Ah those words, “he’s just a farm dog.” The words every veterinarian just loves to hear (and for the sake of this post, “farm dog” could also be read as “barn cat”). I practice in a rural community that is heavily influenced by farming and agriculture. That’s awesome. Farming is awesome. I have so much respect for farmers and ranchers because their jobs are so meaningful, and incredibly challenging. I also respect that philosophies regarding pet care are vastly different among people. It truly doesn’t offend me that a person chooses not to spend a lot of money on their pets. That’s not my issue. What exhausts me is the notion that I should be charging less for my services for these animals.
Your dog is just a farm dog when he’s at home, on your farm. When he comes into my exam room, he is the same as all the other dogs I was rigorously trained to treat and care for. I spent many years and THOUSANDS of dollars on my veterinary degree. I continue to spend several hundred dollars a year keeping my license current. When I went to school, I wasn’t offered a separate set of classes, or have less expensive textbooks for farm dogs. Reproductive anatomy (and its surgical removal from the abdomen) is not different in barn cats than it is in house cats. I have never attended a continuing education seminar titled “How to Diagnose and Treat Illnesses for Pennies–You Don’t Really Need Those Machines and Equipment”.
When you come into my clinic and ask for my medical advice, I utilize the same education to answer you that I do for the “city dogs”. When I purchase medical equipment and medications, there is not a special clearance section for farm dog supplies. My receptionists and technicians don’t get smaller paychecks for assisting me with farm dogs. When you say things like “we don’t believe in spending money on our pets” your veterinarian hears “I don’t value your knowledge and expertise enough to pay you for it”. It’s fine if you feel that way, just don’t come to me, soliciting my professional advice and get disgusted with me for having the nerve to charge fairly for it.
Let’s turn it around for a moment with a different scenario–I decide that I want to buy a tractor, but not for any legitimate agricultural work, I simply want it to make my yard pretty. I can’t go into the dealership and expect to pay less for a new tractor just because I’m not a farmer, and I don’t need it to do actual work. The salesperson’s knowledge about that tractor is the same, and in fact, he probably needs to spend more time with me explaining how the tractor works because of my inexperience. I don’t get to ask for a discount just because I don’t value the tractor as much as a person who depends on it for their livelihood.
The other comment that usually follows the farm dog statement is “a bullet would be cheaper.” You’re absolutely correct. It would be. You are well within your right to use one (when performed properly, it’s a humane form of euthanasia). If instead, you decide that your pet requires more care than a bullet, please be respectful of my professional training and be prepared to pay something for the visit. I will be respectful of your budget and do my best to keep my fees fair and reasonable, but I will do that for all my patients, not just the ones who live on a farm.
Lissa Lynn, DVM