The World Wide Web has opened up communication opportunities between veterinarians and pet owners. Convenient hand held devices allow pet owners with Web connections to scan, surf, text and email to their heart’s content at any hour of the day. Or night. You might think this is convenient for pet owners, brings fast results for pets, is easier on your budget than office visits, and is a smart use of available resources. But is it? Think again.
Emailing and texting veterinarians with questions that are pertinent to a pet can be a good thing when the communications are between you and your own family veterinarian. When your family veterinarian is involved that means more information is involved: your pet’s past health history, habits, activity levels, behaviors and several prior lab reports. More information can provide alternatives, choices and additional treatment measures.
Unfortunately, pet owners are more often using the Internet to find information to identify, heal, or cure their pet’s symptoms. The symptoms, to those not trained in helping pets maintain their health and wellness, may seem minor. In fact, owners researching solutions via Internet for their pet’s emergencies, injuries and ailments can instead be compromising their health.
“Responsibly surfing (the Web) is fabulous,” says Nancy Kay, veterinarian and author of Speaking for Spot. But that “does not take the place of a call or visit to your veterinarian,” she reminds pet owners.
“The American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA) saw veterinary visits decline by 21 percent for dogs and by 30 percent for cats,” says veterinarian W. Ron DeHaven and AMVA executive vice president.
“Get(ting) Dr. Google’s Opinion” is Kay’s perspective of the electronic pet care owners are providing for their beloved pets. Choosing to use the technology owners keep handy is frequently delaying the necessary treatment an ailing pet requires to relieve discomfort or pain, restore its health, or even save its life.
“The biggest thing I see is an increased rate of euthanasia and much sicker animals than I’ve ever seen, meaning people are waiting longer,” says veterinarian Julie Kittams.
Marty Becker, veterinarian and author of Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual, calls the phenomenon “Vets vs. Net.” A good veterinarian can quickly and fairly cheaply address many conditions that make a dog or cat miserable, Becker says. Owners with an itchy-pawed dog chose to let their pet lick and chew constantly for six years before they checked with a veterinarian. What they believed to be allergies was a “carpet of yeast and staph in his feet.” Appropriate medications eliminated the itching within 48 hours.
A comatose dog in Becker’s clinic couldn’t be saved after its owners concluded non-stop vomiting was caused by a minor upset stomach. The piece of carpeting he’d swallowed without their knowledge became lodged in his intestine, causing a rupture and pus-filled abdomen. “Sometimes hours or minutes matter,” Becker says.
Don’t delay with technology! Ask your veterinarian to confirm information you learn via Internet. Check in quickly with your family veterinarian when your pet’s health changes – you could save your pet’s life.
American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA).
Balas, Monique. Sick pets put owners in financial bind.
Becker, Marty, DVM. Your Dog: The owner’s manual.
Kay, Nancy. Speaking for Spot.
Peters, Sharon L. Dr. Google not always best when pets are ill.
Portland Veterinary Medical Association.
Emergencies happen when we least expect it, and anesthesia could be a necessary component required to treat your pet. Treatment recommendations your veterinarian makes could also include dental care involving anesthesia. You may elect to neuter or spay your pet. Anesthesia will be required. Repair of broken bones and retrieval of foreign material from your pet’s stomach will require anesthesia. There are benefits and, of course, there are risks. How can you make an informed decision without information? You can’t. So, let’s change that now.
If there is a time your pet requires anesthesia during a surgical procedure, your veterinarian will fully examine your pet. During the examination, your doctor will check your pet’s organs and vital functions to ensure overall health and wellness to accept the anesthesia and the planned surgery itself. Your doctor will report to you the outcome of the exam and help you complete all treatment recommended.
Anxious About Anesthesia by Sheilah Robertson helps educate pet owners about the facts and risks of anesthesia in the veterinary operating room. Robertson advises that blood tests before a procedure help your veterinarian “choose the right anesthetic drugs” for your pet. Dr. Robertson also explains that if your veterinarian is concerned about your pet’s heart or lungs, more tests may be needed.” Your doctor will “talk with you about whether it’s safe for your pet to undergo anesthesia.”
Delaying care or failing to treat your pet because anesthesia is involved may cause your pet some health complications or a decline in current health. Your veterinarian is concerned for your pet, too. The doctor you work with will take many steps before, during and after your pet’s surgery to ensure a positive outcome. Keeping up with your pet’s health, activity levels, knowing current lab results and accurately predicting how your pet will react to the anesthesia are all part of your veterinarian’s job.
Recovery time after your pet receives anesthesia will be important. Your veterinarian and surgical staff will monitor your pet closely. They will also require that your pet remain with them until your pet is awake and fairly alert. You will want to support your doctor’s requirement that your pet be watched vigilantly after a surgical procedure involving the use of anesthesia.
If your pet is obese, a senior or a smaller animal your veterinarian will have additional considerations. These pets are carefully evaluated before a surgery and well guarded after it. Keeping your pet healthy and well includes maintaining an appropriate weight. Pet obesity and surgery can require your pet’s vital organs to work even harder than normal. Senior pets may have an unknown health condition that becomes known during the surgery. That condition may interrupt speedy healing that would otherwise occur. Smaller animals are just that – smaller. A small pet can become colder during a procedure involving anesthesia so will need extra attention.
Drugs used during the giving of anesthesia to pets are monitored and recorded for accuracy and proper dosage. Your veterinarian will take careful note of your pet’s weight and health status before using anesthesia. Your doctor will be careful to give your pet only the amount needed and nothing more.
When your pet needs anesthesia ask your veterinarian to answer your questions before the procedure. Let your doctor know you’re concerned about your pet and want its health restored. Apprehensive pet-parents help veterinarians stay alert and tuned in during surgical procedures. Your vet will always work with you for your pet’s best health. You’re a team and you both want your pet to “win.”
When was the last time your pet visited the veterinarian? If you answered “not in a while,” it is time to book your next appointment. Have you recently discovered a lump or bump on your pet? Don’t let that new discovery go unexamined. While it may be completely benign, it is essential for your pet’s health to make an appointment with your veterinarian soon after discovery. Ruling out health concerns such as tumors, cysts, and infections will help to keep your pet healthy.
Discovering and Diagnosing Lumps and Bumps
Without regular veterinary visits, subtle illnesses such as pet lumps and bumps can go unnoticed and develop into more serious health concerns such as cancers, arthritic conditions, and infections. When you brush and groom your pet, feel around behind ears, along the neckline, underneath their bellies and along legs and joints for wounds, lumps, and bumps.
Your groomer can help discover things you may miss. Furrier animals can hide lumps and bumps for a long time without anyone noticing until the animal becomes sick. While many pet owners consider grooming a pampering ritual for pets, it could be life-saving, especially when you choose a groomer who works in an environment with a veterinarian on site.
What to Look for on Your Pet
There are many types of masses, but a lipoma is the most common lump found on pets. This soft, round or flat, and painless lump presents just under your pet’s skin and is generally benign, although, rarely a liposarcoma is found. More of a problem though, is that mast cell tumors, a type of skin cancer, can look and feel just like a lipoma. Because of this, it is always best for your pet’s overall wellness to have these lumps and bumps accurately evaluated and diagnosed.
Occasionally benign masses can grow into other surrounding tissues. While the actual lump itself is not a concern, the tissue it can disrupt sometimes is problematic. The mass may affect the way a limb moves, or an eyelid closes. In some cases lumps must be removed surgically, and removing them early is the key.
Goodman Lee, Jessica, “Lumps & Bumps: Team Training Plan.” Veterinary Team Brief, 2013.
Studies have repeatedly shown that a large majority of pet owners consider their pets as a family member. We spoil them with birthday parties, presents, and all manner of toys and treats to keep them happy. But, when money is tight, extra expenses need to go. Sadly, some pet owners choose to avoid veterinary visits as one means to save money. And believe it or not, others might give up their pets completely.
Knowing what you can safely do at home to lower your pet’s healthcare costs is a good way to insure a healthy pet and a healthy wallet. First, don’t skimp on wellness or preventive care. Vaccinations and parasite prevention are important parts of maintaining your pet’s health and yours as well. Diseases like rabies and Leptospirosis are zoonotic, meaning they can be spread between animals and people. Similarly, intestinal parasites or even fleas and ticks, are capable of transmitting serious diseases to our families.
Some owners might choose to buy vaccines online or from a pet store. While this idea sounds like a cost-saving measure, there are many risks. Vaccines are delicate biological suspensions and require constant refrigeration to be effective. Some need proper mixing in order to work correctly. Improper preparation could make the whole process worthless. Choosing a lower cost flea product or a “do-it-yourself” dewormer at a general merchandise store is another option a pet owner might try to save money. Sadly, according to the Center for Public Integrity (www.publicintegrity.org), these over-the-counter products are likely responsible for a sharp increase in pet deaths and adverse events in recent years. The EPA has received more than 25,000 reports of over-the-counter pesticide reactions in pets since 2003.
Pet emergencies shouldn’t be a place for shortcuts either. Some pet owners simply use topical antibiotics on bite wounds or lacerations in order to avoid treating the pet when initially injured. But, most of these animals end up coming into the veterinary hospital with out of control infections.
Always check with your veterinarian before giving any over the counter human medication to your pet! Many pet poisonings are caused by human medications. But don’t worry; you can still save on your veterinary bills with a few simple steps at home. First, play with your pet! Veterinary behaviorists all agree that a tired dog is a happy dog and happy dogs don’t tear up furniture or get into trouble. Since behavior issues are the number one reason for abandoning pets, this fun task might literally save your pet’s life.
Playing with your pet has health benefits as well. A well-exercised pet is less likely to be overweight and suffer from obesity related problems such as arthritis, certain cancers, or diabetes. Next, when exercising your pet, use appropriate restraints and confinements. Pets who roam freely are often hit by traffic, get into fights or eat something dangerous. Emergencies like these can end up hitting your wallet very hard.
Despite all of these precautions, some pets will just get into trouble or develop a serious disease. Although veterinary medicine is still a bargain compared to other health services, most of us would be hard pressed to pay a big veterinary bill out of pocket. Consider pet insurance, or setting aside some money each month for your pet in case of an emergency.
We all want to keep our furry friends safe and healthy, but it is challenging when just feeding the family stretches your budget. Talk with your veterinarian about your pet’s specific health needs and see what should be addressed immediately and what can wait.
Keeping up with Pet Care
1) Don’t skimp on wellness care! Too many diseases and parasites are prevented by inexpensive vaccines and medications.
2) Avoid trying to save money by buying over-the counter products or vaccines. These items can be dangerous and sometimes deadly to your pet.
3) When emergencies occur, talk to your veterinarian. Don’t try to treat the wound yourself with bandages or topical ointments. These steps are rarely helpful.
4) Never give human medications to your pets without authorization from your veterinarian. Many pet poisonings are due to this well-intentioned act.
5) Do exercise with your pet! A tired pet is a happy pet and less likely to look for trouble!
6) Keep your pet’s weight at optimal levels. Obese pets are prone to costly diseases like diabetes, arthritis and certain cancers.
7) Love your pet each day! These daily touches can find little lumps and bumps before they turn into big expensive masses!
8) Consider a pet health savings plan or even insurance for your pet. A little money put aside today could be a life-saver for your pet tomorrow.
9) Talk with your veterinarian about the essentials of your pet’s care. Some procedures could be delayed without undue risk to your pet’s health.
As the amount of money spent on pet healthcare increases steadily at an estimated rate of 40% a year, and as pets become more like family, owners are looking to spend more on their pet’s health. Pet owners also want to have their pets covered by insurance.
Some basic plans start at $10 a month, while more extravagant plans cost upward of $400 a month. Since no two pet insurance plans are exactly the same, you should research each policy before making a choice that best fits your needs. The following questions are important to keep in mind when determining if pet insurance is worth the expense:
What’s covered? Look over several plans from different companies before making a provider selection. Make sure the plan you choose defines clearly what is and what is not covered. For some pet owners, pet insurance is a safeguard for future catastrophes, such as sudden accidents or the emergence of a serious illness. For others, the coverage they choose applies to every vet visit, including checkups.
What’s not covered? There is more to picking insurance plans then finding out what is covered by insurance. You need to also know what is not covered so you can compare plans to one another and so you are prepared when your pet needs a test or procedure that is not covered.
Are hereditary illnesses and conditions covered? If you own a purebred animal, they may be prone to a breed specific condition. For example, German Shepard’s are likely to develop hip dysphasia, and Labrador’s are often inflicted with eye problems.
What’s the deductible? Is there a co-pay? Be sure to understand what you are expected to pay for and exactly how much. You don’t want to pick an insurance that covers little if anything.
What (if any) is the age limit for a pet to be covered? The best time to purchase pet insurance is when your pet is just a puppy. As pets get older they require more care, especially later in their lives, and the premium goes through the roof or coverage no longer exists.
So who is pet insurance for? Pet insurance is best suited for pets that are young and healthy. Pet insurance is also a good investment if you:
- Take in stray animals to help shelters
- Take your pet with you on vacation
The otherwise healthy dog. Many dogs can live long accident free lives today, but no owner can guarantee their canine companion will never have an accident such as eating a sock, swallowing a rock, or even getting hit by a car in the driveway.
How most insurances work: Unlike human health insurance, most pet insurance companies require you to pay the entire veterinarian bill at the time of service. You as the owner are then responsible to turn over itemized bills or invoices from us, your veterinarian, to the pet insurance company for reimbursement of qualified costs.
The best way to find the right pet insurance for you and your family should start with researching some reputable pet insurance companies. Ask for detailed plan information and price quotes.
Remember, pet insurance is not a necessity, and if you choose not to get insurance for your pet you are still a great pet parent!
Before adopting a dog, take a moment to consider the amount of care your pet will require and your ability to provide that care. Too often a cute face and wagging tail inspires individuals to bring home dogs without really considering the amount of time and financial resources required to raise healthy and happy dogs. As a result, animal shelters fill and pets do not receive the care they deserve.
Before adopting, look at your household budget. Dogs should have a yearly check-up at the veterinarian and get the required vaccines. Don’t forget the daily expense of pet food, medications, toys, and other supplies. Keep in mind, the bigger the animal, the higher the cost. Before you settle on adopting a St. Bernard or Great Dane, consider the quantity of food the animal will require and how much room your budget has to accommodate your new pet’s appetite. Remember to calculate your pet’s average expenses into your monthly budget as well as a reserve emergency savings for any accidents or unexpected trips to the veterinarian. If you don’t have emergency savings available, pet insurance might be a responsible option; the monthly cost will be consistent and most of your pet’s veterinary care will be covered. You can check on-line to compare the dozen pet health insurance companies. Be sure to ask about exclusions or what is not covered. You can always contact your veterinary office for information about the specific cost of care.
Regular veterinary appointments are necessary for your dog’s welfare. When bringing a new puppy or dog home, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible to screen your pet for any unknown conditions and to make sure all vaccinations are up to date. Your veterinarian will also help you select the best food for your dog, answer any questions you might have about making your home safe for your dog, and help you to provide the best care for your pet throughout its different stages of life.
Planning for a dog’s future is often overlooked, but should always be taken into consideration. If you have a dog at home, carry a pet emergency notification card in your wallet. If something prevents you from returning home, an emergency contact will be notified that your pet is in need of care in your absence. Establish either a formal or informal agreement with a trusted individual who will be able to care for your pet in your absence. Be sure this individual will have the time and financial resources which your pet needs. Keep a pet folder with all of your pet’s information (medications, food, habits/behavior, and veterinary records) and instructions with your other important documents.
American Veterinary Medical Association
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal