You Spent How Much? – The High Price of “Designer” Mutts

I had a client a while ago come in for a new puppy exam. It was a cute little dog, small and fluffy and friendly. The owner handed me the puppy contract he had. This guy paid $4,000 to a pet store for a Teddy Bear Malshi.

Let me say that again.  This guy paid FOUR GRAND.  To a PET STORE. For a “Teddy Bear Malshi”….

Now I have no idea what that is. Maybe it was written down wrong? “What breed is this, sir?”

“A Teddy Bear Malshi”

“Excuse me?”

Angrily, “Teddy Bear Malshi.” Like I’m some idiot for not knowing what this is.

OK. Let me just put that in our computer…mixed breed it is.

I feel like I see a lot of new pets like this these days, and I can’t be the only one. People are paying outrageous prices for these “designer dogs”. New breeders are popping up by the dozen, selling through websites or Craigslist (I’ll talk more about Craigslist in a later post.) And what started with just Labradoodles has morphed into Aussiedoodles, Bernadoodles, Malshis, Morkies, Schnoodles and whatever other combination people think they can monetize.  Don’t get me wrong. Some of these puppies are seriously cute. But mixing two breeds together and giving it a cutsie name doesn’t make it exotic and worth the prices these “breeders” are charging. There’s a sucker born every minute, and don’t these guys know it.

Let me put this into some perspective. I don’t have a problem with breeders in general. I have two dogs, both of which came from breeders. I paid $800 for my Miniature Schnauzer in 2008 and $1500 for my Soft Coated Wheaten in 2010. To me those prices were justified. Both came from breeders who also show dogs, and my dogs came from champion bloodlines. My miniature schnauzer had full veterinary exams and had his eyes checked by a boarded veterinary ophthalmologist before I got him. Wheatens are more expensive, because there are fewer breeders around. Mine came from lines that were unaffected by the protein-losing disorders we see more commonly in this breed. I am willing to pay more for a breeder that does all the appropriate health checks and is truly dedicated to producing healthy and quality dogs.

I’ve definitely seen a few labradoodles and goldendoodles that came from parents who may have had hip scoring done.  They are definitely the minority. A large number of the puppies I see have obvious problems. They might be bow-legged or have lax hips already. Lately I’ve been shocked with how many have really poor dental conformation – these dogs are needing extractions at 12 weeks old because their teeth came in the wrong place and are causing damage.

Final thoughts…these dogs are here to stay. And hopefully with time we will start seeing more and more truly quality breeders. But if you’ve absolutely got your heart set on one of these, please do your homework. Don’t get one from Craigslist or the pet store. Look really closely at the puppy and see if you notice anything wrong before you take it home. And be sure you get some sort of health guarantee. Otherwise you’re better off just heading to the shelter to adopt a dog – and you’ll save a ton of money.

I’d love to hear your stories on the designer dogs you’ve seen. Leave a comment below!

The Vet’s Tail – What’s the Point

Is there a point to having a veterinary blog? To be honest, I don’t know.

I think there’s an idea in everybody’s mind (well, everyone that isn’t a vet) about what veterinary medicine is. Vets are smart. After all, there’s only a handful of veterinary schools, so it’s actually way harder to get into vet school than medical school. There’s a lot of playing with puppies and kittens. Sometimes we do cool surgery. Sometimes we euthanize animals, and that’s sad.

I’ve seen a lot of veterinary websites and blogs. Some are directed just to other vets, talking about medical conditions or cool surgical techniques. Some are directed to pet owners, ways they can take better care of their pets, and layperson information on conditions their pet may have.

What I haven’t seen is a blog for everyone, a blog that lays out what its’s really like to be a vet. The adrenaline rush of getting the emergency GDV case into surgery and saving a life. How challenging it can be to read a simple chest x-ray. How hard it is to euthanize 4 patients before lunch (that was my day today.) And, yes, of course, all the puppy and kitten kisses. But also the aggressive animals, the serious and sometimes disfiguring bite wounds.

I’m in a lot of really wonderful Facebook groups for veterinary medicine. Ones where I’ve realized that there is something about this job that links us, that makes us a real tribe that relies on each other, more so than any other career I can think of. Maybe I think it’s time the rest of the world sees that too, sees what it’s like to be us on a daily basis. Perhaps someone considering vet school will read this and the information and stories here will take off those rose-colored glasses and let them see what it’s really like. Some may decide after reading this that it’s not for them. Some may rise to the challenge. Maybe my colleagues will follow this blog, and remember that even when it seems hard, we all share the same experiences and are in this together.

So, I don’t know. I think I’m a little bored after transitioning from emergency medicine to general practice, but it was better for my family (something I’ll discuss later). I thought this blog might be a way to occupy me, to give me a challenge and to open some eyes. A catharsis of sorts. Maybe no one will read it, but I hope someone does, and I hope it helps.

So this isn’t just my tale (tail?). It belongs to everyone.