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.

 

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:

 

“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!

 

GOdogs Project Investigates the Genetics of Canine Obesity

The scientists at the University of Cambridge Metabolic Research Laboratories are looking for a few good—and chubby—dogs!  Their GOdogs Project is conducting cutting-edge genetic research on why certain dog breeds tend to become overweight (Labrador Retrievers, we’re talking to you!).  They also hope that this research will shed light on the genetics of human obesity.

If you own a Labrador and live near the Cambridge University Veterinary School in the UK, your dog can become an important part of this ongoing study.  The researchers also welcome input from the owners of other types of dogs.  Owners of all dog breeds can answer a questionnaire about their dog’s eating habits, and if you have a Retriever, Pug, or Bulldog, the Project is looking for DNA samples from your pup.  Click HERE to learn more about participating in the study.

The GOdogs website has lots of great information about obesity in dogs.  Did you know that between 34 and 59% of dogs can be classified as overweight?  Obesity causes significant health problems in our pets, including:

  • Joint disease
  • Heart and lung problems
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Incontinence
  • Cancer
  • Shorter lifespan

Why are so many dogs overweight?  The Project points to the modern lifestyle of pampered pets as a prime cause.  Your dog’s body stores fat as an energy reserve to draw on in times when food is scarce.  Today’s dogs aren’t running around and hunting, so a sedentary lifestyle combined with lots of food that’s high in fat and calories can lead to obesity.

The fact that some dog breeds are prone to obesity suggests that genetics play a role in this, particularly when it comes to appetite and hunger.  Previous studies on obesity in humans and other animals have shown that certain genes affect a part of the brain that controls hunger called the hypothalamus.

What about the link between genetics and obesity in dogs?  The GOdogs Project has been collecting canine eating behavior and genetic data since 2013.  In 2016 they published their first findings about a genetic cause for obesity in Labradors.  One particular gene called POMC has been found to be associated with obesity in Labradors (and flatcoated retrievers).  A quarter of UK Labs have this gene and these dogs were found to be around 4 lbs. heavier than Labs without the gene.  POMC plays a role in regulating feelings of hunger and fullness.

Whether your dog has a genetic predisposition to being overweight or not, there are practical steps you can take to manage your dog’s weight.  Check out these strategies for monitoring your dog’s weight, regulating food intake, minimizing your dog’s feelings of hunger, and making sure your dog gets plenty of exercise, all courtesy of the folks at GOdogs.

 

If You Find Baby Wildlife: Important Tips

It’s very common to find baby wildlife this time of year.  While you may want to spring into action and “rescue” baby squirrels, rabbits, birds, etc. when you don’t see their mom around, wildlife experts will tell you that well-meaning “rescuers” are actually “kidnappers”—taking babies away when their mother is alive and well.

The best advice from the experts is wait and observe…as this neat infographic from Colorado’s Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center explains:

Here in California, the San Diego Humane Society’s Project Wildlife program has great information on its website about what to do if you find wild critters in your neighborhood that look like they might need rescuing, whether they’re babies, injured, or just made their way into your home.

As a general rule, when you see babies without mom nearby, don’t assume that they are orphans in need of rescuing.  Keep an eye on them if you are not 100% sure that mom is really gone.

Defenders of Wildlife has these great common-sense tips to keep in mind if you find wild babies in your yard:

  • Keep your distance if you want to take a photo, or better yet, skip the photo session!
  • Keep your cats and dogs inside to make sure that the babies stay safe. It’s also a good idea to make sure that children stay away from the babies.
  • It’s OK to place a baby bird back in its nest. If you don’t see the nest you can place it in a small container in the likely tree.  It’s a myth that the mom will reject the baby bird if you touch it.
  • Avoid pruning trees and shrubs during nesting season.
  • Sick or injured babies should only be cared for by specially-trained wildlife rehabilitators.