Some Veterinarians Sell Unnecessary Shots, Tests to Make Extra Money, Says Former Vet


The New Jersey vet later told ABC News that she stood by her recommendation, saying that some larger dogs over the age of four can benefit from an annual cleaning and risks posed by anesthesia are minimal.

But, in offering another perspective, Dr. Marty Becker, one of the country's leading experts in veterinary care, said he wouldn't recommend a cleaning "unless [the dog] needed it" and that putting the dog under anesthesia can be dangerous.

"If it does not have periodontal disease, there's no use putting it through the risk of anesthesia," Becker said.

Another big ticket item on vets' bills, Jones said, are vaccination costs, and he said some vets can be quick to push the shots.

Every year, pet owners are reminded that their animals are due for their annual vaccinations, but what many vets apparently fail to disclose is that, according to the latest guidelines from the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), some of the vaccines only need to be given once every three years.

According to the AAHA, an annual revaccination "booster," which includes multiple vaccines, is commonly recommended and most state and local laws mandate an annual rabies vaccine. But for other viral diseases, such as canine distemper virus (CDV) and canine parvovirus (CDV-2), the AAHA guidelines say that after dogs receive their 1-year-old booster vaccinations, then vaccines for those viral diseases can be administered every three or more years.

"A lot of people are still into giving them every year," Becker said. "But that is not the recommended protocol by the American Veterinary Medical Association."

It's important to note that vaccine guidelines differ for puppies, dogs with diagnosed immune or vitamin deficiencies and animals who have been in shelters or boarding facilities.

To find out what some vets recommend for vaccines, ABC News went undercover with Honey, the pitbull, who was up-to-date on her shots.

But at a New York clinic, the vet ordered Honey, who had the distemper vaccine two years ago, a new round of shots without asking about Honey's vaccination status, and then told Honey's owner that distemper was "typically an annual vaccine."

The New York clinic later told ABC News that a vet's individual judgment is just as important as the AAHA guidelines.

At another clinic, Honey was also told she had "dental disease" and was recommended for a $300 teeth cleaning under general anesthesia. That clinic didn't respond to ABC News' request for comment.

In the end, both undercover dog owners could have incurred hundreds of dollars for potentially unnecessary treatments.

When asked about upselling allegations in the industry, the American Veterinary Medical Association said in a statement to ABC News that its up to pet owners to decide whether to follow a vet's recommendations.

Jones said the majority of vets are ethical and try to do the right thing. Still, he cautioned pet owners to walk into their vet clinics with eyes wide open.

"One thing they should keep in mind is knowing that they're not going to be a veterinarian clinic, they're going to a business ... which is there to make a profit," he said. "You have, obviously, ultimate control over your dog or cat ... take charge of your own pet's health."

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