DEAR READERS: The 2015 State of Pet Health Report from Banfield Pet Hospital, "Making Pet Care Personal: A Guide to Improving Preventive Care for Pets," seeks to answer the question: What is the disconnect between how veterinarians position preventive care to pet owners and what pet owners truly believe? The report recommends expanding the definition of "preventive care." For most veterinarians in the survey, preventive care includes vaccines, neutering and parasite control, but pet owners are concerned about their animals' diets, exercise, basic care, play and emotional well-being.
"For many pet owners, interactions with their veterinarian are not meeting their expectations and are seen as transactional," says the report. "They're tied to specific services, like vaccines or parasite control." For advice on overall wellness of their animals, pet owners turn to groomers, boarders, breeders, day care providers and trainers and go online for information about behavior, health concerns, generics and nutrition.
This has been my concern and the reason for my appeal for a more holistic and integrated approach to companion animal health and well-being, as I expressed in my book "Healing Animals & the Vision of One Health." I've received many questions from animal caregivers over the past several decades, along with statements regarding their experiences at some veterinary hospitals, which support the findings and recommendations of this report. We must identify where advances in preventive health care can be made for the good of all involved. And, in my opinion, more pet owners should be prepared to pay for veterinary advice in an annual wellness examination for their animal companions.
DEAR DR. FOX: As much as I value most of your observations and opinions, I do not agree that people who want pets but cannot afford them should have them. If people know that they cannot afford marginally decent food or veterinarian care, they shouldn't expect someone else to pay for their pets or ignore a pet's likely health problems, all because they're lonely or like to have pets in their home.
People must provide routine veterinarian examinations and care -- and certainly emergency care, potentially due to the lack of care to date.
I work in the rescue arena and encounter people who say they can't afford to care for their pets, but these people are often unwilling to make changes to do so. Evidence includes dogs surrendered in matted condition by perfectly manicured and coiffed individuals.
No animal should suffer because someone selfishly put his or her desires above an animal's well-being. Unfortunately, the no-kill community turns its back on this concept, believing a home that cannot or will not provide care is better than euthanasia. Neither choice is good, but only one is right. -- M.G., Rockville, Maryland
DEAR M.G.: You raise a very significant issue with which reasonable people must agree. There are, indeed, those who will look for any handout, claiming insufficient funds, when it comes to caring for their companion animals and even their children.
There are genuine hardship cases, and those emergencies where a person is incapacitated or hospitalized, and temporary shelter or foster care for his or her animals is needed. It is a regrettable aspect of human nature that some people abuse and exploit charities and human and nonhuman welfare and support programs, and refuse to be responsible caregivers themselves. This is why many animal shelter adoption policies include in-home inspections where there are sufficient funds and trained staff.
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