“Veterinarian Now” Advice Doesn’t Achieve Anything

By Dave

Being in the animal field for several years, I understand the importance of proper care. Without the right care for certain ailments like feline infectious peritonitis, the condition could be absolutely fatal. People with no knowledge of treatment might have no idea how to manage the illness or lack the right medicine to do it at home. Furthermore, poor decisions could worsen these conditions such as using human medications. Immune suppression that often accompanies common diseases can cause various problems – one of which that can incur a secondary bacterial infection.

Veterinarian doctor and spaniel puppy

Not always the best or practical option.

It is obvious that medical care in certain situations is recommended. But I want to open up a new topic of discussion that has had me thinking the last few months and eating me up for not offering my opinion on it. It is a controversial one but a topic that I feel we must cover. This topic is about the need of veterinary care for cats and how I believe that some techs and vets are too religious about veterinary care. It has always been my belief that being too strict about veterinary care has more bad outcomes than good and worsens the overall health of the animals in question. The second best care can be better than the gold standard if people comply better with one than the other.

First I really want to explain my background a little. Being born in a town that has a lot of poor people and is in economic collapse, I am not so quick to recommend a vet for simple things. I remember when I was slightly younger and would find myself walking into a friend’s houses that had cracked doors, windows, and the floor somewhat caving in (although it never did). They continued to live this way for ten years and to my knowledge still do. This was about 50% of the neighborhood I lived in at this time. What do you think the chance is that they would listen to me about taking an animal to the vet?

My friends would often have a five or six cats (cats were more common than dogs) that would occasionally have problems such as upper respiratory, worms, diarrhea, or would get an injury as a result of vehicles, mean children or other. And I would help birth the kittens and find them homes when they did happen to have a pregnant female. I spent hours upon hours learning to help these cats and dogs. These people would probably never be in the right position to ever take an animal to the vet and probing would only lead to me being pushed away. Then, who really suffers? Is advice really such a bad thing in situations like this?

I have learned what it truly means to be resourceful and able to make a good situation out of a bad one or make gold out of bronze, so to speak. It takes skill and understanding, knowledge and respect. I was saving countless kittens and cats often on a monthly budget of $30-50. There is a lot of medications out there and techniques that can save animals without much cost, with the right training. For instance. I often treated cats with off-label Ivamec which takes care of round worms and mites (two very common parasites) that was about 5 cents per cat. This is just one example as an alternative to a $30-50 vet visit to take care of both. That is a lot of money saved once you talk about dozens of cats that I have saved. I have lost a couple of cats/kittens in my entire lifetime and if I listened to these vet techs and took every cat to a vet every time this happened, I would honestly be broke and would have to give up this secondary lifesaving initiative.

When I visit Facebook pages or I see comments in response to a pet question, the number one comment from techs is along the lines of “vet,now” or “veterinarian now”. If the question was in regards to vomiting and diarrhea, I would agree. Vomiting and diarrhea together can quickly lead to dehydration and death. If it is about upper respiratory, fleas or worms, ear mites or any other basic problem, I am not so quick to agree on a vet immediately. If not, however, a vet is a consideration especially if fatty liver, dehydration or death could be the end result.

Also keep in mind that the owner has already heard that they should see a vet probably twenty times by now. If they didn’t listen then, chances are they won’t listen now. In a ideal world, every animal owner would see a vet for their animal problems. But what do you do when you know without a shadow of a doubt, they won’t go to one? Do you offer advice or do you let the animal continue to suffer?

Or what do you do if an animal ends up in your care and the cost is beyond your monthly budget. Do you allow the animal to die, euthanize it or give the animal a chance to shine and survive using the second best care you can provide?

The last point I want to add is the constant comparison of vet care to human care. While this can be a good point, it can be quickly demolished when you take into account that a lot of children have health care of some sort when the parent is on low income. Or at least that is the case in my town. If there was a very cheap plan for animals I am sure people would also comply.

I look forward to reading the response to this very relevant and debate raising topic.


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“Veterinarian Now” Advice Doesn’t Achieve Anything — 10 Comments

  1. David, thanks a lot for your excellent article which got me thinking. There is a book written by a group of very good veterinarians which I use a lot called “Cat Owners Home Veterinary Handbook”. Veterinarians wrote the book in order that cat owners could understand better cat health problems and when appropriate treat those problems. Of course it is fraught with difficulty and on the Internet when people always advocate that cat owners should see a veterinarian as soon as possible they are, in one sense, playing safe. This is because the people providing advice are not fully qualified and it is extremely difficult to obtain enough information over the Internet to diagnose a cat health problem. That is one reason why the “veterinarian now” comment is often made.

    That said, what you state carries a lot of common sense and what you advocate is very practical and pragmatic. There are a lot of cat caretakers who are simply unable to take their cat to a vet when he or she is ill due to budgetary limitations. They just can’t afford it and probably don’t even think about it.

    This is a reality and it is not a good reality but the answer to it is not to recommend that they take their companion animal to a veterinarian but to find another solution, which you have consistently done over a long period of time.

    Your advice fits into the middle ground between automatically taking your companion animal to a veterinarian on every occasion that he or she is possibly ill and those households where cat owners hardly ever, if ever take their companion animal to a veterinarian due to budgetary constraints or because of their attitude which is part of their culture.

    That is the way I see it and that is why I think your article is interesting and useful. Thank you for writing it.

  2. I read something very interesting the other day on an English expat forum in Switzerland. Firstly – Switzerland is expensive, has a currency which is too strong for it’s own good and minimum wage will bring around 20 or 25 dollars per hour.

    So you would expect the vets, like a lot of other things here, to be expensive. They are expensive in terms of their time. Time is worth more here. However a person from the USA left a comment on the board saying she found for all the basic things like flea treatments, vaccinations, things with short times and finite costs – were MUCH cheaper that in the USA where minimum wage is what? like 12 dollars per hour?

    So I conclude that not only do the vets in America declaw, but I would suggest alot of them are ripping people off while they are at it.

    For example. Getting Red his operation and all his first vaccinations came to just under 200 dollars and that included worm ad flea treatments, some 2 or 3 vaccinations and a day at the vets. And this is in a rich area where you would expect the price to be at it’s most high.

    When I was in Canada I couldn’t go to the vet without paying 100 bucks just to walk through the door. And then they call you for the next 5 years telling you to vaccinate again and again. It seems a little pushy and expensive. I get the feeling that in Canada (USA too?) that the vets kind of protect their knowledge more. They just do things without giving you too much detail unless you really push for it. You are supposed to trust them and not ask too many questions – was the feeling I got.

    Here when I took Gigi and Molly – they said I would’t need to bother with certain vaccinations because the mother cat is known not to have leukaemia so the babies won’t have it unless they have been in contact with it. They just told me I didn’t need to bother if I was sure of where they had been.

    Whereas in Canada I just know they would have said it was 100% compulsory and they would have made me feel a certain way if I decided against it. I realize there is alot to learn becoming a vet but I don’t call them magicians and don’t wish it to be pushed into things simply because vet said so.

    As it happens I went to a total of about 6 vets in Toronto and the only one who I felt confident I wasn’t being ripped off with was a friend of my girlfriend at the time. I paid hundreds in tests – which on hindsight were a total waste of time. You can always say the test is ‘needed’ to be 100% sure but really it’s just them judging if you have enough money in your pockets to be taken for a ride. Also, and to be fair, it’s hard to have goodwill from the get go with these vets who promote declawing. It’s inhumane. They are inhumane. They should not be vets. Where do you take your cat if you are surrounded by inhumane vets and vet techs who also seems to have a penchant for charging obscene amounts for unnecessary things (declawing is unnecessary too). You are stuck. You have no confidence. That’s what happens because fundementally there is a lack of trust.

    Having said that I have read about some very nice and helpful vets in North America. It just seems they are few and far between. The declaw thig really does change the whole game.

    • Interesting comment, Marc. There is no doubt in my mind that there are a lot of people in America (and Europe for that matter but probably to a lesser level) who do not take their cats to a veterinarian when required. There appears to be a 2 way street here. On the one hand there are people who can’t afford to take their cats to a veterinarian or they never consider it because of financial requirements and on the other hand there are the veterinarians, as you have described, who put a lot of people off because they are frightened of going into their clinics with an open cheque-book. And the cheque-book is open with a blank cheque because they don’t know what the cost will be when they enter the clinic and they are anxious about the sort of service they will receive as you describe.

      For me, there is something immoral about the veterinary service if they are too eager to maximise profits because the patient is a sentience being and profit does not sit easily with a living creature: not in my book it doesn’t. That is why, after all, we have the National Health Service in the UK. If you start introducing hard monetary matters into decisions about their health of a cat companion you going to come up with wrong decisions sometimes.

      This is partly why, I liked this article because David made a lot of sense. I’m sure that there is a great swathe of people in America who don’t consider going to the vet.

    • Thankfully here in nzl its not compulsory though i have noticed that the vet always sends reminder notices esp when missed vaccinations.

  3. Great article, Dave.
    I’m a “second bester” myself.
    As you point out, so many issues can be taken care of without a vet.
    I think it, mostly, has to do with the caretaker’s degree of comfort doing it.
    They have to have the confidence, knowledge, and experience in order to make correct diagnoses and treat appropriately. They, also, need to know their limitations and when it’s time to consult a vet. Treating a superficial wound isn’t in the same league as treating a large, infected wound.
    There are many staples in my home that are frequently used, ie. Ivermectin, Terramycin Opthalmic Ointment, rabies vaccine (and some others), Advantage, dosing syringes, vaporizer (no menthol products), Lysine Powder, etc.

    • The key point to make about you, Dee, is that you are a very good second bester because you use your brains and you rely on your experience and therefore you make good decisions. Well applied, as David says, second-best home veterinary care is a very good practical solution to cat health problems.

      As Marc implied there are 2 sides to this coin. On the other side are the veterinarians who on occasions tend to be a little bit overly concerned about financial profit which can put some people off. But then again, I’m convinced that there are a lot of cat owners don’t really consider taking their cat to a veterinarian unless they really, really have to. The statistics about companion animal owners taking their companion animals to the veterinarian supports this.

      • Perfectly said about the 2 sides of the coin, Michael.
        There has to be a balance.
        Good caretakers need to learn when to take their cat(s) to a vet. In a lot of cases, waiting games and guesswork can compound a treatable problem into a critical problem.
        I feel that, anytime I’m not certain, I need to consult with the vet even if it’s just to get confirmation for a diagnosis so I can treat at home. Probably, some vets wouldn’t like just a consultation where they aren’t going to treat for a hefty price. In that case, they can hit the road in my book.

        • Pushing it crudely, on the one hand we have ignorant cat owners who don’t take their cats to the vet often or quickly enough and on the other hand we have some greedy veterinarians. These 2 factors have a negative impact upon cat welfare.

  4. Great essay, Dave.

    Would there were someone like you out here in this wilderness. But neither is there no Dave around, there’s no sliding scale spay-neuter clinic within a hundred miles. Since there’s nothing but forest, ocean and farmland down here, the farms (horse, dairy and cattle ranches) have multitudes of barn cats the ‘owners’ usually doctor themselves, as the vets are surprisingly willing to sell them vaccines, etc. Their cabinets look like miniature pharmacies with shelves of clippers, bandages, flea medicines, hypodermic syringes, multiple antiseptics and pain relievers, ear-mite and worming remedies, etc. These farmers have learned to doctor their cats and dogs themselves. They couldn’t afford vets with any great frequency, as the smallest menagerie I can think of, offhand, includes six dogs and @ fourteen cats. Are all these animals well fed? Of course not. They survive on kibbles, and what rodents and birds they can hunt in the warmer seasons of the year.

    As for veterinarians in general, though, I have to agree with Marc’s dusky views on the industry. I’m thinking, in particular, of a four-pound Chihuahua my mother had. He’d been suffering from a weeks-long attack, origin unknown, of diarrhea, and the visits to the vet were costing my mother immense fees for an array of non-remedies.Poor little Abe’s bottom was so inflamed and eroded, he yelped in pain. Finally, the vet told my mother to give the dog eyedroppers of black coffee. Which hardly sounded promising. Well, she finally telephoned the breeder, an elderly woman who lived in this ‘remodeled’ chicken house and raised these gorgeous blue-ribbon dogs.And she said to give Abe a quarter tablet of — I forget – (this was years ago) but think it was a pill called (will spell this phonetically)’Teh-NAB-you-lin.’ So that’s what Mom did, and pill dried up the poor little dog in two hours! He was overjoyed! Was the vet overjoyed too? No. He was massively offended, and never forgave my mother.

    From dogs back to cats, here is my opinion, for whatever it’s worth. Have you a cat who’s getting on in years? If you have, stroke him lightly on the back, and if you feel a faint spinal protrusion, it’s the beginning of the end. It’s the approach of what the English writer, Llewellyn Powys, called ‘Whoreson Death.’ When you feel that barely palpable protrusion, your fur-child is crossing the threshold that opens onto the downward path. Meaning, the time has come for you to withdraw a few thousand dollars out of your bank and ignite them with a match. From which you can tell I have no faith in vets in treating an older animal – though of course they try their best

    The final ten months of my boy’s life cost slightly under $4,000, and there wasn’t a thing that would have saved him. My cousin, an oncologist who died young of cancer,said his professors drummed into him and his fellow students the folly of imagining they could save many lives when a patient was drifting into middle age. A veterinarian can mend broken bones, clean or pull teeth, do a few things for a young cat. But when a cat has lived for years, the steroids and antibiotic injections, the pills and drops are useless. Which won’t stop the vet from gutting your savings. They have no qualms in telling you they don’t know what’s wrong — that your cat’s full-panel lab tests showed he was in near-perfect health. They performed these tests on both of my cats, and the findings couldn’t have been more impressive. Only thing was, both dying. Which doesn’t matter to the parent, who’ll throw away his last dime in trying to save them. When things have reached that pass, of course, doctoring cats at home is out of the question. But neither will electrolyte fluid, pills, injections, more blood tests and urinalyses, x-rays, appetite stimulant pills, hundreds of cans of gourmet cat food, minced meats and livers and seafood and everything else you can conceive of will save their lives. You’ve torched your money. Nevertheless, instead of quitting, you’ll shop around. Which sounds crass, but price-comparing will help to some degree, and won’t hurt your cats. Whatever the fees are in other areas, the vets down here were equally competent, far as I could tell – the only difference being one charged $153.00 to PTS one beloved cat – and the other, half a mile down the road, $48.00. Those differences in price pertained to nearly everything else they could offer you in your losing battle to save your dying boy and girl. (Incidentally, I didn’t force them to keep going – they enjoyed a fair state of health until the near end.)

    As for doctoring your kids at home, though, I admire you for your success in treating those cats over the years. As for home treatment, by the way — OMG — my kids were housecats except when they were out on their sun-porch. And yet, last summer, they were attacked by ear mites. Two visits to the least expensive clinic down here cost $50.00 the first time and $35.00 the second, and the medicine didn’t work. After their ‘treatments,’ the poor cats were still suffering. Since my boy was fragile I was afraid to squirt the miticide (sp) into his ears a week later — nor was it effective when the vet did it the first time around. So I used an eyedropper, every five days, of organic olive oil, which smothered the mites.

    Be that as it may, you’re way ahead when you can provide some medical care to your companion animals.I wish I’d had one-tenth of your skills – and that goes for Dee – but I had next to none. Anyhow, thank you for an informative essay.

    • This was a very informative comment. Thanks. Sometimes, we feel we just must do something…anything. And in the end our little friends are going to leave us anyway. It is important to not let them needlessly suffer, but sometimes even that is hard to know. It is hard for us to accept that our pets are wiser about life and death. They don’t worry about it.

      I’d listen to a wise retired nurse any day.

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