Wednesday, December 26, 2007

$50 Rule

Ti's the time of year for spending money one does not have. Little Suzy gets that laptop she wanted so badly, little Johnny gets the I-phone he insisted on having, and let's not forget the matching diamond earrings and necklace for the Mrs. With all this mass spending, some aspect of the family budget frequently has to suffer. Unfortunately, too often, the holiday gifts for little Suzy, little Johnny, and the Mrs. come at the expense of the family pet's health care.

It usually begins around early November. Patent's are brought in with various conditions that require diagnostic work-ups and treatments, and people implore me for the sake of increased holiday expenditures, to offer payment plans, treat on empirical evidence with no diagnostic work-up, give them temporary solutions to get them through the holidays to a time when they can better afford the veterinary care their pet needs, or offer less costly, even mediocre alternatives to treat a given ailment. When owners refuse to apply for or do not get accepted for Care Credit (a third party lender for medical services known to be even more lenient than credit card companies), I try to work with them the best I can, but in the end, these aforementioned approaches to medicine often lead to less than ideal results.

Since veterinary clinics are businesses that survive on the sale of services and products just like any other types of business, giving away our services and inventory is not a practical solution to people's holiday financial woes, nor is it remotely fair to burden our industry with such a demand. The solution to this problem is for pet owners to have a realistic approach to preparing for the veterinary costs that may be incurred when pets get sick or injured.

A member of the message boards of the parent site to this blog,, recently posted what sounds to me like a great solution to budget one's pet's health care needs, not just during the holidays, but for always: the $50 rule. Under the $50 rule, one should have a separate bank account where every month, $50 is deposited in the account for each pet in the home. According to said message board member, if one cannot afford $50 per month for a given animal, then one has no business adopting that animal. This member has 4 Labrador Retrievers, which means that 4 dogs X $50 per dog = $200, gets deposited in his dogs' health care account monthly. He stated that this covers all the yearly visits, preventive testing, and preventive medications, with plenty left over in the event of more financially demanding illness or injury.

Incredibly simple yet so effective, the $50 rule is a great way for a family to figure out if they can fit the financial demands of a pet into their budget. It just might be enough to ensure that families with pets do not have to choose between treatments or procedures that Fido needs, or gifts for the children.

Roger L. Welton, DVM
Founder, WebDVM

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Holiday Tips For Your Pet's Safety

Holiday seasons statistically are the most dangerous time for pets, as is evidenced by my clinics typical inundation with all kinds of emergencies the day after Christmas. In order to help you to avoid your pet from becoming one of these statistical holiday mishaps, I have compiled a list of tips to help you avoid the most common health incidents that occur during the holidays.

1.) Do not leave your garbage cans unattended in the presence of your pet. Raw uncooked meats scraps, gizzards and other undesirable food items may be irresistible to your pet, but could lead to GI disturbance, food poisoning, and parasites. Poultry bones pose a serious danger, with their tendency to snap and splinter, making them a grave risk for gastrointestinal obstruction and perforation.

2.) Do not let one of your devious friends or relatives feed your dog alcohol. While cats typically will avoid booze, dogs seem to like it with the same enthusiasm they like milk. Their tolerance for alcohol is considerably lower than ours, making them very susceptible to intoxication, vomiting, and liver toxicity.

3.) Keep chocolates and chocolate deserts out of reach! Chocolate has a component called thiobromine, which is potentially toxic to the canine liver. Of the different kinds of chocolate, semi sweet and bakers chocolate, both essential component of brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and most other chocolate baked goods, have the highest concentration of thiobromine. If your dog eats a large quantity of chocolate or chocolate based desert or cookies (1 ounce per 10 pounds of body weight or more), then get the dog to a vet ASAP!

4.) If New Year's Eve marijuana brownies are your thing, BY ALL MEANS, keep out of reach from the dog for two reasons. As previously discussed, the chocolate component of brownies has potentially toxic thiobromine. Marijuana can lead to listlessness, loss of urinary and bowel control, excessively low heart rate, and loss of consciousness in severe cases. The combination of both thiobromine and marijuana toxicity can have devastating consequences.

5.) With the winter holiday season comes a spike in the number of household electrical cords from Christmas tree lights to window sill menorahs. Both dogs and cats have trouble resisting the temptation to gnaw on electrical cords, a behavior that can lead to severe burns in the mouth, oral tissue death, and even fatality. For this reason, keep all electrical cords out of reach, or confined to areas off limits to pets.

May you and your pets have a safe and peaceful holiday season!

Roger L. Welton, DVM
Founder, WebDVM

Friday, December 14, 2007

Michael Vick

23 months in prison camp (not maximum security) for having provided the financial means and real estate to enable absolutely vicious acts toward innocent living creatures, with atrocities that included death by electrocution, slamming, setting on fire; cruel fighting, starvation and rape boxes. Does this sentence even remotely approach the realm of justice? If these acts were perpetrated toward people, multiple life sentences in maximum security prison and/or death penalty would be in the legal discussion, not a matter of months or even years in prison camp, less with good behavior. Are the pain and suffering of dogs and other animals worth so much less than that of people, that punishment for inhumane crimes against people vs dogs should be a difference of life in max security prison or death penalty vs 23 months in prison camp??

Strictly from a veterinary standpoint, I can tell you from a physiological point of view, that dogs and people are virtually identical, complete with the same complement of nerves, sensory perception, and organs. They are also complex emotional social creatures. This means that they feel pain, hunger, neglect, and isolation no differently than we do. Despite this, however, vicious and sadistic crimes against them carry a mere fraction of the penalty when compared to crimes against people.

The saddest comment on this how this whole ordeal reflects us as a society, was evident from what I witnessed on prime time television during Monday Night Football, when the Atlanta Falcons were playing. The owner of the Atlanta Falcons and founder of Home Depot, Arthur Blank, expressed how sorry he felt for Michael Vick and where his poor choices had led him. When asked whether the Falcons would ever allow Vick to play for the Atlanta Falcons again if allowed back in the league, Blank even did not completely dismiss the possibility. The stands were full of fans that wore Michaels Vicks Jersey in support him, and teammates garnished t-shirts that said "Free Mike Vick." These athletes and thousands of fans actually felt that what he did does not deserve any jail time at all!

This tells me that people care more for their fallen hero than for the hundreds of innocent animals that were tortured, tormented, and killed in a venue that he provided, in a despicable sport that he helped finance. At a time when Arthur blank, Falcons fans, and Falcons team members should have set an example and rallied behind animal rights supporters to make the cruel, sadistic, and illegal sport of dog fighting the primary issue, they instead tried to turn the ring leader into a martyr. It is truly sickening and disheartening to know that there are so many that share my American nationality, that have such little compassion and care for the suffering of innocent lives and crimes committed against them.

Michael Vick and any other people that are capable of treating animals in the dreaded manner that those dogs were treated, are sociopaths of the worst kind. They are vicious and sadistic, posing a grave danger to society. They should be regarded and treated as such!

Roger L. Welton, DVM
Founder, WebDVM

Monday, December 10, 2007

Elevator Mishap

This is one of the those stories that seems too unbelievable to be true. My hospital's associate veterinarian admitted a small chihuahua for having a few broken teeth. The story of the events that led to the broken teeth just blew us all away!

The owner of this chihuahua lives in a multilevel retirement condominium that requires constant elevator use to get downstairs for any reason, including to walk her little dog. The chihuahua's owner uses one of those flex leashes, where the leash is coiled up in a plastic mechanism within a handle, where the owner controls the length of the leash with a button/lock mechanism. These leashes can be as long as 10-15 feet, unravelling without resistance as the dog moves foward until the owner either stops the extension by pressing the lock button, or the coil runs out of slack. For the record, I detest these kinds of leashes.

The chihuahua and her owner had entered the elevator to go up to their home and the elevator made a stop at one of the lower floors, where there was a man waiting to enter. Being the territorial ankle biter that many chihuahuas are, the chihuahua aggressively ran at the man that was still on the other side of the open elevator door. The owner did not press the lock button on the flex leash in time, so the dog was able to run out of the elevator and into the hallway. Unable to reel the dog back in, the elevator doors closed with the owner inside the elevator holding one end of the leash, and the dog on the other side of the closed elevator door still attached to the other end of the leash. From the owner's perspective, as the elevator started to go up, the leash slid to the bottom of the closed elevator door, became very taught with tension, then quickly snapped.

From the other side of the elevator door, the gentleman who had remained in the hallway for fear of the little dog that was attacking him, did not enter the elevator. After the elevator door closed and continued to go up, from his perspective, the dog still attached to its leash, began to slide up the closed elevator doors. Acting quickly and heroically despite the dog's bad intentions for him, the man ran to the dog's rescue and unsnapped the dog's collar, just nanoseconds before the end of the leash with collar, got sucked up into the elevator shaft through the tiny slit of the closed elevator doors. Had the man not acted so quickly, the dog truly would have likely been decapitated.

Thinking that her dog had indeed been decapitated, upon the owner's return, she was elated to see that the dog was not only alive, but alert and responsive, only moderately bleeding from the mouth and terrified. Ultimately, aside from a few damaged teeth that had to be removed, the chihuahua escaped the incident unharmed.

That is one lucky dog to have been saved by a man for whom the dog showed blatant aggression. I hope she learned a lesson!

Roger L. Welton, DVM
founder, WebDVM

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Bubbles, My Inspiration.

Upon assuming ownership of my current practice 3 years ago, I would have loved to immediately hire Dr. Mengering, (the doctor I purchased from), but with the financial uncertainty of a change of ownership, I feared that it would not end up financially feasible. As such, I ran the practice without the services of Dr. Mengering my first year (thankfully, this has changed and she is now a part time associate), which did not sit well with some of her regular clients, none less than a senior aged owner of a chubby little chihuahua named Bubbles.

I first met Bubbles one week after after I had taken over in December of 2004. Bubbles owner was rather blunt about her displeasure that she could no longer have her beloved Bubbles seen by her trusted veterinarian of many years, instead having to trust her dog's life with the likes of me, a 30 year old vet who was only 3 years out of vet school. I did not take it personally not only because I could understand her point of view, but also because of Bubbles medical history.

Upon thumbing through her record, I saw that Bubbles has battled and survived repeated bouts of life threatening pancreatitis, that were later finally determined to have been precipitated by and endocrine disease known as Cushings Disease. Once the treatment for Cushings was in place, her pancreatitis had stopped returning and her health was in a delicate, but effectively managed state. Having had such an extensive medical history, I could completely see why Bubbles owner had some apprehension about starting with a new vet, a young one at that.

Within a fairly short time, however, Bubbles owner began to trust me, and we gradually developed a very nice professional relationship. In fact, she was quickly becoming one of my most beloved clients, and I just adored little Bubbles. Even after Dr. Mengering's return, she comfortable to see whichever one of us was available, not hold out to be seen only on Dr. Mengering's days, as some of her regulars chose (and still choose) to do.

In year 2 of managing Bubbles health, she suddenly became very ill one day. Blood work revealed that the medication that was managing her Cushings Disease was causing her kidneys to shut down, creating the need to both hospitalize her and stop the Cushings medication. Aggressive treatment was successful and Bubbles was discharged in a few days, but I could no longer treat her Cushings disease for risk of harming her kidneys.

Over time her Cushings Disease began to take its toll on her body, and she had yet another bout of pancreatitis. We were once again able to stabilize Bubbles, and thankfully a new cutting edge Cushings Disease treatment with virtually no adverse side effects had come available, so we now once again manage her Cushings Disease.

In the next 2 years, while Bubbles' Cushings Disease has remained under control, I have had to treat Bubbles for upper GI ulcer, herniated disc in her neck, anal sacs abscesses, tooth root abscess, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and in every instance, she has recovered. During this heights of her illnesses, she remained sweet, affectionate, and never once resented any blood draws, catheters, or any other procedures we had to implement in her diagnostics and treatments. Her daily medication regimen was a long as a grocery list.

In my most recent visit with Bubbles, her COPD has led to secondary enlargement of her heart and the subsequent development of congestive heart disease, and once again, she had bounce back from the abyss and is doing well on yet more treatment. This little dog's courage and will to live, as well as her mother's dedication, has touched my heart in an unforgettable way. Now 12 years old and juggling so many health issues, I know that the day will come that we will lose the battle. While that will be one of the most difficult days of my career, I will always be grateful for having had the honor of taking care of Bubbles and her wonderful Mommy.

Roger L. Welton, DVM
Founder, WebDVM