An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

As a veterinary receptionist, or as my official title says, “client service representative,”  I take many phone calls every day from owners who have pets with major health problems, yet have limited funds with which to care for them.  I would also count myself in their numbers, but luckily, I work for the animal hospital so I do get many services at a hefty discount and I am allowed to carry a balance.  (However, they do charge 18% on an unpaid balance, so it’s not such a huge benefit in that sense.)

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Many times per day, I refer callers to low-cost animal clinics, who, I am sure, get overrun with walk-ins or appointment requests.  A lot of times, I think the problems can be easily prevented.  Take, for example, vaccinations.

Many times, people don’t bother to get their animals vaccinated after they adopt them.  It may be ignorance – they just assume that the dogs or cats have received everything that they will ever need to get, by the time they are adopted.  (We definitely hear that from some.)  Or, it may be that they think the vaccines are too costly, and they might not take the time to actually call around and get pricing info on them.  If they did, they might find some low-cost vaccination clinics, or as is the case with my animal hospital, certain days of the week when the vaccines are given at half price.  Yes, HALF PRICE! There are also places like Vet-Co where you can go to get vaccinations.  Sure, they might not spend as much one-on-one time with your pet as they do at my hospital, but you are getting the bare bones care that is really NEEDED for your pets to stay healthy.

For dogs, these are the vaccines we generally suggest:

  • Distemper/Parvo (2 boosters and a third one that lasts for a year) starting when the animal is about 6-8 weeks of age.  Boosters should be given about 3-4 weeks apart.
  • Bordatella (commonly known as the vax for “kennel cough”).  Again, get boosters, and a third one that lasts for a year.  (Some places may say it’s only good for a year – check with the vet to see how long the one lasts that your pet is receiving.)
  • Rabies!!  Your pet can get a yearly vax as soon as they are 16 weeks of age.   Once they have had the one year vax, when they come back the next year, you can get a three year vax.

If you are going to take your dog to a dog park, or the groomer, please please PLEASE get them vaccinated.  I can’t tell you how many calls we get about dogs who have come down with kennel cough after they go to a grooming appointment.

Also, if you have a puppy, please don’t take them to a dog park or walk them on the sidewalks where a lot of other dogs venture, before they have had all their boosters.  This is something i never knew growing up.  Then again, as a kid, I never heard of parvo.  Parvo is one of those disesases that is very easy for a young pup to contract and which can be SUPER expensive to treat if you have your pet hospitalized.   Parvo is an illness that can be noticed by signs such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea (usually with blood in it) and many times, it can be fatal.  Pups with parvo end up not wanting to eat or drink, and if they do, they can’t keep it down, or inside them. (i.e., the diarrhea).  Oh, and when they have the diarrhea, trust me, it smells something AWFUL.  Parvo is something you want to catch early, because for young pups, it can be FATAL.

For cats, these are the vaccines we usually suggest (and require to board at our facility):

  • Feline panleukopenia
  • FVRCP
  • Rabies (once they are 16 weeks of age)

Many times, people think that if cats don’t get outside, they can’t contract something contagious from other cats, or contract rabies.  Well, have you ever had a bat fly into your house?  Because I have.  And while I don’t intend to make people afraid of bats (because they are actually kind of cute in their own way), they are known for being carriers of rabies.  Or, if your dog gets into a fight with another dog that has not been properly vaccinated, (and, especially if yours has not been also), it might be at risk of contracting rabies, and therefore, passing it onto your cats.  So, at the very least, get them vaccinated for rabies.

Another good preventive health care step to take for your pets:

SPAY AND NEUTER!!!

I cannot stress this enough, and I KNOW my friends who volunteer at shelters or sanctuaries will back me up on this — there are SO MANY unwanted pets out there in the shelters.  So many shelters, whether it be for lack of funds and/or lack of space, euthanize dogs and cats on a daily basis.  And SO MUCH of it could be prevented!! It really could!! Spaying or neutering is also good for their health! It can prevent a lot of problems such as a higher risk of cancer and plyometria (which requires surgery, pronto), just to name a few.

While people may be shocked to hear what some hospitals charge for spaying and neutering, they should ask some questions when they are calling around for pricing:

  • Do you have any wellness plans that can bring down the overall cost to me or provide me with additional services that I can utilize all year long? (We do!)
  • Do you know of any low cost spay or neuter clinics when I can have my pet fixed (or “altered” as we call it) for a fraction of the full price?
  • Are there any shelters or sanctuaries that provide spay or neuter services to low-income individuals?
  • Do you base your pricing for services on the income of the pet owner? (While it’s rare, some do.)

Keep in mind, also, that some cities, such as Albuquerque, charge pet owners more per year to have an intact pet than a spayed or neutered pet.  It’s part of the city’s way of encouraging owners to be responsible owners.  So in addition to preventing a lot of unwanted animals and health problems for your pet, why not save yourself some bucks, and do the responsible thing by getting your pet spayed or neutered? 🙂

If you do end up having a health emergency, ask the hospital if they do take payment plans, but be prepared to hear them say “no.”  Many don’t.  But many may take something called Care Credit, which is a credit card you can use for your own health or that of your pet. While it is a lifeline to some, and can give them some breathing room because the hospital can offer to input certain promotion codes depending on the charge applied (for us, it’s 0 percent for 6 months if the charge is over $200), keep in mind the interest rate that kicks in after that promotional period is pretty hefty.  As in 26.99 percent. Let me write that again.  26.99%.  To anyone who applies for it or uses it at my hospital, I tell them to make sure that they either get it paid off or make sure that balance is transferred off the card by the time the promotional period ends to avoid that hit.  Because it’s huge and who can afford to pay interest at that rate??!!  I certainly can’t! (And please don’t think I am endorsing Care Credit, I just mention it because like I said, for some, it is a lifeline when they can’t bear to say goodbye to their pet, but can’t afford the hefty vet bill all at once and don’t have other means to pay for it, credit card or otherwise.)

If you have enjoyed this post, or think someone can benefit from it, please do share it and pass it on! And please drop me a line if you have a comment or suggestion.

And please note that all the opinions expressed herein are my own and not that of my hospital. I only speak for myself in my posts.

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If you think you can’t, you won’t. So, just do it.

That's me in the grey t-shirt. Wow, I'm short. But I'm surrounded by some amazing people at the MA Humane Lobby Day.

That’s me in the grey t-shirt. Wow, I’m short. But I’m surrounded by some amazing people at the MA Humane Lobby Day.

When people ask me why I’m vegan, one of the main reasons I give is because I don’t want to play any role, no matter how small, in the suffering of living, feeling, and loving creatures. Inevitably, some people say something like “well, they’re still going to continue making beef for us to eat, you know?” Or “chickens are still going to continue laying eggs, so what are you stopping, really?” Um, a lot. And I’m sure it means a lot to every animal that doesn’t have to die just so I can eat it.

Here’s the thing. One person can make a difference. The guy who made the Cowspiracy movie – from his own research, he went vegan and thereby saved (and continues to save) some animals from being sent to slaughter as he’s not consuming them anymore. And by making the movie, he changed my mind into becoming a vegan. And I’m sure he’s changed more minds than just mine. So, he did do something.

During my medical leave, I finished reading a book by Gene Baur called Farm Sanctuary. Again, a man who started small, but who has changed many, many lives, both human and animal, over the past thirty years. It really inspired me to want to do more. So I reached out to them after reviewing their website. I saw that their pages on pending state and federal legislation were from the last congressional and legislative sessions. I asked if I could help them update that information, since I’ve got the skills to look up that sort of thing. They graciously took me up on my offer.

So, as they suggested, I reviewed the information on a few of the major animal welfare organizations and then did some additional searches on my own, for federal legislation. And I found out this week that the information I sent to them was used to update a newsletter being sent out to about 100,000 members and it would even highlight an act that they didn’t know about before I found it, called the SAFE Act. SAFE stands for Safeguard American Foods Act, and if passed, this bill would prevent health hazards posed by consuming horses raised in the U.S., by prohibiting, via interstate or foreign commerce, the sale of horses to be be used for human consumption. I feel good, knowing my efforts made a difference to them, and I hope, down the line, to the people reading their newsletter. (And I hope it will make a huge difference to the lives of horses in this country also.)

So, YES, people, you can do something. The only way to ensure your failure at making a difference is to sit there and bemoan how little you can do, and not even try.  I refuse to do that anymore, especially after having read Best Friends: The True Story of the World’s Most Beloved Sanctuary.   They saved the lives of so many animals who had been abused, or neglected, or just dropped without any emotional thought on the part of their “owners.”  As I was reading through it (in just two days’ time), I just kept thinking to myself, I would LOVE to work there and help the animals!! Imagine being around a lot of other people who feel the same way about animals as I do. Plus, it sounds simply gorgeous, as I know many parts of the southwestern United States are. (FYI, in their recent edition of Best Friends Magazine, they discuss how important it is to contact your state legislatures about animal welfare issues.  See page 16.)

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the MA Humane Lobby Day.  One of the speakers talked about a bill that had been introduced this session called “A Bill to Protect Puppies and Kittens.”  Think of that title. As she said (and I paraphrase), “who in their right mind can vote against a bill that aims to protect puppies and kittens??”” Well played, ma’am, well played. 🙂

And if you still think that you can’t do something, well, look at what the power of people in some of our state legislatures can do. Don’t take my word for it – check out this clip of John Oliver from his show Last Week Tonight.

And finally, I’ll point you back to a post I wrote last year about a movie called Opening Our Eyes.  It’s about what individuals have done in various parts of the world and how their efforts have changed the lives of so many over time.  You just have to MAKE the decision that, YES, YOU CAN make a difference in this world. Things may seem depressing some days – I’m not immune to it. Some days, after seeing the news, I wonder “what in the hell is wrong with this world??!!” But then, I think, if we all just give up, then it will all go to hell. So, we can’t let that happen. Don’t let other people’s fears project onto you and keep you from doing something. I’m not.  It’s why I am willing to take the steps I’m taking to change the course of my life and make the world a better place for animals. Because every little bit helps. (And if ever I forget that or doubt myself, I look around at my furballs and know better.)

As much as I like to think I'm making a change in Osito's life, I know she's making a HUGE difference in my life.

As much as I like to think I’m making a change in Osito’s life, I know she’s making a HUGE difference in my life.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, everyone! If you’ve liked this post, please hit like or subscribe, or drop me a line below in the comments. Thanks for reading, as always!

Farm Sanctuary: An Inspiration

I started reading a book last week by the same title as this post, Farm Sanctuary, by Gene Baur. I left some of it to be read after my surgery as I knew I would have a lot of down time and didn’t want to take too many things of value into the hospital. So no ipad traveled to the hospital with me. It’s a book I cannot put down.

The man is impressive with how steadfast he has been in his principles, and it all started with one animals who was considered “downed” at the Lancaster Stockyards. In case you are unfamiliar with this term, it means the animals who are brought to the stockyards and are usually too sick or weak to even get out of the container they’ve been trucked in on. Sometimes it’s a day or days old calf. Sometimes it’s an animal that the food industry considers “past its prime.” Basically, ti’s an animal that no one cares about and thinks it’s too expensive to put out of its misery – you see, the farmer can get more money for an animal that is still alive (even just barely) than one that is dead. And it costs money to euthanize an animal and put it out of its misery. God forbid, right? Wouldn’t want to treat a living creature with any sense of decency…. (Yes, you can tell that that attitude really angers me.)

Gene Baur just kept at what he felt was right.  He used common sense too. He got a degree from Cornell because he knew it would give him more credibility when talking to those in the agribusiness sectors. And it did. When he realized that there was a gentleman who lived close by to their sanctuary who worked in a business that involved the killing of animals, he invited him over for a meal (meatless, of course)  and everyone treated the man with respect. That gentleman didn’t feel threatened at the meal and he saw that they weren’t all a bunch of folks who were not willing to meet someone different from themselves. The man later ended up getting rid of his business.

If you don’t want to take my word for it that he’s a pretty cool guy, then just check out this video of him being interviewed by Jon Stewart. (Hat tip to my good friend DB who alerted me to it.)

If you notice in the interview, Jon Stewart mentions that a lot of vegans can be very rough on others who don’t eat the same way they do. I feel like if I were to preach to everyone, oh you should eat this, or don’t eat this, that will just push the person to do the opposite. No one likes to be told what to do after they’ve reached the age of what, 5? But you will also notice that Gene Baur doesn’t act all sanctimonious. (And he actually makes Jon’s day when he tells him that Baco Bits are vegan!)

Gene Baur will now be one of my inspirations for following my dreams and helping out animals. If he could start with basically nothing and persevere, then I can too. I can’t wait to go back to volunteering at the animal shelter once I am allowed to lift more than 8 pounds. That’s why I hope to recover quickly. (I’d like to go back and just socialize with the animals or take care of the chickens. In fact, I think I will do that as long as the shelter staff or my fellow volunteer, Janice, is ok with it.)  There is a lot of work to be done. Like Gene, I know I can’t save them all, but to save even one nor make even one’s life better for the rest of its days on this planet is to do right. As my mom and grandma used to say to me a lot while growing up, you never know if you don’t even try. (And with that, I’m off to continue working on my research paper of how to start a farm sanctuary in NC.)

Is there something you would like to do with your life but have been afraid to take the first steps toward doing?  Has any part of this post touched you? Have you read this book by Gene Baur? (Btw, he has a new book out which I can’t wait to read – it’s called Living the Farm Sanctuary Life.)

If you have liked this post, please hit like or subscribe or drop me a line below. Thank you so much for reading.