Vets, owners face tough choices
October 3, 2008 · Updated 1:13 AM
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