Preventative Care and Vet Expenses

Meya spends most summers itching, and most of the first year I had her.

Meya scratched so much at her itchy skin that she created scabs all over her face and throat, when is a dog itchy enough for a trip to the vet?

One of the paradoxes I find in pet ownership is the conflict between not wanting to spend a fortune on them and wanting them to be healthy and safe. When I discussed the need to have Oscar’s teeth cleaned with the vet, I told him that a drawback from having the procedure was that it was SO expensive. Easily running 500$ just for Oscar’s procedure. He told me it didn’t have to be that expensive, that they could just do the anesthesia and the teeth polishing, for about half of the cost. Great news, right? Dental health is important, why shouldn’t I jump right on this?

Well here’s the thing, anesthesia is dangerous, surgery is dangerous. Oscar is an old dog, but he is MY old dog, and my responsibility. Even though I know that bad dental health in a dog can contribute to all kinds of other issues, the idea of hypothetical kidney damage or infection seem less scary then the real danger of a dog going into cardiac arrest under anesthesia. How could I put my dog into real immediate danger to prevent some possible future danger, especially when for a little more money I could take steps to lessen this danger by doing blood tests, IV fluids, and so on when being put under anesthesia? (especially since I read this blog post on pet anesthesia) So I could have spent less and had the procedure, but instead of 150-300$, I’ll be spending 400-600$.

Similarly, a coworker of mine always marvels that I take my dog to the vet at all. When I mentioned the need to get Oscar’s teeth clean, which I’d discussed with the vet when I took Oscar in for his parvo/distemper booster, she asked why in the world someone would go to the vet for a vaccine. She told me her sister showed her how to give the shot and she could get the vaccine from the feed store. Her dogs never went to the vet at all, and they were perfectly healthy their whole lives. While she concluded I might be squeamish about needles, that is not the real reason I take my dogs in for regular vet visits. Do it yourself vet medicine is undoubtedly cheaper, and as I look back, there really hasn’t been a moment where I can say “oh my dogs would be dead if I hadn’t taken them to the vet then.” Even Meya’s eyes probably would be the same with or without the vet and eye drops. But hindsight is 20/20, now I can say the dogs would probably have been fine without a vet, just as Oscar might not need the additional monitoring and tests.

Oscar is too lazy and anxious to wander far, but unless he is in the fenced back yard he is always on a tether--why risk his getting run over?

Preventative medicine is always an unknown value. If you take vitamins and not get sick, did the vitamins help or would you have not gotten sick in the first place. But avoiding preventative check ups or not getting the extra monitoring during surgery, is like sending your child bike riding without a helmet, putting your infant in the back of the car without a carseat or safety belt. Your kid might be fine, they might never fall of their bike or slip off their seat, but if they did and were hurt or died, how would a parent live with themselves. Of course a vet, like helmets and knee pads can’t prevent all injuries, but if taking my dogs to the vet have helped them to avoid metaphorical skinned knees and bumped heads, than it is worth it to me to know that I have done as much as I can. Once the surgery is over, and Oscar comes home fine and healthy, I’ll never know if he really needed those tests and monitors, but I’ll know that I needed them so that I could justify putting him in danger.

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