Saturday, September 10, 2016

Five Things that Hurt a Veterinarians Heart

 It is very hard to explain what a vet's life is truly like. Like many other people, we are by nature, hard workers (it is how we got into vet school in the first place), and as a result, many of us tend to prefer the company of ourselves, our families, a few close friends, and our pets.

With our elusive nature, and, by the nature of our work, there are  misconceptions on what we do, and assumptions on what we are like as a result.   This is compounded by many of the TV shows and blogs about "a day in the life of a vet".

 Like the cop shows, legal dramas and cooking shows, they are pure entertainment, with an element of truth.

It is not a normal day for us to fly to Africa to run a desexing clinic, or implant neuticles in male dogs,  for example.

That is why our hearts hurt when we hear what some pet owners say (whether the comments were made intentionally to hurt or not).
"There is nothing "Just a" about us! We are family!"

Its just a dog (or cat or bird or rabbit or....)

One of the advantages of being older now, is that I have an excuse to not be politically correct, and I can allow myself to sometimes throw professionalism out the window.

What do I do when I hear this line?  I stand there, and stare at them in utter disbelief.

"Its just a dog, after all." the pet owner says.  What is worse is when they go on about how the got the dog for the kids, expecting the dog to teach them responsibility, and that its the kids fault that the dog is not fed/walked/played with/checked on.

"Its just a dog" really hurts my heart, as I fail to understand why you would have a pet if that is actually how you feel.  Why?  Our animals rely on us for so much, and they give us so much - devotion, love, comfort, support, a listening ear, companionship.... list goes on and on.
There is an excellent meme out there, which offers a great reply to "It's just a dog".  The reply?  "You're just an idiot"  Yup, I like that reply! 

Pandora the boss'  look says it all.

You don't care about animals

Yes, people really do say that to veterinarians all over the world.  We apparently do not care about animals, according to a select few "special"  people. 

The situations that usually gets this line thrown at vets is usually after hours, or because there  is a fee that needs to be paid... and no surprise to anyone - the owner claims to not have any money tonight, but will magically come up with all of the funds (and more) days after the service is required.

These types of pet owners seem to feel that it is the vet's responsibility to put money aside to cover the costs of veterinary treatment for pets that are not their own.  If we don't do this, and actually expect to be paid at the time of service,  then we don't care for animals.

It gets even better sometimes - many of these pet owners  are ones that we have never seen before yet have had their pet for years.  Many have never spent a cent on veterinary care in the past for their "much loved" pet, and they intend to continue with that philosophy even when they are seriously ill.


Pusski (RIP) - enjoying his "old man" status - on the lounge with the "essentials"

He's to old to do anything

This is a classic line that hurts, not just me, but the pet that needs a procedure done,   "He is too old to be put through that", or "Isn't he too old to have an anaesthetic?"

Age is not a disease, but yes, there are times when it is not the right thing to give a particular pet an anaesthetic at that particular time.

As a vet, I would never recommend a procedure on a patient that would not survive it, but neither do I believe that a pet should suffer in pain. 

My father's dog, Jenna, broke her leg when she was 16 years old.  It was the type of fracture that required a specialist to place a plate.  Now, we are talking 20 years ago, and even in those days, this type of procedure was expensive.

Dirk and I paid to have her leg repaired, and Jenna lived for another year and a half- a good life with my father until her joints let her down. 

So, I am really the wrong person to say "they are too old for that " or to ask "how long do they live for?" as a way of justifying not getting something done,  or to say " If they were younger, I would get ABC done".

"If they were younger...."

However.... I believe in dignity in life, and in death.... this is one of my core values which drives my recommendations to all pet owners. Hence,  whilst I may give owners all of the options available for completeness sake, will only perform procedures that are in the best interest of the pet  that is under my care.

"To you too, Dr Liz"

Haven't needed a vet for years.

"My pet has been perfectly healthy" says the pet owner proudly.  As I gaze into the eyes of this ten year old dog, or gently caress the cheek of the 12 year old cat, I listen intently to the story of this pet's life.

'Never needed to see a vet, until now" boasts the pet owner. 

As a vet, I take any opportunity for another vet to examine my own pets, like this year.  The reason being is that I look at my pets every day, and there is always going to be the risk that I am not going to notice the subtle changes that a pair of new eyes may pick up.

  I care deeply about the health of my pets, and as a vet, I am very aware of how animals can hide their diseases.

It is for this same reason why I do regular blood work and chest radiographs too.

Sometimes, the owner is right  - their pet is perfectly healthy, with perhaps some mild dental issues, but most of the time, we find a pet with a heart murmur, or chronic ear infections,  or a mass in the abdomen. 

Those consultations when I see a sick pet, it hurts my heart on many levels - I will need to explain concepts that may be difficult, I know that I will be challenging their perception of their pet's health, and through all of this, this pet may have suffered from this condition for a long time - the thought that they had been in pain is a painful one to me as an animal lover.

I love my dog so much, I can't possibly put them through that.

It never fails to amaze me that pet owners will put their pet through desexing, without a second thought about the risks of anaesthesia or the pain of a procedure which permanently alters their pet, yet use the "love my pet" line to not perform a life saving procedure (such as lumpectomy for cancer).

A common example would be chemotherapy or surgery for cancer -  most of us have either had personal experience, or have seen a loved one go through cancer surgery, and we all know the common side effects of chemotherapy.

What pet owners need to do is to take the "I" out of the sentence, and start thinking about what is in their pet's interest.  "I" did not want to put my pet through chemotherapy, but when our dog  Teddy was diagnosed with Lymphoma, "I" looked at him and his spark for life, and made a decision that was right for him.

Our Teddy (RIP) - or Mr August in the Save an Angel Calendar
He had his chemotherapy and he had extra quality time in his life.  Chemotherapy in our animals is targeted towards quality of life.

 In fact, that is no different to anything else we do - it is all about quality and dignity in life (and in death).

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi. As human beings, we need to be more self aware that what we say or do may impact fellow human beings.

 A little bit of kindness and understanding can go a long way.

Any questions, you can call us at Russell Vale Animal Clinic on 42 845 988.