Veterinarian Reveals How to Avoid Dangerous Trend Among Pet Owners
Do we pay the mortgage or surgery for the dog?
That’s the question a lot of pet owners face in this challenging economic landscape, and unfortunately, it’s a question that’s coming up a lot more often.
“The same thing that is happening to people who can’t afford healthcare is happening to pets, only with pets it’s worse,” said veterinarian Lori Pasternak, of Helping Hands Affordable Veterinary Surgery and Dental Care (www.helpinghandsvetva.com). “When people can’t afford healthcare, they self-treat their colds and flus and ignore serious symptoms until they eventually land in the emergency room. With pets, the same takes place, but in many cases, it leads to the pet winding up needing expensive treatments or surgical procedures that the owners cannot afford. The result is that they end up allowing the pet to be euthanized, simply because they cannot afford the much needed treatment. What’s even more tragic is that it can be avoided with a few simple and affordable steps.”
Pasternak – whose affordable surgical and dental practice works out creative methods of payment to help pet owners avoid making that tragic choice – wants pet owners to consider the same kind of preventative medical visits that their own doctors recommend for them.
Her tips include:
• Pet Healthcare Plans – Many pet clinics and veterinarians offer some variation of a pet healthcare plan in which the owner pays a nominal monthly fee of $20 to $30, which entitles them to a number of free check-ups and wellness visits for their pets. Some plans even include a limited selection of prescriptions and diagnostic tests in that plan, or they discount them deeply. Routine checkups can catch some serious illnesses before they become serious, and prevent a situation in which the treatment is not affordable.
• Preventative Dental Cleanings – The most common way for dogs to get infections is through their mouths, so keeping their teeth and mouth clean is a great way to prevent disease. Keep in mind, one of the most expensive procedures for dogs is dental work. What’s worse, because your pet doesn’t know how to complain, you won’t know how bad its teeth are until after your dog stops eating. Just because they are eating does not mean they don’t have tooth pain. They will eat until they cannot stand it anymore. Then it may be too late. Routine dental cleanings will go a long way to improve your pet’s health. Most infections are introduced through the mouth, so keeping the mouth healthy will help keep your pet healthy.
• Pet Your Pet – Pet and rub your pet often and all over. Not only will they enjoy the attention, but it will enable you to easily determine if they have any bumps or lumps that could be indicators of infection or disease. These growths are much easier and less costly to remove if taken off when smaller than a quarter, so actually petting your pet can help your ability to detect these anomalies early.
“Being a pet owner is not only a joy, but it’s also a responsibility,” Pasternak added. “They depend on us for everything and ask for nothing in return but our love and attention. The best part is that keeping them healthy is a lot easier and affordable than allowing them to get sick. Our goal is to eliminate economic euthanasia and we hope that every pet owner can help us accomplish that by doing their small share in helping all our pets live longer and healthier lives.”
She also has tips for the holidays, ways to keep our pets safe.
“The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy for our families, but in preparing for the season, many pet owners run the risk of exposing their pets to household dangers that could present potential life-threatening hazards to their pets,” said Pasternak. “These latent hazards could derail a family’s holiday season if their pets become ill as a result of these hidden perils.”
Pasternak’s list of prospective risks include:
• Decorations – While holiday decorations can make a home feel more festive, they can be tantalizing traps for pets. Pet owners should keep decorations and ornaments higher up on trees so they are not consumed by pets. If a pet decides the colorful garland or tree trim might make a tasty snack, they can and will get stuck in your pet’ intestines, necessitating immediate surgical removal. Moreover, exposed cords from electric lights can cause electrocution or oral burns if chewed.
• Gift Wrap – When it’s time to pull all the gifts out of hiding to be wrapped, take care that your pet isn’t in the room as you spread out all the wrapping paper, bows and ribbons. If a cat should starting gnawing on the ribbon, it will literally “stitch” the cat’s intestines together as it is being passed through the gut. Surgery is one holiday gift you don’t want to give your family pet.
• Holiday Feast – While turkey and ham make up the majority of traditional holiday meals, turkey and ham bones can become lodged in the intestines if swallowed in large pieces. Be careful that your guests don’t give in to the holiday spirit too much and choose this time to offer table scraps to your pets. Your pet could become seriously ill or even choke to death.
• Flowers – The poinsettias many choose to use as holiday centerpieces are also toxic to most household pets if they are chewed and swallowed in large enough quantities. The level of toxicity is completely proportionate to the size and weight of your pet, but instead of doing the math on that equation, it’s better to choose other types of floral arrangements that don’t endanger your pets.
“The holidays should be a time for fun, not an unscheduled trip to the animal hospital,” Pasternak added. “If something does happen, don’t hesitate to take your pet to the nearest animal hospital, and know that if you come to ours, we work with our pet owners on affordable payment structures in emergency cases. But we’d rather not see you this season. The best holiday gift you could give your pet is a hazard-free household so they can enjoy the warmth and joy of your celebrations safely and soundly.”
About Lori Pasternak
Lori Pasternak, DVM, graduated from Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1998. She worked in a full-service practice in Richmond, VA for 13 years prior to opening Helping Hands Affordable Veterinary Surgery and Dental Care, where her mission is to help pet owners avoid economic euthanasia by offering “bare bones” fees for services and accepting creative forms of payment.
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