Just last week I wrote a post about veterinary care and a recent experience I had with it. I got a few very interesting comments both agreeing with me and disagreeing as well. All were muchly appreciated. My post even spawned other posts on the same topic offering opinions and observations. Too cool.
I probably should have explained my opinions a bit more and how I have arrived at them. I have a point of view that may not be shared by others as well as some unique circumstances that would affect my thoughts on this subject.
Obviously finances come into play whenever a pet owner has to get veterinary care for their pet. Some people are fortunate that they can adopt a very aggressive treatment plan for their animal and be able to afford it. Some people use credit to handle their vet bills while some have to evaluate very carefully what they can and cannot afford to do. Whatever your finances are when your pet is hurt or sick that time is very emotional and scary. In that kind of heightened situation sometimes you do not make good decisions or ask good questions or even understand what is going on. You may have feelings of guilt and anger about how your pet ended up in the vet. It is just not a good time.
I have to admit I am in a very enviable situation as I have health insurance for Yoshi. This is not unlimited insurance and in this day and age my maximum paid amounts can be reached very quickly but this policy allows me certain freedoms a lot of other pet owners don’t have. I know that I work contract jobs and am chronically under employed so I never wanted to be in a position where I couldn’t afford to get Yoshi treated. This insurance has saved my and Yoshi’s ass a couple of times.
When I evaluate Yoshi’s vet care I have to balance what will be of the most benefit to her balanced by how stressed and upset I know she will be getting these treatments. Yoshi is a very emotional cat. She hates everybody except for me and my parents. And she only kinda tolerates my parents. Time and familiarity does not change her mind. She is a Siamese and therefore a bit of a freaktard. When she is in familiar territory this hatred manifests itself in hissing and yowling and bad behavior. When she is away from home and in unfamiliar territory she is absolutely frantic with terror. It breaks my heart. So while money doesn’t play largely into her receiving veterinary care her emotional wellbeing definitely does.
The first time I used Yoshi’s health insurance it was because she ate one of my antidepressant pills. I was taking one out of its container and dropped it. I swear before it even hit the floor Yoshi had run to snap it up out of the air. I was shocked as she never really was one to be nosey about stuff like that. It was Saturday night about 11pm so I bundled her up and drove the 3 minutes to the emergency 24 hour vet. This place is staffed 24/7 and their prices reflect their extraordinary availability. You know when you take your pet there you will be paying. A
So they took Yoshi and gave her charcoal and an emetic to make her barf. I waited there for a couple hours but she just wouldn’t hurl. They thought she might be too stressed and intimidated to do it in the vet so they let me take her home to see if she would relax and urp up the pill there. I happily shelled out about $600 for that visit and took her home.
And then she puked. AND puked. And wouldn’t stop. No eating and no drinking just hurling. All night and all day. I called the emergency vet and told them what was happening and they said that they did give her a lot of emetic and that her poor stomach was probably messed up and that I should bring her in for IV fluids. So another walk in fee later, as it was Sunday and I still couldn’t take her to a regular vet, they hooked her up to IV fluids and kept her overnight. Do you know what they charged me for her overnight stay? I am not talking her treatments like IVs and such but just the act of keeping her overnight. 900 bucks. That is the charge. Holy SHIT!!!! But I was happy with her care. They were honest with me that they thought she would pull through but that nobody could know how much of the medication she absorbed. They offered me hope in a very scary situation. I paid about $1600 for that trip and was reimbursed by insurance. That entire episode resulted in 2 trips to the ER vet along with 4 days of all day vet care at her regular vet.
While at the regular vet I was “encouraged’ to keep her overnight there for about $125 per night. I would have been happy to do that if I had felt it offered Yoshi good benefits but I didn’t believe that at all. First of all the vet was completely unstaffed from closing at 9 pm to opening the next morning at 8am. Yoshi would be all alone in a small cage overnight in a strange place for 11 hours. She would not be receiving any treatments during this time. Just sleeping. I decided I wanted to have her at home with me where she would be more comfortable and where I could watch her. I knew I lived 3 minutes away from the emergency vet if anything happened and I was willing and able to return her to the regular vet office first thing in the morning to hook her back up to IV fluids. I cannot tell you how I had to fight to do this. It seemed totally logical to me and yet they were very disapproving. I am SOOOOO glad I did keep her home as she was so weak and full of fluids that she almost immediately peed her bed. Poor booby couldn’t walk to the litter box. If at the vet she would have laid in her own cold wet piss ALL NIGHT LONG. That is not ok with me. Clearly she got better care with me overnight than alone at the vet. Yet I really got a guilt trip for taking her home where I stayed up all night and cuddled her making sure she was safe and comfortable. This REALLY pissed me off.
A friend of mine just recently went through a similar thing. He is a professional breeder and is very emotionally attached to his dogs. Clearly it is not just a "business" to him. One dog had just had a litter of puppies while another dog had mysteriously lost her puppies just prior to birth. It was a very emotional time for my friend. He was so happy but so devastated at the same time. One of the puppies, coincidentally the one he was planning on keeping, got very sick one day with a fever. He rushed the puppy to the vet and they were very discouraging about the puppy’s chances. They thought the puppy would die. They gave her antibiotics and IV fluids and were just hoping for the best. That night I talked with my friend who said he was thinking of bringing the puppy home for the night. He thought that if he had to choose between having the puppy die alone overnight in the unstaffed vet or at home with him and the momma dog and her puppy siblings where he could watch her he would rather have her at home. He even was willing to stay up all night so she could keep the IV in that they were just going to take out at the vet’s office. However they totally insisted the puppy stay overnight at the vet and employed some very heavy handed guilt tactics to keep her there. He finally relented and was very upset and didn’t feel like his wishes had been heard. Fortunately the puppy survived and he got to take her home the next day. If that dog had died alone overnight I know he never would have forgiven himself. I just think this is wrong. He had no complaints about the cost of the care but that his opinions were not considered.
I am going to break this up into two parts and tell you tomorrow about another experience I had with a vet that might further illustrate how I have arrived at some of my opinions. This post was to show you how when I made a decision for my cat that I felt was best for her and me I was discouraged and contradicted even though the vet could not show me that Yoshi would be any better off in their care. In fact I could clearly see that she would be better supervised and monitored in my care overnight than alone and afraid in an empty vet office. I do truly believe that these vets had Yoshi’s best interest in mind and I think she got excellent treatment while in their care but the only reason why I could see the regular vet would want me to keep her overnight at their facility is for monetary gain. A vet clinic is a business and I am not so naive to think that they would not try to suggest expensive options if they could. Keeping an animal overnight could be a better option for some who might not have access to transportation or be home to look after their cat or dog but I was both mobile and available to be there for Yoshi and even though it basically caused an argument I was glad I stood firm and did that for her. I don’t think I should have been argued with or guilt tripped. It should have been my decision. And it was a decision that had no basis in money but it could have been and that would have been valid too.