Have you seen the National Geographic show, “The Incredible Dr. Pol?” This is a reality television series that films Dr. Jan Pol, a country veterinarian in Michigan as he works on all creatures, large and small.
Apparently, many viewers love the show. Perhaps it conjures up warm fuzzy feelings, reminiscent of the beloved James Herriot. Others, however, have voiced concerns about the way “The Incredible Dr. Pol” portrays the veterinary profession.
Those doing the griping- publicly, that is- happen to be veterinarians. They feel that Dr. Pol’s style of practice falls way short of what is considered “modern medicine.” In a recent DVM Magazine article, veterinarian Dr. Angel Brothers is quoted as saying, “The show is glorifying substandard veterinary care.” She sites two examples, one in which Dr. Pol splints a calf’s leg using wood slivers from a bushel basket. In the second example, a dog’s tail has been partially cut off by a screen door, and Dr. Pol stitches it up with little anesthesia and the owner holding the dog down.
Within the DVM Magazine article Dr. Dallas McMillan of Queensland, Australia states,
We still get owners asking if we can do surgery on dogs under local and thinking a steroid injection is the gold standard treatment for any condition. It only takes one vet in an area practicing at this standard and the others appear to be over-servicing to budget-conscious clients. There are times when you do need to take shortcuts, but there are always risks and downsides, and it sounds like this show is glorifying the “cowboy” approach to vet science without exploring the negatives.
How has National Geographic responded to the criticism? According to their spokesperson, Rajul Mistry,
It is an undisputed fact that Dr. Pol has helped thousands of animals throughout his 40-year career as a veterinarian. His very successful clinic has been in business for 30 years, where residents of Michigan count on him to help their sick pets and farm animals. Within the community, Dr. Pol is widely trusted by his clients. He plays an integral role in keeping local farmers’ livestock healthy and in turn, their businesses profitable.
I’ve never watched “The Incredible Dr. Pol” (true confession- I don’t own a television). Have you? If so, what is your take on this issue?
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.