DEAR DR. FOX: My 15-year-old terrier mix, Betsy, started throwing up and had diarrhea. Blood tests showed kidney and liver issues and her heart is weak.
The veterinarian wants to do a liver biopsy and endoscopy to check for inflammatory bowel disease. This will cost more than $1,000, and I cannot afford that, being on a fixed income and having no pet health insurance.
What do you advise? My old dog is very weak and I don't want her to suffer. -- W.S.P., Alexandria, Va.
DEAR W.S.P.: I have received several letters like yours recently and have discussed this trend in companion animal veterinary care in my recent book, "Healing Animals & the Vision of One Health." "Life-saving" interventions in the terminally ill that prolong suffering should be viewed as "death-delaying" interferences.
In my opinion, this is the stigma of the health care provided by some medical and veterinary professionals whose focus is more on the organs and systems of the body than on the whole patient and his or her quality of life. The life-saving quest becomes an intellectual challenge that is driven less by compassion than by the enchantment of biomedical technologies and a mechanistic attitude toward life and the living. Future generations will surely look back on these times in disbelief that death was delayed in the terminally ill and suffering was unnecessarily protracted.
But now, thanks to the human and veterinary hospice movement, the cultural attitude toward death (especially as a challenge and failure for the life-saving professional) is changing. Ask your veterinarian for a referral to a hospice care veterinarian who will provide your old dog with palliative care in your home. I have details about this new service on my website, DrFoxVet.com.
DEAR DR. FOX: A recent column dealt with a writer's fear that your condemnation of commercial food keeps people from adopting a rescued animal. Here's another reason:
We are bombarded with pleas to save animals, but if one is a renter, this is a big roadblock. Just read the ads: "no pets" is often included. I did find a rental complex that requires a $300 deposit for a pet, returned according to how the premises look upon moving out, plus $50 a month rent for said pet. This is a low-income complex, so these requirements are preposterous.
I know of a good tenant who had to euthanize his beloved 13-year-old cat but can't afford to replace her because of the expensive requirements to do so. It is heartbreaking. This tenant is an asset to our complex, but he will move out when his lease is up. -- CONCERNED (name and address withheld upon request)
DEAR CONCERNED: This issue cuts both ways. What is a landlord/rental property owner to do with irresponsible pet owners who do not clean up around the property, allow their dogs to bark constantly and leave stained carpets, chewed doors and scratched walls and floors?
The irresponsible have jeopardized the rights and needs of responsible dog and cat owners living in or seeking to move into rental properties.
I have sympathy for the uncounted numbers of elderly people and children and their families being denied the benefits of an animal companion. I appeal to all renters with animals to be responsible and to landlords to not engage in emotional and financial exploitation. One solution might be a rental agreement of immediate eviction if animal-caused damage is not quickly addressed. The same applies to legitimate claims from other residents.
FLORIDA TOAD WARNING
Readers in Florida and those vacationing there, especially the many "snowbirds" from Northern states who take their dogs with them for the winter, take note: Florida veterinarians are warning dog owners to be on the lookout for Bufo toads, an invasive species that secretes potentially deadly, hallucinogenic toxins from glands on its head when attacked. If owners suspect their pet has licked, bitten or otherwise come into oral contact with a Bufo toad, they should rinse their pet's mouth with water, preventing the water from entering the throat, and seek immediate veterinary care. People should also wash any toxin off the animal's paws or coat and should remove any toxin residue from their hands.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.com.)