A veterinarian's regrets - Dr. Marty Becker


A veterinarian’s regrets

Thursday, Jun 21st, 2018 | By Dr. Marty Becker

Fear Free vet visit

We have a family motto that sits atop a bulletin board we’ve called the “Becker Brag Board” since the first pre-school pictures and photos were push-pinned into place. The Becker Motto (which hasn’t been changed in over 30-years) reads:

Live for today…

Plan for tomorrow…

No regrets…

I know it seems cool or knee-jerk to say, “I wouldn’t have changed a thing in my life,” and I know I’ve said it in the past. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to grip with a lot of things I regret and would go back and change if I could.

Personally, I would have stuck up for the underdog in school more, reached out more quickly and fully to the new kid in school, have treated women with more respect when dating in high school and college, and taken more things to the Lord in the spirit of “They will be done,” not “My will be done.”

Professionally, here are my biggest regrets:

  1. Nurses. I wish from the beginning of practice that I would have seen veterinary nurses (technicians) as the single biggest allied part of practicing great medicine (both physical and emotional well-being) rather than a glorified extra set of hands.
  1. Pain. I so regret all of the animals who were literally paralyzed with pain after orthopedic surgery, major dental procedures, after injuries, arthritis, on and on. In the early years we didn’t have very effective products, but even when that changed, I didn’t fully embrace multi-modal pain management for all pets in pain for many ears.
  1. Cosmetic surgery. I used to do ear crops and tail docks. I regret every one. Deeply regret.
  1. Convenience euthanasia. Thirty or 40 years ago, somebody could call a veterinary practice, ask how much to euthanize a dog/cat, the receptionist would quote a price, and that was that. I’m now fully horrified by this, and wish I’d spoken up – loudly – and advocated triple-time to find the pet a new home instead.
  1. Emotional wellbeing of animals. This in now my primary mission in life: To look at how we can reduce fear, anxiety and stress, not just for pets, but for all animals ranging from dogs, cats, birds and reptiles, to horses, cattle, chickens, pigs, and beasts of burden in developing countries. I always cared about the animals I treated, but I also wanted to rush them through a difficult or uncomfortable exam as fast as I could, to “get ‘er done” and “get ‘em home.” I now know I was harming them and perpetuating fear, anxiety, and stress at the vet. I deeply regret that, and am spending the rest of my career making up for it.

I’m sure I’m not the only one with regrets about the pets in my life. What are yours?