Gold bars

Is ‘Gold Standard’ Care Always the Best Option? 

It Depends.

Every day, in exam room conversations with clients, our veterinarians describe what we consider to be the “gold standard” of care as it relates to the patient’s situation. 

To us, gold standard care represents the most advanced care our profession currently has to offer. It’s a standard constantly evolving in our medical journals and the continuing education seminars we attend to keep up with the latest, greatest advancements in veterinary medicine. 

We accept gold standard diagnostic and treatment protocols as objectively ideal. When a client chooses gold standard care for one of our patients, our work on the leading edge of medical practice tends to be especially satisfying.  

Does that mean gold standard care is always the best option for all clients and patients?

Actually, it depends.

The Original Gold Standard

Originally, “the gold standard” referred to a monetary system linking the value of a country’s currency directly to gold. The gold standard is no longer used by any government, but the notion of a gold standard as an ideal lives on in many settings where there are options to be considered and choices to be made. 

As veterinarians, we are medically and ethically obligated to offer gold standard care as something of an ultimate option to all our clients—often as the first option we present. 

We would be remiss in our duties if we didn’t.

There are times when the client stops us right there, hearing only “gold standard” and insisting they want nothing but the best available exams, tests, procedures and treatments for their pet. 

More often, after defining the gold standard, we talk about other diagnostic and treatment options as well, aiming to help our clients sort through sometimes difficult choices and ultimately discern the wisest, most loving way forward for themselves and their pets.

We understand for any given client and patient, the best choice may or may not be our profession’s currently agreed-upon gold standard. 

Quality of Care Considerations

Calling any one diagnostic and treatment plan “the gold standard” seems to imply that other approaches are somehow substandard. 

That is not necessarily the case. For many clients, for many reasons, gold standard care is simply not an option, or not the best option. 

At Brownsburg Animal Clinic, in addition to the gold standard, we offer multiple levels of care to make our services accessible to as many of our clients and patients as possible.

As long as the alternative diagnostic and treatment approaches are evidence-based good medicine and we agree our services will benefit the client and patient, we want to offer them. 

Cost Considerations

We know gold standard sounds expensive. Often it is. 

Advancements in veterinary medicine over the past decade or two have made previously unimaginable diagnostic and treatment options available now. 

These advancements have come at a price. Leading edge medicine often requires substantial investments in research and development and in technologically advanced new equipment. The very latest tests, drugs and procedures are almost always more costly than more traditional approaches.

We understand for most of our clients, cost is an important consideration in choosing the most appropriate care option. We are happy to explore lower-cost alternatives to gold standard care. Just speak up and let us know your concerns.

Your Pet’s Temperament and Quality of Life

Some pets love trips to the vet. They tolerate all sorts of processes and procedures well, apparently taking surgeries, therapies and even prolonged hospitalizations in stride. 

For others, the stresses of testing and treatment can be traumatizing. 

If your pet is the anxious, fearful type, the best care option for you may well be the least disruptive and invasive one. 

For any pet, the discomfort that comes with some forms of treatment, such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, must be weighed against quality of life.

Regardless of cost or a possible increase in your pet’s length of life, you may decide you simply don’t want to put your pet through a full treatment protocol, opting instead for plenty of treats and palliative care. 

Your Capacity to Provide Home Care

Veterinary care often requires at least some degree of cooperation with the pet owner in the form of supportive home care. But depending on your family and work responsibilities and any physical limitations you may have, care options requiring extensive home care may not be a viable choice for you and your pet. 

If you don’t have the time or the ability to administer medicines and participate in rehabilitation, you may opt for a care plan that fits best with your capacity to provide home care. 

Your Pet’s Age and General Health

We can never be certain as to how well a particular pet will respond to a given course of treatment. We do know in general, the pets we expect to experience the best long-term outcomes tend to be younger and, apart from the condition being treated, in better overall health. 

In choosing a care option, your pet’s age, normal life expectancy and general health are all factors to consider. For a pet already nearing the end of its natural life, the more complex and radical approaches—promising as they may be—are probably not the most appropriate for your pet, who if given the choice, would likely prefer to live out the rest of its life in comfort and peace.

The Choice Is Yours

At Brownsburg Animal Clinic, we see every case—every pet, every owner and every situation—as one-of-a-kind. Just because the most advanced, cutting-edge diagnostic or treatment option is available doesn’t mean it’s the right option for you and your pet. 

In our exam rooms, you can count on our veterinarians to present you with a range of available care options, of which our profession’s current agreed-upon gold standard is only one. Once we’ve presented the possibilities, it’s up to you to decide the best choice for you and your pet—our patient. 

We encourage you to ask questions and let us know your concerns—financial, physical, emotional and otherwise—so that together, we can come up with a workable, guilt-free plan that best suits you and your pet. 

Whatever care option you choose, we consider it our moral and ethical duty to respect your decision and practice the best possible medicine we can to improve your pet’s comfort and quality of life for the rest of its life with the resources at our disposal.