Fancy Vets’ Offerings Go Far Beyond Health Care

Golden retriever puppy Orly stares attentively at the TV.
Does Orly need her own TV?

For pet owners, the healthcare options seem to be feast or famine, determined by where you live.

Missoula offers a large choice of vet clinics, including two emergency vets, and I have been fortunate to have excellent vet care, especially as I hear tales of long waits for even emergency services in other cities. But our clinics are still pretty basic. Modern imaging and other technology is available, yes, as is specialty care. But what I’ve seen, heard about, and now read about in other cities looks like fancier clinic surroundings than even Missoula’s human hospitals.

The Washington Post article linked above describes what are essentially luxury spas and resorts for pets which also offer state-of-the-art medical care.

Some of the changes described, such as the movement toward Fear Free veterinary care, are wonderful news for pets. The Fear Free initiative is a pet- (mainly dog- and cat-) focused movement to raise awareness of the ways that going to the vet or to training centers can be frightening or anxiety-inducing — and offering strategies and training for vet-clinic and training-center workers in ways to eliminate or alleviate stressors.

Other expansion areas fill needed gaps: Underwater treadmills and other rehab equipment is a boon to anyone whose dog has had a sports injury or other condition requiring, essentially, physical and occupational therapy. Cali’s therapeutic swimming was enormously helpful with her mobility and balance, for example.

The addition of five-star pet boarding resorts to many vet hospitals may well be a way to keep the dollars flowing in, and some of the offerings definitely seem more geared toward enticing the humans than pleasing the guests —flat-screen TVs in the doggy ‘bedrooms, for example — and some are simply over the top. Though I doubt that Orly would turn down a peanut-butter sundae at bedtime, I don’t think she needs that from her dog sitters.

If or when private doggy bedrooms with TVs get to Missoula, though, I am likely to give them a pass. For me, the bottom line is my dog’s comfort, and I prefer to have her stay home with a trustworthy sitter or spend time with someone she knows and loves. Either of those familiar options will be less stressful than even the most luxurious pet spa and resort.

Slipping and Sliding

Golden retriever Cali with a tennis ballCali’s has an ongoing issue with her back legs slipping out from under her. I’ve seen some posts on the Facebook group (ick, I know) for her Morris Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study mentioning the same thing … but not always with the same results. So I decided to share Cali’s story in hopes that it might help another dog.

She’s had an odd gait for a while, especially running. Her back legs seemed kind of floppy. One friend said it looked like her whole back end was going to just fly off of her body.

She never seemed to be in any pain, though, and loved to run, hike, and jump off the deck to chase tennis balls.

When I noticed that she was swinging her back legs out to the sides while walking, though, I decided to try to figure out what was happening. It was more noticeable on her right side, but both legs were arcing outward when she walked or ran — more noticeably when she was tired. She was also slipping a lot on our hardwood floors and sometimes on the sidewalk.

We went to her Morris study vet, who took some X-rays and decided that Cali had a partial ACL tear. She prescribed Adequan.

I did the Adequan injections for a while, but I did not think it was helping. And I did not think that Cali had a problem with her knee or ACL. She did not seem to be in any pain and still loved running and jumping.

I took her to see another vet in town, whom I have known for years and who is an excellent diagnostician. He examined Cali and watched her walk inside (slippery floor) and outside, and run. He agreed with me that her knees look fine and she did not seem to be in pain. He thought there might be a spinal or neurological issue, and he recommended consulting with a neurologist.

It turns out that veterinary neurologists are few and far between. None are in Montana, but there is one in Pullman, Washington, at the vet school hospital. With a months-long wait for an appointment.

We made an appointment, and waited. In the next couple of blog posts, I will continue Cali’s story.

Is There an Emergency Vet Near You?

A red cross with a paw print in the centerMy sister sent me a link to an alarming article in the Whole Dog Journal about emergency vet services reducing their hours.

The writer, the WDJ editor, says that three clinics in her area had suspended their overnight services, and that she’d heard of this happening in other parts of the country.

Even if you’ve never used an emergency vet, now’s a good time to check out what is available in your area and whether they’ve made changes to their hours.

I decided to do that, and I discovered that both emergency services in Missoula are still working — 5 pm to 8 am weekdays and 24 hours on weekends and holidays. Whew.

When I mentioned the article and the reduced hours, one clinic’s response was “we’re doing quite the opposite!” — they are planning to expand their hours to 24 hours 7 days a week. The other partners with a “regular” vet clinic and is open when that clinic is not, so effectively … yep, 24×7. Missoula’s pets are in good hands.

I’ve been lucky. Cali hasn’t needed emergency services, and the only time Jana did … it didn’t turn out well. But the emergency clinic staff and vets were wonderful, and I was very appreciative that they were available, late at night on a holiday.

The reason clinics are cutting hours appears to be staffing shortages. When I was trying to find specialist services for Cali a few months ago, I ran into that problem: Appointments for the nearest doggy neurologist (3 hours away in Pullman, WA) were booking out several months. They have a shortage of veterinary anesthesiologists, they explained, and they do not want to schedule exams if they cannot then perform the recommended (very costly) scans.

Cali may not need to go; she’s trying some alternative therapy while waiting for her appointment, and it was never an emergency situation.

But I am relieved to know that if we ever do need emergency care, it’s available.

I’ve got both clinics entered into my contacts. But I hope I never need to call them.