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.

 

FACE Looks to the Future with Strategic Planning Retreat

FACE Foundation Board at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

The FACE Foundation Board recently returned from a strategic planning retreat, hosted by the Best Friends Animal Society at their Sanctuary, which is in beautiful Kanab, Utah.  Best Friends operates the largest no-kill sanctuary for companion animals in the U.S.  Best Friends was founded thirty years ago by a small group of dedicated animal advocates who united together in the mission to save abused and abandoned companion animals, and end the euthanasia of these animals in our nation’s shelters.  They serve as a testament to what can be accomplished when people work together for a greater cause, and are a great inspiration to the members of the FACE team.

FACE Board President Cini Gannon Robb getting kisses from a furry friend.

This strategic planning retreat was completely underwritten by the Board so no FACE funds were used.  These sessions are generally held every 3-5 years, so there are always plenty of important topics to discuss.  They revisited FACE’s mission and vision, and friends of FACE can expect to see a fine-tuning of our vision statement soon.  The Board also discussed a revamping of our marketing and fundraising strategies.

FACE Board Member Dr. John Hart with a Best Friends pup.

Other exciting news to come out of the strategic planning retreat?  We plan to revisit our granting process to put more trust in our valued veterinary partners when it comes to determining how FACE grants will be distributed to pet owners facing financial hardship due to emergency and critical care veterinary services.

FACE Executive Director Brooke Haggerty and a fuzzy little friend.

We also are very interested in finding ways to help cases that might not be “immediately life-threatening” but the animals’ quality of life would be drastically and negatively impacted without veterinary care.  This would potentially broaden our criteria for determining what kinds of cases we can help…with the ultimate goal of saving more lives!  At FACE, we remain united in the belief that no beloved family pet should be euthanized because of lack of funds to pay for critical veterinary care.  Thanks to all of our friends and supporters, we are working hard to make this goal a reality.

FACE Board hard at work!

 

Thyroid Disease in Cats Linked to Chemical Found in Our Homes

One of the more perplexing feline health issues seen by veterinarians is the growing epidemic of hyperthyroidism (overproduction of thyroid hormone) seen in cats in the past few decades…a condition rarely seen by vets as recently as the early 1970s.  A new article in the New York Times sheds some light on this veterinary mystery…and may cause cat owners to take a second look at the presence of a common chemical in our homes.

Hyperthyroidism in cats (also called feline wasting disease) causes serious symptoms like weight loss (combined with increased appetite), restlessness, poor coat quality, rapid heartrate, and increased thirst.  This had been a rare condition in cats, but over the past few decades, cats have been developing thyroid tumors, causing the thyroid gland to secrete large amounts of thyroid hormone into the body.

According to the article, several veterinarians began taking a closer look at feline patients with this wasting disease, starting in the late 70s and early 80s, and discovered that many of the cats had thyroid tumors and high levels of thyroid hormones.  These feline thyroid problems were rare until the late 70s.  The condition continued to grow and spread throughout the U.S. and to other countries into the 1990s.  Today, 10% of older cats will get hyperthyroidism.

An epidemiological study of cats with hyperthyroidism found some common risk factors that proved to be very important clues:  spending most of their time indoors, sleeping on carpets and our bedding materials, eating certain kinds of foods, and living in a home with a gas fireplace.  Researchers have narrowed their focus to one culprit:  a chemical substance that is commonly used as a flame retardant, called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).

Starting in the 1970s, this chemical was added to everyday household materials like carpeting, furniture upholstery, and even electronics.  Tiny particles of this substance migrate from the household item into the air…and bodies of our pets.  Cats seem to be especially sensitive to the fact that the structure of PBDEs mimic thyroid hormones and affect bodily functions.

This chemical has largely been removed from the manufacture of household items, although many people still have things containing it in their homes, and it also takes a very long time to degrade.  Feline behavior like sleeping on furniture and, more importantly, grooming, makes cats especially vulnerable to ingesting PBDEs.

As veterinarians continued to look into feline hyperthyroidism and PBDEs, they also found that there are high levels of PBDEs in certain canned cat foods, particularly fish-flavored food.  Cats exposed to high levels of PBDEs in their home environment are at increased risk of developing hyperthyroidism as they age.

The article notes that cats and other pets can often be seen as the “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to discovering how toxic substances in our environment can harm all living creatures, including us humans.  Pets that spend most of their time indoors, exposed to all of the toxins in the home environment, are especially good at telling us when something is wrong.  Testing reveals that virtually all humans have some PBDEs in the body.  Humans are also experiencing more cases of thyroid disease and thyroid cancer.

Want to learn more?  There is a Canary Database that actively tracks environment-related diseases in animals that may also affect humans.

 

10 Questions to Ask Your New Veterinarian

Did you get a new pet and need to find a veterinarian? Or maybe you moved to a new town and have to look for a new vet. There are lots of reasons why we might be in the market for a new veterinary practice to take care of our companion animals. But whether you’re a first-time pet owner or have cared for animals all your life, there are a few key questions you should be asking any new vet. We’ve gathered the best advice from the experts on what to ask a prospective vet:

1.What services are available at the practice? This includes things like X-ray and ultrasound, lab work, and EKG.

2. How does the vet handle emergencies? Some will take your call outside of office hours, some won’t. If they don’t, what emergency clinics do they recommend?

3. What is their vaccination “policy” in terms of what they think is essential vs. optional, and will they accommodate your preferences?

4. Does the practice recommend that you get pet insurance?

5. Do they have specialists on staff if they are large, or a good referral network of specialists if they are small?

6. What is the average time it takes to get an appointment? A few hours or a few days?

7. Do they have overnight care? Is there a staff member on-site 24 hours a day? Many practices, especially small ones, will not have this.

8. Do they have separate waiting rooms, exam rooms, and kennel areas for dogs and cats to reduce your pet’s stress?

9. What are their prices for typical procedures like dentals, annual check-ups, spay/neuter, and vaccinations?

10. Do they have payment plans, flexible payment schedules, or any special discounts for multiple-pet clients?

 

“Words of Thanks” Video on FACE YouTube Channel

Hey, did you know that the FACE Foundation has its own YouTube channel?  We get so many wonderful letters from the families of pets saved with the help of FACE grants that we decided to make a video to share some of their kind words.  Hope you enjoy this heartwarming video as much as we do!