This week I was in a situation which made me feel angry, sad, frustrated and powerless all at once. I wanted to share it because I think it highlights a really important issue about vets, pet care and cost. However, I will warn you it doesn’t have a happy ending.
There was an appointment in evening consults for a euthanasia, which in itself isn’t unusual, but this one was for a Staffie who was only six and who hadn’t been seen for a year. The history we had was brief, she had last been seen for an ear infection but not since. So, I didn’t know why her owner’s had decided to put her to sleep; I was thinking that maybe she had been under the care of another vet for a problem which had become terminal or that this was a behavioural problem like aggression.
However, when she arrived it was quite clear what the issue was. The poor dog had a terrible skin problem; she had sore and swollen feet, a nasty infection in both ears and in places has scratched herself red raw. Despite this she was lovely, happy, friendly girl, desperate for a good fuss. It transpired that she had been like this since she last came to see us, over a year ago, but her owner hadn’t brought her back or taken her to another vet because ‘the treatment hadn’t worked’ and it was ‘too expensive’, meaning that the poor creature had been itchy and painful for all this time.
I did try to speak to the man about her condition and how we might help her. Itchy skin is a common problem in dogs and although it can be difficult to find the underlying cause, most cases will respond to treatment, which is usually inexpensive. Like many illnesses we can offer different options for investigation and treatment depending on what an owner wants and the funds available but the outcome is generally an itch-free happy dog who can go on to lead a normal life. However, in this case the owner wasn’t interested in any treatment at all. He had decided he wanted her euthanased and nothing would persuade him to change his mind.
What made me so upset about this situation was not really the fact the owner of this dog wanted her put to sleep, (although I did find this difficult when I knew I could do so much to help her), she was his dog and so it was his choice but the fact that he had allowed her to suffer for such a long time before deciding to do something about it. I completely understand that the costs of veterinary care can be a worry for some people but that is no excuse for leaving a pet to struggle for any length of time. We are quite used to working within people’s budgets and we can always explore the option of finding charitable help or arranging payment plans. However, we can’t do anything unless owners get in touch, are open with us and let us know their concerns.
So, the message of this article is; if you have a pet who is poorly but you are worried about the vet fees; please speak to your vet, be open and honest about your concerns and work with them to come to a solution which you can afford but that helps your pet. This is far, far better than leaving them to suffer, which is not only unnecessary, it is also cruel. Yes any treatment will require payment but as a pet owner it is your responsibility to provide this for your animals and we are animal lovers too and will do what we can to help!