Thus, I am a little dismayed by the way the new National Geographic show portrays veterinarians. Don't get me wrong - Dr Pol seems like a kind-hearted and good man. He has been doing his job a long time. I am not bad-mouthing him. What bothers me is that he is very outdated in his methods.
Granted, this is a reality TV show. It is being twisted to portray things exactly as NatGeo wants them portrayed. I understand that. But when I see Dr Pol doing an orthopedic surgery (in this case, a femoral head osteotomy) without a cap, mask, or gown on, and minimal sterile surgical technique, I cringe inside. This is a major surgery in which the head of the femur is cut off. Infection is a very, very big concern. Further, this dog - undergoing painful, major surgery - was not even intubated or on anesthesia of any sort. Had this dog arrested during surgery, saving him would have been difficult to impossible without control of his airway and an IV catheter. There was also no evidence of any pain medication being administered.
This way of doing things is very, very out-dated and considered well below the standard of care.
So far, the show presents veterinarians in a very dismal light. In the clinic where I work, patients undergoing surgery are on IV fluids to maintain blood pressure, intubated so that we can breathe for them as necessary, provided with adequate analgesia, and absolute sterile technique is maintained at all times. This is standard or care.
To be absolutely clear, I'm not talking about fancy monitoring equipment (though we have that) or other super expensive, state-of-the-art toys. This is a bag of fluids, which CAN be hung without an expensive pump and a cheap mask, cap, and surgical gown (which are re-usable). Pain medications cost pennies for an injection or 3, and a bag of IV fluids is a couple of dollars. These are CHEAP, easily accessible, and easy interventions that can greatly increase the chance an animal will come through surgery unscathed.
Worse, Dr Pol's show reinforces the idea that all vets are in veterinary medicine strictly for the love of animals (I do love animals, but I also need a job that pays the bills), that we practice substandard medicine that puts patients at risk, and that there have been no improvements in veterinary anesthesia and analgesia in the last decade. It's setting the perception of veterinary medicine back 50 years or more.
There is no discussion of proper sterile technique, referral for complex cases, chemotherapy, digital xray, constant rate infusions (CRIs) for pain control, or any of the many, many advancements that have been made in all areas. We can do amazing things for animals, yet this show reflects none of that. For Pete's sake, I watched in amazement as he amputated a dog's tail in an exam room with minimal pain medication, no anesthesia, and NO sterile technique. These are all simple, cheap advancements that Dr Pol could easily avail himself of.
It's disheartening. Everyone loves "Good 'ole Doc." He's cheap, he's quick, and he's "old school." Unfortunately, old school doesn't usually benefit critically ill or injured animals. This was evidenced when he gave a mauled puppy a shot of steroid (absolutely NOT indicated in trauma anymore - in human or animal medicine) and left it in a cage. He described the dog as "in shock" - yet he provided no pain medications, IV fluids, or oxygen to stabilize the shock. He placed the puppy in a cage where it died. I treat this kind of thing on a daily basis, and a shot of steroids isn't going to fix a badly mauled animal. It was heartbreaking.
Again, the interventions would have been relatively cheap - a shot of hydromorphone, a bag of IV fluids, and some oxygen would cost Dr Pol maybe $10.
This show is causing a great deal of unrest in the veterinary community because this is NOT how the majority of us practice veterinary medicine. Unfortunately, most consumers wouldn't know the difference between myself and Dr Pol. Most people think all vets are one and the same.
Anyone watching it? What do you think?
UPDATE! Dr. Pol & his associates have been disciplined by their state board. See http://vetsbehavingbadly.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-incredible-disciplinary-action.html for more information!