Vets, owners face tough choices

I am writing in response to Bill Shardelman's letter [Jan. 18],

"Losing a four-legged friend." I am one of the veterinarians who

worked with Bill when his dog Spike was in the hospital after having

been hit by a car.

As it was in Spike's case, a fracture repair may not be able

to be performed in our clinic because it requires special equipment

or training to perform. Ideally, such cases would go to a surgery

specialist, but that can cost $1,500 or more. In these cases, we try

to call around and find a doctor who can do the surgery for the

money available or who would be willing to arrange a payment plan

for the surgery. In some cases, though, even this lower fee is

too much for the family to pay.

Amputation is a life-saving option for many such pets.

Most cats and dogs do great on three legs and go on to live

healthy, pain-free lives. In some older patients, especially labs and

shepherds and other dogs prone to hip dyplasia, amputation is not

a good choice, even though it is a less-expensive alternative.

Spike's story is a sad one, but unfortunately it isn't an

uncommon one. The number of animals who are hit by cars is truly

staggering — we usually see one per week in our clinic. And as

North Bend grows and traffic increases, that number is on the rise.

Often, as in Spike's case, the family cannot pay the

hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars required to save the pet's

life. Shelter programs, such as PAWS, are often filled to capacity,

leaving the family and veterinarian in a heart-wrenching, no-win


Most of these tragedies could be prevented by fences

and leashes. Many people think that dogs "know" to stay out of

the street, or "learn the hard way." In fact, the first accident is often

fatal, and many of our patients have been hit more than once. Car

accidents are not the only danger faced by roaming dogs and

cats. Dog and cat fights, diseases (ranging from parasites to feline

leukemia), coyotes and other dangers await our four-legged

friends when they wander. Our pets can't comprehend the risks they are

taking by leaving the yard. It is up to us to protect them.

As veterinarians, we do our best to be the spokesmen for

the animals. We always recommend what we feel is best for the

pet, and try to offer lower-cost options for the families that need

them. Simple solutions, like keeping our dogs on leashes, can help our

pets live longer, healthier lives.

Dr. Stephanie Medlock

North Bend

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