Does Pet Death or Euthanasia Teach Kids a Life Lesson? The Irreverent Vet Speaks Out

A client caught me off guard last week. While giving their dog a routine examination the owner said, “Doc, do you think it is good for kids to be there when a pet dies?” It can seem like an odd question but it’s one I’ve heard before. Today I want to talk about what effect this “life lesson” could really have on children.

Before I go any further, let me introduce myself for those of you that don’t know me. I’m the Irreverent Veterinarian and I give you my honest opinion of issues in the animal care world. Some might say that I’m honest to a fault. I speak my mind and I won’t sweet-talk you or sugarcoat the truth. I tell it like it is – to you, the drug companies, the pet product manufacturers, professional breeders and pet owners. Some of what I say can be controversial, but that doesn’t stop me—it can be hard to hear the truth.

So back to the topic – is it a good idea for kids to witness a pet die, either naturally or through euthanasia? Well, every situation is different and in my opinion, it really depends on the child. Even then, it can be a very traumatic lesson indeed.

For example, when I was just out of veterinary school one of my first duties was to euthanize a very old dog. The owner had a 3-year-old and insisted that her child be present during the procedure. I was hesitant but the parent knows best, right? The owner explained what was happening by telling the little girl that their dog was “going to sleep.” Two weeks later the client called me for help; her daughter was now crying and crying when it was bedtime because she didn’t want to “go to sleep” and never wake up. I felt so bad for the little girl and for her mother too.

In hindsight, it is clear that the little girl was too young to understand what was happening and should not have been present. In general, I think kids under the age of 12 can find death and euthanasia disturbing even if they understand the concept. (Some vets say 14 years is a better age.) This will depend on the child’s maturity level as well. No matter what age you decide is right, I think an honest and open discussion is the best approach. It’s best not to use words like “going to sleep”; even though it can be difficult to talk about a beloved pet’s death so frankly, unclear wording can confuse children.

What age do you think is appropriate to allow a child to witness euthanasia? I want to know what you think. Send us your comments @ timo@petplace.com.

My Final Thoughts on Whether Pet Death or Euthanasia Teaches Kids Life Lessons

I think that seeing all phases of life and death can help a child understand the world and prepare them for the future. The first time that they encounter death can be very upsetting, especially if it involves a pet that they love very much.

Does witnessing death, particularly euthanasia, help children? Depending on how it’s presented as well as their age and maturity, I think it can. I don’t think it should be the first time that they discuss or encounter death but it’s not a perfect world and things don’t always happen as we want.

I definitely don’t think that very young children should be in the room when an animal dies though. It’s just too upsetting for them and they often don’t really understand what’s happening. Some people think that kids can only understand death by seeing it happen but I totally disagree. If you believe that do you think all kids should be marched through prison so they can understand crime and punishment? It just doesn’t seem right.

Tell us your thoughts. Did you witness a pet’s death as a child or as a parent? Take our poll. If you have comments please leave them below in the article.

If you are struggling to find the best way to discuss euthanasia with your child, www.petplace.com has articles, which can help. We have been the #1 leader in pet health information for over 20 years now with over 11,000 articles.

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Do Dogs Die In Their Sleep? The Irreverent Vet Speaks Out

Many dog owners will one day face the sad fact that their animal companions are ill and will die soon. A large number of them express the desire to have their dog quietly and mercifully die at home “in their sleep.” This conjures up peaceful notions for pet parents of a solemn and gentle passing.

But what’s the reality? Do dogs really die peacefully in their sleep?

Before I go any further, let me introduce myself for those of you who don’t know me. I’m the Irreverent Veterinarian, and I give you my honest opinion on issues in the animal care world. Some might say that I’m honest to a fault. I speak my mind and I won’t sweet-talk you or sugarcoat the truth. I tell it like it is: to you, the drug companies, the pet product manufacturers, professional breeders, and pet owners. Some of what I say can be controversial, but that doesn’t stop me—it can be hard to hear the truth.

How Long Are Dogs Sick Before They Die?

Death isn’t always swift and graceful. Sick dogs can be ill for hours, days, or even weeks. It can vary from pet to pet, so one might succumb after only a brief illness while another will languish for much longer.

A dog that is so ill that you think it is destined to die likely has no quality of life. If a pet is doing poorly and looks like he or she is “dying,” there’s a very good chance that they are uncomfortable, in pain and unhappy. Their breath might be labored and their body may hurt. Their mind can be clouded and their temper can be short. A dog that is not eating, having trouble breathing, acting lethargic or weak, can’t stand and walk, can’t control urine or bowel movements, or is unconscious is “suffering”. If a dog can’t sleep without discomfort or difficulty, that is suffering too. All in all, they are no longer enjoying their life to any real degree.

Some pet parents have no intention of providing additional veterinary care for their dog. They want their dog to peacefully die. This happens in a number of situations. Perhaps they have limited financial resources or the pet is an injured stray they have found. Maybe they have already treated the dog and it either hasn’t responded to therapy or has a terminal condition. However it happens, these animals often end up in prolonged discomfort or pain because of their owners.

Should You Wait for Your Dog to Die in His or Her Sleep?

If a dog is suffering, “dying naturally” can take a very long time and it can be very painful. Many owners say that they want to give their pet “time to say goodbye” but in the opinion of most veterinarians, you are a kinder friend to your dog by euthanizing and ending their life. An extra few hours or days of suffering isn’t any reasonable quality of life for the dog. It is good only for the humans who are prolonging the dog’s pain for their own needs.

The Conclusion

The expectation that your dog will “die in their sleep” can happen, but it is generally uncommon. It is more likely that a dog dies because they aren’t eating and they get progressive dehydration, which is uncomfortable and painful. It is nice to want your dog to die at home but please consider euthanasia if it is at all likely. You have the power to put a peaceful end to your pet’s suffering; doing so may be your last act of love for them.

Disclaimer **The Irreverent Vet is a columnist that regularly contributes to PetPlace.com. The goal is to add a balanced and alternative view of some controversial pet issues. As happens with all of us, veterinarians can’t say what they really think without offending some clients. This commentary allows vets to say what they think and give you, the pet owner, the opportunity to consider another view. All opinions are those of the Irreverent Vet and not the views of PetPlace.com and are not endorsed by PetPlace.com.**

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To Neuter or Not to Neuter – What You Should Know

Is neutering good for your dog or cat or is it dangerous? Are there adverse consequences to neutering? Most of us have been told for years that neutering is good and prevents many health problems, but are there negative effects of neutering? The answer is yes. We want to tell you what you may not know about the dangers of neutering.

I’m the Irreverent Veterinarian. I give my honest opinion about various controversial issues in the animal care world. I speak my mind and some might say I am honest to a fault. I tell it like it is. Some of what I say can be harsh but that doesn’t stop me – it can be hard to hear the truth. This is a topic some pet owners and some veterinarians may not enjoy.

If you ask nearly every veterinarian, veterinary technician, shelter worker, rescue group or anyone else in the animal care world, they will tell you that neutering your pet is a necessary procedure and your pet will be happier and healthier. About 80% of dogs and cats in the US are neutered.

Neutering is a general term that refers to removal of the testicles in males or ovaries and uterus in females. For male dogs and cats, the surgery to remove the testicles is called castration. For female dogs and cats, the surgery to remove the ovaries and uterus is called an ovariohysterectomy (OHE), commonly called spaying. This is a good time to mention a pet peeve of many (one of many). If a female animal had its ovaries and/or uterus removed in the past, it is SPAYED (pronounced SPADE or like played). It is NOT spaded! The verb is ‘to spay’ and the past tense is spayed (just add ‘-ed’ on the end like the majority of verbs. To play – past tense played.))

For decades the recommendation has been to neuter pets around the age of 6 months. There is no reason and no research that proves why this age is important. Apparently someone made it up and it caught on. It is likely an age when veterinarian felt the pets were old enough and strong enough to have minimal risks of anesthetic complications.

For the past decade or so early neuter has been suggested. This is primarily for animals in shelters for adoption purposes. The shelters want to ensure that the animals do not have litters after leaving. There is current and ongoing research that is showing some negative health effects of early neutering such as increased rate of urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence, hip dysplasia, and some behavioral issues.

Much more research needs to be done and the risk of pregnancy must be weighed against the benefit and take the negative health effects into consideration. There are also negative health concerns regarding neutering at later ages as well, including at 6 months.

Usually, the number one reason vets and others will say to spay your female pet dog (to remove estrogen) is to reduce the risk of mammary (breast) cancer. The overall risk, depending on the study, is about from less than 1% to 3% and up. If the dog is spayed before its third cycle (around 3 years of age) the risk can be reduced a little further. However, vets will usually say something like “if you spay your dog early you can reduce the risk of mammary cancer by 98%.” What they don’t tell you is the risk itself is very low. This means that about 1 to 3 out of 100 dogs may get mammary tumors. For dogs, there is a 50:50 chance they are benign. For cats, most are malignant.

There are also the obvious benefits of no testicular cancer, no uterine cancer, no ovarian cancer and no life-threatening uterine infection (pyometra).

Another claim is regarding positive behavioral changes. There is no reliable research that proves this is true. However, there is research that is starting to show that what vets have been telling pet owners isn’t true. For example, veterinary staff often say that more intact dogs roam, run away, display sexually inappropriate behavior (mounting and humping) and have a tendency toward aggression. Having the vet community admit that we were wrong or more information is needed is not likely to happen.

Obesity is another concern for neutered pets. As most of us know, it is very difficult to get a pet to lose weight after it has gained too much. Preventing obesity is the key and that means training the owners. I heard there is a study that hasn’t been published yet that shows how people can’t tell when their pet is overweight, even if it is obvious to everyone else.

Did you know that there are many European countries that recommend avoiding routine neutering of pets? And the country’s animal health authorities agree? And, before you think it, those countries do not have pet overpopulation problems.

The Irreverent Vet Speaks Out on Medication Errors

Medication errors are common in human medicine and veterinary medicine alike. Despite our best efforts, I've seen even experts make mistakes. Today I'd like to discuss a few aspects of medication errors in dogs and cats so you can understand why they happen.

Before I go any further, let me introduce myself for those of you that don't know me. I'm the Irreverent Veterinarian and I give you my honest opinion of issues in the animal care world. Some might say that I'm honest to a fault. I speak my mind and I won't sweet-talk you or sugarcoat the truth. I tell it like it is…to you, the drug companies, the pet product manufacturers, professional breeders, and pet owners. Some of what I say can be controversial, but that doesn't stop me – it can be hard to hear the truth, but sometimes it needs to be said.

Now back to the issue at hand: medication errors. First, let's define what a medication error in a dog or cat is. According to the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), a medication error is defined as “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer. Such events may be related to professional practice, health care products, procedures, and systems, including: prescribing; order communication; product labeling, packaging and nomenclature; compounding; dispensing; distribution; administration; education; monitoring; and use."

In short, a medication error occurs when a substance is given incorrectly in some way, be it the wrong dose, method, or the wrong drug entirely. It's a simple fact of the veterinary field that medication errors do happen, and they occur for a variety of reasons.

In this article, we will discuss:

  1. why medication errors occur,
  2. what you can do to prevent medication errors, and
  3. what you can do if you suspect a medication error has been made.

According to the FDA CVM, an agency that works to prevent veterinary drug medication errors, they have identified the following major causes of these mistakes. The reasons for medication errors in dogs and cats include but are not limited to:

  • medication names that look alike or sound similar,
  • labels that look similar, or are unreadable due to font size or style, lack of background contrast, designs that hide information, illegible writing, or overcrowded information,
  • labels that are missing information,
  • packaging with inadequate or inconsistent presentation of drug strength, dosage form (such as tablets or capsules), or active ingredients,
  • drug dosage devices (such as oral syringes) that are difficult to use because of poor design or inadequate directions for use,
  • use of error-prone abbreviations or symbols on written prescriptions,
  • illegible handwriting on written prescriptions,
  • miscommunication while verbally prescribing orders,
  • human error which results in filling the prescription with the wrong medication or strength of medication, or
  • owners giving medication to the wrong pet or in the wrong amount.

As you can see, a multitude of situations can lead to medication errors. Most of these mistakes occur at the veterinary office or pharmacy but some still occur at home.

What Can You Do to Prevent Medication Errors?

From an owner's perspective, you are limited in how much you will be able to prevent. As you can see above, many medication errors occur before you even pick up the prescription. However, there are a few things you can do to minimize risk. These are my recommendations.

  • Ask your vet or veterinary staff questions about the drug, the dosage of the formula, how many pills to give, and how frequently you should give the medications. Make sure that what they verbally tell you matches the label.
  • Before you leave the vet's office, make sure you understand what the medication does and what it was prescribed to treat.
  • Ask your vet whether the medication should be given with food.
  • Verify with the vet whether the medication can be given with any other substances such as other medications or supplements.

What Can Veterinary Staff Do to Prevent Medication Errors?

Of course, some responsibility lies in the hands of the veterinary staff as well. Here are some things that they can do to reduce the risk of error:

  • Write prescriptions legibly and clearly.
  • Double check everything.
  • Follow the six principles or “rights” of medication administration. These are common principles which were originally taught to nurses working in human medicine, and they should be followed in veterinary medicine as well. When giving medication, regardless of the type of medication, you must always follow the six rights. This means that each time you administer a medication, you need to be sure to have the:
  1. right pet,
  2. right medication,
  3. right dose,
  4. right time,
  5. right route, and
  6. right documentation.

What Should You Do If You Believe YOU Made a Medication Error With Your Dog or Cat

Having a Litter So My Child Will Experience Birth – The Irreverent Vet Speaks

Today’s subject is one that really grinds my gears. It’s something that I encounter way too much. It always comes up the same way, too…

I see a young healthy puppy, usually for the first time, and during the exam I ask the owners whether they are planning on spaying or neutering their new friend. Their answer goes something like this: “No, we would like to have one litter so little Sally and Billy can witness the miracle of birth.”

Oh my gosh…this drives me nuts. I HATE hearing this!

Before I go any further, let me introduce myself for those of you that don’t know me. I’m the Irreverent Veterinarian and I give you my honest opinion of issues in the animal care world. Some might say that I’m honest to a fault. I speak my mind and I won’t sweet-talk you or sugarcoat the truth. I tell it like it is – to you, the drug companies, the pet product manufacturers, professional breeders and pet owners. Some of what I say can be controversial, but that doesn’t stop me-it can be hard to hear the truth.

So, what about the “miracle of birth” and “just one litter”? I think it’s a terrible idea.

Life is a beautiful thing. I remember the first time I saw a calf born. I had tears in my eyes. The creation of new life, especially when it’s the birth of an adorable litter of puppies or kittens, can be breathtaking. I think it’s very important for children to learn about the life cycle and birth is definitely part of it.

But many times the process of birth is not as beautiful as you think it will be. In fact, I see more things go wrong than right.

For example, pregnancy complications are common among dogs and cats. Not all animals are born healthy or even alive. A stillborn puppy or kitten, or one that dies tragically soon after birth, can be heartbreaking and traumatizing for children. What is even worse sometimes is when the babies are born with health issues that are expensive to treat and often not in the budget of the well-meaning parent. This “miracle of birth” soon turns into a nightmare in just minutes.

Life lessons may be learned but they’re often not the ones intended, and they’re not always happy.

My Final Thoughts on “Just One Litter”

What do you want your child to witness: the miracle of birth or a suffering animal? Even worse, what about the irresponsibility of a parent who can’t afford to care for their pet or the puppies and kittens that they allowed to be born?

On top of that, don’t forget what happens once those adorable babies grow up. Many of these unwanted puppies and kittens end up in shelters or abandoned. There are tons of healthy dogs euthanized every day because there simply aren’t enough homes.

If you want your child to experience the miracle of birth, watch a video like this one instead. Discuss the miracle of life with your children afterward. No animals are in danger and you don’t have to find any homes for the babies.

Like it or not, this is what vets really think about this subject. What do you think-is it a good idea to let pets have “just one litter”? Take our poll and share your story.

Disclaimer

The Irreverent Vet is a columnist that regularly contributes to PetPlace.com. The goal is to add a balanced and alternative view of some controversial pet issues. As happens with all of us, veterinarians can’t always say what they really think without offending some clients. This commentary allows vets to say what they think and give you, the pet owner, the opportunity to consider another point of view. All opinions are those of the Irreverent Vet and not the views of PetPlace.com and are not endorsed by PetPlace.com.

The Irreverent Vet Speaks out on “What Vaccines Does Your Dog Really Need?”

What vaccines does your dog really need?

This is a question commonly asked by dog lovers everywhere. Dog lovers want to do the right thing, protect their dog but at the same time minimize risk of problems to their dog and avoid unnecessary expenses.

In this article, I'd like to address this question. I'm the Irreverent Veterinarian. I give you my opinion and speak the truth regardless of if pet owners or other veterinarians like it or not.

The question that I'll address today is…What Vaccines to Dogs Really Need?

Are Vaccines Safe?

Vaccines have a low rate of reactions but there are problems. Some of the problems can be life-threatening. For more information on this topic – please read this article: The Irreverent Vet Speaks out on "Are Dog Vaccines Safe?" Because there are issues with vaccine safety, it is ideal to give only what a dog really needs. I do not believe in OVER vaccinating.

What Vaccines do Dogs Really Need?

This is the answer. It depends upon the age and risk factors of a dog. I'll tell you what I think and even tell you how I vaccinate my own dogs.

Puppies should receive a full series of vaccines beginning at 6 to 8 weeks of age and repeated every 3 to 4 weeks until they are 16 to 20 weeks of age to protect them against all the common diseases.

Unvaccinated adult dogs should also receive two full sets of vaccines spaced 3 to 4 weeks apart.

Adult dogs should received vaccines as required by law (rabies) and other vaccines at least every 3 years.

Vaccine Recommendations

  • Puppies – Puppies should receive immunity against some diseases through their mothers milk but this disappears during the first few months of their life. To protect puppies during this critical time, a well-researched approach is taken: A series of vaccines is given every 3 to 4 weeks until the chance of contracting an infectious disease is very low. The typical vaccine is a "combination" that protects against canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus, parainfluenza, and canine parvovirus (the four viruses are commonly abbreviated DHPP).

    Many veterinarians also recommend incorporating leptospirosis in the vaccination series (this combination is abbreviated DHLPP). Rabies vaccines are given between 16 and 26 weeks of age in most states (governed by law).

  • Dogs between 20 weeks and 2 years of age

    It is typical to booster the puppy shots in young adult dogs to ensure adequate lifelong immunity against deadly viral diseases. Your veterinarian will likely "booster" your dog to protect against canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus, parainfluenza, and canine parvovirus (the four viruses are commonly abbreviated DHPP). Many veterinarians also recommend incorporating leptospirosis in the vaccination series (the 5 components are abbreviated DHLPP).

    Many dogs are also immunized against bacterial infections (e.g. bordetella and leptospirosis). The immunization for these diseases typically do not persist for more than a year making yearly (and occasionally more frequent) booster vaccines advisable.

    The bordetella protects against "kennel cough" and is often a requirement of boarding facilities. Bordetella is also recommended for dogs that attend dog parks, conformation shows or agility competitions.

    There is currently a vaccination available for canine influenza virus. The vaccine is recommended for dogs "at risk". Dogs that frequently interact with other dogs, participate in activities with other dogs or are boarded are considered at risk and can benefit from vaccination.

    The rabies vaccines should be given as recommended by local law. Newer vaccines effective against specific forms of the bacteria leptospirosis may be important in some areas.

  • Adult dogs (over 2 years of age)

    Annual revaccination (boosters) is recommended for the first year after the "puppy vaccines"; thereafter, you should discuss the benefits and risks of annual vaccination with your vet.

    In the past, the DHLP (distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus) vaccine was typically given each year. These recommendations are changing. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) came out with new guidelines in 2006 that suggests that adult dog vaccines boosters may be adequate if given every 3 years. Specific vaccine requirements for individual dogs should be discussed with your veterinarian.

    The most appropriate vaccination program for your pet should be followed.

    Again, if the risk of kennel cough or canine influenza virus is great, a vaccine against bordetella and canine flu is recommended. Both vaccines need to be given twice initially then each year. You and your veterinarian should assess whether it is required.

    The rabies vaccine should be given as recommended by local law. Newer vaccines effective against specific forms of the bacteria leptospirosis may be important in some areas. The need for the vaccine should be determined based on the area of the country your dog lives in and his or her life-style. If given, they should be administered once to twice a year.

    Other vaccinations that are sometimes given by your veterinarian include coronavirus, Lyme and giardia. These are not routinely given to every animal, and their use should be discussed with your veterinarian. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) came out with new guidelines in 2006 that suggests that coronavirus and giardia vaccines are not recommended for dogs at any age. The Borreliosis/Lyme disease vaccine is recommended for dogs that live in an endemic area where risk of exposure to the tick vector is high or dogs that travel to endemic areas.

    Another option to determine what vaccines your dog needs is to do vaccine titers.

    If your adult dog has an adverse reaction to the vaccine (fever, vomiting, shaking, facial swelling or hives) discuss the risk of annual revaccination with your veterinarian.

  • Is Giving Catnip to a Kitten Like Giving Marijuana to A Teenager? Irreverent Vet

    Some of the questions I've been asked over the years still absolutely amaze me. When you treat as many animals as I have, you learn that some questions are very common. Then there are those that, while they aren't asked as frequently, really stand out.

    Before I go any further, let me introduce myself for those of you that don't know me. I'm the Irreverent Veterinarian and I give you my honest opinion of issues in the animal care world. Some might say that I'm honest to a fault. I speak my mind and I won't sweet-talk you or sugarcoat the truth. I tell it like it is – to you, the drug companies, the pet product manufacturers, professional breeders and pet owners. Some of what I say can be controversial, but that doesn't stop me-it can be hard to hear the truth. This question made me start some research.

    My client Julie came in with her new kitten for a checkup. While I was looking over the new addition to her family she said "Doc, my other cat loves catnip but I don't want to give it to the kitten. I've heard it's just like giving marijuana to a teenager?"

    Wow. Well, I've never heard it put that way before. I really had to think about it for a minute.

    Considering that most people don't know how catnip works, her question wasn't out of line. There are lots of questions that arise: Does it change the brain structure of the kitten? Does it cause later behavioral problems or training issues? Is it better to wait until your cat is an adult, or to simply not offer it to cats at all?

    Before I explain, I want to know: what do you think? Take our poll and tell me about your stance on kittens and catnip.

    Catnip is enticing to cats because of its active ingredient, an oil called nepetalactone. When inhaled this oil can affect a cat's behavior, coordination, and presumably their mood as well. Although many people have compared the effects to substances used as drugs by humans, it's impossible to determine exactly what it does to cats….and catnip has no effect on humans.

    My research on the subject lead me to find that despite catnip's overwhelming popularity, almost no studies have looked at its effect on kitten brains and behavior. This is likely due to the fact that most cats don't begin reacting to catnip until between 3 to 6 months of age. Kittens younger than this typically show little to no reaction to catnip. It's hard to study what's not there!

    My Final Thoughts on Is Giving Catnip to a Kitten Like Giving Marijuana to A Teenager?

    Can you give a kitten catnip? I've known many owners who have. But should you? Well, probably not, although not for the reason you might think.

    No studies have shown that catnip is harmful to kittens, and I've never known a kitten to show signs of "brain damage" or other detrimental effects after exposure to it. But it's best not to give it to your cat simply because it's a waste of money if your cat can't enjoy it. Chances are that any catnip given to a kitten 6 months or younger won't have much of an effect on them. Save your dollars and give them a quality catnip when they're older and can appreciate it.

    One last thing: both cats and kittens may eat catnip from time to time. In small amounts this is perfectly safe but larger quantities can cause vomiting and upset stomach. Don't let your cat eat fresh or dry catnip and always keep it safely stored.

    Disclaimer

    The Irreverent Vet is a columnist that regularly contributes to PetPlace.com. The goal is to add a balanced and alternative view of some controversial pet issues. As happens with all of us, veterinarians can't always say what they really think without offending some clients. This commentary allows vets to say what they think and give you, the pet owner, the opportunity to consider another point of view. All opinions are those of the Irreverent Vet and not the views of PetPlace.com and are not endorsed by PetPlace.com.

    The Irreverent Vet Speaks Out on Pet Insurance

     

    The Irreverent Vet Speaks Out on Pet Insurance

    I'm not going to pull any punches on this article. Basically, some pet owners can't afford a pet. They probably shouldn't have one. I don't want to say that only rich people should have pets but everyone that has a pet should have the financial ability to provide reasonable care for their pet. I'm not saying the best care but at least reasonable care.

    This is a touchy topic but I'm going to give you my opinion.

    PetPlace asked me to write an article about the difficult and controversial topic of pet insurance. In this article, I'd like to address the issues surrounding pet insurance. I'm the Irreverent Veterinarian. I give you my opinion and speak the truth regardless of if pet owners, insurance companies, or other veterinarians like it or not. The question that I'll address today is…What do veterinarians Think about Pet Insurance?

    I'm not saying that everyone should have pet insurance. In fact, pet insurance is NOT for everyone. Of course, most companies won't insure every pet – just as most human insurance companies won't insure every single person. Many companies have age cut offs or pre-existing conditions that will exclude the coverage of a pet. It is common for a policy to exclude any problems that occurred or was diagnosed before the date of the policy coverage. Cosmetic procedures, breeding related problems, behavioral problems, parasites, and diseases preventable by vaccines are often not covered.

    There are several genetic diseases that some policies won't cover. For example, many companies have a list by breed of conditions they won't cover. This varies by company.

    I can't speak for all vets but I did discuss this pet insurance topic with 5 trusted colleagues and I'll give you my opinion that was also the consensus of the group.

    Pet insurance definitely has its place.

    Who doesn't need pet insurance?

    Like any insurance – it is a risk management issue. For people with a lot of disposable income – to be honest – you probably don't need pet insurance. You can afford the care your pet needs when he needs it. If a unexpected $2,000, $6,000 or even $10,000 vet bill is no big deal – then you probably don't need pet insurance.

    Who can benefit from pet insurance? Anyone on a limited budget could benefit from pet insurance. If a $2,000.00 or $4,000.00 expense would be difficult for you – then pet insurance could be beneficial. It will not eliminate your entire vet bill but it will substantially help.

    There are several insurance companies. Some have been around a long while and others are newer. At the time of this writing, there are 20 companies offering pet insurance in the United States.

    My clients that have pet insurance like it. When their pet has a problem, they have the comfort of knowing they can do the best for their pet without worrying about the financial impact.

    My Final Irreverent Thoughts on Pet Insurance

    Most pet owners want to do the best for their pets. If you are on a limited budget – consider pet insurance as a part of your pets care.  

    Pet insurance policies can cover emergency problems as well as the diagnosis and treatment of just about any other health problem. There are also "Wellness Plans" which includes coverage of things that helps keep your pet healthy. Wellness plans may include yearly examinations, vaccinations, prescription foods, heartworm testing, heartworm prevention, flea control medication, spaying and neutering, dental cleanings and more. Find out which is best for your situation.

    And…if you are considering pet insurance, the best time to get it is when your pet is young. Older pets with a history of medical problems will not be covered for those problems. The best time to get pet insurance is when your pet is young and before he or she has any medical problems. 

    Disclaimer

    The Irreverent Vet is a columnist that regularly contributes to PetPlace.com. The goal is to add a balanced and alternative view of some controversial pet issues. As happens with all of us, veterinarians can't say what they really think without offending some clients. This commentary allows vets to say what they think and give you, the pet owner, the opportunity to consider another view. All opinions are those of the Irreverent Veterinarian and not the views of PetPlace.com and are not endorsed by PetPlace.com.

    The Irreverent Vet Speaks out on “Are Cat Vaccines Safe?”

    Are vaccines safe?

    This is a question commonly asked by cat lovers. And it is one that they often struggle with. Cat lovers want to do the right thing, protect their cat but at the same time minimize risk of problems to their cat.

    I'd like to address this question. I'm the Irreverent Veterinarian. I give you my opinion and speak the truth regardless of if pet owners or other veterinarians like it or not. I have no hidden agenda here.

    So the question that I'll address in this article is…"Are Vaccines Safe" for your cat?

    Are Vaccines Safe?

    This is a tough one. The answer is – most vaccines are safe and do way more good than harm. However, there are three types of reactions that can occur from vaccines. The first are mild reactions, the second are allergic reactions and the third is serious reactions that are associated with tumor growth.

  • Mild Reactions – A small percentage of cats will feel a little "sore" after their vaccines. This is the exception rather than the rule. Some cats may run a low-grade fever or just feel a little tired. They may be less active, sleep more and eat slightly less than normal. This is temporary and they generally do fine. It is often hard to tell what of this behavior is from the vaccine or from the stress of going to the clinic to get the vaccine.
  • Allergic Reactions – Some reactions are mild causing itching, swelling, temporary nausea, and others can be serous anaphylactic reactions that are life threatening. To be honest, I've never seen a cat die from an allergic reaction to a vaccine. Serious allergic type vaccine reactions in cats are rare.
  • Tumor Associated Reactions – Some cats may develop what is called an "Injection Site Sarcoma". An injection-site sarcoma, is a tumor thought to be induced by an injection – most often a vaccination. Injection-site sarcomas were first recognized in the late 1980's when some changes occurred in the vaccine manufacturing process. The actual incidence of injection-site sarcomas is not known with certainty. Some investigators estimate that post-vaccine tumors may occur in as many as 1 of every 1,000 to as few as 1 in every 10,000 cats vaccinated. It is believed that tumors develop week to years after injection.

    This tumor is cancerous and very aggressive. The tumor starts as a small lump but has very small tentacles that extends into the deeper tissues. According to one study, as many as 62 percent of post-vaccinal sarcomas recur within 6 months after surgical removal.

    No one knows for sure why they occur – but it is thought that post-vaccine sarcomas may occur as a consequence of an overzealous inflammatory or immune system reaction to the vaccine. Regardless, they are life-threatening and awful.

  • My Final Thoughts – Are Vaccines Safe?

    This is what I believe. The answer is – most vaccines are safe and do way more good than harm if used properly. I do not recommend OVER-VACCINATING cats. I think that most cats don't need yearly shots (unless required by law such as Rabies vaccine). I think that each cat should be regarded relative to their risk and ONLY the vaccines that truly protect them should be given.

    This brings up the question – what vaccines do cats need? I address exactly this question here – Go to What Vaccines do Cats Really Need.

    What are your thoughts? Email me

    Disclaimer

    The Politically Incorrect Vet is a columnist that regularly contributes to PetPlace.com. The goal is to add a balanced and alternative view of some controversial pet issues. As happens with all of us, veterinarians can't say what they really think without offending some clients. This commentary allows vets to say what they think and give you, the pet owner, the opportunity to consider another view. All opinions are those of the Politically Incorrect Vet and not the views of PetPlace.com and are not endorsed by PetPlace.com.


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    Anxiety in Dogs: Is It Over-Diagnosed? The Irreverent Vet Speaks Out

    It seems like more dogs are diagnosed with anxiety problems today than ever before. Even as recently as 10 years ago, separation or storm anxieties in dogs were only occasional concerns that the average vet might encounter once a week or two. Now it seems like every other client has questions about their dog’s nervous behavior.

    I’m the Irreverent Veterinarian. I give my honest opinion about various controversial issues in the animal care world. I speak my mind and some might say I am honest to a fault. I tell it like it is. Some of what I say can be harsh but that doesn’t stop me-it can be hard to hear the truth.

    What is going on with dogs these days? It feels like there are more and more dogs that seen excessively anxious and nervous. Can dogs have attention deficit hyperactivity disorders? I see these nervous nellies in exam rooms, in the waiting rooms and while driving around my neighborhood. Scared, anxious dogs not knowing if they are coming or going. Pulling on leashes, jumping on everyone, panting and looking very nervous. I am exhausted just watching them.

    Some dogs get so wound up in exam rooms that they become aggressive and try to bite. They won’t sit down and health exams are nearly impossible. Unfortunately many owners of nervous anxious dogs…aren’t much help. They usually just sit and let the dog do whatever s/he wants in the waiting room and exam room.

    It is so aggravating and frustrating for veterinarians.

    I am not sure if you can tell by now but this topic brings out a lot of emotions for me.

    Some people don’t even bother going to the vet. The dog is so out of control they take him/her to a shelter. These dogs are so stressed that the likelihood of them being adopted is very low and they are often euthanized.

    Most of these dogs have behavioral issues that require time, patience and behavior modification on my part.

    Many owners come into the clinic and ask for a magic pill.

    In fact, last week I had 3 different calls in ONE DAY about anxiety…and every one of the owners asked me about prescribing medication for their dogs. What is going on here? Is anxiety really more common in dogs, or are we just better at recognizing it? Take our poll and tell me where you stand on this issue.

    Come on people! There isn’t a pill to fix everything. Do you really want your dog sedated for the rest of his life – just to make your life better? Your dog’s nervousness and anxiety is primarily your fault!

    For years veterinarians have been noticing an increase in the number of appointments for ‘anxiety’ or ‘stress’. Dogs that are destroying furniture, scratching doors, jumping through windows, pacing the fence line, on and on.

    The majority of vets try to counsel people and explain what they need to do but to no avail. People don’t want to spend the time. Some vets have just given up and prescribe human antidepressants or sedatives for ‘as needed’ situations. This is very sad and preventable.

    I hope you are sitting down because the next thing I say may strike a nerve. The excessive nervousness and stress in dog’s lives is most likely due to the laziness and apathy of their owners – you! This includes vets as well. We are all susceptible to being a big part of the problem.

    What Causes Anxiety and Stress in a Dog?

    A dog’s life should be sleeping most of the day, taking walks, playing fetch, eating and spending some time in the potty. This is the life of a confident, well-adjusted dog.

    To get that way, dogs need to know their place in the home, in the family and in the neighborhood. Dogs are not people and it doesn’t matter how much you talk (or scream) to them. They just don’t understand. They can sense you are angry or tense or sad but really don’t know why or what they can do to change it.

    Dogs thrive in environments when there is a clear hierarchy. Alpha, omega and family members in the middle. There is nothing wrong with that. People seem to want everyone to be equal. No one superior and no one submissive. That may work in human society but wreaks havoc in canine society. Dogs need to either be the one in charge or know who is. If there isn’t a clear ‘king of the mountain’ the dog will feel like it is his/her responsibility.

    If the dog isn’t a born leader, this can lead to a life of great anxiety. If there is no leader for guidance the dog will not know right from wrong (in the canine world). If someone approaches his ‘family’, he doesn’t know what to do. He is so happy when someone comes home he jumps and runs around. But, not even then can he calm down. He still must guard the castle 24/7. What a life of confusion!

    Dogs desperately want and need discipline. Positive reinforcement is wonderful – there just needs to be reinforcement. No! is not a bad word.

    Today, people just let dogs do whatever they want. They think it is cute when little dogs growl and try to bite. It isn’t cute. It is a sign that your dog needs help. You need to be the one in charge. Make sure the dog knows that. This should start as soon as the dog comes home with you. Ideally puppies are allowed to spend 12 weeks with their mothers. Stop adopting at 8 weeks. There is no advantage and it may result in dogs that don’t have appropriate social skills. The reason breeders encourage people to adopt dogs at 8 weeks is that it is illegal in most states to remove puppies or kittens less than 8 weeks away from their mothers. It isn’t the best time to bond – it is the way for the breeders to make the most money. Selling puppies at 8 weeks means they don’t have to pay to take care of them for any more time.

    The one thing I want to make clear – dogs do NOT have ADD or ADHD.

    Maybe dog anxiety is like ADHD where it is easy to misdiagnose. (Forty years ago “energetic” kids were told to go outside and play – and they would do that until they came in tired and hungry. Now it seems so many kids are diagnosed with a health condition e.g. ADHD and they sit all day in front of the computer or TV while medicated. Maybe the same thing is happening with dogs.)

    Perhaps this has something to do with how we are less tolerant of dogs with behavioral problems and we as pet parents do give our dogs the exercise, attention and help them understand their role and rank in the family.