Avoiding the High Cost of Emergency Visits

There is never a good time for an animal to get sick, but the period after the holidays seems to be the worst possible time for it to happen.  People are the strapped for cash after buying gifts, and still awaiting their tax returns.  As Murphy’s Law would have it, this would be when your animal gets sick, or after having a car repair done, or some other large expense.

Even if you have a perfectly healthy animal, I would recommend having a back up plan for an unforeseen illness.  My uncle recently had to take his dog to the emergency vet, $1200 Sick Doglater she is doing much better, but he had to put it on his credit card.  He is happy that she is doing well, but that was an expense he wasn’t expecting.  I tell some of my clients to start a “college fund” for their puppy.  If you are able, start a savings account dedicated to emergencies or even annual visits for your pet.  It is much easier to save $25 a month, than to have to pay $400 up front.

Nowadays, very few vets offer payment plans.  Much like the government and banking system, it caused wrenches in small business, to allow people to carry balances, some which were never payed off.  There are other options that many veterinarians will offer.  The most popular one tends to be Care Credit.  It is a credit card that provides a line of credit to veterinarian and healthcare facilities with no interest for up to a year.  Pet insurance can also be helpful in some cases. While you still have to pay the veterinarian, you may get reimbursed for a portion of the bill.  Pet insurance can be helpful for certain breeds that are pre-disposed to costly medical problems.  The carriers we recommend are VPI, ASPCA, and Trupanion.  I advise checking online forums to see which one sounds best for you and your pet.

While our goal is always preventative healthcare, unexpected illnesses can occur.  It is unfortunate when people bring their pets in and can’t afford the tests we veterinarians recommend to help diagnose and treat the illness.  Having a financial back up plan or savings account is highly recommended, so that we can provide the best care possible for your furry family member.

Lauren Hessey, DVM

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Holiday Hazards & Pets

It’s about to be the most wonderful time of the year.  It can also be a dangerous time for our pets.  There are many things that they can get into, or be given that can cause them to get sick, and potentially be hospitalized over  the holidays.

Veterinarians tend to see the most chocolate toxicities around Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine’s day.  With all the baking of Christmas cookies, it is very important to keep chocolate out of your pets reach.  Baker’s and dark/semi chocolate can cause the worst toxicity.  This is because the darker the chocolate, the the more concentrated it is.  More cocoas means more caffeine and theobromine, both stimulants. Toxic doses of theobromine are 9 mg per pound of dog for mild signs, up to 18 mg per pound of dog for severe signs.  Milk chocolate contains 44 mg per ounce of theobromine, while semisweet chocolate contains 150 mg per ounce, and baking chocolate contains 390 mg per ounce.  Chocolate toxicity can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, seizures, arrhythmias, and in severe cases, death.  If you suspect your furry friend has gotten into some chocolate, please seek veterinary care immediately.

Another common occurrence around the holidays, are dogs purposely or accidentally getting fed turkey bones, ham bones, or gravy.  While the thought may be that wild animals eat bones and dogs used to be wolves, we have adapted them to no longer tolerate these things well.  Shards of bone can cause microscopic or larger tears in the stomach and intestinal lining.  A larger bone could even penetrate the intestine and cause peritonitis (inflammation of the abdominal cavity), which  can make your pet very sick.  Bones that are too large to pass could cause an obstruction and require surgical removal.  It’s also common for people to want to give their pets a special treat on Thanksgiving or Christmas, by adding a little gravy to their pet’s food.  The fatty content of gravy can really upset your cat/dog’s digestive tract.  It can also lead to pancreatitis.  Pancreatitis is caused when an animal takes in a fatty meal and it becomes inflamed and releases excessive amounts of pancreatic enzymes in to the abdomen and bloodstream.  This can be painful, as well as cause your pet to feel badly.  Most animals require hospitalization, IV fluids, IV antibiotics and pain medications to help treat pancreatitis. 

If you want to show your pet extra love around the holidays, do so with a walk, a trip to the dog park, or a treat that is made especially for them.  Avoid giving them something that could cause them to get sick.

Lauren Hessey, DVM

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Vaccinating Your Kitten or Puppy

As a veterinarian I often hear the question, why are kittens and puppies vaccinated so many times when they are young? A common misconception about kitten and puppy vaccines is that it is the veterinarian’s way of making money.  If this were the case, I may not have vaccinated my own cats and dogs several times, but I did.  The diseases that we are vaccinating against are highly contagious and can be fatal.

Some people may think that parvo and distemper, both feline and canine versions, are a thing of the past.  While we don’t see the number of cases that we used to, we still see cases, and in fact the past week I have seen both a puppy parvo case and a feline distemper case.  The reason they are not so prevalent is because of our vaccine protocols.  One vaccine in a young animal is not enough.  Vaccines always need boosters in order to develop full immunity.  Vaccines work to stimulate the immune system to develop antibodies to fight off infectious diseases.  Antibodies only stick around for so long, and that is why we have to booster some vaccines on an annual basis in our adult animals.

puppykittenWhen any young animal is born, it is fed colostrum from its mother.  Colostrum is an antibody rich milk, that contains antibodies from the mother that can help protect the offspring from fatal diseases.  We consider these their maternal antibodies.  There is a variation in the amount of time that these antibodies will last for.  We don’t know exactly when they wear off, but it is between 6-12 weeks until the animal is about 16 weeks of age, to be sure they develop full immunity.  Some breeders will administer vaccines before the animal is 6 weeks; this can be detrimental and cause the animals to develop diseases.  Vaccines generally contain live viruses and should be handled and stored carefully, as well as administered by a licensed veterinarian.

Our furbabies are as much as an investment as our human ones.  The cost does not end with adoption fee or the fee to the breeder.  While the repeated kitten and puppy visits seem to be costly to some, the treatment of these diseases can be triple the cost of those visits.  Treatment of these diseases are generally supportive, there is no cure, just like most viruses.  It can be heartbreaking to veterinarians, their staff, and owners, knowing that these diseases could have been prevented.  The life of a furry addition to your family is priceless, so please vaccinate your pet.

Lauren Hessey, DVM

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2013 Howl-O-Ween Costume Contest

It’s that time of year again!  Howl-ween is almost here, and we would like to celebrate by offering you a chance to win our annual costume contest!

Submit a photo of your furry friend dressed to impress to our office located at 9300 Monroe Road, Charlotte, NC 28270, or post it on-line on our Facebook wall.

The winner will receive a $100 account credit to use on services or products at Compassionate Care Veterinary Hospital (some restrictions apply.)

We will be accepting entries until 12:00pm on October 31st.  We can not wait to see the results!

For more information call us at 704-847-4796.

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Annual Visits & Vaccinations Can Prevent Hefty Medical Bills

By Lauren Hessey, DVM

In these trying economic times, it is not uncommon for people to justify not seeking veterinary care for their animals because they look healthy.  While your animal may look healthy to you, there are many things that may not be outwardly obvious that your veterinarian can detect with a thorough physical exam, annual blood work, and checking a fecal sample.

examPeople may also think, “My animal doesn’t go outdoors a lot or around other animals, so there is no need to keep it current on vaccines.”  This is a very common misconception, especially for people that own indoor cats.  While a cat that lives primarily indoors is at a decreased risk of contracting certain diseases, some of the viruses can be hardy and survive in an environment for months to years.  Also, if your cat is like mine and dying to get outdoors, if not properly vaccinated, all it takes is one encounter of the wrong kind.  The reason these vaccines are given is to prevent diseases that if contracted could be fatal to your pet.  These diseases are not a prevalent as they were in the past due to the diligence of routine vaccination.  Some vaccines, such as Leptospirosis and Rabies are given to prevent diseases that can be transmitted to people.  For this reason, rabies vaccination is required by law, whether your pet lives indoors or out.  If your pet’s rabies vaccine is not up to date or has never been done and it bites someone, it could undergo a lengthy quarantine or potentially be euthanized.

Routine blood work performed at an annual exam can detect early onset of certain diseases.  Generally, if an organ is showing signs of compromise, the sooner it is detected and treatment initiated, the better the outcome.  If the blood work comes back normal, then great!  Your veterinarian will then have a good baseline of what normal is in your pet.  Therefore, if they ever become sick, then a better assessment of abnormal values can be made.  Blood work is especially important in our senior pets and may need to be performed bi annually.  Cats and dogs age at a much faster rate than people.  Can you imagine if you only saw your doctor every 3-7 years??

A fecal flotation will detect whether your animal is harboring intestinal parasites.  Some of these parasites can be transmitted to people.  Children and elderly or immune compromised people tend to be at higher risk for diseases that are transmitted from animals to people.

I recently read a comment to a veterinary article that made my blood boil a little.  It stated that the canine influenza vaccine was developed in order for veterinarians and vaccine companies to make money.  It is a personal goal of mine to advise my clients of the best medicine and recommend devices that I would provide my own pets.  If you are struggling to make ends meet, have a conversation with you veterinarian.  We are understanding, compassionate people.  We will do our best to work with you.  You may be able to split your visits or services up so you can spread out the cost.

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Why is Senior Bloodwork So Important for My Pet?

seniorAnimals age at a much faster rate than humans do.  If your pet is only visiting the veterinarian once a year, that is equivalent to 5-7 years of aging!  Senior blood work helps us detect if there are any internal changes that are not so obvious to you or to us. Cats and dogs are very stoic in nature, and don’t always let us know when something is going on internally.  Since they can’t tell us how they are feeling, it is important for veterinarians to be able to perform blood work.  Geriatric feline patients in particular are prone to a subset of diseases that are detected via senior blood profiles.

Senior blood work profiles, generally includes a complete blood count, a chemistry, and urinalysis.   The complete blood count checks the red blood cell count, platelets, and white blood cells.  It can indicate whether an animal is anemic, or if there is an underlying infection.  It can also help us detect certain types of cancer, such as lymphoma.  The chemistry panel measures a variety of parameters.  It checks the blood protein levels, liver enzymes, kidney values, pancreatic enzymes, and electrolytes. A urinalysis can aid in diagnosis of kidney disease, urinary tract infections, protein loss in the urine, and bladder or kidney stones.

A lot of the diseases that senior blood work detects for are manageable or treatable, if diagnosed at an early stage.  The sooner we detect any changes in your geriatric pet’s internal organs, the better the outcome.  It is also always good to have a baseline measurement as to what is normal for your pet.

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