DEAR DR. FOX: I've been in the veterinary care business, including emergency, for going on 20 years now, and I want to caution your readers about one problem with Banfield as a veterinary care provider.
Banfield, as a company, mandates what vets can and cannot do when it comes to testing and procedures for pets with a given set of symptoms. This greatly limits a veterinarian and, in my opinion, turns them into glorified vending machines. You put in the coins, you get the test the company says you can have -- not what a veterinarian's own skills and experience tell them a pet needs.
If at all possible, I recommend small, private vet clinics. There are plenty of online reviews for all but the smallest these days. A smaller practice will develop an ongoing relationship with owners and pets that may not be present at a corporate chain where veterinarian turnover is high. This relationship becomes crucial for pets as they age.
Also, a note on Blue Pearl: They're buying up local emergency practices as fast as they can, and they also enter the market with low pricing in order to "starve out" local competition. We're fortunate that here in Virginia Beach, there's a long-established practice that had the funds to withstand this until Blue Pearl racked up more negative reviews. Unfortunately, Blue Pearl still has the bankroll to afford diagnostic equipment that the other practice cannot provide. They also offer monetary incentives for specialists such as cardiologists and oncologists to use their space.
This leaves pet owners with only one choice in emergency veterinary care for all but the most common procedures. Again, working with a small, local practice will give pet owners the benefit of having someone who knows the ins and outs of all possible choices, and can give them an expert opinion of how the emergency hospitals have handled prior, similar cases. -- J.L., Virginia Beach, Virginia
DEAR J.L.: I agree wholeheartedly with what you are advocating. A major problem is that smaller, independent veterinary practices, both here and in the U.K., are burdened with rising costs. Some practices are staying independent but have large veterinary and support staffs, while smaller practices provide basic services and are tightly linked with second-opinion referrals for special services such as surgical, cardiac, ophthalmic and dermatological.
As consumer incomes fluctuate and demographics change, local veterinary services may wax and wane, but animals' needs do not. This is a challenge for all who care. Every community should have at least one basic veterinary hospital with emergency services provided at cost (and subsidized by charities for those who need additional assistance). This is all enlightened self-interest, since our animal companions contribute so much to the greater good -- especially the mental health of those who are socially isolated. A healthy animal population means a healthier human community.
GUIDANCE ON INDOOR/OUTDOOR CAT LIFESTYLES
The American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners recently put forth a joint publication entitled "AAHA/AAFP Feline Life Stage Guidelines." Below is some helpful information from the publication's Lifestyle Choices section:
"An indoor-only lifestyle may decrease the risks of injury, predators, poisoning and exposure to infectious and parasitic agents. At the same time, it may increase risks of compromised welfare, illness, obesity and behavior problems due to environmental limitations. Appropriate environmental enrichment is thus essential for maintaining the mental and physical well-being of cats.
"An indoor/outdoor lifestyle may allow a cat to express normal feline behaviors and provide a stimulating environment, but it also may increase the risks of infectious and parasitic agents, injury, poisoning, and exposure to wildlife and predators. Supervised or controlled outdoor access (e.g., during leashed walks or via cat-proof enclosures) may reduce some of the risks otherwise associated with access to the outdoors."
For more information, refer to the AAFP Position Statement "Impact of lifestyle choice on the companion cat: indoor vs outdoor," available at catvets.com under "Practice Guidelines." Additionally, I helped develop a website on TNE -- trap, neuter, enclose -- that has some good information for cat owners/guardians, which you can visit at trapneuterenclose.com.
CANNED DOG FOOD RECALL
Fromm issued a recall for about 5,500 cases of canned dog food that might contain an excessive amount of vitamin D. This can cause vomiting, loss of appetite, thirst, increased urination, excessive drooling, weight loss and renal dysfunction if consumed in very high amounts. Cans of Four-Star shredded beef, pork, chicken and turkey with a best-by date of August 2024 were recalled. (Full story: WEHT-TV, Henderson, Kentucky, Oct. 2)
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 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 DrFoxOneHealth.com.)