Thursday, April 23, 2009

Being Your Pet’s Advocate

As pet owners, we are responsible for our pet’s care and feeding. This includes veterinary care as well. While we don’t actually provide the care itself, we are responsible for making sure our pets have regular vet visits, that their vaccinations are up to date and that their overall health is good. You don’t need to use the most expensive vet you can find, but you need to make sure the vet you pick understands your pet and their specific individual needs. 
If you have children, you probably looked long and hard to find a pediatrician to fit their needs. You should look at your pet’s veterinarian in the same light. For example, will the office hours fit in with your schedule? Do they have emergency hours or are they open on Saturdays? Are they open to alternative forms of treatment, if that is what you are interested in? Will they listen to your explanations or will they expect you to follow what they want you to do?
On Easter Sunday evening I found a lump the size of a medium sized egg under Skye’s jaw. I was flabbergasted as I had just put a new collar on her four days before and there was no lump there then. After calming myself down, I immediately called the breeder to discuss the situation. The breeder felt that it was probably an enlarged lymph node. We discussed the options, as Skye’s regular vet is about an hour an a half away. So we decided that I would call the local vet I had used for my other dogs and see if he could see Skye on Monday morning. 
Here is where being your dog’s advocate comes in. I kept Skye’s original vet because they knew her history and when I had an initial interview with my local vet about Skye when she first came to live with me, he was questioning why she was not on more modern drug therapies for her seizure issues. The local vet felt that Skye would be better served if she was on a more modern drug and not one that had been used since the turn of the twentieth century. I felt that you use what works and if an older drug was keeping her from having seizures, I was not going to play with her medications. So I personally felt more comfortable with going back to the original vet Skye had and we go back to him every six months for her blood tests.
I was able to get Skye in to see my local vet on Monday afternoon. I have gotten to know Skye’s body language pretty well and she was uncomfortable about being at the local vet’s office. While we were waiting to see him, Skye began pacing around the exam room like a tiger in a cage at the zoo. Not only that, she began to shed profusely, not just a few hairs here and there but lots of hair. It looked like I had never brushed her at all. Pacing and shedding are both signs of stress, so Skye my normally calm, people loving dog was not having a good time; and we hadn’t even seen the vet yet.
When we got to see the vet, he aspirated the lump under Skye’s jaw and after looking at a slide determined that it was not a lymph node, but an encapsulated abscess with no draining tracts, as he found pus in the sample. In laymen’s terms, Skye had gotten something under her skin and her body trying to protect itself, walled the foreign body off much like an oyster with a grain of sand in itself does. I was told that it had probably been there for two to three weeks. I found this hard to imagine and explained about the new collar and the fact that I would have notice something to the vet but he felt that I could have missed it.
Now I am having doubts about my care of this wonderful dog and how could I have not seen something? I asked the vet what he would suggest and he felt that the lump should be removed. The vet put Skye on amoxicillin for the infection. So I scheduled Skye for surgery for two days later and went home with her. I called the breeder as soon as I got home to discuss what the vet had mentioned. I discussed my misgivings and feelings and she said she would call the vet that Skye had been seeing and would get back to me.
Please remember this: As your pet’s advocate you are entitled to a second, even a third or fourth opinion, whatever it takes to get and keep your pet healthy. Don’t stop at just one if you are having doubts or issues with what you are being told. The hardest part is that you have to get past your own emotions and do what is best for your pet, and if you are not happy with the first diagnosis or have questions, get a second opinion. As your pet’s advocate you have this right, and this is the most important thing to remember.
This story has a happy ending. I was able to get Skye in to see her regular vet. It was not an abscess, it was an enlarged lymph node and Skye did not have to go under anesthesia, which could have sent her into a seizure, though I did not know that at the time. We still don’t know what caused the infection, but now my little girl is just as sassy and demanding as she was before she got sick, and I learned first hand what being your pet’s advocate means.

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