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:

 

“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!

 

Apps Help People Reunite With Lost Pets

Few things are more distressing to pet owners than losing a dog, cat, or other beloved pet.  Unfortunately, pets go missing all the time, and the statistics show that un-microchipped animals that get brought to shelters only have around a 20% chance of being reunited with their families.

The internet has made it much easier to share information about lost and found pets than ever before.  Besides social media, which can be a great lost pet resource, more and more people are also turning to lost pet apps.  Here are a few of the most popular ones to check out:

Fur Alert:  The Fur Alert app is promoted as a kind of Amber Alert for missing pets.  Before your pet ever goes missing, you can download the app and create a profile for your pet.  If your pet does get lost, you can activate a missing pet report that will send an alert to other users in your vicinity.  You can also be a hero and help other people find their lost pets with the app.

Finding Rover:  The Finding Rover app uses facial recognition technology to help find lost pets.  You just take a picture of your dog, mark the eyes and nose, and they will keep your dog’s info on file in case he ever gets lost.  If your dog does go missing, Finding Rover will alert a large network of shelters, vets, fellow members, and other organizations to help you find your pet.

Paw Boost:  Paw Boost also helps users find lost pets via their app.  They have a variety of free tools that enable you to spread the word about your lost pet.  Notifications go out to shelters, vets, other members, and Facebook.  You can even use it to create a quality missing pet flyer to post around your community.

ASPCA Mobile App:  The ASPCA offers a free app that not only helps you find your lost pet by offering a personalized pet recovery kit and a digital flyer tool, they also let you store health record data on your pet and provide advice on how to keep animals safe before, during, and after a natural disaster.

PIP:  Similar to Finding Rover, the PIP app uses facial recognition technology to help people find missing dogs and cats.  The app analyzes photos of lost and found pets to find identifying features and make a match.  They also alert a network of shelters, vets, social media, and other users to help you find your missing pet.