The evolution of veterinary sciences: A question of ethics

Have you been to a veterinary clinic lately? Bring plenty of cash

By Georges Dupras

October 19, 2022

When I was growing up, I felt that some professions stood apart. One such vocation was that of a veterinarian. I always wondered how they could diagnose a problem without conferring with their patients. Dogs, after all, can’t speak, nor can cats.

Comparatively, medical doctors focus exclusively on the human anatomy and are up-to-date on current health issues affecting people. Though they specialize, veterinarians are called on to care for different species ranging from agricultural, domestic, exotics, and wild animals. How, I wondered, could they keep up with such a wide variety of species?

Despite this admiration, much has changed over the years, and the field of veterinary sciences is no exception. Over time, the white lab coat has greyed somewhat, and the old vet’s office has lost its warmth. Make no mistake, my disappointment is with the Order of Veterinarians and not the individual practitioner.

Large corporations bought out independent vet clinics

Small, family-run community practices are all but gone, many replaced by sterile clinics based on the corporate footprint. These homogenized clinics offer state-of-the-art technology at a custom rate. Non-designer foods have been replaced by shelves of designer products.

Small, family-run community practices are all but gone, many replaced by sterile clinics based on the corporate footprint.

It is only a matter of time before large corporate owners and insurance companies will be dictating the time allotted for each procedure. General pricing will become the exclusive responsibility of the corporation rather than the in-house veterinarians. This operating procedure is fashioned in the same manner as American insurance companies that dictate both prices and procedures to medical doctors and hospitals in the United States of America.

Lack of sensitivity

I remain very concerned about the manner in which vets are trained. There appears to be a deliberate effort to desensitize young vets through the insistence that student vets refer to research animals as “subjects” or numbers rather than by their names.

They also lack training in the humanities and social sciences, as well as the basics of critical thinking. I’m finding it difficult to remember when the Order of Vets in this province operated in a cutting-edge fashion by challenging corporations and the government of Quebec if an animal practice or issue demanded an investigation, prosecution, or elimination.

Lonely seniors

It is no secret that people are living longer and are lonelier. Their families have relocated or have passed away. Many of our seniors live on a fixed income with their pet dog or cat for companionship. These are more than pets, they are family. Without these wonderful friends, there would be little point in going on for our seniors, no heartbeat waiting for them at the door.

‘The problem is that costs associated with pet ownership… have skyrocketed over the years. Stories of seniors going without food or medication to feed their beloved pets are not uncommon.’

Not so many years ago, it was common practice at the SPCA to euthanize older animals because they were less popular and, like us, set in their ways. Today, many older cats and dogs can be saved and live long and productive lives by giving our caring seniors a purpose, love, and warmth. The problem is that costs associated with pet ownership, especially older animals, have skyrocketed over the years. Stories of seniors going without food or medication to feed their beloved pets are not uncommon.

I find it truly sad that what was once almost a vocation has become just another entry in a corporate profit and loss statement.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its publishers.

Feature image: Tima Miroshnichenko,

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Read also: other articles by Georges R. Dupras

Georges Dupras

Georges R. Dupras has advocated for animals for over fifty years. A member of the International Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA), a Director of the Animal Alliance of Canada (AAC), Quebec Representative of Zoocheck Canada and past Board member of the Canadian SPCA, he worked on the original Save the Seal campaign in 1966 that culminated in the founding of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in 1969. Georges Dupras has published two books, Values in Conflict and the eBook Ethics, a Human Condition, and currently lives in Montreal, Canada.

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  1. Anne Streeter

    Very interesting article. I think that many can relate to this troubling situation – particularly low income families and seniors on fixed incomes. Having a family animal companion was never considered a luxury. It was just a small extra mouth to feed and the returns were overwhelmingly rewarding. Today however, the dynamics have changed, putting the costs out of reach for so many. How sad.

  2. Jean Le Marquand

    Thanks to Georges Dupras for vocalizing what many of us dog/cat owners have been noticing.
    When re-filling a prescription for my cat recently, and registering shock at the huge jump in
    cost, I was told that my vet clinic was now being managed by a corporation. This is now the
    norm it seems to the detriment of companion animal health. Many seniors will now have to opt
    for euthanasia as they can no longer afford the care for their pet. And to make matters worse, most
    vets are not taking on any new clients as well supposedly because of the pandemic. Will only
    the elite be the clients in the foreseeable future?

  3. Didee M.

    I can relate to this article wholeheartedly. We have been fortunate to have a wonderful, caring veterinarian for over 20 years who always had competent, empathic assistants. Unfortunately, he has recently retired, and I fear his business will be bought by a corporate entity that believes the bottom line is paramount. I feel for those who cannot afford their pets.

  4. Donna Byrne

    Thank you for shedding light on this subject. I’ve experienced some veterinarians trying to push unnecessary medications for my senior dog companion before any symptoms occurred! It didn’t make sense to me to start on meds before he developed any symptoms from a grade 1 heart murmur. He is now 15 years and healthy. Three years ago he had vomiting trouble, I asked the vet if it was possible to give him a vegan food diet. Our family is vegan. The vet agreed and no mote vomiting occurred. Royal Canine vegetarian (no animal products) and veggie chewy treats. Goes to show that doing your own research is good and; vet consultations work well. The only meds being given are eye drops for his dry eye and ear drops due to prior infections – a necessary medication!

  5. joan sargent

    So true and so sad. There are still lots of great vets but yes the bottom line does seem to dictate what will and can happen when you need help. And it matters not whether you are a client who does regular checkups or crisis only client.

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