The vet lament

I took my dog to the vet specialist the other day. Yes, my dog has a specialist.

My dog was referred to the specialist by my vet, who seemed to be reluctant to take the treatment any further until she had a professional opinion. Up until that point I thought that she was the professional. For her professional services so far, my dog has had examinations, antibiotics, more examinations, urinalysis, blood tests, and a final operation to remove the source of the problems – bladder stones. All of this treatment has cost us just on $2,500.

When the vet suggested that I take her to a specialist, all I could see were dollar signs. Vet specialists don’t come cheap, especially the ones at this pet hospital. They’ve cornered the market on vet specialist venues, that’s for sure, as it is the only one on this side of the city.  The only other one that I know of is 200 miles out of the city.

My vet faxed off the referral and the history to the specialist, and gave me the number to make an appointment.

The big day arrived and I bundled all of my dogs onto the ferry and then into the mainland car. This was not just a trip to the vet specialist, this was an all-day epic adventure. When one dog goes to the vet, the other two go for moral support. It works for me – and them.

The center was an intimidating large, white building with equally large automatic glass doors that opened onto a large, pristine reception area. People and dogs of all shapes and sizes were scattered throughout the waiting area, and 4 receptionists manned the large desk situated at the front of two entry points to the consultation rooms and the pet hospital.

I eyed the receptionists sitting under the fancy downlights and walked up to the last one, keeping a close eye on Angus and the Collie up the other end. Angus, my Bichon male, thinks he is a German Shepherd and will have a go at anything, regardless of size.  Ruby, and my Maltese cross, Dylan, wrapped themselves around my legs in terror, and then tried to pull me out the door. The receptionist looked down over the counter at my crew and smiled. She asked me if they were all here to see the specialist. I shook my head vigorously, and made it perfectly clear at this point that although I was taking all 3 dogs in, there was only 1 dog that had a problem. You only had to mention an extra dog’s name at this place and they’d charge you another consultation fee.

Pretty soon we were all trotting up to the consultation room with a man in a white coat. Ruby, my Bichon female, and the object of the exercise, took one look at the examination table and tried to crawl under the medicine cabinet. She’s seen too many of these in the last 2 months and she is not stupid.

The specialist rattled off some of the tests he would be doing in this session. After he got past ‘ultrasound’ I switched off. I started to mentally calculate how much spare cash I had in the bank and hoped I had enough to cover it all. I looked at Ruby. She was wagging her tail at me and looking up at me hopefully. I knew how she felt. I wanted to get out of there too.

I sat back out in the waiting room for about an hour for what should have been a half hour ultrasound. I started to conjure up all sorts of expensive scenarios, so I was pretty much resigned to my fate by the time they called me in.

My dog was what they called a ‘struvite dog.’ She was a dog who manufactured struvite stones in her bladder. It was a fault in the bladder and she was going to be predisposed to producing these stones if she was on the wrong diet. Her condition  would need life-long monitoring, tests, urinalysis, medications and special diets. I walked out of the consultation room in a daze.

When they gave me the bill for what would have been just under an hour’s work, I nearly fell over. There wasn’t any change from $850. One bottle of medication cost me $89. And it’s not over yet. They will be sending me out more medication in the mail, and some pH test strips for the privilege of following my dog around to collect her urine.

They also want me to go back and repeat all of this in approximately 6 weeks.

So far, Ruby  has cost us pretty close to $3,500 in 2 months. This is more than my Maltese cross has cost me his whole life, and he has just turned 14.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my dog to bits. She’s a good natured fluff ball of love. But she’s coming with a price tag.

I now know that I’m in the wrong profession. Why couldn’t my parents have seen the potential in me bringing home anything that lived and breathed to look after and encouraged me to be a veterinarian? I will never know.

My only consolation in this sorry tale is that I have pet insurance. I will get 75% of my outlay back eventually. But I’ve got to come up with the funds first.

I will, however, take care of my dog. She is a beautiful little soul whose main orientation in life is to love me unconditionally.

It is a fair swap, I think.

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