By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views
I consider myself to be a good pet parent. However, when Earl Gray, my cat of 19 years started missing the litter box, I chalked it up to old age. I thought it was his time, and that he wasn’t going to be around a lot longer.
I waited two weeks before I took him to our veterinarian. It turns out Earl had a thyroid problem—an overactive one that caused poor litter box manners. Thankfully, he is back to his old wonderful self. He truly is a great cat, and thanks to meds and a special diet, he even has those kitten-like bouts of running around the house every so often.
My not taking him to the vet immediately had to do with just thinking it was his time. I also have to admit that I don’t visit the doctor when I’m ill. Both decisions are mistakes.
Not going to the vet right away got me thinking about other pet parents who wait. Most of you (I took an informal online poll and asked around) take your pet to the vet almost immediately if the symptoms are serious. Others admitted to waiting a few days—even a week or two.
Peter L. Massaro, owner of Identicollar, a safe, reflective ID collar for cats and dogs, regrets waiting. “I live in northern San Diego County—farm country—and I saw my Springer Spaniel, Sadie, eat a mouse out of one of our traps. Having seen her eat one once before without anything happening, I assumed she would be okay.”
“Well, I was wrong. Three days later I found her lifeless on the floor and rushed her to the vet. She died right on the table in front of me. I will never forgive myself for not taking her in sooner. If one suspects there is something wrong with his or her pet, financial reasons should never be the reason to delay a visit to the veterinarian.”
I’m sorry for Peter’s loss, and I know how sorry he is, yet, I don’t think that makes him a bad pet parent. I may have waited too—especially if Sadie ate a mouse before and nothing bad happened.
Then I asked Thomas F. Dock, Certified Veterinarian Journalist (CVJ) and managing editor of Veterinary News Network (VNN), a wonderful source for all things pet health and vet related. “Veterinarians across the country are seeing pets with illnesses or injuries at much later times and that is leading to higher costs for pet owners as well as increased suffering for the pets,” he says. “The recent National Council on Veterinary Economic Issues (NCVEI) study with Bayer came to the same conclusions. Although the economy has played a big role in this for the last three years or so, there has always been a reluctance from many pet owners to take pets in immediately (‘oh, she just sprained her leg…she’ll be fine in a day or two.’ ‘It’s just a little vomiting, nothing to worry about’). I think the biggest proof of this is seen in online pet related forums; people asking others about the course of action they should take when their pet is limping/vomiting/experiencing bloody diarrhea, etc.”
“Most veterinarians recommend a physical examination every six months for most dogs and cats. Since our pets can’t talk and they are so good at hiding signs of illness, this bi-annual exam can catch a lot of little problems before they turn into big issues. Puppies and kittens should be seen on a regular basis (every 3 to 4 weeks until they are about 16 weeks old) and some veterinarians will even recommend 2 to 4 annual visits for senior pets.”
Procrastination Equals More Money Spent
Thanks to VNN, I heard from Dr. Arnold Goldman of Canton Animal Hospital in Canton, CT. “One example is sitting in a cage in my office right now,” he says. “A male cat with lower urinary tract obstruction, a common condition, was seen today for collapse, vomiting, and not eating. Medical care administered later revealed the cat must have been completely obstructed for 24 hours or more. Detailed history revealed that the owner noted frequent trips to the litter box in recent days. Had the cat been seen when those trips had begun, obstruction may not have occurred prior to being seen. The difference in cost of care for outpatient feline lower urinary tract disease and inpatient when obstruction finally occurs, approaches $1000.”
Dr. Mitsie Vargas, a VNN member in Orchid Springs Florida and a certified veterinary acupuncturist, tells the story of a dog named Bear. “When I saw him, Bear was very ill, anemic, platelets super low, and recumbent,” she explains. “He was tick infested. The owners had stopped using the monthly Frontline and the dog almost died of rickettsial disease. Luckily, after intensive treatment and $1,200 later he did recover. The monthly dose of Frontline would’ve been a big savings.”
How long do you wait to take your pets to the vet?