I have had enough animals lately complain about their experience at specialty hospitals that I feel it is important to write an article on what seems to going on in some of these facilities. This article is meant to inform. It is based on the experiences of many individual animals around the world. It is not meant to put down any particular veterinary medical care facility.
With the rising numbers for canine and feline cancer, it seems that more and more pet owners are finding themselves facing the decision of whether or not to put their loved animals through chemotherapy and/or radiation. Many owners choose this route and end up in state-of-the-art facilities that wow us with their technology and cleanliness. The veterinarians and their staff come off as highly intelligent and efficient. It is easy to feel comfortable that your animal is in the best care. Often people hand their pets over to the staff with no questions asked.
Even if questions pop into your mind, the doctors can be intimidating even for the most experienced pet owners. There is a quick biology lesson, long baffling phrases describing bodily fluids and organs, and then there are the drugs that have long complicated names. The stress and worry an owner is experiencing when their animal is sick does not help. Sometimes it is just easier to trust that all is well. The place is mighty, and your animal needs specialized care.
Yet what is actually happening in some of these facilities, in my opinion, is unacceptable. Here are a some of what animals have told me.
“You know what? The doctor didn’t even notice me until much later in the day. I was just lying there in the cage. The IV was next to me and he thought I was hooked up, and then when he found out I wasn’t, he was mad. Not at my mom and dad, but mad at the staff.” IV treatment for this dog lasts three hours. He spent seven hours in the hospital that day and on other days, as well.
“When I was getting my radiation treatment I started to struggle. I was in so much pain. They just told me I had to sit through it. They were firm and rough with me. They left me there struggling.” This dog was over-radiated, and this resulted in burns. My client expressed the lack of remorse from the doctors.
“I think my mom is too trusting of the doctors. I think she feels like they know the right way to go, and the problem is that when I was at the center, it just seemed like the dogs and cats where getting treated in an assembly line. I didn’t feel like they knew or cared about us as individuals. There were some people there that had compassionate eyes, but not most of them.” I realize doctors and their staff are overworked, but this is not okay.
I do not want to say that this is the norm, but it does happen. So what can you do? Ask a lot of questions. Before you hand your pet over, ask, How long is my pet’s treatment? What will his/her day look like? What is involved in my pet’s treatment? Is it painful? How many people will be handling my pet? Is it the same person each time? Can I meet this person? Is this person a doctor? Ask about medication. Google all of your pet’s medications and procedures for side effects and rates of success. When talking with the doctor, take notes or record what the doctor has to say so that you can go over it later when you are not as stressed.
If the doctor seems in a hurry, stay calm and take your time. Treatment is a very serious decision, and it’s expensive. You and your pet deserve that time. If you are meeting with an intern and do not feel like you are satisfied with the answers, demand to see a doctor.
Ask them to give you a time when you can pick up your animal. Tell them you do not want your animal to be there any longer than treatment. See if they can give you a check-in and check-out interval that is as long as treatment.
Ask when is the quietest day of the week, and schedule your animal to receive treatment on that day.
Keep a journal and write down all side-effects and how your animal seemed before and after treatment. Write everything down. Report this to the doctor. Ask your doctor how your animal did when they were in their care. Did they seem scared? Did they seem in pain? What was their behavior? You want to see that they know your pet as an individual and that they are closely monitoring your pet before, during, and after treatment.
If your animal is getting radiation, carefully monitor all areas around where they are getting radiated. Watch for burns. This is extremely important. Do not assume that the doctors will notice burns or any other adverse reactions. This is your job. You know your pet.
Remember, you are your animal’s advocate. You know them better than anyone. You have the final say in what treatment they get. If something does not feel right to you, do not do it. It is always good to get a second opinion, and it has been my experience that the animals that are on an all-natural, real food, grain-free diet, and who are cared for by a holistic doctor as well, recover the quickest and have fewer side effects.