“Shotgun medicine” is a term used to describe a method of prescribing medications for illness when veterinarians don’t really know what they’re treating. The shotgun approach is done by prescribing several different medications at once to see if anything works. The patient is splattered with drugs in hopes that something finds its mark.

If the patient improves – whether due to the medications or the animal’s own healing capacity – the veterinarian can take credit and all seems well; that is until the condition returns. In that case, the pet owner is back to the beginning with a sick animal and without a diagnosis.

Another common scenario with this approach is that the animal never improves at all but gets worse. Reaching a successful outcome is likely more difficult and more expensive – all because the veterinarian took the easy way out at the beginning.

Better medicine involves determining a list of diseases that could cause the illness. This leads to appropriate tests to eliminate possibilities until the correct diagnosis is reached. Once established, guesswork by the veterinarian in prescribing treatment is eliminated, and the proper course of therapy – with the best odds of a cure – can begin.

Performing this higher standard of medicine may take more time and entail a bit more thought; but our veterinary clinic patients deserve the best we can give them. Clients want our most thoughtful efforts to bring about the best results.

I strongly believe that our clients want what’s best for their pets; otherwise why would they go to the effort of bringing them to our McKinney animal hospitals? Veterinarians who prefer to sling drugs at disease take advantage of their clients’ trust inferring that veterinarians bound by an oath will always give their best effort for the wellbeing of patients.

You should be able to discuss a medical condition with your veterinarian to develop a list of possible disorders. You are entitled to be informed of the optimum pathway to success along with other routes that may offer a lesser chance of success.

The more thorough method will usually cost more up front, but in many cases that proves to be the more cost effective approach to veterinary care in the long run, because the appropriate therapy is more effective. Using a “Plan B” approach may end up prolonging the animal’s disease and suffering, take longer to resolve and cost much more. Before opting for diagnostic and veterinary treatment options, make sure you at least know what “Plan A” is.


By Dr. Ed Mapes is the Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine at the Stonebridge Animal Hospital in McKinney.