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Tips to Help Save Money If You are Using Multiple Veterinarians

January 29, 2014

Reality Check: Your Limited Budget Causes You to Jump from Doctor to Doctor to Take Advantage of Free or Discounted Initial Examinations

red tabby cat sits on the exam table, his back fur sticking up like a dragon frill because of dehydration

Peaches looked like this cat Spitty, but angrier!

Peaches hissed from his carrier. Then he yowled and Doc Truli suspected the examination would be limited, at best. The angry, sick  4-year-old orange tabby cat had not urinated in 48 hours. During that time, he had seen 4 veterinarians for initial “discounted” visits. His mom could not afford full hospitalization and unblocking under anesthesia, especially considering he should have had blood tests and intravenous fluids therapy and other costly treatments to save his life. So each veterinarian told her that her cat would die a painful toxic death if he did not urinate and gave her a treatment plan estimate ranging from $100 for basic passing a urinary catheter and no other medications or treatment to $650 to do everything properly. Mom felt $100 was not affordable, so she declined and packed her cat off to another doctor for another opinion.

By the time she arrived at Doc Truli’s pet emergency room, the cost of the 4 veterinary examinations was $120. Basically, if she had stayed at the first clinic and accepted a basic treatment plan that would probably save his life, he would be unblocked and have chance of recovery. Instead, she already sent more than her budget and after Doc Truli told her Peaches was indeed completely “blocked,” she refused to believe the diagnosis and packed him up for a car trip to another vet office.

This is an extreme example of the craziness desperation can infuse into a situation. But it nonetheless happened. Doc Truli hopes someone was able to treat Peaches.

If You Feel You Must Consult an Additional Veterinarian, Do It Right

  1. If the diagnosis is straightforward and you cannot afford the plan our hospital offers, ask for a payment plan. Ask if they participant in any third-party systems like CareCredit.
  2. Ask if there is a doable less expensive diagnostic and treatment plan. Let them know you do not wish to harm your pet, but is there a solution that is cheaper and usually works (understanding there are no guarantees in medicine.)
  3. If the diagnosis is made, but the treatment is too expensive at your hospital, bring a copy of the records with you to the second opinion hospital. “Too many people are embarrassed to tell their vet they have to try elsewhere, so they don’t even let the new vet call for the records,” says Doc Truli. If the second opinion veterinarian can review the physical exam, history and diagnostic test results, you save time and money every time.
  4. If the diagnosis is not straightforward, pay for a second opinion with a board-certified specialist. “There is little point in dragging your pet from one general practitioner to another. Upgrade your information source to a specialist and often you will save money in the long run.”says Doc Truli.
  5. Ask how much and how many rechecks the vet expects to need. Budget for them. “Skipping rechecks often lands you back at the starting point of the disease and you never get anywhere with it,” says Doc Truli.

Thank you for reading!

All VirtuaVet content is original, written by Doc Truli, and copyrighted 2014 with all rights reserved. Please see the “terms of use” for VirtuaVet.com for more information.

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Tips to Help Save Your Relationship With Your Veterinarian When Your Finances Change Drastically

January 21, 2014

Reality Check: We Used to be Able to Afford Top Veterinary Care, Now the Vet Takes Us for Granted and We’re Embarrassed to Tell Them

Great smile, big happy tongue, bulging shoulders and belly on a fat labrador retriever

Happy, but too fat for health!

Hershey’s dad was a model top-end veterinary client. The 6-year-old chocolate labrador retriever received all preventative care, including hip x-rays and regular anesthetic tooth cleanings and all diagnostics when she started showing symptoms of diabetes insipidus.

Reviewing her medical history was a dream for Doc Truli. “What could this family’s previous vet possibly have done to lose such a good client?” thought Doc Truli, wishing to avoid the same scenario if possible.

The answer.”They took me for granted and stopped explaining anything they were doing. I still trust them, but I felt disrespected and frankly, I lost my high-paying job and can no longer afford to just say ‘yes’ to everything without prioritizing,” said Hershey’s dad.

So he left. Flew the coop. Sashayed up county to Doc Truli. Wished to start a new veterinary relationship from a fresh perspective. The problem? “Continuity of care is invaluable to saving you money on veterinary care over the years,” says Doc Truli. “If you feel you need to reset the relationship with your veterinarian, go ahead and address it with a trusted nurse or the doctor themselves. If you frequent a large multi-doctor practice that you love and trust, ask to speak with the manager. It’s their job to facilitate your needs.”

How You Save Money Sticking With an Excellent, Trusted Veterinarian

  1. No repeat work-ups. Your veterinarian knows you have already investigated certain avenues.
  2. Understanding your goals for your pet. Some people value longevity, some quality. Some people believe in surgery and medical intervention at any cost. Some people believe in keeping a pet comfortable, but not in the hospital setting. A veterinarian who knows your wishes can tailor a plan for your family.
  3. One mind holding a long-term diagnostic and treatment plan for skin disease, ear disease, eye disease, and many different internal conditions, like diabetes mellitus. Miscommunication and missing medical records will cause a veterinarian new on the case to retrace your steps, redo testing, and maybe misunderstand and actually cause a decline or death earlier than you expect for your pet.
  4. A new veterinarian might just keep doing what the record says your old vet did, instead of forwarding the plan and building on any progress you have made. For example, not curing a skin infection, but just keeping it under control so it seems like you cannot ever get your pet off the medicine.

The Phrase That Causes the Veterinarian Stress and Complicates Open Communication

This is not your problem, but let Doc Truli share a secret:

“When you say, ‘go easy on me Doc’ meaning you lost your job, your pension, you’re disabled, you only brought $40 with you, or whatever, it causes me to worry about money, even subconsciously, when I really should only apply my brainpower to the medical care for your pet,” says Doc Truli. Basically, why are you paying for a consultation and then asking the veterinarian to limit their recommendations and not tell you all of your options? You should demand a full consultation and a written record of all of your options for the price of your office call and examination. Your veterinary team can then help prioritize the plan for you and make a plan to fit your budget and your priorities. But only after you know the situation at hand.

You only add tremendous stress on your veterinarian’s shoulders when you air your personal problems. In fact, in decades past, it would be unthinkable, degrading, and downright embarrassing to tell a medical professional, or anyone, that you are broke, jobless, homeless or unhealthy. Nowadays, it seems to be a calling card. Where have manners and civility gone? No wonder modern society has so much stress!

Thank you for reading!

All VirtuaVet content is original, written by Doc Truli, and copyrighted 2014 with all rights reserved. Please see the “terms of use” for VirtuaVet.com for more information.

Sign up for email alerts when Doc Truli posts new stories. See the right sidebar to sign up!

Tips to Help Save on Veterinary Costs in a Crowded Household

January 14, 2014

Reality Check: We Cannot Afford Our Own House or Apartment

Ralph the American Bulldog camps out in a back bedroom of his grandparents’ house. The two bedroom, two bathroom, single story white stucco one-car garage home built in 1979 as a retirement retreat on the west coast of Florida now sits on a street of young families with children, renters, and a few elderly men who have outlived their wives. Doc Truli’s clients retired 15 years past and welcomed three cats and a chihuahua into their abode. A tight fit, the pets enjoyed each other’s company and took turns sharing the bed with mom, disabled and bedridden many days of the week.

Enter the 35-year-old son, his 25 year-old girlfriend, their 6-month old American Bulldog puppy and a bad case of post-traumatic stress disorder after two tours in Afghanistan for the son. This little family moved into the second bedroom when they could no longer swing rent on their own apartment. Doc Truli was called for a behavior consult. “Why is my chihuahua biting my son’s girlfriend?” The final diagnosis: too many people and pets, too few rules, too much anxiety and erratic behavior, a chihuahua guarding a bedridden mom and viola: the girlfriend receives a chihuahua bite when she reaches down for the harness in order to put a leash on the chi and take him for a walk.

Soon Bulldog puppy is biting disabled mom’s hand as she walks by swinging her arm for balance, and two cats have licked their bellies bald from stress grooming. Sheesh.

Read more…

Affording Pet Care 2014: A VirtuaVet Series

January 7, 2014
Doc Truli's long straight hair hangs behind her shoulder where a soft gray chinchilla rests her head under Doc's chin. Awe.

Doc Truli and Chinchilla Friend

2014 Is Going to be a Year for Readjusting the Economics of American Family Life

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Doc Truli has practiced small animal medicine since May 17th, 1999. “14 1/2 years has given me insight to help clients weather changing family dynamics and economics. Even some diseases are more prevalent on our suddenly crowded, stressed multi-family households,” says Doc Truli.

“I see signs of the strain of the economy on pet care in my daily veterinary practice,” reports Doc Truli. “It’s not as simple as you might imagine.”

Families are combining under ever smaller roofs. Servicemen and women and older children are returning to their parents’ houses in droves. Roommates with incompatible pets are sharing rent. Retirees lost whole pensions due to the thievery of recent years past. Joblessness and business failures are changing lifestyles immediately for many middle class Americans. As many people become lower middle class or even poor or homeless, they still have the pets they adopted when they were doing okay. Rather than abandon those pets, these families are stretching the budget and looking for solutions to save money.

In these challenging economic times, you need expert advice to save money on pet care

We all want happy, healthy pets

“To my fellow American veterinarians: if you have previously judged clients based on their Mercedes or their large diamond engagement ring or their expensive Gucci handbags, stop. Not only have you been acting immorally, but also illogically. Those physical belongings are liabilities for most people these days, not assets. Consider the divorcee who gets the Mercedes…and the impossible monthly payments. Do not judge her when she tells you she cannot afford anesthetic tooth cleaning for her dog. You have no clue if she just lost her $120,000/year job and is dodging the car repossesor. You really do not know. Do your job. Educate your client. Reserve judgement.”

Doc Truli examines some of these scenarios and encourages continuity or care and open communication with your trusted veterinary team in order to get through these less predictable and changing economic times in a multi-part series entitled “Affording Pet Care 2014.”

Thank you for reading!

All VirtuaVet content is original, written by Doc Truli, and copyrighted 2014 with all rights reserved. Please see the “terms of use” for VirtuaVet.com for more information.

Sign up for email alerts when Doc Truli posts new stories. See the right sidebar to sign up!

Cat Drooling After Medicine

January 1, 2014
After oral liquid amoxicillin, this cat is drooling big stringy thick strands from the corners of her mouth.

I’m offended by your medicine!

Cats Are Not Fans of Oral Medication

Giving medication to a cat is not fun! If you have elected liquid medication for your cat, she may react poorly to the medication, like Sheba, the lovely domestic short-haired brown and white tabby cat in the picture.

“Every veterinarian has gotten the call about cats drooling after medication because it looks like the medication is reacting badly with the cat,” says Doc Truli. “It’s rare for the drool to be bad for your cat.”

The thick, stringy immediate gobs of drool cascading out of the corners of her mouth are not evidence of an allergic reaction. Sheba is no fan of oral medication. It could taste like heavenly raw liver or cheese, or tuna fish and she still drools. Like many cats, she automatically drools when anyone gives her oral medication.

Read more…

Even a Kitten Can Have an Unusual, Terrible Problem

December 22, 2013

Or, When Eosinophilic Granuloma Rears It’s Ugly “Head” on a Paw

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Bombay sweetheart

Santana needed a miracle. The svelte, 4-,month-old, 5-pound golden-eyed Bombay cat sat, leg up, bits exposed, on a leather bench in Doc Truli’s examination room and fastidiously nibbled the underside of his right hind paw.

“Come here, little buddy,” said Doc Truli,” Let’s have a look at you.”

The Bombay charmer squeaked a grudging “urr” as Doc lifted him onto the exam table, careful now to brush up against his paws.

“Doc, the first doctor he saw tested for everything. But nothing has helped. As you can see, his pads look like they’re going to fall off and his poor paws bleed,” said Cyndee, Santana’s understandably worried human. “They tested for bacteria, fungus and viruses. We tried some cream and a spray and an antibiotic injection. None of it helped at all.”

Read more…

How to Tell If Your Cat is Blind

October 10, 2013

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3 Ways to Test If Your Cat Can See

“Doctor, how would I know if my cat went blind?” asked a VirtuaVet Reader in October 2013.

Dear Reader,

Study the four pictures with this VirtuaVet story, and tell me who can see and who cannot.

Long-haired fluffy flat-faced cat yowls at night because she can't see well.

This shaded silver persian could be blind and you would not know it.

Himalayan and Persian cats have heads like furry battering rams!

Chocolate point Himalayan cat with dilated pupils may be blind.

This tabby cat's ultra-long whiskers are 25% longer than other cats. If he lost vision, he'd feel his way around.

Green-eyed tabby sees just fine.

Silky soft with horizontal ridges of fur on his chest, this Bengal cat is talkative and agile.

Snow leopard Bengal stares at the wall.

How hard is it to tell? If you doubt your cat’s ability to see, or you wonder if your feline five-a.m. yowler is uncomfortable and maybe cannot see as well as they used to, you need to study these tips.

Cotton Ball Test

1) Obtain a cotton ball without your cat knowing you did it. Sneakily toss the cotton ball in front of your cat to one side. If your cat is not distracted by something else and does not turn to look at the cotton ball, try the second side. If they still do not indicate they saw the cotton ball, they might be blind.

Laser Pointer Test

2) Can your cat track a laser pointer?

“Many cats love playing with the red dot of light from a laser penlight,” says Doc Truli. “If your cat suddenly ignores the light, they might be visually impaired.”

The Menace Response

3) Does your cat have a menace response?

A what? (That sounds dangerous.)

It’s really not! A natural protective response of mammals on Earth is to blink when something is too close to the eye. It is an automatic defense mechanism that the conscious mind cannot choose to control. That makes it a good test for vision.

How the menace response works: the eye’s retina senses light, it tells the eyes (both) to blink. This is important because you have to cover one eye in order to do the test to the other eye.

Hold your cat gently and softly cover one eye. Gently, without creating a puff of air, waggle your finger in front of the ‘good’ eye. In a normal pet, the eye will blink in unison. This is called the menace response and it proves some light registers on the retina. The menace response does not prove a kitty has 20/20 vision!

Tru Tip

The eye will blink if you do not cover the other eye well enough and the other eye sees your maneuvering. Be certain your kitty was not just blinking because you created a small breeze by the eye. Repeated tests may help.

If you suspect your cat is going blind or has gone blind, your trusted local veterinarian can examine your cat to help determine the cause and potential treatment for the blindness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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