Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Avoiding the Easy Land Mines...

My Jekyll, 'smiling' at his brother, Charlie, who is standing beside me debating
whether or not it's safe to claim his piece of the dog bed.

There are days that I want to walk out of the clinic, stand in the back field scream, "What the hell am I doing?"

Today was a day of nice people who all made what they thought were small and insignificant oversights that had grave consequences.

Today was a day where the pets pay for their parents poor judgement calls.

These are the cases where I take to the blog to once again try to prevent another avoidable landmine.

My Jitterbug,,happy to be in his moms lap.
Nothing is harder to do than to put a pet down because a person failed to provide them their basic needs.

To expand upon this further.. What the heck does it take to get everyone to just provide the most basic care? The simplest things can become utter catastrophic disasters of unimaginable proportions if people would just do the easiest and simplest of things.

Now, I understand that perhaps you all don't share my definition of basic needs?

This blog is all about sharing the disasters and potential landmines that I see in practice with all of you. In the simple hope that talking about one sad case might spur others to avoid these in the future.

I think about 'basic care for a pet' as the following;
  1. Adequate fresh clean water available at all times. Never restrict, and wash the bowl daily.
  2. Food that is adequate for the pets needs. It should be kept fresh, palatable and in sufficient amounts to meet their body requirements.  
  3. Shelter. Safe, enclosed, and with human beings. Not a tie out, a shed, a plastic house, and not in the extreme weather. If it is too hot or cold for you then it is the same for your pet. Wherever you seek refuge from the elements your pet should be. 
  4. Vaccinated for rabies, Distemper, Parvovirus, (we usually also throw in Adenovirus Type 2, and Parainfluenza), and Leptospirosis, and Lyme vaccine (if you live in one of these areas).
  5. Protected from heartworm disease.
  6. Protected from fleas and ticks (where found).
  7. Treated with love, respect, and compassion.
  8. Provided medical care routinely and when needed.
Not a long list. Nothing out of the ordinary, or beyond what a reasonable pet lover provides. So, why do I keep bumping into people who try to skimp on them?

My Wren, soaking up the summer sun.
Today I put a one year old kitten, still purring in my arms, to sleep. These are the cases where I affirm my grave concerns about whether I am cut out for this job.

His fate was decided on a few terrible decisions and a sad sequence of events. His first big strike against him was not being vaccinated for anything. Of greatest concern; he was not vaccinated for rabies.

The rest of his story;

He was an indoor-outdoor cat who was attacked by something. Something who tore up his back end and left him unable to find his way back home. After being outside for a few days he was found unable to walk, move, or respond to any stimuli other than touch. He was so weak he could barely lift his head. His wounds were now full of maggots. He was barely alive and needed emergency intensive care.

The dilemma of this vet?
  • What attacked him? 
  • Is it survivable?
  • Will his family be able to afford the many hundreds  of dollars that his case requires?
  • Will he have to be in rabies quarantine for 6 months?
  • Will his family be able to do this?
Would being vaccinated for rabies have changed this kittens predicament? Well, it would have alleviated us from having to address how the family was going to resolve the last two questions. It might have been enough to give him a chance at starting a treatment plan. Maybe if he had responded well to fluids and antibiotics and minimal emergency care we could have saved him? He is a cat, we always have to give a cat a chance. There's a reason we say that they have 9 lives. Many cats can survive and flourish after the most devastating of disasters. 

It is a very difficult discussion to have as a kitten struggles to survive in front of you. In a matter of a few minutes I have to try to be the pets advocate, the clients liaison between the state and federal laws about rabies suspect/unknown cases, and the safety and health of the family. Two of these hats I do not care to wear. I do not want to try to speak for the Health Department, nor do I want to jeopardize the health of a family. But to do this I often know that the pet will pay for the shadow of  a tiny speck of suspicion and unlikely possibility that these wounds were caused by a rabid animal.

So I am left with trying to be open, honest, and realistic...oh, ho I sometimes hate realism.. I present all of the information that I can on the case, and try to help an owner make a difficult decision, and I have to believe that this kittens life was not forgettable, irrelevant, and dismissed as collateral damage to a public who just doesn't....well, what exactly is it?

Is it that they don't know otherwise?

Is it that they haven't learned the same hard lessons I have?

I don't know?

Now, I am going to make a few assumptions. These are also based on my experience. In general, it takes a person who gives a damn to bring their pet to see me. I have to always remember that. I can be sad, disappointed, frustrated, and asked to participate in some hard tasks, but the person who walks in our door cares more than some. Build a bridge, extend a helping hand, be the light, and try to help those that come after.

But I keep hoping that there will be a someday when people aren't risking their pets lives, their own lives and still having to learn the same lessons over and over again..

If you have a pet question you can find me at Pawbly is a place where people can ask or answer any pet question. The premise is simple, just provide a place where pet lovers can help other pet lovers. It is free for everyone to use.

Or you can find me on Twitter @FreePetAdvice. Or occassionally you can find me screaming in the back field of Jarrettsville Vet, in Jarrettsville Maryland.

And please, vaccinate your pets for rabies. Every year we have one positive rabies case. Rabies can, and will, kill you. It is a deadly disease spread by the saliva of a rabid animal. To complicate this, many people are exposed without ever knowing that the animal they touched was rabid. It can take many months for a rabid pet to show symptoms, and even when they do, it can be difficult to recognize. What you think is a wounded, quiet, or even normal, looking animal can be a positive rabid animal. One lick, bite, or interaction with this animal can kill you. Rabies is required in the US because it can save our lives.

For more information on rabies please visit;

Rabies and Your Life on the Line

The Rabies Raccoon Seven

CDC data on rabies

Charlie, who decided it's safer on the floor.
Related Posts;

Wren, The Sickest Kitten of Them ALL.

Boo Gets Better.

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