Like our own health, most of us do not think much about our dog’s illness until it strikes. I’ve always been a lucky dog owner. I’ve had healthy dogs that have lived to ripe old ages with little to no medical intervention. I figured that if I exercised and fed my dogs properly and took care of their immunizations and other preventive care like heartworm, all would be well. However my lucky streak finally ran out when one of my dogs developed urinary tract stones that required surgery for removal.
The experience was pretty darn stressful. It all started when Tilde began having accidents all over the house. At first, I thought that she was displaying dominant behavior (marking) with our foster dog. But then she starting straining to pee, and when she did pee it was tinged with blood. I panicked, and after a $300 trip to the emergency clinic (that revealed nothing) and a $650 surgical procedure, I realized that if I had done just a few things differently, I could have saved 1) myself some money, and, 2) my poor Tilde from going through a battery of unnecessary tests.
Here’s what I suggest all dog owners be mindful of when dealing with an illness:
Be aware, and make note of differences in your dog’s coat, demeanor, gait, eating and elimination.
You know your dog better than anyone. The way you approach your dog’s health should be no different than the way you do your own health. When you don’t feel well, you make note of your symptoms, address them as best as you can on your own, and if that fails to resolve the situation you see your doctor, right? After a series of questions about your symptoms, your doctor will make a recommendation – either to do a series of tests if the symptoms indicate more than one potential issue, or specific tests if the symptoms more clearly describe a particular malady. The more descriptive and specific you are about your symptoms, the quicker and easier it is for your doctor to diagnose your illness. Well, the same goes for your dog.
For example, it was very clear what Tilde’s symptoms were. Because of my worry, I took Tilde to an emergency clinic. I provided a detailed description of when and how she was urinating (or trying to urinate). The attending Vet named a plethora of other potential problems, and recommended some blood tests to aid in the initial diagnosis. Now, had I done some homework up front, I would have questioned that recommendation and asked about an alternative course of action. But because I didn’t and was overwhelmed with worry, I just followed the Vet’s lead instead of actively participating in the decision-making process about her care.
Reseach, Research, Research!
There is valid info out there on dog health that you can learn much from, so long as it’s a reputable source.Prior to any hospital or vet visit, do some research so that you are literate about the potential problems your dog may have. Look for articles that are written by vets, and have images illustrating the symptoms (when there are visible indicators).
If you “Google” your dogs symptoms, you’ll find dozens of sites with good information. But don’t jump to conclusions about a diagnosis. If you find that 70% of the research you do indicates the same potential illness, then that will guide you in your visit to the vet or clinic. This is the knowledge that you need to talk intelligently with your vet about your dog’s diagnosis so that you can get the answers you need to understand the problem, or make sound decisions about your dog’s treatment.
Take an Active Role in the Treatment of Your Dog’s Medical Care.
I can’t stress enough how important it is that you actively participate in the decision process regarding your dog’s medical care. It’s not about what’s right or wrong. It again goes back to knowing your dog, and clearly articulating to your vet his/her symptoms so that the most accurate diagnosis and treatment can be made.
To use my situation as the example, the attending vet at the hospital was confused by Tilde’s initial blood test results, and indicated that she might have diabetes or a plethora of other issues that I have since forgotten, not to mention a high-cost ultrasound for the stones. I was advised that Tilde should be tested for all these different issues to properly address the problem, and because I was distraught and love my dog, I was ready to submit to all those tests to ensure the proper diagnosis. $300 later, I realized that I should have authorized only one – an x-ray – because it was the most appropriate for her symptoms, and would have revealed the stones that were causing the problem. Since there was nothing life-threatening at the moment (although they certainly made me feel like it was!), we could have continued with other tests once the x-ray was evaluated. Instead, I left the emergency clinic with little more than I had when I arrived, beyond what I already thought – that Tilde didn’t have diabetes or any of the other illnesses that were suspected – and I was determined that I would manage the next day’s visit with Tildes’ vet much better.
When we arrived at the vet the very next day, the same recommendations for testing were made. It was suggested that Tilde receive a few tests rather than just an x-ray. I diplomatically asked if we could just proceed with the x-ray, and then depending on the results, decide from there how to proceed. Tilde’s vet was super – he agreed to the approach, and once the suspected stones were confirmed, surgery for their removal was scheduled the next day. I saved around $200 in unnecessary tests that day – and my dog received the medical care she needed.