Monday, March 23, 2009

Struggling economy affecting pets’ health

Unfortunately these days it has become a common topic almost daily written about in every newspaper nationwide and on every pet related news website: The state of our economy also hits home with every pet owner. Just a brief comment unrelated to pet nutrition: I strongly believe it would help a great deal if the media would report in a more optimistic manner on what is going on with our economy. If one gets up every morning and starts reading and listening to the news, being confronted with bad news over and over again, it does not come as a surprise to me that nobody is willing to do anything positive, everybody gets depressed before the day even starts. Sure, there is a lot of negative to report about, but gee, there is also positive happening and a little cheering would probably work wonders. Our government officials should do the same: Look back in history and every bad event happening. Regardless of how bad it was and how “down” we were as a nation, if the President said “let’s get our act together and move on in a positive spirit. We can do it”, then things usually started turning around. What happened to our President’s positive “let’s do it because we can” pre-election attitude? We need some more of that. The world didn’t (and for a matter of fact never does) come to an end. Just a thought on the side…
Now back to what really counts: The matter of our healthy pets.
Swansea resident Brian J. Lowney, past president of the Wampanoag Kennel Club and an active dog show judge who shares his home with two shelter adopted cats wrote for the pet column of South Coast Today:
One emergency veterinarian reports that the nation's struggling economy is also affecting our pets.
Dr. Michelle Lampe, president of the Mass.-RI Veterinary ER in Swansea, says that she's seen an increase in the number of pets with treatable conditions being euthanized because owners can't afford surgery or prolonged treatment programs.
The veterinarian adds that she also has received numerous calls from owners seeking advice about treating sick cats and dogs with over-the-counter medications such as Advil and Tylenol or their own prescription drugs. One caller asked if it was ok to give Percocet to an animal that was suffering from intense pain.
"They want to do something for their pets," Dr. Lampe acknowledges. "The bottom line is that no one should give their animal anything unless a veterinarian has given the animal a physical exam."
The veterinarian explains that it's less expensive to treat a sick pet with appropriate medications rather than pay for drug intoxication or poisoning, if the animal survives the ordeal.
"It's not legal to prescribe medication for an animal that we've never seen, and it's not good medicine," Dr. Lampe emphasizes, adding it can be potentially harmful to offer advice based on an owner's assessment of a condition rather than on the results of an examination and diagnostic tests.
Dr. Lampe notes that when pet owners face difficult economic times, they often choose less expensive brands of cat and dog foods that have little nutritional value. These foods are made from cheaper cuts of meat and grains, and often lack vital nutrients.
"Don't be tempted to switch back and forth," Dr. Lampe warns, noting that abrupt changes in a pet's diet can cause painful gastrointestinal upsets.
"Sometimes people end up spending dollars to save cents," she continues, noting that it's wiser to invest in a quality brand dog food than in a less expensive brand made with fillers that makes a pet so sick that the poor creature requires medical attention.
"Don't always go for cheaper," Dr. Lampe advises. She recommends comparing prices at supermarkets, large volume discount chains and pet supply stores. Smart shoppers can use coupons or purchase cases of premium cat food or large bags of quality dog food and share the cost and contents with a relative or friend who feeds the same brand.
The emergency veterinarian comments that tough times often force owners to neglect preventive care such as inoculations, heartworm treatment and spaying or neutering.
"These decisions could cost money in the long run, Dr. Lampe says, adding that unspayed female pets are prone to developing painful and repetitive uterine infections. Pets not vaccinated for rabies run the risk of contracting the potentially fatal disease.
"Try to save money in smart places, and don't be afraid to consult a veterinarian if your pet needs help," she advises.
Dr. Lampe adds that the holiday seasons are a busy time of year for most veterinarians. "We get a lot of holiday related problems," Dr. Lampe says, noting that many cats love to eat tinsel, which can lodge in the intestines and cause blockages. Some animals develop severe pancreatitis after devouring turkey grease and scraps of other rich foods served at holiday gatherings.
While Dr. Lampe doesn't advocate feeding table scraps, she says it's ok to offer your pet a small slice or two of cooled roasted chicken. She warns owners never to give pets chocolate, which contains theobromine that spikes an animal's blood pressure and heart rate and causes seizures.
The veterinarian warns owners never to give pets a piece of Styrofoam as a substitute for a toy. It can cause choking. She also cautions pet lovers not to let their four-footed friends drink water from a Christmas tree stand. Stagnant tree water or water containing preservatives could result in stomach upsets.
The recent cold snap has forced field mice to flee indoors. Dr. Lampe says that pet owners should be observant and make sure that pets don't eat the pellets that have been put down to kill the destructive rodents.
"Rat poison is made to kill small animals," she emphasizes. "If your pet ingests the poison, it could be fatal." Only anti-coagulant rat poison can be effectively treated with an antidote, Dr. Lampe states. Other types, if ingested, will cause death.
She adds that many owners take the "wait and see" approach when a pet has ingested a toxic substance. One man recently waited four days after his dog had eaten rat poison. By the time the pet was brought to the emergency clinic, there was widespread hemorrhaging and the animal was near death. Luckily, the dog survived.
Dr. Lampe says that before buying a pet, the cost of food, grooming and veterinary care during the animal's lifetime should be considered carefully.
"People should see if they can afford a pet," she advises. "If they can't, they shouldn't buy one. People are dumping their pets left and right because they can't afford to feed them."
I am kind of glad that someone finally said what was said here in the last sentence. I have to admit, I really feel the very same way. People all too easy forget that animals are living creatures and not just toys, which after initial interest and excitement and after reality sets in can be set aside like a puppet or remote controlled toy car. Or for that matter of fact a home or car which one couldn’t afford to begin with. That is basically wrong with too many people within our society: Too easy obligations are entered into and when it gets serious it is being left up to others to pick up the slack. But it will never change as long as they are allowed to act this way and as long as these people too easy get away with their irresponsibility. Only problem I see with our poor animals: I have not seen them being part of any federal bail out package. Just another side note…

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