6 Reasons Why We Should Be Sharing More Cases with Toxicologists

Author: , VMD, MBA


Meet the most underutilized, undervalued veterinary specialist in clinical veterinary practice: the toxicologist.

It’s true. Toxicologists get short shrift in everyday clinical practice. Think back: when was the last time you shared a case with a remote toxicologist? If you’re like most of us, it’s probably been a while.

You either: a.) Tend to forget that a toxicologist is only a phone call and fifty dollars away (in most cases it’s pretty inexpensive) or b.) Never realized that using a remote toxicologist routinely was a “thing,” one that could immeasurably improve your patient care.

Yes, the poison control hotline is not just for clients, it’s for anyone who needs help in that situation.

Once viewed as a veterinary resource for pet owners alone (and one that potentially cannibalizes our revenues), toxicology in vet medicine has come a long way. No longer is this the specialty service for chocolate toxicity and plant ingestions. Not at all.

Sure, modern toxicology is still available to all our clients via poison control services, but it’s also there so the average vet can offer advanced, specialty-level patient care in a general practice setting. Here are six reasons why doing so makes sense:

#1 A Higher Standard of Care

According to toxicologists, a toxicological diagnosis is based on a detailed patient history, a list of clinical signs and physical examination findings, evaluation of appropriate specimens by a toxicology lab, and prudent interpretation of the laboratory results.

All facets of this process can be facilitated by a toxicologist, should you choose to engage one. They’ll help you with your history-taking (“Did you happen to ask about …?”), direct your fingers during a physical exam (“What did the kidneys feel like?”), recommend specific laboratory tests, and help you put it all together.

And after they’re done helping with all that? They’ll recommend a treatment plan, including a long-term diagnostic plan and plenty of opportunity for following the case along as needed.

#2 Fewer Missed Diagnoses (And Liability Issues)

Fuzzy history? Possible exposure to toxins? Still can’t put your finger on it?

Just as it’s never wrong to screen for pancreatitis in gastroenteritis cases, using a toxicologist in hard-to-pin-down liver and kidney cases (among other possibilities) is never a bad thing. In fact, your clients will probably wonder why you’re not looking closely at the possibility of poisoning. Which brings me to my next point…

#3 Higher Perceived Client Value

I don’t think I’ve ever had a client complain about the expense of a toxicology consult. For some reason, poisoning is one of those possibilities they’re most concerned about. As such, they readily understand the value of asking a toxicologist to weigh in. In fact, when you tell them you’re consulting a remote toxicologist they’ll be impressed. I promise.

#4 A Smarter, More Engaged You

It’s inevitable. Using a toxicology consult service means you’ll learn more about toxicology, critical care, and internal medicine in general. Why would you deny yourself this opportunity? –– especially when …

#5 It’s Easy And Inexpensive

A toxicology consult service is only as far away as your favorite veterinary poison control service. Most of these charges are well under $100 (usually around $50) and tend to be available for follow-ups… unlike most specialists I tend to run across.

Then there’s the obvious benefit to consider…

#6 Higher Revenues

When you’re able to practice higher-quality medicine without having to send every patient to the criticalist or internist, higher revenues are never far behind.

Mind if we pay your vet bills?

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