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Vet woes

Mellenee

Savannah Teenager
I am a small breeder of later generation SV in the Cincinnati, OH area. Since I got my first SV 4 years ago I have visited many vet clinics. I found only one whose knowledge and experience was what I was looking for, and have been taking my animals there.

I have lived in many areas of the US and have had excellent vet relationships in the past but I find many Cinci area vets more like glorified vaccine sellers with attitude, especially when it comes to breeders. Maybe it's the area? I don't want this post to go into the various deficiencies with individual vets but would like advice on establishing a more positive relationship with the one vet I found who is up to date on the science of vetting and uses what I consider good practices with my animals.

The vet I like for treatment is great with my cats. She was the vet at Jack Hanna's Columbus Zoo, and cared for the servals there. This has both positive and negative trickle down to her practice and my relationship with her. Easy examples of the plusses...Without me telling her, she immediately told me NO ketamine for my cats, recommended against certain vaccines, and gave other advice that falls right in line with every recommendation good SV breeders use in daily practice. She grins from ear to ear when I bring my cats to her, calls other office people in to enjoy them, and my cats love her. They get on her shoulder, give her head butts and many kisses. They fall all over her.

Now we get to my problem. She hasn't stated it but her comments lead me to believe she is adamantly opposed to hybridization. In one kitten visit, after playing with my highly socialized F5 kittens, she dropped the comment 'Oh I advise my clients who inquire DO NOT GET A SV'. Keep in mind i am a breeder, and one who would like to be able to tell my new owners feel free to call my vet. She makes comments about their generally predatory nature, talks about an F1 she treats who is unsocialized, and generally has a little horror story about SV for me every visit, usually delivered WHILE MY CATS ARE LOVING ALL OVER HER. (Caps indicating my frustration at the irony of the situation)

Disturbed about this, I started again to visit other vets in the area. Nobody even comes close to her skill and knowledge base with my cats. After these other dismally disappointing visits I convinced myself I can put up with her attitude since she offers the highest level of care for my loves. So I made a paying appointment with no animals in tow to discuss a resolution as it is difficult for me to engage in this discussion in the midst of an exam because at that time my first priority is the animal, not her attitude. We discussed that all cats are predatory, F5 and F6 SV no more than any other. We talked about responsible breeders, vetting your buyer, i agreed wholeheartedly SV are not good cats for every household; just like any cat or dog you must match the pet's needs to the availability of an owner to meet those needs in any situation, be it Yorkie or serval. It was a productive visit although I found her a little defensive. But I stated my case nicely, listened to her objections and did what I could to educate her, and let her educate me in some areas. Thought we had a meeting of the minds. She is actually a very nice person and except for this sticky spot I trust her implicitly. The discussion appointment was several months ago. This has been going on for a while. Since then I vetted with her for a litter of 5 with no incident.

Then I visit again yesterday, and I leave her office absolutely shaking with anger.

I got a new boy for my cattery. He is a very healthy bundle of high energy love, a creamy gold boy all wrapped up in delightful spots and punctuated with a lovely black nose. He needed his rabies shot so I took him in. Like the rest of my babies, he loved her. Chewed on her nose, climbed on her shoulder, was a total cutie. Very well behaved but a bit high energy, like any F6 14 week old kitten. In the midst of the exam she asked me if I had heard of the SV loose in Detroit. When she asked, she cut her eyes sideways at me like she knew her stand on SV had just made a score. I answered her with the facts surrounding the sad situation. Told her of the involvement of SV Rescue and Paws, and of the media hype after the fact. She averted her eyes so I knew she had an opinion that didnt gel with mine. OK. We all have different opinions, right? Her experience base might give her a different perspective. I'm not happy with the outcome either but I wasn't involved and I refuse to play Monday morning quarterback with the could have should have people who all have opinions but no solution. End of that discussion. Next thing out of her mouth was...'Did you know about the personality of this little guy before you got him?' Definitely not meant in a positive way.

I am not looking for a fight with her. Anything but! I love the way she is knowledgeable and adoring with my cats. It's the constant pinging about SV I don't like. With human physicians I have always gone by the adage 'go for the knowledge not the bedside manner' when looking for doctors. I don't need validation for my love of these cats, but as a breeder I do need non judgemental support for my breeding program. I don't just haphazardly throw cats out there; I am trying to carefully build a quality program to produce 2-3 litters per year. I have stated my intentions, goals, methods etc to her. Is there a way I haven't tried to make this a workable situation? Do I just grin and bear her comments, keep trying to find a different vet, or does anyone have suggestions for helping me overcome this one negative in an otherwise great vet relationship?
 

WitchyWoman

Admin
Staff member
If it were me, I'd have a polite chat with her. Tell her you admire her skills and the way she treats your cats but it bothers you that she seems to have a prejudice against savannahs/breeders/hybrids. Politely correct some of her incorrect assumptions, explain your approach to breeding emphasizing your moral & ethical stance. In the end, if the two of you are still miles apart -- just agree to disagree about the breed but there should be no compromise when it comes to her stopping negative comments. She has expressed her opinions and now it's time for her to be professional and keep them to herself. If you are still uncomfortable with her after that, you've got to make a difficult decision about staying in the practice or going somewhere else.
 

Mellenee

Savannah Teenager
Deborah great input. Sounds like we are of the same mind. That was the purpose of my paid visit when I took no cats and just went in to talk - I laid it out clearly to her that I was there specifically to discuss the comments. I am now at the latter stage, the one you stated about "still uncomfortable with her after that, you've got to make a difficult decision..." It's decision time here, and I wanted to get other input to see if I've overlooked any possible avenues.
 

WitchyWoman

Admin
Staff member
Well crap...I skimmed over that paragraph about the paid visit. I'm sorry about that. I find it fascinating that she didn't mind working for an organization that pimps out wild animals (under the guise of education) and can't keep her personal beliefs to herself. Ah well, I had a vet like that once and walked out with my cat in the middle of an exam.

The good news is, though, that you don't need someone familiar with wild animal medicine to treat SVs. I hope you find someone in your area who keeps up to date on veterinary techniques or who is open minded enough to listen to you if you suggest something for a course of treatment or consideration. I prefer using cat-only vets since their focus isn't divided among so many species.
 

Mellenee

Savannah Teenager
Sadly cat-only vets are lacking here : ( There was one, but she is semi retired. I went to see her 2 yrs ago and decided she wasn't a good choice. And yes, I agree that later gen cats have no major special vetting requirements so just a good vet is the goal. I didn't choose this vet because of her experience with the servals, that really had little to do with my initial choice. She is just a good vet. And yes, I didn't miss the connection to Mr. Hanna. I didn't take her to task on that...but I have opinions! LOL

Maybe I just need to broaden my willingness to drive and start investigating vets further away. Times like these are when I miss my Univ. of Penn Vet School Clinic.
 

Pam Flachs

Savannah Super Cat
If it were me, I'd look for another vet, even if it meant a longer drive. I think the fact you are extremely uncomfortable with her snide comments (and I would be, too) even after your paid visit without cats to discuss the issue, and she STILL throws her opinion about Savannahs at you after that....I get the feeling she is just waiting for an opportunity for one of your cats to not be on their best behavior. I am sure your visits, even if routine, are not inexpensive. She has no right to treat you this way.

I understand your confidence in her skills; there are other vets just as skilled, though it may take some time to find the right one. Have you asked other breeders in your area to recommend one? Jennifer Gray at Fusionkatz and Connie at Amanu Cats are in Ohio. Check the listings on www.savannahcat.com for others, and ask them who they use for a vet and if they would recommend them or someone else.....

I regretfully left my longtime vet office years ago, because they refused to see my badly injured show mare..their day was booked vaccinating calves and told me they would send an associate out later that day, when they had time. Meanwhile, I am trying to calm my bleeding mare, at 6 a.m....I immediately called another vet I had heard of and he was there within 15 minutes to tend to my mare. He became my new vet on the spot. I know how hard it is to leave a practitioner you like and respect. I have to say I am very happy and satisfied with my current vet's office.. I have been going there for almost 20 years now.

That said...don't discount a small town vet. You say you breed later generations. My Savannahs (F2-F8) are the first and only Savannahs my vet's office has seen, and took it in stride from the beginning. They have had several unsocialized and hard to handle (their words) Bengals as customers for years, and never hesitate to tell me how very well behaved my cats are, and they also deal with the many local feral cats people bring in, so love it when I bring in my kitties :)
 

John Popp

Site Supporter
I haven't had the same set of circumstances, but I did reach out to some PAWS members to see where they took their pets. Most had a local vet, but also pointed me in the direction of someone that could fill our needs. Nearly all of them had a two tiered approach to the care of their cats, routine visits handled locally and bolstered by the longer trip for more critical care.

For us and our pets, it's worth the investment in time to make the longer trek on all visits. Three vets within 5 minutes, and a 45 minute jaunt to visit the vet best suited for our cats care. I think this is imperative as inevitably one day you will be at there office and need to make some hard choices. You don't want anything hanging around in the back of your head that yours, and your pets interests aren't completely aligned with that of your vets. That isn't to say that a vet wouldn't always have the best interest of your pet in mind, but you should never need to ask yourself that question.
 

John Popp

Site Supporter
BTW, my big boy DSH is by far the worst performer at the vets office ever. At our old vet, out came the leather gloves to deal with him and even at our current vet they spend a long time making him secure and comfortable. He doesn't bite, but has definitely drawn blood from all the vets who have handled him. Given his other issues, our current vet says that I am a saint for keeping him.

Brigitte, although she probably doesn't know it, saved him from being banished to a barn cat. I'm not sure if I should thank or condemn her, although my big boy will ride out his days in our home.

Just noting that a poor performing cat at the vets office isn't even close to being exclusively a hybrid and there are a far greater number of poor performing DSHs than hybrids given the care and effort to socialize them from responsible breeders.
 
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Mellenee

Savannah Teenager
LOL The one cat I had who was HORRIBLE at the vet was a DSH. My SV are all well behaved at the vet.

Just putting all my frustration into this post and hearing feedback has helped me develop more resolve to do what I think in my heart I've known all along. I have an appt with yet another vet.
 
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