The cosmetic conundrum


About a year ago, I asked my veterinarian about the possibility of docking my dog’s tail. Luigi was five or six months old at the time, so I figured it was too late, but I thought I’d check to be sure.

It wasn’t a cosmetic thing—sure, it was a bit of an inconvenience when he broke an electrical outlet cover with his whip-like tail, but mostly, it made me laugh. No, I was more worried about safety. My wife was three months pregnant at the time, and I could just picture that big tail smacking the baby in the face. He’s a gentle dog, but a bit clumsy.

As expected, Dr. B. advised against it. She told me that the procedure is much more painful on dogs past the puppy stage, and she’d also worry about infection. No big deal, I thought. We’ll try to teach him to keep the wiggling to a minimum around the baby.

But what if I had been more persistent? What if I was one of “those” clients who refused to back down, even with the knowledge that the procedure would have been painful for Luigi?

Procedures like ear cropping, tail docking, and declawing put veterinarians in a difficult spot. Those uncomfortable with the procedures can either perform them against their will or turn the client away—possibly to a less-than-qualified surgeon.

So what do you do when confronted with clients like this? It can’t be easy to turn down revenue these days, but would it be worth it to stick to your principles? Or would you consider it a risk to send the client elsewhere?

Plenty of dog owners (I’m looking at you, designer dog fans) have a certain preference for how their dogs look, and they’re not going to take “no” for an answer. So how do you deal with these people? (Really, I’m asking. My limited experience in customer service has taught me that I don’t have the patience to deal with the general public). 

In case you’re wondering, Luigi has kept his tail under control so far around the baby—and he hasn’t broken any more outlet covers.



  • Ethics before cosmetics!  Surely Vets know about dog tails wagging prior to baby's conception/arrival.  What happens if the dog raises its paw and scratches legs/face - amputate said leg?  Glad to hear Luigi has been spared and still has his conversational tail  complete with its supra caudal scent glands for doggy communication!

    info, 4 years ago | Flag
  • PAIN MANAGEMENT IS A PATIENT'S BEST FRIEND!  Aren't spays and neuters just as painful? Ask any woman who's undergone a c-section, and they'll tell you that major abdominal surgery is no piece of cake. So are we going to turn away all spays and neuters because they'll be painful? Of course not.  So the whole, "oh it is more painful" argument is BS.  Any vet who is professing that a certain procedure is going to be more painful than their pain management pre, peri, and post operatively can handle is doing very specialized surgery, or just doesn't know how to practice very good pain management technique. We just amputated the tail of an 11-month old mixed-breed dog due to an injury, and essentially, it is the same thing as "docking" the tail of an older dog past the puppy-age of doing the docking. Sure, it was a painful procedure, and more involved than a puppy docking, but we provided pain management, and the dog is doing great and the tail is healing well.

    As far as customer service, the first thing to ask is whether the doctor has an ethical issue with the procedure, not trained in the procedure, or just not confident enough in their skill to appease such a demanding type of client? If the doctor simply does not want to do the procedure, it is the doctor's perogertive. But having the discussion might help understand why such a procedure is not done, and help the doctor decide if it is something their practice should offer.

    We don't do ear crops because our doctor doesn't know how. He was never taught how in vet school or by any doctor he mentored under. He has no interest in learning simply because he does not feel that it is a skill critical enough to the practice bottom line. He also does not like clients with "desiner tastes" so to speak, and knows that it doesn't matter what he does, those are just the type of clients that may never, ever, be pleased with how an ear cropping came out, even if he was the expert at doing ear crops. We do declaw, and it is the client's decision. We educate, but at the end of the day, if the client insists on the declaw, we do it, and provide pain management through-out.

    So we simply inform the client that we do not offer a certain procedure, and try to be helpful enough by referring them to someone who does, and keeping in contact with that client to make sure they had a positive experience at the referral.  Sure, we take the loss, and it is a risk we have to take if the doctor is unwilling to do the procedure. If the client choose to stay with the other vet for wellness, it sucks. But since we're not making things like ear crops, tail docking, or dew-claw removal an important part of our bottom line, we are not actively soliciting for that type of client.  Very few of our clients are actual show breeders. Most clients who have purchased "show" dogs that still have dew claws or have not been docked as puppies don't know what they are purchasing in the first place or have been told by the breeder that it is not necessary to dock the tail for a pet quaility dog.  We will do a dew claw removal during the spay/neuter if the client asks, but rarely we will do the tail dock, and most clients don't actually ask for tail docking, and we don't bring it up. Again, most pet-owning clients are not concerned with breed standards, and this is the majority of our clients.

    NWinkler, 4 years ago | Flag
Uploaded By: SteveO
4 years ago

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