Sunday, November 16, 2008

Low Cost Spay/Neuter Clinics

Here we go again….. In the last issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, there was a letter to the editor complaining about low cost spay and neuter clinics. I’m tired of defending myself and people who want to try and make a difference so I let it go. Someone did respond, though, and the original author got to respond as well. The response was even more offensive than the original letter so here we go again. Let’s get rid of some myths, shall we?

1) Spay/neuter are bad medicine. There are no bad clinics, there are only bad people. We can use a ton of examples here. A knife can be used to kill someone or feed your family. A hammer can be used to build a house or end a fight. “Clinics” don’t decide to do surgery without pain medication, bad doctors do. Banning spay/neuter clinics is not the answer. Taking the license away from bad doctors is.

2) Spay/neuter clinics perform subpar surgery. Really? I have a doctor here in my town that does surgery all day out of 1 surgery pack. This is fine unless he opens a low cost clinic? That’s crap. If your spay/neuter clinic is run by a bad doctor than you should file a complaint with your state board.

3) Unless a surgery is performed under university hospital conditions, it’s unacceptable and dangerous. More crap. As long as you get a sterile surgical pack, pain management and a safe anesthetic protocol, you are getting an acceptable surgery. Think it’s wrong that the low cost clinic doesn’t put a catheter in every surgical patient? Go pay full price. The fact of the matter is, some people want a Timex, some want a Rolex. You can shop at Wal-Mart or Tiffany’s. But don’t tell people who are poor that they should go without a watch.

So why does your veterinarian tell you that the low cost spay/neuter clinic is committing animal abuse?

1) They are greedy. News flash: some veterinarians are bad people. They will abuse your trust to make sure that you only spend your money at their hospital.

2) They are elitist. Some people think you should only own a pet if you can pay top dollar for “the best” care. This is wrong on two levels: first, maybe people who can’t afford pets and kids shouldn’t have they, but they do. The pet should not suffer just because people won’t take care of them. Second, ask them what happens when someone gets injured at their practice. EVERY veterinarian I know has sutured up a person. Why didn’t they pay for their staff to get “the best” care?

3) They are bad doctors and business people. You need to remember that being a veterinarian means running your own business. If all you do is give “shots” and spay/neuter, then you are in a dying business. These guys are afraid to change. They can’t all of a sudden become doctors again, so they fight every threat to the status quo. Once it becomes proven that you don’t need to vaccinate your pet every year, these guys will go out of business.

As hard as I‘ve been on low cost clinic detractors, let’s end on some of their valid points and hope that we can correct these problems to help make sure that less animals get put to sleep each year.

1) Low cost clinics enable people to have more animals that they should have. Having worked in this field for more than 10 years I know this is true. I see people come to these clinics and the kids have no shoes, the parents need medical treatment themselves and you told them not to get any more pets last year. But without a low cost option would these people just not get any pets?

2) People abuse the free spay/neuter clinics. Yes people lie, they make up fake names and they fake tax records. I’ve even seen some people show up with grandma and tell us she owned the 80lb pit bull. I always agree this is a problem. But is the fact that some people will abuse the system, a reason to deny everyone help? There would be NO social programs if we operated under that assumption.

3) Lost cost clinics are cutting some corner. Yes, they are. Either your pet is going home shortly after surgery, your pet is not getting a catheter and fluids during surgery, or they are going to do 50 that day and no one will watch your pet wake up from anesthesia. It is NOT the same procedure you are getting at the full service hospital. Your veterinarian is not trying to screw you. Veterinary medicine is just like every other business; you get what you pay for. You have to decide if you want the Timex or the Rolex.

So there it is, my rant on this topic…again. Here’s my recommendation for you if you believe that low cost clinics are eating your lunch. Spend more time telling people the difference between your clinic and the free clinic. Most of the people who go to the low cost clinic are there because they want to be there, not because they have to be there. They don’t value a full cost clinic’s services. Let them go and take better care of the people who want what you have to offer.

If you’re considering a low cost clinic, ask questions. Ask the staff what you are getting. If you don’t like that answer call another clinic and ask why there is a price difference.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Get Ready for an Emergency!

Here's the homeland security's guide to caring for your pet during a major disaster:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why Your Cat is Fat

Let's start with one of my favorite topics: fat pets. I was out this weekend and heard so many stories about how people's pets were fat, but there was nothing they could do about it. They tried giving pet food, but the pet wouldn't eat it. They tried exercise, but the pet just wouldn't do it. Diet food? Too expensive, but didn't work anyway. The only life the pet seemed to tolerate was people food and laying on the couch. Usually this story was presented to me by someone who was not in shape.

However, this article was new to me: Inactivity, Not Dry Food, Leads to Diabetes in Cats. (It's a review of Indoor confinement and physical activity rather than proportion of dry food are risk factors in the development of feline type 2 diabetes mellitis. Singerland LI, et. al. VET J. Oct 2007.)

I know that people blame all kinds of things on pet food, ranging from cancer to behavioral problems. However, this one takes the cake, pun intended. Please listen to me. I'll be as gentle as I can: It's your fault. Now, do some cat's have thyroid issues, sure. But, it's not that common. Is your cat diabetic? Maybe, but the research is clear: your cat was probably fat first, and the diabetes may go away if you get the weight off. Think I'm a jerk? Fine. Prove me wrong. Take your cat to the vet and get the blood tests run. If they all come back normal, odds are you will have no one to blame but yourself.

Time for the good news: you can keep your cat around much longer if you get the weight off. First, ditch the "it's not my fault, he's big boned" attitude. Second, get some light cat food and some ear plugs. Put only the amount recommended by your veterinarian in the bowl and wait. If your cat eats all the food and cries, take the amount he's supposed to get for a day and split it up into 4 or 5 meals. Lastly, encourage the cat to move. Buy a toy or a harness. Pick the cat up from his favorite place in the middle of the day and take him to the opposite end of the house.

This isn't going to be easy, for your or him, I'm sorry. But when is the easy way ever the best way to get something done?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Books you can read with your dog

These books were suggested in an article by Susan Mayer MLIS in JAVMA, vol 232, No. 10, May 15, 2008: A librarian's guide to providing resources to pet owners.

Most people don't go to the library anymore, which is a shame. At the University Of Tennessee we had a special library for the Vet School and a great staff that helped in so many ways I couldn't begin to state them all.

Here are some books that will help you understand your pet better:

The Angell Memorial Animal Hospital Book of Wellness and Preventive Care for Dogs, Darlene Arden

The Pet Lover's Guide to First Aid & Emergencies, Thomas K. Day DVM

Complete Care for your Aging Dog and Complete Care for your Aging Cat, Amy Shojai

The Cat: It's Behavior Nutrition, and Health, Linda P. Case

Grieving the Death of a Pet, Betty Carmack

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Are you at risk?

I know I've talked about zoonotic disease (diseases that pass from people to animals) before, but it's so important I thought we'd do it again. I get all kinds of calls about this because nobody talks about it. So here goes.....

Here are some questions you need to ask yourself, and be honest!

Do you have contact with animals?

Are those animals vaccinated for rabies?

Do those animals have contact with other animals....Birds, raccoons, feral cats, loose dogs?

Are you young? Do you have a disease or on medication that suppresses your immune system? Are you an older adult?

Do you wash your hands after handling your pet, or their waste? (Really wash?)

Is your pet dewormed on a regular schedule?

Do you apply flea and tick medication to your pet?

Do you travel with your pet?

Do you use mosquito repellent on yourself?

Do you wear gloves when you garden?

Do you cover the children's sandbox when not in use, or cover pools that can collect water?

Do you feed your pet raw meat?

Do you clean your cat's litter box daily?

Are you overwhelmed? Don't be. The purpose of this list is not to scare you, it's not supposed to. The intent is for you to think about these things so that you don't take unnecessary risks. Now talk to your veterinarian about your specific risk. And if you have a medical condition, make sure your doctor knows what type of pets you have at home.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lyme Disease Facts: Dogs Are Not Humans

One of the jokes that is constant through veterinary school is that cats are not small dogs. As a student, you try to make as many similarities as possible between the two species because the volume of information can be overwhelming at times. It's also why most veterinarians own a shirt at some point in their careers that says "Real Doctors Treat More Than One Species".

Which brings me to today's topic: Lyme Disease. Many people know that ticks carry Lyme Disease, but they are only familiar with the human signs. And with good reason, it can be deadly in humans. However, some dogs may be carriers and show no or vague signs thus leaving a reservoir of risk right in their home.

So here they are: Things You Need to Know About Lyme Disease:

Dog's do not get the "Bull's eye" rash.
It generally takes 60 days from the time of infection to time signs show up so there is no acute inflammation at the site of the tick bite.

Clinical signs of Lyme Disease in the dog are vague and confusing.
Signs include: painful joints, lameness, fever, loss of appetite.

Dogs do not only show signs of Lyme Disease during the summer.
Signs can take up to 6 month to show up.

About 90% to 95% of dogs that acquire the disease will never show signs.

Human Lyme disease has been reported in all 50 states.
You do not live in an area that is free from Lyme Disease.

A tick must feed for about 50 hours before they can transmit the disease.
This means you can prevent most cases of this disease with a good tick product (Frontline, for example).

Infected dogs may still carry the parasite after treatment.
Treatment will help with clinical signs, but may not rid the dog of the parasite.

There is a vaccine available.
You should talk to your veterinarian to see if the vaccine is right for your dog.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

But Doc, It's his leg that's broken.....

Most of the time when I have to see a dog or cat that has undergone major trauma the owners are concerned about the broken bones. They remind me of the first video they show you in Human First Aid. If you took the course you know the one. The little girl is in the pool and she drowning. The instructor then asks how many of you would jump into the pool. Of course, everybody in the class raises their hands. The camera then pans out and you see the electric pole that fell into the pool. You just jumped in to a pool filled with electricity. I missed the obvious by not assessing the situation first.

Before we get too far in, of course the pain needs to be dealt with. But we need to make sure the important functions are working. So I thought I would give everyone a short list of the way we assess a patient that has been presented after a major trauma. This should help you too in the unfortunate circumstance that you have to deal with a pet that has been in an accident.

In the field the first thing you should do is avoid getting yourself injured. Make sure the area is safe for you to approach.

Just like in the human field, the ABC's are the first area to assess (Airway, Breathing Circulation). However, in animals, we proceed very carefully with assessing the airway. Many of these animals are in pain and I'm not all that interested in putting my hands in a painful cats mouth.

Next, we assess the patients breathing. In the hospital, we have the aid of a stethoscope. But you can get a good read on a patient's respiratory status by just looking. First, look for obvious trauma to the chest wall. Next, you want to observe the rate, pattern and sounds.

Circulation can be the hardest part of the evaluation. The gums of a healthy dog should be pink. However, the shock of pain can make a dog's gums white. I usually use the tongue as my gauge. Painful dogs generally still have a pinkish tongue. Estimating blood loss can be difficult even for someone with training. A little blood on the ground always looks like a lot.

The next thing to look for is the animal's mental status. Does the dog know what's going on? Does she respond to you when you talk to her? Are her pupils even?

Finally, I'm looking at broken bones. Unlike people, dogs and cats don't die from complications of broken bones in the short-term. They need to be addressed for pain and future repair, but they are not usually life threatening.

For tips on how to move a dog or cat that has been traumatized the American Red Cross has a great website: