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Lessons learned…final thoughts for 2010.

– 2010 has been a challenging and thoughtful for our country. Dr. Welton discusses how the year’s circumstances impacted the pet health care industry and provides final thoughts for 2010, as well as tips for the new year.

Transcript of this week’s episode of The Web-DVM:

Hello everyone, this is Dr. Roger Welton, veterinarian, Veterinary News Network Reporter, and host of The Web-DVM.

It has been a crazy year for Americans to say the least. We have been told that our ailing economy is in recovery, yet so many remain out of work and foreclosures are still happening at an alarming rate. In the pet health care industry, we have seen even the most conscientious owners fail to keep up with even basic wellness care. In my entire career, I have not seen pet owner compliance with our health care recommendations be so low. Owners are resorting to second rate so called discount veterinary clinics for yearly visits, and spays and neuters more than I have ever seen. Of course, this means less revenue for high level veterinary hospitals like mine which translates to stifled practice growth. While this adversely effects my ability to provide raises and benefits for my employees, inhibits my ability to update medical equipment and renovate my aging hospital building, nothing is more frustrating than seeing pet owners who want the best health care for their pets, but just do not have the means to pay for it. The bottom line is that everybody suffers in this climate, with few in a position to be immune from its effects.

During these times it is of course imperative to focus more on being grateful for what we still have left, rather than focus on what we have lost or could not achieve. For any one of us that feels frustrated by what the Great Recession have wreaked upon our nation, we should always bear in mind that however much we have lost, however much we may find ourselves frustrated, there are many who have lost more.

In addition to using this notion to keep as positive an outlook as possible for ourselves and our families as we rebuild our futures, it is also important to learn from the tough lessons our circumstances have thrown us. With regard to quality pet care, I urge all pet owners to strive to keep pets that are within their means. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen people who have paid $3000 for a high maintenance health care breed like an English Bulldog, from a pet store, the reality of which increases the likelihood of having an already high maintenace dog with all kinds of health problems. Then when these problems arise, they do not have the money to manage them, yet they had no problem forking out the $3000 for the dog in the first place.

Lesson 1: do not purchase from pet stores. Not only do you support an appallingly inhumane industry, but you also have an exponentially higher likelihood of having a dog with all kinds of health problems.

Lesson 2: if money is tight, do not adopt a breed that has a known reputation to have a lot of health problems. If money is tight, the best thing to do is adopt a mutt from the pound. They are free, come with vaccines, are already fixed, and infectious disease tested, and with the genetic variety that a mixed breed brings, that dog will most likely be healthy for most of its life.

Another example of pet owners not keeping pets within their means is keeping too many. I cannot tell you how many pet owners I see that have 8 plus cats, while they can barely afford one. So rather than have one decently care for cat, they instead have 8 or more poorly cared for cats that are fed cheap, garbage food, never receive wellness veterinary care, vaccines, or even flea and tick preventive, then complain to me when one is so sick that their hand is forced to seek veterinary care and cannot afford it.

Lesson 3: keep only the number of pets that you can afford to care for properly.
The level of pet health care is much higher generally in Europe than in the U.S.. It is not because they have better veterinarians, nor is it because they are any more wealthy than we are, it is because 50% of European pet owners own pet insurance, while only 3% of U.S. pet owners carry pet insurance. Make no mistake, reputable pet insurance companies offer very helpful medical reimbursement policies for your pets for in most cases, quite reasonable monthly premiums.

Lesson 4: if treating a costly injury or illness to your pet may be something you either could not afford or would put your family in financial distress, seek out quality, reputable pet insurance.

An owner brought in a 7 year old hound dog for a consultation because he was severely coughing and losing weight. Examination, x-rays, and blood work revealed that was in right sided heart failure because he had heartworms. The dog had never been seen by a veterinarian since it was a puppy, so it never had any heartworm screening nor was it ever kept on heartworm preventive. With little financial capacity to have the heartworms treated, and management of the right sided heart failure was a guarded prospect at best even if she could afford treatment, the owner had no choice but to have the dog humanely put to sleep.

Lesson 5: keep up with general wellness care as mandated by your veterinarian. Spending a little today can prevent a tragic, expensive illness later
My hospital sponsors a rescue fund for the treatment of life threatening conditions in the pets of people who have found themselves in financial hard times and cannot afford the life-saving treatment. Funding comes from private donations clients put in a collection box, and from waiting room candy machines. Ironically, the donation box and candy sales have increased as a result of the recession, with those who are still doing well enough, being more inclined to give to help the less fortunate. To date, Tiffany Fund, named after my beloved deceased Labrador retriever, has saved the lives of 12 animals and counting. More than saving these precious lives, the fund has saved families and individuals from devastating personal loss.

Lesson 6: THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON OF ALL. If you are doing well, give to those who are not, help those who have less. One good deed not only can fix an immediate wrong, but can go so far as to restore the recipient’s faith in humanity, and in life in general. Faith, hope, and goodwill are infectious, and in tough times, we cannot spread enough.

I thank all of my loyal audience for taking the time to watch and lisen to little old me this entire year. I wish all of you and your pets peace, love, and happiness during these holidays, and abundance in the New Year to come. I will resume with all new episodes the first week of January 2011. Until then, fair well, my friends.

This is Dr. Roger Welton reporting, for The Web-DVM.

Don’t forget to catch my live call-in radio show Wednesdays 9PM EST. Listen via podcast live or archived here:

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Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website

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