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Issue: 57 - Sep 15, 2013
A Melancholy Memorial
By: Nathaniel Nehrbass

As this past Memorial Day neared I was filling my head with thoughts of lakes, grilling and no work! I was excited, not only to spend time with family and friends but with my four-legged pal (and five-year-old Australian cattle dog), Persephone. Seph has been a part of my family since she was only six months old and she’s been my BFF ever since. Unfortunately, Memorial Day weekend, Seph’s back legs seemed to give out to the point of immobility. The events that followed would inevitably lead to a most melancholy Memorial Day weekend and one that could’ve been avoided with proper client communication.

Seph started to limp sporadically toward the beginning of the year. At first, my girlfriend and I weren’t sure what to do. The limping would go on for a couple of days at most and then suddenly she’d seem to be full strength, with the limping only happening once or twice a month. We thought it may be something lodged in her foot, or maybe it was an issue with her nails but we really didn’t know.  Then Memorial Day weekend came. Seph and I went to the backyard for a game of fetch. As her Kong bounced in every direction she zigged and zagged, trying to chase it down, but as she finally corralled it between her teeth, she fell to the ground and could only push herself back up with her front legs. I carried her into the house and called the vet to get her in at the earliest we could.

Over the next two days she regained the ability to put weight on her legs but still struggled going up and down stairs. Eventually, we found out that my dog had torn her ACL in both legs. Unfortunately, this is where a lack of client communication really affected us. I had never owned a dog before and I didn’t know how common it was for dogs to rupture their ACL. I also didn’t know that 30% – 40% of all dogs with torn ACL’s are prone to tear their other leg as well**.  Over the next few days I’d go to several vets that all said the same thing – that one, very expensive, surgery was the best way to go. Multiple vets recommended TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) surgery that would’ve cost up to $3500 a leg! The way the information was presented to me felt like it was TPLO or, eventually, euthanizing Seph, and that was hard to take.

I studied up on the subject and called numerous vets across the state for a second opinion. What I found out was encouraging to say the least. While TPLO is a viable option there are exceptionally cheaper options available to dogs that weigh less. I ended up going with a highly recommended orthopedic surgeon who performed extracapsular stabilization surgery for about $5000 cheaper than the original quote of TPLO. And I’m happy to report that Persephone is finally beginning to look like her old self!

My point of this story is that being so massively undereducated about my dog’s condition caused a lot of heartbreak that might have been prevented with proper client communication. As veterinarians you have the ability to provide your clients with the proper information to grant their pets with a long healthy life – whether that information is pertinent, at that time, or not. Had I been educated about the commonality of ACL tears in dogs beforehand it would’ve saved a lot of tears and would’ve helped to educate me on options that were readily available, instead of feeling like it was TPLO or bust.

Services like VetPressOnline* can be an essential tool in providing you with ways to educate your clients. Whether it’s custom marketing cards showcasing services you provide that other practices in the area do not or reminders that can be customized to offer health tips, VetPressOnline can help.

In these articles I preach a lot about what the negatives are when there’s a lack of proper client communication but it wasn’t until this past Memorial Day I experienced it firsthand. Had I chose not to get a second opinion $7000 to fix my dog’s legs would’ve proven too much and euthanasia would’ve been the inevitable outcome. Luckily, I studied up and found a vet who provided both knowledge and choices. Thanks to their efforts to educate me they’ve gained a new, lifelong client.

Me… I’ve gained the chance to make it up to Seph for that terrible holiday weekend, and Memorial Day 2014 can’t come soon enough.

*VetPressOnline is an easy-to-use, web based service designed to help you create an effective mailing that will produce big results.  The service provides the tools and the guidance needed to use direct mail effectively and affordably.  For more information regarding VetPressOnline postcards call (866) 212-2502 or visit us on the web at