no recognition. No ‘oh I’m sorry, that was the guinea pig that was in yesterday…’ . That’s all I wanted. Maybe a quick call from the vet to offer their condolences. It would have cost nothing. The sympathy card which arrived 10 days later was too little, too late. I needed a call and a bit of sympathy right then.