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Veterinary Forum January 2008 (Vol 25, No 1)

Editor's Note

by Marie Rosenthal, Gustavo Zielinski, DVM, PhD, Christopher M. Piscitelli, MS, DVM, DACVECC, Hernan Perez-Monti, DVM, Larry Stobbs, DVM

    I received a call the other day from a veterinarian who wanted to know how Bogart, my 9-year-old weimaraner, was doing. I gave him an update, and we talked awhile. He complained that being a veterinarian wasn't fun anymore because he's worried about legal liability. I can understand his concern. Some recent articles could easily lead you to believe that the courts are full of cases against veterinarians. And an Internet search would support these fears: Quite a few are telling consumers how to sue their pet's veterinarian.

    But the reality is a little different. Why? There is no money in it.

    Unlike your physician colleagues, a malpractice suit against a veterinarian is liable to net less than $10,000, while a physician malpractice suit is likely to net in the six figures — if you were a lawyer, who would you sue?

    That doesn't mean that lawsuits don't happen or won't increase. Once the law recognizes pets as more than just property, there may be plenty of cause for concern.

    The best defense is still a good offense: Practice good medicine, and treat your clients and patients with respect and dignity. It helps physicians, according to journal articles. It should help you.

    We will continue to do our part to keep you informed about leading clinical developments and new recommendations and to provide you with peer-reviewed articles about cases that are likely to walk into your office.

    I can personally attest that many of you are practicing good medicine. After I wrote about Bogart and his droopy eyelid, many of you wrote or called asking about him. It was nice of you to take time from your busy days to offer advice. At your suggestion, I took Bogart to a veterinary ophthalmologist. He put in tropicamide 1% solution, and Bogart's eye looked normal within minutes — much better than 6 weeks earlier when the drop resulted in only slight improvement.

    The ophthalmologist asked a few questions, including a telling one: Does Bogart pull on his leash? Yes.

    The ophthalmologist said that Bo probably had damaged the nerve leading to his eye when he pulled on the leash, and every time he has a walk, it contributes to the damage. So the ophthalmologist suggested that we switch to a harness instead of a collar around Bo's neck.

    We made the switch, and his eye looks better. His pupil dilates and contracts normally, and his eyelid only droops when he's tired. The doctor said that depending on the extent of the nerve damage, the droopiness may never go away completely, but it doesn't hurt and doesn't affect his vision.

    And Bogart walks better on the harness — no more pulling — a plus for my husband's back and neck.

    Now that we've started a New Year, it's all good. I am still having fun writing about veterinary medicine. I really enjoy the people I work with. I find that every day is different, and there is always more to learn.

    What more can we ask from our jobs?

    NEXT: Expert Summit on Pet Food
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