Monday, April 7, 2008

HIV and Pets

Most of us who wanted to become veterinarian did so because we couldn’t bear the thought of dealing with people and their problems all day long. That’s one of the problems with deciding on a career path in your early twenties: you’re still dumb enough to be arrogant. Did I really think the dog would just drive itself to the office? It never really catches up with you until you get to veterinary school and you realize how important you are going to be in some people’s lives.

Not too long ago I had a man come to my office because he knew I worked with the local shelter. He needed to give his cat up, but couldn’t begin to think about the cat being put to sleep. He wanted me to watch the cat and make sure he went to a good home. I told him I really couldn’t do that, because I just didn’t have that kind of pull at the shelter. I suggested that he hang on to the cat for a while and we could find the cat a home. That’s when he broke down and told me he had HIV and his doctor told him to get rid of the cat. The man agreed to wait a couple of days and let me do some research.

It turns out if you have an immune-related disease some doctors just tell you to move the pets out, without any thought as to what this is going to do to the mental health of their patient. It’s just not always necessary. There are some risks involved with keeping a pet under those conditions, but they are not absolute. Here are two great sites:

That incident was the first time I realized that I needed to pay attention to everyone in the family, not just the pet I was trained to help. Now I ask all kinds of questions: Is anyone in the house allergic to the medication I’m giving your pet?, Do you have children you visit?, Does anyone in the home have an immune-related condition? I’m not blaming the medical profession for missing the boat on this stuff; they have a hard enough job dealing with what they deal with. However, it turns out sometimes that I have to help them, whether the client knows it or not.

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