Veterinarians. The people we entrust with our pets health in good times and in bad. While I truly believe veterinarians do the best they can, given what they have been taught and believe, and really do care about our pets, I also know that at the end of the day, they are only human, and as humans, not above making errors or being influenced by money. Blindly following them (sometimes against your gut feeling) without question can be detrimental to your pet’s health and/or your wallet, as I’ve experienced first hand on a few occasions.
Several years ago, I had a senior dog that developed a cough out of the blue. Concerned when it progressed from being occasional to a regular occurrence over the course of a few months, I took my dog to my long-time vet. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary on the tests, so without doing an expensive and extensive allergy test, followed by possible steroids as treatment, my vets’ other recommendation was for me to move to another part of the country. Not happy with either of those options, I came home to look for another safer and practical way to treat my dog. I ran across a company that sold Chinese herbs based on some conditions about the cough. After working with the company, we were able to tweak the formula to all but completely get rid of the cough before my dog died from the side effects of a very commonly prescribed drug after a vet visit for a very bad episode of arthritis the following year. My vet never warned me about any side effects to watch for or gave any indication the medication she prescribed wasn’t anything but perfectly safe. When I noticed my dogs’ behavior had changed and called my vet’s office concerned, the vet was always out and the vet tech I spoke to just brushed off my concerns. You can read the full story here, http://savingcatsdogsandcash.com/previcox-killed-my-dog/
The next year, a cat I took in had nearly immediate diarrhea after eating. Despite trying the usual diarrhea solvers of slippery elm, yogurt, and pumpkin, along with a variety of different foods, numerous conventional and homeopathic products, both recommended from my own research and also by my (new) vet, we were not having any luck with resolving the issue. Some of the things I tried would cause a temporary improvement, but nothing permanent. Tests all came back fine, so my vet was stumped and at a loss after trying all of her conventional vet treatments, including prescription food, without success. Refusing to believe that my cat just had some sort of an incurable issue causing his diarrhea, I was determined to figure out what was causing the issue and fix it. You can read about it here: http://savingcatsdogsandcash.com/cured-cats-diarrhea/
The thing that bothers me most about the example with my cat is that had I just been an average cat owner and/or not really a computer user, I probably would have just accepted the issue, given the cat away or even kicked it outside due to the mess made by the diarrhea. The vet had tried what she knew or had been taught, it didn’t work, so she was at a loss. As a matter of fact, she basically told me “this just sometimes happens” and told me a story about a dog owner she had that had to feed her dog pinto beans and something else (I forget now what exactly it was, but it was something like mashed potatoes) because of issues the dog had with anything else it ate. I was immediately sad for the dog and for the owner, that just probably didn’t know any better. I was also sad for any other patients of this vet, who seemed too quick to give up when things weren’t resolved by the ways she’d been taught thirty plus years ago at vet school.
Last year, my senior husky, Lacey, had a weird episode of suddenly being unable to get up, was panting, drooling, and in distress. Of course, it happened on a Saturday, about 30 minutes after the vet’s office had closed. I called the after-hours number and by the time I got a callback and we discussed the situation, Lacey was up walking around and seemed perfectly fine. Because the incident was so scary for all of us and one I’d never experienced before, AND it was a weekend, Will and I decided to go ahead and take her in for evaluation. After loading her up, unloading her, getting her physically examined and her movement checked, all without any issue, the vet could find nothing wrong. I mentioned x-rays to make sure it wasn’t something we weren’t seeing, but the vet wasn’t too interested in doing that, for whatever reason. Instead, he handed me a bottle of pills he said were anti-inflammatories, to give her. Because it was mid-day Saturday and I didn’t want to pay another expensive after-hours visit if she had another episode over the weekend and needed them, I took the pills, just in case. As is now my policy after killing one of my dogs in 2013 with the NSAID Previcox my previously long-time vet had casually prescribed, I googled the pills and the side effects once I got home. It was the NSAID Deramaxx. This is one of the first posts that came up: https://amyknichols.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/deramaxx-killed-my-best-friend/. It hit extremely close to home.
After finding that Deramaxx was in the potentially deadly NSAID family, I was mad that this vet had just handed me a potential ticking time bomb without hesitation or warning of any kind. I called the vet’s office the following Monday and explained that I would not be giving Lacey the Deramaxx since I’d already killed one dog with a similar product, and didn’t realize at the time when he’d given them to me, that they were part of the potentially fatal NSAID family. I asked if I could return them for a refund. I was told someone would call me back. After a day or two with no return call, I called back again. This time I was told that the vets had discussed it and because the pills had left the building, they couldn’t take them back. Next time I guess they’ll just have to wait for me to do my google search before I leave with anything they prescribe since they don’t give any paperwork or warnings of any kind about the drugs they
hand out like candy administer or accept the medication back after I discover how dangerous it is and refuse to play russian roulette with my pet’s life. By the way, Lacey never took any meds and hasn’t had another episode like that one, so being conservative with her treatment and just monitoring her has worked fine. It’s very scary to think that I could have taken my dog from being fine to being dead by giving her those seemingly safe pills.
From my own personal experience with my previous long-time vet, and from reading lots of other peoples’ heartbreaking experiences with negative side effects from some of these drugs, most vets refuse to take any responsibility for harm the pills they prescribe cause. Instead, they either feign ignorance or just as bad, try to blame an underlying cause or the age of the pet or anything other than the fact that it was the drug, for the injury or death. My favorite though, is when they tell me how wonderful some of their patients are doing on the particular drug that killed my dog and so many other dogs out there, as if that makes me feel better and trust their judgment on administering it more? Quite the opposite actually. If a vet dismisses my concerns or lacks any concern about a drug after I’ve told them that that particular drug killed my dog, and many others online, that tells me that this is yet another vet I have to be wary of administering something dangerous to my pets without hesitation or warning.
When we were told Cooper, our cat, had Cytauxzoonosis/Bobcat fever last year, which only has a 60% survival rate, it’s understandable that I wanted to increase his odds in any and every way possible. When, during my extensive research, I found out Monolaurin, a supplement that had been used in several cases in addition to the A&A protocol to successfully treat the disease, I, of course, wanted Cooper to get it also. Unfortunately, the vets attending to him in the hospital didn’t want to administer it to him for fear it would interact with the medications he was already on. They didn’t think about it, they didn’t research it, they didn’t ask a single question, they just said ‘No, they didn’t feel comfortable trying it’. Since I’d had my suspicions about Cooper even having the disease to begin with, I didn’t press, but if I had honestly felt that he had the disease and was showing the symptoms of the disease, I would not have taken their ‘No’ for an answer.
Cooper’s Cytauxzoonosis scare frightened me in more than a few ways. For one, we were told that first night that he FOR SURE had it after we’d asked in disbelief, “Is there any way he doesn’t have it?” and being told he did, before signing off on an estimated $1,900 treatment plan for him that included a possible blood transfusion. The vet there, at this teaching hospital, told us the blood work to confirm the initial diagnosis that had been done in-house would be sent off to have more in-depth testing done to confirm the results, but no details were given past that. As it turned out, the blood wasn’t just sent across town to the lab to be tested and returned in a day or two, as we’d believed was going to happen, but instead, it had to be FedEx’d to a lab several states away where they only test for the disease on certain days and it takes about two weeks for the results to be confirmed. That’s kind of important information you’d expect to be clarified during a meeting where you are given such scary awful news and treatment can cost thousands of dollars.
Having stayed up all night researching Cytauxzoonosis/Bobcat Fever online, I was afraid to go see Cooper the next day, fearing what kind of shape he might be in. Cooper greeted us with his signature headbutts, purring and massaging, which is NOT consistent with the Cytaux diagnosis. Because we were still under the belief that Cooper absolutely had this disease and the more in-depth test to prove it would be back any day, we left that night hopeful that we’d caught the disease early enough that he’d make it and not have a relapse.
The next day I returned for another visit with Cooper and unlike the previous day, where we’d just met with his caretaker only, this time I met with his vet. She told me that she wasn’t sure about the Cytaux diagnosis based on how great Cooper was doing, so in addition to Cytauxzoonosis, she had started treating him for Tularemia, another awful tick-borne disease that is actually transferrable to humans and requires gloves when handling the infected cat. She also divulged that the lab had temporarily lost Cooper’s blood sample, so there was a delay in getting it sent off for definite confirmation of either disease.
To keep this story somewhat shorter, Cooper came home the next day, 2.5 days after he was admitted to the hospital, with an over $1,700 vet bill and no signs or symptoms of either disease, besides a slight fever (so they said, but he acted normal). Nearly two weeks later, I received a call that Cooper’s test results for Tularemia were negative and a week after that, I got a call that his test for Cytauxzoonosis was also negative. In the end, Cooper was misdiagnosed twice, we were misled from the start about the accuracy of that in-house test, they ran out of one of the key meds that could have had fatal consequences if he’d actually had Cytauxzoonosis, he was basically overtreated by overzealous vets who acted like we had an open tab on his treatment and told us after the fact what they did, instead of calling us to discuss beforehand and we were overcharged with duplicate charges on several things that I discovered only after requesting a detailed breakdown of the bill and went through each item line by line.
In order to dispute the bill and let someone in charge know how awful our entire experience was from start to finish, I had to go to the Director of the hospital who blew off our initial agreed upon phone meeting date and insulted me with the tiny refund he was initially willing to give. Eventually, over a month after Cooper was discharged, we finally got the bill reduced to a somewhat reasonable amount, but it had taken many long, sleepless and stressful nights of writing very lengthy and detailed e-mails about all the ways in which we had been misled, our bill treated like an open tab with Cooper being a science experiment and the many mistakes made by almost everyone we came in contact with during that experience.
Will, who works in the service industry and talks to a lot of people on a daily basis, shared our saga with some of his customers and found that many people had similar experiences at that emergency hospital (one of the only options for after-hours treatment) of over-testing and treatment on things that were minor, resulting in a bill in the thousands. One lady I’d met in the waiting room and struck up an e-mail correspondence with, discovered during her own research, which included a consult with a Dr. at Purdue University regarding her dog’s bladder cancer diagnosis, that her dog was being given too much chemotherapy. It doesn’t exactly give one a warm and fuzzy feeling about anything with that hospital.
Of course, the vet just doing the bare minimum or brushing your pet’s issue off as just another minor ailment, can also be equally as costly, except in the way of your pet’s life. Last August, my almost 13 year old completely healthy Great Pyrenees suddenly began having trouble urinating and was not eating normally or moving as much as usual. I took her to the vet and asked for a blood and urine test, just to be sure and given her age. According to the vet, my senior dog just had a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). Not given any other reason for concern or worry, I left with some antibiotics for the UTI.
After the course of antibiotics, my dog still wasn’t 100%, so I did some research on UTI’s and put her on some supplements that I hoped would finish what the antibiotics had started in getting her feeling better and back to normal. While she continued to seem better with the urination issue, she still didn’t have much of an appetite, so I would try different foods prepared different ways, including homemade bone broth, to try to get her to take the supplements that I believed would get her back to her old self any day.
A couple of months later, my dog still wasn’t responding to the multiple supplements I had tried by now and had developed swelling in her back leg. Then the other leg began swelling. Obviously concerned now that this wasn’t just old age or even related to the UTI, back to the vet we went. This time, I met with a different vet in the clinic. She diagnosed my dog with either Lymphosarcoma or Transitional Cell Carcinoma (bladder cancer). She also told me that 50% of dogs over age 10 get cancer. I’d never heard that statistic before and was in disbelief that it wasn’t even on the other vet’s radar three months ago when we first came in. Sad, mad and frustrated after so many recent crummy vet experiences, I came home and started researching and ordering the most recommended cancer-fighting supplements for either of those diagnoses. Sadly, the cancer had progressed so far by that point that no amount of supplements I tried could save her and three weeks later, she was gone.
If you are lucky enough to have a vet that treats the whole animal, not just the symptoms, and also does it in a way that won’t cause harm to your pet, then consider yourself very lucky. However, if you are like me, with no holistic or very open-minded veterinarians near you, don’t be afraid or intimidated to question them about side effects or even request the drug sheet (like you get as a human being at the pharmacy with any prescription) of any meds they prescribe, and always perform a google search of the side effects of ANY drug they prescribe so you can make an educated decision about whether you are willing to risk the side effects, that can sometimes be fatal, or at least know what they are to watch for. If nothing else, write down the name of the medication they prescribe, go home and do a google search of it, and if you are ok with the side effects, then go back and purchase the pills, so you don’t wind up with a bottle of Deramaxx you won’t use, like I did.
Also, visit your local library or invest in some books on homeopathic treatment and be willing to put in the effort to do your own research or find someone (web savvy friend or relative) who can help you. Here’s my post reviewing the pet care books I own and reference: http://savingcatsdogsandcash.com/pet-care-reference-books-reviewed/. Being able to search online will also go far in your quest to be a more informed pet owner as you’ll have access to articles and studies (not paid for by pharmaceutical companies) that you’ll never see in the waiting room at your vet’s office. Ones like the dangers of over-vaccination or how to safely help your arthritic pet.
Whether it’s supplements, acupuncture, or switching to raw food, there are a number things that you can do to help your pet with their health issues without automatically turning to potentially dangerous pharmaceutical drugs. It may take some trial and error, but the satisfaction you’ll get when you are able to help your pet in a safer, more natural way, is worth it. And lastly, listen to your gut. Nobody knows your pet better than you.