Life in the Slow Lane

Life in the Slow Lane

Monday, April 24, 2006

Part 2-Another Long One But Hang In There

So in late 2004 I went to Hawaii for 10 days. I had never left Yoshi for that long. Only for the occasional all-nighter when I had to work. My parents cared for Yoshi while I was gone and she behaved pretty much how I expected her to. She freaked out and yowled for about 3 days and then settled down and was fine for the rest of the time. Kinda like a kid which is seriously what this cat is to me. Keep that in mind as I go on here.

The next day she threw up. Not a big deal as she does that every once in a while. What was different was that there was a little spot of blood in the vomit. About the size of a ladybug. I had never seen that before but knew that cats will vomit blood when highly stressed. But I started to worry. What if she ate something she wasn’t supposed to at my parent’s place? What if she had been acting sick and I hadn’t been there to see her symptoms and my parents didn’t notice the subtle differences? And then I thought I might be overreacting. She was acting just fine. She didn’t appear sick in any way. And then I started wondering if it might be stress from the fact that I had put my empty suitcase right by the door to go back into basement storage which was the exact same place I put my full suitcase several days earlier just before I abandoned her for a long period of time. Hmmmmm. She is a VERY smart cat.

Finally I thought that I would feel better if I took her to the vet for a quick check up and as I had health insurance it wouldn’t be a big financial deal. That is what it is for, right? Of course it was a weekend so I once again bundled her up and took her to the exorbitant 24 hour emergency vet.

I got a different vet from her last visit a couple years before and I explained the whole situation to her. I told her I wasn’t even sure that it was an emergency and that everything seemed fine but I just wanted to rule out major issues. She suggested a series of x-rays to see if she ate anything as well a blood panel to see if she was sick. I totally agreed as I thought this would rule out what I was worried about. So they did those things and everything came out fine. Normal results on everything.

I thought they would just let me take her home but the vet said she wanted to keep her overnight. I remembered how much that cost and how much Yoshi had hated it and didn’t really feel it was necessary and told the vet that. She got really mad and started saying things like “If Yoshi survives the night etc…” And I am like, “Wait a minute! Her tests came out normal, she is acting fine and you are saying she might not survive the night? What is going on?” She said that she thought it might be a good idea to hook her up to IV fluids to offset any dehydration. I said that she had only barfed once and didn’t seem dehydrated at all. I assured them I lived close by and would bring her back if I saw anything wrong with her or if she continued to vomit. Yet the vet INSISTED she stay saying that she just didn’t know what might happen and I thought to myself, “Well, it is all covered so why not.” And I left Yoshi there.

Yoshi was not happy to be left and made her displeasure known so I told them that she could be a bit “difficult” and that she behaved very well for me so if they had ANY problem with her at all just to call me and I could be there in less than 5 minutes and hold her and make her behave. They agreed. I also said that they should call me if there was any medical change or if they wanted to do anything more than give her IV fluids. I said I was not crazy about putting her under anesthesia as she has had issues with it in the past when she was fixed (Siamese are like that sometimes) and asked them to let me know ahead of time so I could make any decisions around that issue. These are things I expressly talked about.

I went home and really regretted going to the vet. Not because of the cost but because I knew Yoshi was terrified and I wasn’t exactly convinced that she really needed to be there. I sorta felt bullied a little into letting her stay there. A thought about it for a couple of hours and decided to drop by the vet again to visit her and check on her status. I called and they said it was fine for me to come in.

I walked in and there was Yoshi in her cage. She was hooked up to an IV and had one of those funnel collars on. She could hardly keep her poor eyes open and her third eyelid was all droopy. Her eyes had watered all over her face and her fur looked terrible. When I left her she looked fine and now she looked like shit. She let off this sad little meow. I asked what was wrong with her and they said she had resisted them when they put in the IV so they had sedated her with anesthesia to calm her down. I immediately started to cry and ran over to her cage and took her out and cuddled her. Then I got PISSED. I told them I had expressly asked them to call me if this happened and that they had done exactly what I asked them not to do. They totally blew me off saying it was no big deal and she was just fine. Maybe she was but she didn’t look fine and they had gone against my simple instructions. If they had called I am sure I could have calmed her down. If not I would have ok’d some sedation. I never got that chance. I asked if I could take her home and they said I shouldn’t as it wasn’t a good idea since she had been under anesthetic. FUCK!!!! Now I couldn’t take her out of there even though I wanted to. She was stuck and so was I. Of course there were extra charges for anesthetic and use of the funnel collar and even a charge for extra time as she had mangled her first IV when they were putting it in. This visit added up to $1400.

I made arrangements with them to come at a certain time the following day to assist them in removing the IV. I held her and they took it out and Yoshi made the most horrible freaky howling noise and they were a little freaked too. But no anesthetic was needed which made me happy. I paid my bill, took her home and she immediately ran to her dish to eat. She was totally fine. And I felt like a prize asshole for putting her through it all. I had asked one of the vet assistants if she thought Yoshi was in any serious health crisis and she said absolutely not and that it was most likely stress. Exactly what I suspected it was. She hadn’t vomited once her whole time at the vet.

Looking back I really felt like I had been emotionally manipulated into keeping her overnight with that, “Not making it through the night” comment. I didn’t feel good about any of the treatment she had except for the initial tests. I just felt it was a really negative experience. While the visit was covered by health insurance I am responsible for a deducible and that wasn’t a minor amount. I just didn’t think that many of the things they had done to her were necessary and the whole situation had escalated out of control. I also felt relief that Yoshi was home and ok. I vowed never to go on holiday again. Her vet bill added up to more than my whole vacation cost in the first place. Pretty ironic.

Then 10 days after her vet visit Yoshi came down with a lovely case of fleas. And I thought, “For FUCK’S sake! And they give her fleas on top of it all. Talk about adding insult to injury!” I called and complained and they once again totally blew me off saying that they had no control over the flea status of their patients. I said that in light of what had happened at Yoshi’s visit it would go a long way for customer relations if they would comp a $10 dose of flea killer. The receptionist asked her boss and told me that they wouldn’t do that but I was welcome to come to the office and buy a package of 6 doses for $65. I declined and went to the SPCA and bought it there for $45. I still have 5 doses left. Being an indoor cat she never has had fleas since.

I am so glad there are talented and caring vets out there. If I wasn’t so squeamish I would have been a vet myself. I know with absolute certainty that most vets are ethical and honest people. I know it is always better to err on the side of caution and completely agree more tests that can be done on a sick or injured animal allows for a better diagnosis. However I also think that pet owners have to be savvy consumers and ask for clarification and information about what they are going to be paying for. Unlike many other businesses you still get charged for services rendered even if they don’t work or the outcome is not what you were expecting. Veterinary medicine is a calling but I also think it is a business. I have heard of many stories where owners have been offered care for reduced prices or for no cost whatsoever. Personally I have never experienced that but I know it happens. Vets have to freedom to adjust their services if they so wish. They also have every right to charge whatever prices they want as well. I don’t think anybody should feel bad for shopping around for better prices or for a vet they feel more emotionally comfortable with. Even with insurance finances are considerations and is part of the whole equation no matter how much we all wish they were not. If I ever had an emergency situation with Yoshi I would definitely take her back to that 24 hour clinic because they are very good and qualified vets but I would totally stand up for myself now if something didn’t sound right to me. I know Yoshi better than they do and I have to trust that.

I think owning a pet is a privilege and one I don’t take lightly. While I do bitch and moan when I spend large amounts of money on Yoshi I grumble about spending large amounts of money on myself or anybody else. I don’t have a lot so when it is gone it is sorely missed. However I never begrudge that money because that is part of the bargain I made when I took responsibility for her. I would love several other animals in my house but I don’t have them because I know I don’t have the funds to take care of them as well as I think they deserve.

So when I took Yoshi to the vet for her bad breath and got pitched for a rabies vaccination I decided to trust my gut and decline. I don’t have a fireplace and chances are no bats will ever get the opportunity to attack Yoshi. If it did happen I would absolutely have her treated. In a heartbeat. What bothered me was that this vet knew she was allergic to shots and suggested it anyway. It sounded to me like I was being up-sold. Like when you buy shoes and they encourage you to get protector spray for them or point out that rack of earrings that are on sale. Maybe up-selling is part of the business practices of some vets in my city (and they have the right to do that as I have the right to decline) or maybe it was just that this vet thought the risks of a bat attack outweighed the risks of a vaccine reaction and possible cancer at the site later on. I decided not. And I am The Momma.


Leigh-Ann said...

Any chance you have a vet who makes housecalls in Vancouver? Given Yoshi's anxiety, it might be something worth looking into for a non-emergency situation (like bad breath, routine checkups, etc.).

Sharkey said...

You go, Kranki! I know I wouldn't want to mess with you when you're standing up for your Yoshi! :)

I totally agree with you about finding a vet that you feel comfortable with--it's like finding a doctor for yourself. You need to work in partnership with him/her to care for your pet, so it's really important to have that comfort level.

Some cities have cat-only vets. Have you looked into that?

hemlock said...

I would have been livid if I had returned to see my babies like that AFTER I had expicitly given them instructions to call.

I totally agree. While they may be the animal doctors, you still know Yoshi better than anyone.


kassi said...

Wow, you and Yoshi have been through the ringer together. Good for you for being proactive in finding good vet care for her. And stick to your instincts on what is good for her.

I had to make a decision on whether or not to keep my dog Roxy. I wanted to, but I knew that our home was too stressful for her as she got older. It was a hard wrestle to give her up (to a friend of the family), but I know she is happier. Even though we miss her tons.

elizabeth said...

I relate to your vet issues so much. I have been through similar situations with my dog. He's a Shar-Pei..I have actually been told by vets that it's a running joke in vet school that the only people who can afford this breed are the rich and vets, because they need so much medical care. Unfortunately, this has been the case with him, and I have encountered both sides of the spectrum with doctors. I've had the overnight stay pushed on me when I thought it was unnecessary, and I've had doctors who understand that I know him better than they do, and allow me to monitor him when he hasn't been in eminent danger.
My most recent vacation landed him in the hospital because he stressed himself so much. I called and spoke to the vet (his current dr. is fabulous, but it's almost an hour away) and told her I thought that's what it was, and she assured me all of his symptoms indicated something more serious than stress. I drove down there as soon as my plane landed (late at night) and he was jumping and playing the moment I stepped into the room. He came home with me the next day, and has been great ever since. His vet's comment to me was "I should have never underestimated your opinion. He obviously has a very strong attachment to you, and we will take that into consideration should this happen again". Though they did do a battery of tests, I know that it was because he was acting so very ill, and I appreciate her admitting in the end that she was wrong.

Sorry this was so's such an emotional subject. It's hard being a good pet parent.

alan said...

I had one that was like the practice you describe, and after couple of visits for minor things that "added up" to more than I thought they should, I tried to go back to the vet we went to when I was a kid. He had retired, but sold his practice to a young guy just out of school. He was honest, caring, and practical, along with understanding how much people can afford. I still go to him today, and his son is now working with him. I've been truly lucky to have him all these years, and now with his son in practice with him, I'm set for as long as I live here, I hope!


Michele in Michigan said...

awwww, poor Yoshi. And poor Momma!

jeci said...

I understand how you feel b/c I had THE SAME EXPERIENCE with, I think, the SAME VET CLINIC!! When I lived in Van, I had to take my half siamese to the 24 hour vet emergency hospital b/c it was the weekend. She had an upset tummy and they did x-rays, ran tests, gave her antibiotics, kept her overnight, gave her an IV and, $1500 later, she threw up a hairball on her own and was all better. My cousin, who's a vet, later told me to give the cats hairball medicine and see if that helps BEFORE heading to the vet's. Oh.

I later took my cats to Point Grey Vet Hospital on 10th and Sasamat and was pleased. She didn't press annual/excessive rabies shots at all and didn't run unnecessary tests. She used a mix of holistic and traditional veterinary medicine, which I appreciated. So, if you start to worry about where to take Yoshi ever, I can tell you that I trusted her with my babies and that she seemed honest in her dealings.

Squirl said...

Poor Yoshi, she is a special-needs kitty sometimes. She absolutely loves and trusts you, though. Too bad the vet doesn't have the same level of trust in you.

Sounds like you learned a very valuable lesson in trusting your own instinct when it comes to Yoshi, too.

Closet Metro said...

Yoshi is lucky to have such a good Momma.

lawbrat said...

What an orderl for her to go through. Sweet, sweet baby. You are such a good Yoshi momma.

We have been very blessed to have found a very good vet, who charges way less than anywhere else.
They have very weird hours, cant make appointments- first come, first serve- but its worth it. We dont have insurance for our Mimi, but they are kind, sweet, caring, and so afforadable. Truly, up to 50% less than other vets around.
Its a group of vets, that opened this place and they take turns.

kalki said...

And you are a Good Momma! And I would be equally wary if I had experienced that crap. Give sweet Yoshi a squeeze for me.

kerri said...

Why is it that some people in the customer service (and kitty service) industry do not get that they are supposed to be nice, and forthcoming, and relational, and you know, not a-holes?

eclectic said...

Momma knows best! And you ask for information and recommendations when you don't know what's best. And that makes you THE BEST momma Yoshi could have! Kitty smoochies, please.

Jeannette said...

Just like any parent, you are in tune with your baby. We should all be so lucky to have such an advocate when it comes to our own healthcare. Yoshi is one lucky kitty!

OddMix said...

I have been reading over your archives and really like your writing. You have a great deal of talent.

I completely agree with you sentiments with regard to vet care. I have experienced wonderful care and terible frustration... with the same practice - sometimes in the same visit. They are medical professionals but opperate under a completely different set of ethics than human physicians.

Living on a small farm we have alot of contact with the vet. At my last count we had 52 animals. We are financially constrained and have had to become knowledgable - if uncertified - vet techs. We do our own anesthesia, imunizatin, nutritional management, IV and IM antibiotics, you name it. We have as good a vet practice as I have ever heard of to fall back on, but we still have found that we must ALWAYS be vigilant for our own interests and that of our animals.

It sounds like you are a phenomenal "Momma" for Yoshi. Keep it up.