How the Cost of Veterinary Care Impacts Pets, Clients & Veterinarians

You’ve just adopted a new puppy or kitten and you take it to the vet’s office for a first appointment.  Would you expect your veterinarian to spend time talking to you about the financial burden of future veterinary care if your pet gets sick or injured over the course of its lifetime?  Many pet owners discuss routine care like vaccinations and spay/neuter when they take a new pet to the vet, but it might be surprising if their vet brings up potential future costs of treating a disease like cancer, or surgery for a broken leg.

Veterinarians often find themselves in the difficult position of taking a client’s ability to pay into account when deciding on the quality of care a sick or injured pet can receive.  A recent survey of over 1,000 small animal practice veterinarians, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association, examines this very important issue.

Dr. Barry Kipperman, a veterinarian who conducted this study with several colleagues, outlines the key findings of the survey in an article on the website dvm360.com.

  • 57% of surveyed vets reported that a client’s financial limitations impact their ability to provide the level of care they would like to give to an animal.
  • 77% of the vets who reported some degree of professional burnout said that clients’ financial limitations were a contributing factor to at least some extent.
  • While a majority of the vets reported discussing vaccinations and spay/neuter with clients, only 32% talked about costs of veterinary care prior to a pet becoming sick or injured. Only 23% reported discussing pet health insurance with clients.
  • A majority of the vets said that pet welfare and client satisfaction (as well as their own satisfaction) improved when clients were aware of pet health insurance and the costs of veterinary care.

As Dr. Kipperman points out, few people entering vet school ever think about the sad reality of denying care to a pet because of a client’s inability to pay for services.  He suggests that it is in the best interests of pets, their owners, and their vets to have conversations about potential future costs of care.  It is possible for pet owners to prepare for future expenses…if they have a good understanding of what to expect.  This increased awareness can start with a concerted effort to educate veterinary students, practicing veterinarians, and pet owners about the importance of talking about the costs of veterinary care.

 

Video: 10 Great Reasons to Adopt a Shelter Cat

June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month!  Looking to add a new cat or kitten to your family?  It’s not too late to visit your local animal shelter or cat rescue organization and adopt a homeless cat or kitten.  Scotties Facial Tissues (currently in their 4th year of donating funds to support shelter cat adoption) has posted a very cute video on YouTube, reminding us that there are so many wonderful reasons to adopt a shelter kitty!

 

Fraud Alert for Animal Lovers: Beware of Animal Rescue Scams

Have you ever gotten a message on social media, containing a heartbreaking image of a shelter dog or cat, urging you to donate money immediately to help save its life?  The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has issued a fraud alert, warning animal lovers to take a closer look at who is asking for donations before sending any money.

According to the LADA’s website, so-called “animal shelter scammers” could be preying on your compassion.  These people will actually visit shelters, take pictures of animals in cages, and then post them on social media, warning people that they are in danger of dying in a “high-kill shelter” unless they receive your money to help rescue them.  Sometimes they also use old pictures of shelter animals that they have taken from animal welfare websites around the country.

Besides social media, these images can also be posted on flyers and could be sent to you via email or regular mail.  Some scammers will even call you on the phone.

How can well-meaning animal lovers protect themselves from this type of animal rescue scam?  The LADA offers the following common-sense tips:

  • Verify that the organization or person asking you for money is a legitimate 501(C)3 charity. This information should be readily available if the charity is real.
  • Double check the information on the specific animal. Is it a real animal currently housed in a shelter that is in imminent danger of euthanasia?
  • If the animal is currently living in a shelter, talk to the shelter directly and ask them what is being done to help the animal. Are they authorizing anyone to solicit funds to save the animal from euthanasia?

Obviously, many legitimate animal welfare non-profits welcome your donation, but they certainly don’t want you to send your money to a 3rd party scammer using images of their animals to cheat you out of your hard-earned cash!

Interested in learning more?  The LADA has created a video about animal shelter scams which you can see here:

 

Scientists Investigate Autism Spectrum Disorder in Dogs

A recent article posted on the Slate website asks an intriguing question:  Do dogs get autism?  Is it possible that dogs and other animals could have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) just like people?  Scientists say that an analysis of certain canine behaviors could point to a diagnosis of autism in dogs.

While there is no simple test to definitively diagnose autism, researchers study two important factors when looking at autism in humans:  sociability and repetitive, intense behaviors called “stereotypies.”  Stereotypies in dogs can include things like tail-chasing, chewing, and flank-licking.

The article points to a study of the behavior of Bull Terriers, which found that roughly half of 300 dogs studied exhibited autistic-type behaviors.  Spinning/tail chasing was the most predominant behavior, but other compulsive behaviors were also observed.  A majority of the tail chasers were male and tended to exhibit other types of fixations.  The researchers realized that both the dogs’ gender and behaviors had strong parallels to autism in humans.

Seeking more scientific evidence to back up their observations, the researchers also tested a group of Bull Terriers for two types of blood chemicals, which are found at elevated levels in humans with autism.  The dogs also had high levels of these same chemicals.  The findings were published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

What’s the next step to definitively determine the existence of autism in dogs?  Work is currently underway to find specific areas of the canine genome that would point to a genetic basis for canine autism.  The article notes that famed animal behaviorist Temple Grandin, who is herself autistic, says that there are parallels between “animal genius” and “autistic genius”—interesting food for thought for owners of exceptional pets!

 

“Whisker Fatigue” Could Be the Cause of Your Cat’s Finicky Eating

Cats are famous for being picky eaters, but the reason behind this may not be the brand of cat food you bought.  Many cats also like to fish pieces of food out of their bowls and eat them off the floor…but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re just playing with their food.  If your cat is exhibiting some odd eating behaviors, the culprit could be “whisker fatigue.”

Whisker fatigue is the term used by veterinary experts to describe the stress and discomfort your cat feels when his sensitive whiskers rub up against the sides of a food bowl.  A recent article about whisker fatigue in The New York Times sheds some light on this little-known issue.  Your cat’s whiskers are highly sensitive, like antennas, and pick up signals from the environment that can be as subtle as a light breeze.

What happens when your cat’s whiskers rub on her food bowl while eating?  Many experts describe it as a stressful feeling, sort of like sensory overload.  The solution is surprisingly simple.  Choose shallow food dishes instead of deep ones, and make sure your cat’s water bowl is as shallow as possible.

The article points out that you can use a flat dish you already have, or buy a bowl with shallow sides specifically designed for whisker fatigue.  One company mentioned in the article called Dr. Catsby makes a wide, shallow stainless-steel bowl with a non-skid bottom.  Stainless is also preferable to plastic or ceramic because it is less porous and inhibits the growth of bacteria (a primary cause of feline chin acne).

Just like dog bowls that are made for dogs of different sizes, and long or flat faces, your cat’s bowl should be whisker-friendly too!