Monday, April 19, 2010

Dusty update

Dusty, 17 year old Pekingese, has been a very expensive dog.  In fact, over the past year, I have spent so much money on him, I have become one of the clinic's better clients.  

Do I think he's worth it?  

Of course.  He's sitting on my lap right now and just by being there, he makes me very happy.  I suppose it is possible to buy happiness, at least as far as a pet is concerned.  

Last week, I had to make a difficult decision.  His last dental cleaning was about two years ago and since then his "fragile" health made me worry about what might happen if I put him under anesthesia.  Since it is impossible to brush his teeth and he has difficulty chewing dental treats, his teeth deteriorated to the point where they were in serious trouble.  I was very concerned about his lower canines.  They were getting so bad that I knew they were going to require extraction but these teeth are not easy to extract and there is a possibility of jaw fracture when you try to get them out.  I felt like Dusty's dentistry was a job for someone more skilled than what I am. 

Of course, even with a specialist, there was no guarantee that he would survive the anesthesia.  I went back and forth, debating with myself whether I should take the risk.  He's 17 years old!  He has a heart murmur!  He has chronic kidney disease!  He has seizures and likely a brain tumor!  His back is made of sawdust!!!  Agh!!!!  Finally, I decided that Dusty was possibly in a lot of pain and the risk of anesthesia was worth taking if I could make him feel more comfortable.  

I chose Dr. Niemiec, a dental specialist in San Diego since I had attended one of his lectures at the Western States Veterinary Conference and he had inspired me to look after teeth no matter how old a patient is.  Dusty and I drove down to see him on Tuesday of last week.  

After getting him under anesthesia, Dr. Niemiec's technician presented me with an estimate of $2000 to $3000.  Talk about a doctor getting a taste of his own medicine!  I realized what it was like for my clients to get expensive estimates.  After a deep breath, I told the tech to do what Dr. Niemiec needed to do.  

There is no doubt that veterinary medicine is expensive.  Get a dog or a cat under anesthesia and it's gonna cost ya.  You have to pay for the tech time, the drugs, the monitoring, the equipment and the actual procedure.  You might think a regular veterinarian is expensive but a specialist will really rip into your wallet.  Bills of several thousands dollars are a regular occurrence.   

But don't think that all the vets are getting rich.  Sure there are some vets who have big houses and fancy cars and live the MD lifestyle but I can assure you that most of us are not like that.  It simply costs A LOT of money to run a veterinary clinic and those costs are going to be passed along to the owner.  If you haven't thought about pet insurance for your pet, think again.  Even being a veterinarian, I will get it for my next pet. 

With Dusty, I figured that the money was worth it.  I'm not sure how much time he has left but I wanted his remaining time to be comfortable.  If it's going to cost a couple grand for the best possible care, then I don't mind slapping down the plastic and paying it off bit by bit.

In total, 11 teeth were extracted.  I felt very guilty about how many teeth he lost but at least they would no longer be a problem. 

Dusty recovered from the anesthesia incredibly well.  He slept the whole way from San Diego to LA but he was awake enough that night to eat a small meal. 

Despite all his health issues, he has continued to do well and I'm now a believer that any age of pet can do well under anesthesia as long as the doctor is careful. 

But will I get a dental cleaning for Dusty when he's 18?  Hmmm, okay, well, let me think about that one ...

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