MJ Wixsom: Emotional blackmail against veterinarians

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 9, 2024

In the intricate world of veterinary medicine, where compassion meets science, veterinarians often find themselves facing not only the medical complexities of caring for animals but also the emotional intricacies tied to their human counterparts. 

It’s a profession built on trust, empathy and the shared goal of ensuring the well-being of our beloved pets. 

However, a concerning trend has emerged, emotional blackmail against veterinarians. 

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Let’s delve into real-life examples to understand the challenges veterinarians face and how they navigate these ethical minefields.

Picture this: A rescue organization recently pleaded with me to mislabel a pit bull as a mastiff, all in an attempt to facilitate its relocation to Canada, where breed bans may jeopardize the dog’s fate.

Emotional blackmail: The rescue accuses the veterinarian of lacking compassion if they refuse to manipulate the dog’s records, placing them in a moral quandary.

In another scenario, an owner approached a veterinarian friend of mine with an uncomfortable request to perform surgery on a rhesus monkey. 

The surgery is beyond the vet’s comfort zone and she has a gut feeling that there is more to the case.  

The owner’s behavior is driven by emotional ties that the veterinarian finds ethically challenging. They even threatened euthanasia if this particular vet wouldn’t do it.

Emotional blackmail: The owner plays on emotions, insinuating that the veterinarian lacks empathy if they decline the procedure, putting their professional integrity to the test.

A while back, we helped with fund raising and donated a lot of care to a disabled veteran with his badly burned dog. Now the veteran assumed we would board his dog for an extended six-week period during his move, despite the clinic not offering to do so.

Emotional blackmail: The veteran emotionally appeals, invoking his service and suggesting that refusing this request would be an act of ingratitude.

People often will bring up the fact that their pet is a stray. They don’t always do it as a history item, but some will bring it up to say that they contributed charity and therefore, I should also. 

This was once told as the only history on a dog.  Wisely, I asked how long they had the dog. Turns out it was a stray 12 years ago.  

Likewise folks will say “it’s just a cat.” Cats do deserve care also.

Emotional blackmail: The veterinarian should do all things for free.  We adopted this dog or cat off the street and therefore the vet should treat it for free.

Finally, there are cases where pet owners neglect seeking veterinary care until their pets are critically ill, like a situation where a pet has not eaten for four days or longer.

Emotional blackmail: Owners may guilt trip veterinarians, blaming them for the severity of the pet’s condition and demanding immediate attention, despite their own delayed intervention.

In the face of such challenges, veterinarians must stand firm on ethical principles. Setting clear boundaries, communicating openly about limitations in services, and educating clients about responsible pet ownership are essential strategies. 

It’s a delicate balance of empathy and professionalism, where veterinarians must uphold their commitment to animal welfare while addressing the emotional needs of pet owners.

Recently, a nearby veterinary practice closed its doors forever. 

The young veterinarian, though continuing in another veterinary role, decided that practice ownership was too stressful. This reflects the broader challenges in the veterinary field, where practitioners navigate not only medical complexities but also the business and emotional demands of ownership.

Support systems, including colleagues, industry associations, and counseling services, play a crucial role in helping veterinarians cope with the emotional toll of these situations. 

By shining a light on these real-life examples, we aim to foster understanding and appreciation for the ethical dilemmas veterinarians encounter daily, as they strive to provide the best possible care for our furry companions.

MJ Wixsom, is a best-selling Amazon author who practices at Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky.