Sunday, February 26, 2012
Health care for our animals
Do you have a pet? I had a dog for many years. He died two and a half years ago. Since then, I've been conflicted about whether or not to take on another for many reasons. One of the major reasons I have hesitated is because the world of veterinary science has become as over medicalized and expensive as human health monitoring. In some ways it's even worse, as most vets insist that we coat our animals with poison on the outside to protect against fleas and ticks, and on the inside, to prevent heart worm. This well accepted practice of routinely poisoning our animals goes against everything I believe about good health, and yet I was shamed by a number of vets when I admitted that I didn't give my dog the heart worm medicine in the winter when there are no mosquitoes.
Likewise I think we over-immunize our animals. Even when my dog was an old, feeble dude, they wanted to pump him full of rabies vaccine. There was no way, at that point, that Jake could ever have behaved in such a way as to develop rabies. It's very extreme and to my mind, cruel. And we wonder why so many animals become cancerous! Good lord.
I'm thinking about it today because friends mentioned that their dog has been throwing up every day for a month. After $500 worth of tests, the vet says the dog is fine, but of course he's NOT fine. Even though his blood tests and x-rays are clear, something is very wrong. My friends are bewildered, wondering if they should continue with the testing (because of course there are further tests that can be done, to "rule out" a number of problems.) They could rack up a bill of several thousand dollars if they pursue the diagnostics. While they wonder how to proceed, their dog suffers. This makes me crazy.
There are a number of "alternative" vets in the DC area who use herbs, acupuncture and homeopathics to treat animals, but most of them insist that people go the medical testing route before coming to see them. The field of "alternative" veterinary science is small and is still in its infancy since, fifty years ago, when your dog got sick, you simply had him put down.
One thing I can say for vets is that they do get to know their patients, so that helps. However when push comes to shove, when no one can figure out what's wrong with the animal, or when it becomes old and feeble, the decision about when to euthanize falls squarely on the beleaguered shoulders of the pet's owner. In France it's customary to allow the vet to decide when to euthanize. Someone who studied this approach reported that pet owners were free to grieve the loss of their pets and were less likely to blame themselves for deciding "too soon" or "too late" to have their animals euthanized.
I highly recommend to all pet owners the book "Four Paws, Five Directions" by Cheryl Schwartz, a vet in the San Francisco Bay area. Here is a link to the book. I used the book almost constantly throughout my dog's lifetime, often with success especially when Jake was a young dog with a very dodgy stomach.
Dogs and cats are good for us. In study after study it has been shown that people who have pets are the better for it on many levels including physically. Ah but when the pet becomes ill, how does a person such as myself proceed, because I wouldn't pursue the western options for my own ailments except as a last resort. I depend on my doctor of Chinese medicine, my osteopath and the massage therapists I see to keep me well and happy. That route isn't possible with animals at this moment in time. Hence, I remain petless.
Do you have a pet? How do you deal with the inevitable ills and injuries your animal sustains? Will you give your dog or cat a scratch behind the ears for me? Thanks and Shalom.