veterinary medicine

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This Vet Learning About Healthcare Globalization

Published September 8, 2011 by glaumland

This is another journal entry from my class on Healthcare Organizations. Just when I though the healthcare industry couldn’t get any bigger or scarier, we looked at it on a global level. We also looked at longevity that week, but I’ll save that for another post. Wow!


Wow! There is a lot of stuff to think about this week. I hardly know where to start. But I think
I’ll start with the articles.

 “How Health Insurance Design Affects Access To Care And Costs By Income In Eleven
Countries” by C. Shoen et al. – I found this a very interesting article,
but probably not for the reason the authors intended. What I found interesting
was the efforts to make ‘science’ out of opinion. It’s really quite easy, and
lots of ‘scientists’ do it all the time.

 Here’s how it works…you ask people how they feel about a subject and then use their
response to come up with statistics (confusing subjective and objective
information). The authors of this study did exactly that. To establish incomes,
respondents were told their country’s median income then asked if they felt
they were about average, much or somewhat above average, or  much or somewhat below average.  In other words, how do you feel about your income compared to the average? The biggest problem with this methodology is that it can introduce bias issues into your study, and although the authors
admit this problem when it comes to estimating medical expenses, they don’t
mention it about income. Ideally, the authors would have given an exact range
(if the median income was $35K, then ask if people make $30-40K (about
average), $15-30K (somewhat below average), $40-70K (somewhat above average),
etc.) That is a number most people have a pretty good idea about and can answer
truthfully, giving better data. (And about the truthful answer part, another
way to introduce bias is when the respondent either answers untruthfully
because they don’t think it is your business what their income is – I’ve done
that before – or they reply with what they think the correct answer is trying
to please the questioner.)

 Anytime you ask people about their ‘experiences’ you are introducing the potential for more
bias in your study. I can say this from personal experience. If a survey was to
catch me during a bad time with one of my health issues, my responses may
revolve around that one episode and not necessarily take all circumstances into
account. When I’m grumpy and hurting, I’m not necessarily the font of wisdom.
Likewise, asking a patient if they are confident they could get ‘the most
effective’ treatment, how are they to know? Is this their opinion or have they
educated themselves to know the different options and what will work for them?
Also, are they speaking of their own experiences or are they considering those
of friends and relatives in their answer?

 There were a couple of other things I didn’t like about this article. First, they really stressed
that low-income people are more likely to suffer more chronic conditions and be
elderly. Whereas I believe that it is the elderly and those with more chronic
conditions who are more likely to have lower incomes. I think that dollars
earned by the elderly during their working years are not worth as much during
their retirement years, thus many of them fall into the low income category.
This is especially true during this economic downturn when nearly everyone’s
financial worth has taken a hit. I also believe that people with chronic
conditions are less able to have an active or productive work-life (this would
include me) and that is why many have low incomes. It comes down to the
‘chicken or egg’ argument, but I don’t believe that having a low income leads
you to be elderly or sickly; that isn’t logical.

 Another statement in this article was that the countries varied in their ability to provide access
to 24 hour healthcare outside of the emergency room. My first reaction was
“so?” Isn’t that the reason for emergency rooms? I don’t see why this
topic was presented as an ‘oh my gosh’ one. It just seems like a no-brainer to

 That’s true of many of their arguments. Maybe I’m naïve (some of my friends tell me that!) or
narrow-minded (some different friends tell me that!) so perhaps I’m just not
open to these studies that push the benefits of healthcare reform. Although I
have to say I didn’t know that was the purpose of the study when I started
reading it. But by the time I started going through their survey results, I had
a pretty good idea what their conclusions would be. I do know I am suspicious –
it comes with age and experience.

 I know that surveys are difficult to do (and especially in different languages and cultures); it
takes a lot of work and careful consideration to do a survey properly. Adding
in a potential for a lot of bias, then covering it with statistics, just leads to
the creation of junk science, and that’s what I think they have here. I can
honestly say I was not as impressed with this report as with the other articles
we read this week where ‘real’ numbers were used. And there I’m exposing my
bias against healthcare reform, as I don’t believe one bill can effectively or
efficiently cure all issues. I think there are some ways in which really good
studies could have been designed (like retrospectively looking at
post-hospitalization surveys). I do agree that you will miss some important
sections of society and some important information, but again, I don’t think
you can design one study to get all answers.


A Vet Looks At Longevity & Euthanasia

Published September 8, 2011 by glaumland

Another subject we covered in my Human Healthcare class was the Longevity Revolution. We all hear about the Baby Boomers getting older, but it is interesting to consider that our healthcare industry is aging, as well. And anytime you focus on longevity, you also have to look at the end of life. Choosing for animals is very different than choosing for people.


OK, enough griping.
Now I’ll focus on some of the topics that I really liked this time and how I
see some of them in my veterinary practice. You know, sometimes my kids are
really impressed by how I seem to know everything (that ‘eyes in the back of my
head’ thing); at other times they roll their eyes because they can’t believe
how ignorant I am. I’m not ‘hip’ or ‘with it’, although I know those terms are
as dated as I am!

I really liked the
information about the aging population and the need for more general
practitioners. (I never really considered about the medical practitioners aging
as a group…hmmm.) I totally agree that there needs to be a move towards
family doctors. For many years the medical industry was gaining so much
specific knowledge and technical abilities, and it seemed like medicine became
very ‘targeted’ – if you had a joint problem, you went to a joint specialist,
etc. Of course, many people still technically had a primary physician, but
often it seemed that they did little but authorize the trip to the specialist.

For instance, I
never took my kids to pediatricians. My children are a part of a family unit
and need to be treated that way. They don’t live in a vacuum. And I think this
is the best example of how human medicine has gotten so off kilter. I’ve been
lucky enough to have found some really good family doctors who take the time to
do thorough histories. (Darned if they don’t leave just about the time I really
get them trained.) Doctors who take the time to listen and ask the right
questions are way ahead in treating the whole patient, not just throwing some
medicine at some symptoms.

In my practice a
good history is a must, especially since my patients can’t talk for themselves.
I think the biggest problem is that doctors have to get so many patients
through a day to make it profitable. Also, I think the culture of medicine
needs to get back to teaching the doctors about how important gathering
background information is. Or maybe just that it needs to be done. When you had
small practices in small areas, the doctors probably already knew most of the
family information about their patients because they were a part of the same
small community. That’s just not likely to happen today.

Another point that I
think was really well made this week was that lifespan does not equal
health-span. Whenever the legislature talks about raising the retirement age, I
consider it an interesting issue to tackle. When you look at the older people
you know, some people are ‘old’ at 65 and some are ‘young’ at 85. How do you
differentiate between those people who really need to slow down in their 60’s
(or even 40’s or 50’s), and those who are active and able into their 70’s and
80’s? I don’t see that there is a way to legislate this problem as it would
need to go person by person and case by case.

Hospice is one of my
favorite parts of the medical industry. My grandmother went into a hospice
house in Topeka after a massive stroke, and it was the best experience ever
(relatively speaking). Everyone I’ve ever talked to who have used hospice homes
have had good things to say about them. I don’t know as much about hospice done
at an individual’s home (I really haven’t heard of any in the last decade
personally), but I would imagine there is a move to get people into the hospice
facilities where there would be better access to staff, equipment, medications
and facilities.

To choose hospice is
to choose the right to die with dignity and comfort. But can the same be said
about euthanasia? As a veterinarian, I can say that euthanasia is one of the
most difficult things that I do. I hate the days when I transform from ‘Dr Glaum’
to ‘Dr Gloom.’ I appreciate being able to end the suffering and pain for the
pet of a family. Since I don’t like the ‘Dr Gloom’ I usually try to push the
animals and the families to put that decision off as long as we can maintain
the quality of life.

Once I have a
terminally ill patient, we have a ‘pet hospice program’ we use that helps the
patients stay comfortable and helps the families know when it is time for
euthanasia. This has been one of the best programs that we have instituted in
the past few years. We have a scoring sheet that looks at different topics
(like movement, hunger, pain) so that the pet owner can evaluate their pet, see
trends, and better communicate with us. If something is trending downwards, we
know that is an area to work on (like installing ramps, changing food types,
adjusting pain meds). Better quality of life (QOL) means that pet and parent
have more time together. And it relieves some of the worry and guilt that they
experience when that time does come.

One of the
non-scored topics I have to deal with though is the burden on the caregiver. I
know how important this is to people on the human side more than even the pet
industry. It is one thing to carry a 10# Poodle outside to go potty, but a very
different thing to move a 100# Labrador around. Sometimes the problem is the
clients can’t afford meds or have ‘people’ family commitments they need to
attend to. We, as veterinarians, have that luxury of being able to say,
“That’s OK, it’s time.” I have seen my parents caring for my
grandparents as they aged, and frankly, I’m scared that when it is time for me
to step into that role I may not be up to it. I hope I can find a way where it
is my responsibility, but not a burden. Time will tell.

The last thing I
wanted to note on euthanasia is what a burden it is to have the power over life
and death. It isn’t easy, at least for me. Perhaps that is because of my belief
that animals are all unique as God’s created creatures; I just don’t know. I do
feel honored to be allowed to be a part of the intimate time when the pet
owners say good-bye to their pets. I try not to cry at the moment, but often
the tears come on the way home. One especially bad period a few years ago, I
lost 12 pets in 9 days; it was a hot August and the little old guys just
couldn’t handle the heat stress on top of everything else.  Anyway (probably TMI), I went into a
depression that lasted for months. The point is, euthanasia is really tough and
I don’t think the human medical industry needs to go to that difficult place. I
think that hospice can fill that need.

A Veterinarian’s Look At Human Healthcare

Published September 8, 2011 by glaumland

I took a class this summer about the Administration of Healthcare Organizations. I wasn’t looking forward to it and was very nervous going into it. But it actually turned out to be a VERY interesting class. With respect to my own health issues, I learned a great deal. I also discovered a lot that I will be able to apply to my practice of veterinary medicine.

Part of what we did in that class was to journal each week about our studies. Since I spent time on my journal and not posting to my blog, I thought I would publish some of my class journals on the blog. I’m not sure it will mean anything to anyone except me, but I hope you find some jewels just like I did. Sorry the formatting is so funky…I’ll try to work on that.


OK, I have to admit
that prior to this first week I was very nervous. The subject of human
healthcare is way outside of my expertise, even though I have been a chronic
consumer. It is interesting to hear healthcare referred to as an industry,
because it makes it seem so large and expansive and over-reaching. As a
veterinarian, I know I’m part of the animal health industry, but my goal is to
peel away all of the layers and bring vet care to a personal level in the exam
room. I think that is why my clients like me. I feel like I spend a lot of time
talking, but my goal is to ask the right questions and find the answers that
the clients often don’t know that they have. Good pet care begins with getting
knowledge and ends with giving knowledge back to the client. I like it when I
get the same kind of personal care from my doctors, so thinking in terms of an
‘industry’ is overwhelming and a little scary.

One of the most
interesting parts of the presentations this week was the John Stossel segment
on Whole Foods and their approach to purchasing services from health
practitioners. It makes a great deal of sense and would seem to be very
effective. But as a doctor, I have to confess I don’t know the prices of
procedures and services that my clinic offers. Size of patient and length of
procedure are just two variables that can affect cost. However, I do have my
staff print off estimates and I will go over them with the client. The other
issue that I have to consider, which I think may also have great relevance to
this topic, is that I have to be careful not to only offer services that I
think my clients can afford. It isn’t my place to make those decisions for
them. Offering plan ‘A’, ‘B’ & ‘C’ can help the client receive services
that benefit the patient and also stay in their budget. We’re seeing more people use Care Credit (a medical credit card) and various
forms of pet insurance. I really do recommend that clients have these tools
available; what many don’t realize is that the cost of veterinary care is
closer to what their own health care should be without medical insurance.

Perhaps that’s why I
don’t think ‘healthcare reform’ is a practical approach to addressing this
issue. Because the industry is so big and changing rapidly, you cannot just
whisk in and make sweeping and effective changes. I think compartmentalization
is the key; break the healthcare industry down into its various sections and
functions and work on them one at a time. I also think another key to efficient
healthcare is to keep the administration as close as possible to the consumer.
Too many layers of bureaucracy create waste and inefficiency. Think of the
restaurant owner who walks through his dining room full of customers; he can
get feedback on their favorite dishes, what they’d like to eat, and what isn’t
working (be it food, staff, environment, etc.). The restaurateur is in a much
better position then to address the important topics to improve his customers’
experiences. Ha, if only it were that easy!

I hate that this
topic has become so partisan and so political. It keeps people from coming up
with good solutions that are practical and efficient. And when things get
stalled out because everyone is so busy hammering away at their point of view,
real opportunities are missed. I’m really bothered by the term ‘equality’, and
I’m hoping to learn more in this class about how it is applied. I do think that
everyone should have equal opportunities for health care (and everything else),
but it is unreasonable to expect equal outcomes. So much can happen on that
journey from A to Z, and I believe that the direction of that journey must be
decided by the individual, not by a third party, and  especially not by a government that can’t
even run itself well. I’m sounding more and more libertarian all of the time.
That is too funny.

I love the fact that
the history of public health was brought up. I love history. Here I wish we had
LESS compartmentalization. It seems that most people think that history is for
historians, but we can/should learn all there is about the background of our
professions, families, and politics. Why repeat someone else’s mistakes. Figure
out what worked and what didn’t. There is a lot of interesting knowledge out
there, much more applicable to today than most people realize. In my public
health area, there are diseases that are emerging much in the same way that
they emerged centuries ago.  I think
there are some basic public health principles (like sanitation and quarantine)
that need to be ‘rediscovered’ as people have become so dependent upon
antibiotics and hospital care.

The REAL Medi-scare You Should Be Worried About

Published May 30, 2011 by glaumland

This is something I’ve been watching and worrying about for a while and I’m glad to see that this topic is finally getting some press. No, it’s not the Mediscare that the Democrats are talking about, but it is something to be concerned about. Very concerned.

There are a myriad of reasons that this would occur, some will blame the economy, red-tape, legislation. In fact, I think that those reasons have added to the medicine shortage. But from my point of view, the biggest problem is that larger drug companies are buying out the smaller companies. The supply of cheaper American-made generics is losing out to the production of brand-name heavily promoted drugs.

Two examples…

First example? Plain old eye lubrication ointment. Nothing special about this stuff – it’s petrolatum that is ophthalmic grade. But in the last six months the price of a little tube had quadrupled. But you can still get it, if it isn’t on backorder. And that’s just the stuff without any medication in it.

The next example – injectable medication for treatment of heartworm positive dogs. The old stuff was economical and effective (an injectable arsenical compound), although treatment could always be dangerous and deadly (you know, the Old Lace kind of poison). But I can say I never lost a patient, thanks to zealous attention to changes in patients’ medical conditions and some luck. Unfortunately, this drug was made by a small company that got bought out by a big drug company (one of those Pharma’s) that had produced a new (and only FDA approved) heartworm treatment. Here’s their MO: buy up the little company, have the EPA declare the factory a hazardous waste site due to the presence of arsenic, and start selling the heck out of your new drug. The problem? There isn’t enough of the new drug manufactured to treat all of the heartworm positive dogs, and you can only get their drug if you can pass their compassionate care guidelines.

Less available and more expensive, and sounds like a giant conflict of interest. I do think that drug companies do need to have a profitable business plan and reap the benefits of years and $$$ put into research (and we only see the successful drugs). But new business plan of getting rid of the small competition is going to bite us all in the rear.

All of those $4 drugs from Walmart are available because Walmart purchases on such a large scale and because they are willing to take a loss to get you inside the store. Good for them, good for you as an individual, but not so good for the drug industry. No Profits + No Protection = No Products.

Many of the generics now are being purchased from overseas suppliers, especially in India and Asia. Although this is good for their economies and global trade, consumer beware! Many of these medications are not what they seem – they can have different quantities of medicine or look different from how they are normally distributed – possibly not being as effective as usual. But worst of all, they can be adulterated, meaning they can have toxins or other compounds present in them that may actually be detrimental to the patient taking the medicine.

With my fibromyalgia I’m on a lot of meds, and I’ve noticed that certain meds seem to act different from bottle to bottle. Is is me? Or is it the meds? I’m starting to wonder…

Don’t be afraid to question your doctor and your pharmacist to make sure you are getting good quality medicines, preferably made in the USA. Your health may depend upon it.

Don’t be afraid to bring this issue up to your representatives…your future health may depend on it. Don’t take my word for it, do your own research.

Until next time…


How Do You Say Goodbye To A Friend?

Published July 17, 2010 by glaumland

Life is all about change. We’re constantly moving forward in time, although we are blessed to be able recall memories of days gone by. Friends are those who are a part of those memories, and to be able to sit and talk about those memories is a truly wonderful event and remarkable interaction.

And life goes on…As circumstances change, we lose touch with some friends as we make new ones. I once learned a song at scout camp:

Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.

The memories shared with an old friend really are golden, and when you do have an opportunity to see them and share those memories, it is a heart-warming moment.

Sometimes, as you see life changing, and you see yourself parting from friends, it can be really tough know how to take it. Do you hold on tight, denying & fighting the inevitable? Or do you relax, open your hands, and take the changes as they come? Personally, I think it comes down to faith. Faith in God, faith in His plan for us, and faith in our friendship to outlast change.

But what if your friend is an animal?

When you open yourself up to love a pet, you know (at least on some level) that you will one day have to say goodbye to your friend. Often-times, it will end up being your decision to end your pet’s life, as old age & disease decrease the quality of life. Do you cling on desperately, ignoring the eventual outcome? Do you just give up & let go, figuring that death will win anyway. Maybe you’re somewhere in between, exploring every option so you can make an informed decision.

Part of my job as a veterinarian is to help pet owners make these decisions. It is a big responsibility, and often weighs heavy on my soul. My goal is always to give the pet as much time as possible with their loved ones, as long as quality of life is there. Once we’ve reached the point of no return, I hope to give the pets a peaceful and respectful passing. And once the initial tears are gone, I hope to leave my clients with joyful memories.

How do you say good-bye to a furry friend? Usually I’ll recommend extra moments spent together, especially captured on film. Pictures are great things for stirring memories. Sometimes I’ll let owners give their pet all of those wonderful treats and goodies (especially the good cuts of steak!) that were denied during the times of treatment. But most important are the quiet times, spent with friends and family, just being petted and loved; these are the times when the two souls connect.

Sometimes, though, I’m not (or not just) the veterinarian, I’m a two-legged friend. The sadness comes from my loss, and the tears shed are mine. Sometimes I know the end is coming, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’m present at the end, sometimes I’m not. But the opportunity to say goodbye is one I treasure and I’m always grateful to have it.

And so I come to the reason for this entry, as I finish my goodbye to another friend. His name was Sampson, a cream-colored lab that in every way lived up to his name. His wide frame, his deep voice and his big heart made him a very special boy: the quintessential companion dog.

He was, along with his brother Frazier, my daughter’s best friend when she was a toddler. Sampson was always more reserved and calm, making him the best option when you needed to snuggle. He was so very smart and could be counted on to entertain with his large bag of tricks. He knew when I called his name in that certain way he was in for some poking or prodding; he always gave in and came, giving me that funny look that said, “OK, but I’m not sure I’m gonna like this.” Always wanting to be in the action, but never crowding to get there, he made a perfect friend to help a toddler find her feet and her love for animals.

For me, time with Sampson was always calming to my soul. Looking into those soulful eyes and running hands over that luxurious coat, along with his generous & quiet spirit, were all that I need to relax.  He was a great example of the tremendous gift we are given by God putting animals in our lives. He was, and always will be, one of my most treasured friends. He went to heaven last week, and I know he will be one to greet me when I get there.

How do you say goodbye to a friend? Tell them you love them, will always cherish them, and will see them again when the time is right. Although it may seem forever, it really is just a while.

So goodbye, dear Sampson. I do love you; I’ll remember you forever and make sure my daughter does, too. And we’ll be together someday, doing tricks or just sitting together. I promise there won’t be any poking or prodding, just petting & hanging out.

Until next time…

Where To Find The Perfect Pet

Published April 23, 2010 by glaumland

I was perusing the HotAir website last night and came upon this teaser: “I loathe my cat.”,1,2,2#cat0

Of course, that topic caught my attention and in a short time I was able to read the entire passage. I was so astounded, I thought at first that perhaps it was a spoof. But, no, it was the real thing. And that is what’s scary and infuriating. So I did a little more digging…

The title of the article is “People with problem pets must make their own peace,” by AP stringer Leanne Italie. It is an interview with 5 pet owners who don’t enjoy their pets, and gives a few snippets of facts from the AVMA on pet ownership & adoption numbers, and also interviews ASPCA staffer/phycologist and purported expert on the human/animal bond Dr. Stephanie LaFarge.

The first person interviewed is New Palestine, IN free-lance writer Amy Best-Boss. It seems that her cat is having inappropriate urination issues, causing this woman to state that she not only ‘loathes’ the cat, but also ‘hates’ it. Boss calls it a “stupid, stupid cat” and despite all her efforts (changing litter boxes, changing litter, changing types of litter, using sprays & giving medicines), the cat “just really, really likes to pee.”

Obviously the cat has an issue. It could be physical, perhaps low-grade cystitis that isn’t getting addressed. Or arthritis that keeps the cat out of the litter box. Maybe it is mental. Maybe there have been some changes at home and the kitty is a little neurotic. Who knows? These issues can be tough to pin down, but that is why pet owners, especially those with problem pets, should have a good relationship with a veterinarian who wants to help work through these problems.

What disturbs me however is that Amy Best-Boss has Bachelor degrees in Journalism and Socialism, and a Master of Divinity Degree with emphasis on counseling. For someone who has chosen a path of caring for the emotional needs of people, it seems as though she is carrying around a lot of hate for her kitty. And that isn’t healthy, for anyone in that family.

Next the article tries to make martyrs of people who hate their pets:

Still, many cannot bring themselves to dump their wayward animals in shelters. Instead, they pay sky-high vet bills for intervention that does not work. They endure in-your-face barking rants in the middle of the night or are startled awake by the routine hacking of hairballs.

I happen to be one of those vets, and no, I don’t offer interventions. I offer quality medical care. Can it be expensive? Sure it can. Unless an owner has pet insurance to offset the costs, what you pay in a veterinary hospital is more akin to the prices that you would pay without human health insurance. Actually, considering the service that you and your pet receive, you’re getting a much better deal from your vet.

On difficult cases, providing good medical care is just as much an art as a science. That is especially true when your patient cannot tell you what is wrong, and unless you can prompt the client to give good information with thoughtful questions, the vet may have to make assumptions based on past experience. That’s the art.

The science comes in with the myriad of tools that we have to give us information on the pet’s health, tools like complete physical exams, blood work, urinalysis, fecal exams, and diagnostic imaging to name a few. Since the body is a complex organ, and since there can be multiple health problems occuring at the same time, it can take some time and money trying to find the correct answers for a particular pet.

We’re then told about a 16-year old cat that constantly wants in and out, whines constantly, and likes to have his food stirred around in his self feeder. My first thought is, “Congratulations! You have a 16 year old cat!” And perhaps because he is elderly, he may be having some signs of dementia and not quite knowing what he wants to make him happy and comfortable. But I bet he would like fresh food given to him daily rather than to eat stale food out of a self-feeder.

We’re told that the owner of Kitty, the elderly cat, is looking for “creative ways to ditch this cat.” Stating she is “a pet lover, but come on,” she has started a blog for people with “pesky pets.” If you visit the blog, you find that they don’t just want to have the warm, fuzzy stories about pets, but the REAL stories about how pets can ruin your life. A pet lover? Come on…

Next we hear from Dr. Stephanie LaFarge, a psychologist working for the ASPCA, about how venting your anger about your pets can be healthy. Additionally, she says,

Some people like to think they love their animals so much they are willing to be victimized by them.

So now an “expert” is telling America it is OK to vent at your pet (which in my mind isn’t but a few steps from being verbally abusive) because pets are out to victimize people. Where do you even start with statements like this? And from an “expert,” no less.

First, if you have that much anger and resentment towards your pet, you both need to have different living situations. It is NOT NORMAL and it is NOT OK. Find help. Talk to your veterinarian, your doctor, your pastor, a friend, a co-worker or anyone. Secondly, venting at your pet doesn’t do any good. Remember when Charlie Brown was at school and all he heard his teacher say was, “Whaah, whaah, whaah, whaah?” (I don’t know if I spelled that correctly!) Pets aren’t going to understand a single thing you say, but they will pick up on the stress and the emotions, which will create even more stress in the environment and possibly more unwanted behavior. Please don’t go there, despite what this “expert” says.

Secondly, too many people try to assign human emotions and behaviors to pets (anthropomorphizing if you want the big 50 cent word). Animals just don’t think that way. They aren’t out to punish people or get even or show their anger. If pets have undesirable behaviors, it is because: 1) they don’t know it is undesirable because they were never properly trained, 2) it’s normal for them and humans haven’t taken that into account when they decided to adopt a pet, or 3) something in the environment or within the pet has changed and they are simply responding the only way they know how. Again, talking with your veterinarian is a great place to start pinning down the causes of the unwanted behaviors.

(I’m sorry if my prejudice against so-called “experts” is showing. In my mind, having training in the human psychology field, a love for animals and a paycheck from the ASPCA don’t make you qualified to be an human-animal bond expert anymore than my DVM training, 20+ years in the field, and knowing how to put on lipstick make me qualified to do plastic surgery. I wouldn’t even be so irritated by Dr. LaFarge’s lack of eligibility, if it weren’t for her obvious lack of eligibility shown by her statements in this article and in her posts over at the ASPCA site. Go check them out for yourself and see if you agree. BTW – my constant advice to people – donate to your local rescue organizations and not the national ones if  you really want your money to go to good use. Just remember, TV commercials and slick-page ads cost big dollars.)

OK, back to the article. Next we hear about Jellybean, a female cockatiel who doesn’t like to be held. In my mind, no big deal. (Until recently, I had a female cockatiel named Roxie who hated to be held, although you could tempt her out of her cage sometimes. She was a rescued pet, not a performing one…) That’s the nature of cockatiels. We find out Jellybean likes to bite if you get her out of her cage. Well, OK, don’t get her out of her cage. That’s obviously her safe-zone. But then we learn that the owner isn’t upset just about the biting, it is also because they have shut the bird in a back bedroom with no company, and Jellybean screeches on Saturday mornings when they are trying to sleep in.

(Warning: SNARKY alert! I just can’t seem to help myself at this point.)

Well, DUH! Of course the bird is going to scream. Cockatiels, like other pet birds, are highly social creatures who need interaction. Jellybean’s Saturday morning wake-up call is probably something like, “Hello, is anybody there?” (OK, now I’m the one anthropomorphizing. And the cost per word has gone up to 75 cents.) It sounds like the owners have made half-hearted attempts to find the bird a home, but that doesn’t fly with me. There are so many rescue organizations, and Craig’s List, employees at vet clinics/shelters, and students around; there’s bound to be a home for Jellybean. IF, the owner is willing to do a little work, and IF, they’re more concerned about the bird’s welfare than themselves.

Next we learn about Phil, a cat that lives near Chicago that has hairball problems. And apparently “hates” the owner’s toddler, running from her and hissing. The owner tried to covertly swap Phil for his brother Morty who is “smarter” and doesn’t have a hairball issue, but the in-laws gave him back.

You know, it isn’t just cats who run from toddlers, some people I know do it, too. Ha ha. But the point is, it doesn’t sound like Phil has been socialized around the little girl, nor she trained to interact properly with the cat. It does take work on both sides, and for the safety of the girl, this should have been something that was addressed before she became mobile with out-stretched arms and grabbing hands.

Poor Phil. I’m not sure what makes him the “dumber” brother – not liking the little girl or yaking up hairballs. You know, for all of the humor that is based around this subject (and I laughed at the scene in Shrek just as hard as anyone), it really isn’t something that cats do for their enjoyment or our entertainment. Vomiting hairballs may be something as simple as a cat that ingests too much hair and needs grooming attention from the owner. Or it can be a more serious condition that needs medical intervention. Note to owners: there IS something that can be done, but you need to visit with your veterinarian.

Dr. LaFarge jumps in here again with this quote:

It’s very hard, when the animal does something we don’t like, to say why is he doing this to me, when in fact that animal may be just being an animal and fulfilling his own needs.

I have a problem with this whole idea of “fulfilling his own needs.” You know, pets put up with an awful lot of miscommunications and misunderstanding from their people. When animals do something that we as humans don’t like, it probably isn’t because the pet has gone decided to join the “me” generation or is looking for ways to fulfill its needs. Most of the time, any behavior issues I encounter with a client have more to do with the pet’s response to what is going on in the home; my note-to-self – always look for the contributing factors.

Finally, the article ends with the story of Bennie the border collie. These kind people found the dog after it had been hit by a car. Unfortunately, Bennie’s response to being rescued was biting, clawing and aggression in the car. The rescuer’s even admit to wanting to throw Bennie “off a bridge.” But now the owners realize that they shouldn’t fault Bennie for being hyperactive because, in their words, “he’s just a border collie.”

Saving animals is a good thing, but people need to realize that there is some knowledge and training that you should have before rescuing an injured animal. Pain and stress can make even the most docile animal respond aggressively and injure themselves and people. And think of the terror of being picked up by unknown people and placed in an unknown car; it’s no surprise the way Bennie behaved. That is why people should be cautious about picking up strange and injured animals. Animal control officers and other people who are trained in animal rescue know the dangers of the situation, not just for people but for the animals, too.

As for Bennie’s behavior, it sounds to me like he is a normal border collie, very intelligent and very high energy. Can that be a problem for some people? Sure, if you are trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Again, though, it isn’t the dog’s problem, it’s the people’s problem. There are many ways to solve this issue, and talking to a veterinarian or trainer is a good place to start. Finding a new home for a rescued animal can be challenging, but it is do-able.

I think you can guess by this point that I really wasn’t entertained or amused at this article. Trying to create entertainment by focusing on problems between pets and owners is not helpful to the pets or the people. Behavior issues are real problems and one of the most challenging areas that veterinarians and clients face. What really irritates me though is the efforts to justify violence and neglect against these animals by their upset owners. There is no justification and it is not funny.

For those people who want an easy pet that doesn’t require much attention or care and doesn’t interact with people, may I suggest a Chia pet. True, you may have to water it occasionally, but other than that and a window seat, you won’t have the problems of hyperactivity, hairballs or screeching. (I’ve never personally owned a Chia pet, so perhaps I am being a bit naive on their care.)

For those people who have a problem with their pet, get some help! There is plenty out there, and if you don’t have a relationship with a veterinarian, talk to your friends, neighbors and co-workers – someone is sure to recommend their vet. Don’t let your issues or your pet’s behaviors get to the point where it is causing strife.

Let me repeat for those who are hard of reading – there is no just justification for violence against and neglect of animals. For those people who think that this is a topic to be taken lightly, look at the statistics between violence against animals and violence against people. That should sober you up.

Until next time…

Don’t Misunderestimate The Power Of Petard

Published July 1, 2009 by glaumland

One of the most challenging aspect of my profession as a veterinarian is communication. Imagine that! I never really understood that, until I realized that pets don’t carry credit cards. Ha!

As is turns out, as a learner I am very visual, as well as tactile. I’ve got to see it and feel it to understand it. If you’ve ever seen me explain things to clients, I’m constantly scribbling on the back of paper or gesticulating wildly in trying to get my message across. I think (hope) that this works for most people, but it definitely works for me: I really enjoy the education part of my job.

Sometimes when I’m trying to talk to clients, I get stuck on trying to NOT use the super-long 50 cent per word term that they won’t understand. Then the goal becomes to find a word that is understandable AND professional. But sometimes I wonder if it just can’t be done.

{One of my children’s favorite PBS shows “Wordgirl.” My idol is Lady Redundant Woman. I’ve learned never to misunderestimate her ability to do evil! (Maybe I should become Dr Redundant Vet – has a nice ring to it!)

Gooey. This is one of my tough words. When I say this to anybody, they know exactly what I mean (some sort of a liquid mucoid discharge). Then there is soupy, which is liquid with stuff in it but not as thick as gooey. If we add a -y to the end of pus, you get another type of discharge that we will write on the charts but not say out-loud. Heaven forbid we have blood in this mix, and we have to try to explain to clients about the mucopurulohemorrhagic dischage – that’s worth at least $1.75, even if the client goes ‘huh?’ Just so much easier to tell them that it is a brownish, gooey, soupy pus. They get the idea.

(Describing smell that go along with discharges can be even more fun, but only for those clients who have strong stomachs. Most fun of all is when you get the discharge all over the place – hooo-ee!) Are you with me here?

Former President George Bush 43 was often maligned for waterboarding words. He had some real doozies, but you do have to understand – that’s the way TX people talk. At least, real TX people talk that way. But far from browbeating him about his lovely words, he should have been heralded as a great communicator. After all, the most important thing about words is the person you speak them to understands them. Otherwise, it’s just jibberish.

Some people like to use fancy words that no-one understands (and sometimes not even them!). Several weeks ago Obama mentioned that Democracy and its freedoms are not things to be hoisted on other countries. (Bold words are exact). You can hoist a flag, hoist a beer, and even hoist a petard, but I hardly think we want to put American ideals so high that they can’t be obtained by anyone else.

So perhaps Obama meant foisted, which means to get someone to accept something by using deceit. Rather that clearly explaining that clearly so that everyone could understand, he tried to show off his Harvard education. A mistake like that would have meant an ‘F’ in my high school composition class.

And speaking of hoisting petard, I bet less than 5% of America understands Shakespearian English, but who knows what a petard is, anyway? A petard is an old French word for a small bomb that was used to blow up gates and walls. Unfortunatelly for the hoister, he usually got blown up himself. The funniest bit about petard is that it is derived from the older French, Latin and Greek words meaning ‘to break wind’ (farting for you and me!).

So to get hoisted with your own petard – that would mean getting blown up by your own bomb, or possibly gaining altitude following a big bowl of chili. Some people know how to foist their petard though, and have many ways to leave their gas issues for someone else to deal with.

One of my favorite Bushisms is the word ‘misunderestimated.’ He got lots of flackfrom the media for that one. But they, along with the Democrats, should really have figured out by now what it means. After all, the Obama administration has made an art form out of misunderestimating unemployment and deficits this year, so I’m thinking they already seated a ‘Misunderestimation Czar’.

Another one of my favorite words is ‘disinclude.’ Many purists would just say to use the word ‘exclude.’ but we can’t learn anything from that word other than something or someone gets left out. But if we ‘disinclude’ someone, that means we thought about including then, and then decided to purposefully leave them out. See the difference?

Lately as I have pondered words and communication, I realized that it isn’t about using fancy or even ‘correct’ words; it IS about having your audience understand what you are trying to say. So when I say that Obama has alot of semi-half-baked ideas, you should understand that not only was the idea not properly thought through (the cake was still gooey inside) but it didn’t even have a proper beginning point (the stove never got turned on). Do you see what I mean?

Words have power: the power to share thoughts, ideas and feelings.  We must all use our word power for good and not evil. So says Dr. Redundant Vet.

 Until next time…